Wednesday, May 8, 2024

*Monthly Update* April 2024

 Listen, before we get started, I want to make sure we're all on the same page and pretending that I'm not writing this just a few short hours before midnight on the 8th of May. This whole post was written and posted a whole week ago, and something just went wrong with the internet and the date, okay? 

Anyway, April is obviously over and I don't think I succeeded in keeping my reviews to be written list from getting longer. I read 21 books in April, and while I did get 10 book reviews posted to the blog (and one set of discussion questions), and I have a few more handwritten that I just need to get blog posts built for, I'm 99% sure I don't have eleven reviews written in my notebook right now. But I did get some reviews written, so my list is at least not 21 books longer than it was. So still kind of winning. 

As I said last month, I'm taking a couple months off of my focused history/heritage month reading and it's been nice just picking up whatever strikes my fancy. It's also helpful for my three bookclubs, which do not adhere to my themes like at all. This month I even get to do two re-reads for book club meetings (fortunately they are both books I very much enjoyed the first time around so I don't mind the idea of re-reading them). May is Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage month, and I am currently reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, but that will likely be my only themed book for the month. 

Books Read in April

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
Don't Turn Around by Jessica Barry
Hotel 21 by Senta Rich
The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones
The Merciless by Danielle Vega
The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker
A Hard Day for a Hangover by Darynda Jones
The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandore
I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott
Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker
Push, Then Breathe by Luissa Kiprono
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Under This Red Rock by Mindy McGinnis
Every Wish Way by Shannon Bright

Once again I'm going to aim to write more reviews this month than books I read, but I'm also hoping to read 22 books in May, to include half an hour a day of non-fiction reading (I'm currently behind on that because I had a couple days where I just didn't read much at all, but I can still easily get caught up). If I'd stop picking up a shift at work each week, I might have more luck as the days I pick up shifts have historically been days I had big plans for getting blogging stuff done so...But you know what, eventually I will have all my reviews written, and if I really work at it, it will even happen this year. Maybe May will be my month to just get caught up. I might also win a major lottery, making it so I don't have to work anymore and can devote all my time to reading. Both things are equally possible, if we're being honest. 

But that's pretty much it for my update. I'm going to go for now because I have books to read and reviews to write. - Katie 

Monday, April 15, 2024

*Review* MoneyWise Mabel's Bursting Bank by Kalee Boisvert


Genre: Children's Ages 4-6
Published: September 19, 2023
Pages: 32

What should Mabel do now that her piggybank is full to the brim? Buy lots of candy? Spend it all on that toy she’s been eyeing? Finally get that unicorn sprinkler that sprays water from its horn?

When Mabel pulls her piggy bank out from under the bed, it’s stuffed. She can’t fit one more coin inside–Piggy is 

What should Mabel do with all that money? Buy candy? Toys? Games!? Mabel’s so excited that her bed becomes a trampoline and she wants to spend it 
all. But then her mother explains that money doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket—a lesson that sends Mabel on a journey to learn what it means to become “moneywise.” Follow her as she takes her first steps to independence by opening a bank account!

Teach your school-aged kids fundamentals about money management with this approachable, fun, and charming debut from Kalee Boisvert, full of colorful illustrations and easy-to-understand concepts.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is a fun story about a girl who has filled up her piggy bank with coins and wants to use her money to buy candy, like most kids would. Her mom talks her into opening up a savings account with the money instead and she learns about what happens with money at the bank. Then she decides that she wants to save up her money to take her mom on a beach vacation. 

If I thought that reading this book to my children multiple times would brainwash them into wanting to take me on a beach vacation with their savings, I would read it to them every night (although they're past that age at this point, so I'm basically a day late and a few thousand dollars short). It was a pretty informative story with language that would be easy for kids to understand though and does explain the benefits of saving your money. 

The illustrations were fairly simple but colorful keeping the focus more on the message than the pictures. Overall I give this book 3.9854 out of 5 stars. - Katie Instagram: @kaleeboisvert

Kalee Boisvert has been in the financial industry for over fifteen years, but her love of money began very young. Growing up in a single parent household, she watched her mom struggle with finances and wished there was something she could do to help. She wasn’t going to allow her circumstances to define her, and thus her own journey into financial literacy and wealth management began. Kalee now has an MBA in Finance from the Haskayne School of Business and is a financial professional whose focus remains on sparking healthy and positive conversations around wealth and investments. She is also a proud mom to eight-year-old Ivy and new baby Jax. She lives with her family in Calgary, Alberta. MoneyWise Mabel’s Bursting Bank is her first book for children. Her self-help title Make Money Your Thing will be released by RE: Books in Spring 2023.

*Review* Don't be Mean to 13 by Douglas Harris


Genre: Children's ages 3-10
Published: October 12, 2023
Pages: 24

Thirteen is feared and disliked for no good reason, while Twelve has always been so popular! When Thirteen and his friend Friday get together -watch out for friggatriskaidekaphobia! Explore the ancient historical roots of these popular superstitions while encouraging children to use evidence-based, critical thinking with our friend, Thirteen!

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is a cute and informative story about the number 13 and why people think it's so scary. It's got some fun facts about the real name for the fear of the number thirteen and why 12 is perfect. It also discusses where the fear of the number likely came from and some other common superstitions. 

I don't know that I'd want to read this book all the time, but I wouldn't be bothered by reading it a few times. The illustrations were fun and somewhat colorful, really drawing the eye in. Overall I give Don't Be Mean to 13 4.00734 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Douglas is the co-author of the award-winning children's books My Name is Stardust, Stardust Explores the Solar System, Stardust Explores Earth's Wonders and Elle the Humanist. His upcoming book, Don't Be Mean to 13, will be released on Friday, October 13th, 2023!

Douglas co-authored the Stardust Book series with his 17-year-old daughter, Bailey Harris. My Name is Stardust is the first in their series of children's illustrated science storybooks and features a foreword by renowned evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins. Book two in the series, Stardust Explores the Solar System, was released in 2018. Book three, Stardust Explores Earth's Wonders, was released in 2019.

Douglas co-authored Elle the Humanist with his 12-year-old daughter, Elle Harris. Elle the Humanist is a beautifully illustrated book presenting humanist ideas and ethics in a way that's warm, welcoming, and accessible for young readers. It features a foreword by renowned philosopher and author Daniel Dennett.

In partnership with the Center For Inquiry and the Translations Project, Elle The Humanist and the three books in the Stardust Book series are available for free in Urdu, Arabic, Farsi and Bahasa Indonesia – languages chosen by the Translation Project to help make scientific and humanist literature more available in Muslim-majority countries, where access to such literature can be very limited.

Douglas was a featured expert panel speaker at the 2017 BookCon in NYC on Science and Education. While releasing his book at BEA/NYC in 2017, he was interviewed by Helen Little for The Public Library Podcast on iHeartRadio about science, education and literature.

*Review* A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones


Genre: Police Procedural
Published: April 7, 202
Pages: 397

Sheriff Sunshine Vicram finds her cup o’ joe more than half full when the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, becomes the center of national attention for a kidnapper on the loose.

Del Sol, New Mexico is known for three things: its fry-an-egg-on-the-cement summers, strong cups of coffee—and, now, a nationwide manhunt? Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff—thanks to her adorably meddlesome parents who nominated her—and she expects her biggest crime wave to involve an elderly flasher named Doug. But a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of this is reminding Sunshine why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that the trouble at her daughter’s new school, plus and a kidnapped prized rooster named Puff Daddy, and, well, the forecast looks anything but sunny.

But even clouds have their silver linings. This one's got Levi, Sunshine's sexy, almost-old-flame, and a fiery-hot US Marshal. With temperatures rising everywhere she turns, Del Sol's normally cool-minded sheriff is finding herself knee-deep in drama and danger. Can Sunshine face the call of duty—and find the kidnapper who's terrorizing her beloved hometown—without falling head over high heels in love...or worse?

I listened to the audiobook version of this story for a book club meeting. This story is told from a couple different perspectives, at at least with the audio, it usually wasn't super clear initially when there was a change in character perspective leading to some serious confusion. 

Some of the major highlights of this story were the banter between Sunshine and literally everyone else, the relationship between Sunshine and Ari, her daughter (which felt very Gilmore Girl-esque, although Sunshine comes across more as cool mom than the best friend that Lorelai is), and the police blotters and business signs. Those were hilarious. This book was just really chock full of witty shit that had me cracking up. 

While there was one main investigation for this story, there were several mysteries that Sunshine and her team were working on, which makes sense because what police force only has one case at a time. Some of those issues were resolved over the course of this story, others remained as loose threads, so if you need complete resolution, you should definitely plan on reading the whole series back to back. 

Overall I give A Bad Day for Sunshine 4.1732 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work, including a prestigious RITA, a Golden Heart, and a Daphne du Maurier, and her books have been translated into 17 languages. As a born storyteller, Darynda grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, certain they went away the better for it. She penned the international bestselling Charley Davidson series and is currently working on several beloved projects, most notably the Sunshine Vicram Mystery Series with St. Martin's Press and the Betwixt and Between Series of paranormal women's fiction. She lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys.

Click here to read one of the more popular short stories by Darynda called The Monster:

She can be found at

*Review* The Sinister Booksellers of Bath by Garth Nix


Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: March 21, 2023
Pages: 365

Return to the enchanting world of The Left-Handed Booksellers of London in this sequel by Garth Nix, bestselling master of teen fantasy, where once again a team of booksellers must fight to keep dangerous magic under cover before the stuff of legends destroys our world. New York Times bestseller!

There is often trouble of a mythical sort in Bath. The booksellers who police the Old World keep a careful watch there, particularly on the entity that inhabits the ancient hot spring.

This time trouble comes from the discovery of a sorcerous map, leading left-handed bookseller Merlin into great danger, requiring a desperate rescue attempt from his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, and art student Susan Arkshaw, who is still struggling to deal with her own recently discovered magical heritage.

The map takes the trio to a place separated from this world, maintained by deadly sorcery and guarded by monstrous living statues. But this is only the beginning. To unravel the secrets of a murderous Ancient Sovereign, the booksellers must investigate centuries of disappearances and deaths. If they do not stop her, she will soon kill again. And this time, her target is not an ordinary mortal.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is the second book in a series, and I have not read the first, so there were several times, especially early on in the story, where I felt a bit left out of the loop. There were enough small mentions of details though that I soon felt mostly caught up. 

I was initially quite intrigued by the premise of this story and the different deities  that the booksellers work with and manage (where appropriate). The middle of the story started to drag a bit though and I ended up having to put the book aside for a while as I'd started another book set in Bath and featuring Sulis Minerva that was piquing my interest more at the time. When I returned to the book and got past that lull, I was once again hooked and excited to see how everything would be resolved. 

In spite of the lull in the middle of this story, I definitely want to get my hands on a copy of the first book in the sieges, so I can get fully caught up and see where it all began. 

Overall I give The Sinister Booksellers of Bath 3.9743 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Garth Nix has worked as a bookseller, book sales representative, publicist, editor, marketing consultant and literary agent. He also spent five years as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. A full-time writer since 2001, more than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world and his work has been translated into 40 languages. Garth's books have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly (US), The Bookseller(UK), The Australian and The Sunday Times (UK). He lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and two children.

*Discussion Questions* The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers *SPOILERS*

I have spent a few years in a couple of different book clubs now, and I've led my fair share of discussions (so every time it was my turn in the rotation to pick a book basically, although I've been slacking a little in my current book club). I can't tell you how many times I've finished a book that I'd chosen for our meeting, only to realize that I couldn't think of a single question to ask (and I'd forgotten to consider that while reading). In those instances I would run to the interwebs to search for discussion questions, just hoping that someone else had been kind enough to think of questions and share them with the world. I had about a 50% success rate with that. 

1) Do you think Maddie's mom told Aunt Etta why she was really dropping Maddie off?

2) Do you think Aunt Etta would have/should have turned Maddie away? Why or why not?

3) Why do you think Mitzy took Maddie in when Etta went to the hospital?

4) Do you think Maddie ever made the gloves for the factory workers?

5) Who was your favorite character? Why?

6) What do you think would have happened if Maddie told Cornelia why her son, the doctor, was yelling at her?

7) Do you think Richard agreed to Mitzy's demands before the gala, or were her proclamations a surprise to him that he had to go along with because of the evidence she had?

8) If Richard had publicly denied the changes for the women of Bright Leaf, do you think Mitzy would have come forward with the evidence against smoking?

9) Do you feel like Mitzy made the right choice at the time? Why or why not?

10) Do you see similarities between the marketing scheme for MOMints and prescription drug advertising today?

11) Do you think the wives would have abandoned Etta after she recovered if Maddie hadn't been there to fill her shoes for the gala dresses? 

And that is all the questions I came up with while reading this book. Is there anything else that you would ask at a meeting to get discussion going? Just comment below with your suggestions (and let me know if I may add them to the official post if you do please). - Katie 

*Review* The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers


Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: March 1, 2022
Pages: 349

North Carolina, 1946. One woman. A discovery that could rewrite history.

Maddie Sykes is a burgeoning seamstress who’s just arrived in Bright Leaf, North Carolina—the tobacco capital of the South—where her aunt has a thriving sewing business. After years of war rations and shortages, Bright Leaf is a prosperous wonderland in full technicolor bloom, and Maddie is dazzled by the bustle of the crisply uniformed female factory workers, the palatial homes, and, most of all, her aunt’s glossiest clientele: the wives of the powerful tobacco executives.

But she soon learns that Bright Leaf isn’t quite the carefree paradise that it seems. A trail of misfortune follows many of the women, including substantial health problems, and although Maddie is quick to believe that this is a coincidence, she inadvertently uncovers evidence that suggests otherwise.

Maddie wants to report what she knows, but in a town where everyone depends on Big Tobacco to survive, she doesn’t know who she can trust—and fears that exposing the truth may destroy the lives of the proud, strong women with whom she has forged strong bonds.

Shedding light on the hidden history of women’s activism during the post-war period, at its heart, The Tobacco Wives is a deeply human, emotionally satisfying, and dramatic novel about the power of female connection and the importance of seeking truth.

I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program. This is my honest review. 

The beginning of this story reminded me a lot of the way I felt reading Where the Crawdads Sing. Both books are set in the south, several decades ago, and feature girls abandoned by their parents. The stories behind the abandonment are quite different, but equally believable. And Maddie's story feels less tragic as she was left with her father's aunt who loves her as her own child. 

I loved seeing the way Maddie grew as a person in the time leading up to the gala and the way the different tobacco wives helped her come into her own. The influence of one was particularly surprising, but in a very good way. I think if I did not have more in common with the wives, I would have felt like I was on the journey with Maddie. This could be an interesting choice for a mother-daughter bookclub (if that's even a thing). 

I enjoyed seeing the way different classes of women handled the prospect of the men returning from war, expecting their jobs back. I was furious about the men's attitude towards most things, but this was a very female focused book. Overall I give The Tobacco Wives 4.58337 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Adele Myers grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently works in advertising and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, son, and their rescue dog, Chipper. The Tobacco Wives is her first novel. Learn more at