books and reading

Curse of the Poppy

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Fun fact: I’m allergic to heroin. No, I don’t know this by experience. Sort of. I’m allergic to codeine, which is derived from the poppy, as is heroin. Thankfully, I never had a desire to try heroin, so I’m still alive. So no purple drank for me. Also, no Jagermeister, which contains various herbs and spices, but poppy seeds are one of them. I’m okay with poppy muffins and bagels, but that’s where I draw the poppy line. Thankfully, there are no more opium dens, so I don’t have to worry about stumbling in to one of those anytime soon. Our heroine, Penny Green, isnt’ a fan of opium either. Get it? Heroin.. heroine? *wink wink*

Book five of the series (reviews for previous books Limelight, The Maid’s Secret, and The Inventor) finds Penny trying to solve yet another crime with her Scotland Yard crush, James. We find James still engaged to Charlotte, Mr. Edwards still desperately in love with Penny, Penny in love with James, and Penny’s sister trying to push Penny to see how wonderful Mr. Edwards is. It’s just one big circle of unrequited love. The murders in this book revolve around the opium trade, and more characters get involved than you would expect.

These books are really just so much fun. Penny is a fantastic main character, but the secondary characters are just as intriguing. With three books left (apparently the ninth will be out at some point), I can’t wait to see how Penny and James continue to work together, even with his impending marriage, whether or not Penny and her sister ever find out what happened to their long-lost dad, and whether Mr. Edwards ever becomes the man that Penny could love. Please check these out, especially if you have Kindle Unlimited because they are free to borrow there.

books and reading

Doctor Sleep

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I first read The Shining 20 odd years ago. One of King’s earliest, this book is one of his most well-known, partly because of its ability to scare but also because of Kubrik’s movie version. The book was published 40 years ago, creating a new generation of fans. Thanks so an episode of Friends, The Shining is also known as the book that’s so scary that Joey has to put it in the freezer, spawning a horror book podcast called “Books in the Freezer.” After hearing Doctor Sleep was going to be a movie, I knew I had to reread The Shining because it had been so long. And although SK does a good job of letting you know what happens in The Shining through the plot of Doctor Sleep, it is still helpful to have read The Shining first.

The past few years have been good for SK, but he still has some letdowns. Under the Dome and Revival were both great, but the endings were awful. The Mr. Mercedes trilogy is really great, but the last book gets pretty far-fetched. The Outsider and The Institute were mostly good, but Doctor Sleep tops them all. I devoured this book in just a few days. I absolutely loved it. Not just because I loved seeing Danny again, but the entire plot was well-constructed, and the ending was superb.

We find Danny struggling, to put it mildly. Following in his father’s footsteps, Dan is an alcoholic and has hit rock bottom. Thankfully, this part of the story doesn’t last long because it’s really heartbreaking. Of course, Dan drinks to stop the shining, but he’s a really great person underneath it all. Once he gets clean, he “meets” a young girl named Abra who has the same shining but is much more powerful than Dan ever was. Abra is very aware of a group of vampires who prey on children with the shining. These vampires don’t drink blood but rather feast on the essence of the children. Once their leader, Rose the Hat, becomes aware of Abra, the chase begins. Dan and Abra must stop these vampires before they harm any more children.

This story is so tightly woven that no event is unnecessary. I feel like a lot of SK’s books could use a good edit, but this one is only 650 pages, so maybe this one did get a red pen taken to it. Doctor Sleep has absolutely entered my top 10 of SK’s books. I loved this one a lot.

books and reading

The Cruelest Month

Armand Gamache returns! I first met him in Still Life, then in A Fatal Grace, and now he has returned to Three Pines to solve yet another murder. Somehow for being idyllic, Three Pines sure does have bad luck, especially for where it all began- the Hadley House.

This time, the house is the scene of a seance, and someone dies. At first glance, it appears as if she was scared to death, but during a toxicology report, a vast amount of ephedra was found in her, and combined with a heart condition, proved fatal. Enter Gamache and his team to try to solve the murder.

What I really like about these books is that there is always something else going on. In these first three books, you realize that Gamache isn’t perceived by all as the greatest guy, but you are uncertain why. Each book reveals a bit more of his backstory, which creates depth to the character and the story. There is some great dramatic irony in these books, but much is also hidden from the reader, keeping your brain working not just to solve the murder, but also to figure out what is happening behind the scenes of the police department Gamache works for. It’s also nice to see some characters that I’ve grown to enjoy returning each book. Despite the murders, Three Pines is charming and a place I would love to visit.

books and reading


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At some point, someone told me about this great series by a British author who writes gruesome books about a police detective. I reviewed Birdman. Jack Caffrey is flawed and traumatized by the kidnapping and presumed murder of his brother when they were just kids. Jack lives near the man who he believes took his brother. However, this finds Jack in a new location and a fresh start.

Having left London, he’s now in Bristol working on their police force. He meets a police diver, Phoebe AKA Flea, who has found a hand in a body of water. Just a hand. The police have to start digging to find the truth of whether or not the owner of the hand is still alive. Flea and Caffrey run parallel in this book because it’s not her job to find the truth, but the people they know intersect as the story progresses. Jack interviews Flea’s friend, unaware to them both this person has had contact with them both. Flea also has a side story about the death of her parents in a tragic accident and her need to find out what happened.

These books are gruesome, and you really do need to read them in order to understand the depth of Jack’s character and what he’s trying to move past. I will say some plot threads that existed in the second book were abandoned here, so I’m hoping they aren’t lost forever. There are several more books to get to, so I’m hoping we get a bit of a resolution at some point.

books and reading

The Shining

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This book is the first Stephen King book I read, over 20 years ago. I sure did start out with a bang! Since I have yet to read Doctor Sleep, I wanted to revisit The Shining to refresh my memory of the Torrance family. This book is one where you can’t compare it to the movie at all. They are vastly different. It’s pretty well-known that King isn’t a fan of The Shining movie, calling it “a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it.” Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the movie just never really captures the terror presented in the book.

We first meet the Torrance family, Jack, Wendy, and five-year-old Danny, after Jack has stopped drinking and is applying for a job as the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. High up in the mountains, the Overlook closes from Sept-May. Jack’s drinking troubles have ceased, but the memory of him breaking Danny’s arm lingers. Wendy loves her husband but is wary. And Danny is a great kid but an unusual one. Danny can see things before they happen. Once they get to the Overlook, Danny meets the head chef, Dick, who can also see things before they happen. This skill, Dick says, is called “the shine.” Dick knows the hotel isn’t harmless and is nervous for the family. He tells Danny to call him, mentally, if he needs him.

Slowly, the hotel begins to take possession of the family. Jack is the easiest to turn because he’s mentally troubled with his alcoholism. Even though the place is dry, the instability he has previously suffered makes him an ideal candidate for going crazy. The hotel also tries to get Danny into its grips by showing him horrifying things that have happened there. Wendy is the strongest, but she is at the mercy of her husband and son.

The ending of this book is nothing like in the movie, and giant chunks of the plot were altered, which was unnecessary. The book really is great as is, no adjustments needed. Aside from the end, the book is only graphic in a few spots but is really more of a psychological horror than anything else. I’ve read dozens of his books, and this one really does stand out as one of his best.

books and reading

I Choose You

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Kindle firsts is a pretty great program. I’ve discovered some pretty great books and authors this way. You get one book free, and if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read all the rest the next month. This is one that I didn’t select but made a point to read at some point.

I’m always on a quest for a good thriller, and I wish I could say this was one. It was too…messy? I’m not sure how to explain it. I feel like it tried to do too much. There was a plot about babies possibly switched at birth, a person who dares people to commit suicide, two families who are intertwined in way too many ways, babies given up for adoption, and chapters that switch between then, now, and interstitial first person account from the mind of an alleged killer. It was a bit much to keep it all straight, honestly.

In the “then” chapters, you see Elise and Nathaniel dealing with the murder of their daughter, Ida. But they aren’t sure if she was dared to commit suicide by the mysterious person called the “Suicide Watcher” who they believe forced both their mothers to commit suicide. Elise and Nathaniel met in a group for Suicide Watcher victims. Then there’s Elise’s father, Ray, who is a psychiatrist, but an unusual one. There’s also Sonny, Elise’s long-lost brother who was given away at birth but has found his birth family. This isn’t even beginning to list the characters and plot devices. Like I said, too much.

Maybe this complexity works for some people. I  just felt like nothing was developed or explained all that well. Maybe if the author had picked one plot and stuck with it, I would be more likely to recommend this book. It just was too all over the place for me.

books and reading

Spoon River Anthology

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I don’t have a ton to say about this book, but I do want to mention it because it’s really creative, and I think a lot of people would be interested in it. The story is of the town of Spoon River, but the story is told via epitaphs.

The writings on the gravestones are written as if the person who died was writing it for him/herself after death. So, each one is written from the third person and tries to explain something about the person’s life, death, or both. A lot of accusations are made in one person’s epitaph which are resolved in another person’s. Explanations about divorce, murder, and the like fill the gravemarkers and, through these, you get a good idea that Spoon River isn’t the greatest place in the world, nor are its inhabitants.

Published in the early 1900s, the stories are much dated, but that really doesn’t matter because they are still salacious. And while I ultimately enjoyed the book, it was just so long and so many graves to keep up with. I found my brain wandering and skimming a lot. So, I recommend this book for its uniqueness and value in literature, but I can’t say I’ll pick it up again. But one more PopSugar Reading Challenge knocked out. Clearly this fit the “anthology” category.

books and reading

The Inventor

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I’m trying to burn through these Emily Organ books before my Kindle Unlimited subscription expires in March. I own 1-4, 6, and 7, but have borrowed 5 and 8, so I’m trying to read them quickly before I have to send 8 back. So, expect a lot of reviews in the next few weeks.

I will say this one has been my least favorite, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book. The plot just didn’t interest me as much as the others have. In the beginning, an inventor kills himself after just speaking with Penny. Because he seemed so happy and excited about his projects, she is sure he was murdered. There is another murder from earlier in her day that she believes his death is connected to. Of course, she has her two male acquaintances in on the investigation with her. Mr. Edwards at the library helps her research the backgrounds and inventions in question. Mr. Blakely of Scotland Yard helps her uncover the author of some mysterious letters Penny’s friends and relatives have been receiving.

The death of the inventor just didn’t grab my attention this time around. I still love Penny’s character and her very awkward conversations with both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Blakely. I fully intend to read the rest of the series and look forward to seeing how the overall series plots are resolved.

books and reading

Multicultural Children’s Book Day “Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club”

*I was gifted this book to review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day*

I have the privilege of reviewing Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. The book is a collaboration with Yellow Arrow Publishing.


The Girlfriends Book Club is a “stress-free group for girls that encourages reading, vocabulary expansion, comprehension skills, & confidence.” You can find them on Instagram and Twitter. The editor from Yellow Arrow Publishing, Leila Warshaw, explains that this amazing group was started by a mom, her daughter, and her daughter’s friends. The girls have monthly book readings, attend book festivals, meet authors, and participate in literary podcasts.

As a former middle school teacher, I absolutely love how this group encourages young ladies to use their brains, be creative, and project their voices into the world. Many people don’t take young ladies seriously for various reasons. And what a tragedy that is. What a joy it was to read these short stories by five amazing girls, Sarah Ford, Aubrey Heiges, Nadia Lessing, Valerie Swing, and Makayla Wright. Every story in this collection was excellent, and I absolutely enjoyed reading them. The tales are all creative and different from one another, which was great, but all had common themes of helping others, overcoming adversity, dealing with tough situations, and some even provided a bit of mystery. Whether these girls become authors or not, they have bright futures ahead of them, and I love how their Girlfriends Book Club encourages and supports them.

The cover of the book (see photo above) is a collage of drawings from the girls themselves. They drew “anything related to their story,” and after reading their stories, I can see which drawing goes with which story. I’m so thankful that I was allowed to read this book and marvel at these delightful young ladies.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board


Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,


Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,


Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,


Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,


Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books,  TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales


Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!


Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

books and reading


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What in the fucking fuck did I just read? My gosh. I’ve read a lot of crazy stuff, but this one might be at the top of the list. Infidelity- check. Murder- check. Narcissism- check. Secrets- check. Botched abortions- check. Child abuse- check. Descriptive sex scenes- check. Psychopaths- check. Stupid character names- check. This book has it all!

Lowen (ugh) is a mediocre writer who has been asked to finish a popular book series written by Verity (ugh) Crawford. Lowen will go live in Verity’s house with Verity’s husband, Jeremy (the only reasonable name in this entire book) and their son, Crew (ugh). Verity was recently in a car accident following the tragic deaths of her daughters, Chastin (seriously, I can’t make this stuff up) and Harper. Verity is unable to complete the series, so Lowen is getting paid to take over.

Weird things start happening in the house. Verity is awake, but unaware and non-responsive. However, Crew mentions talking to his mother, and Lowen claims to see Verity walking around. Lowen also finds a manuscript that Verity wrote about her life. Lowen quickly discovered that Verity is probably a psychopath and no longer feels badly for her.

Of course, this book must have ridiculous sex scenes between Lowen and Jeremy, because he can’t stand to have her in the house for two weeks without falling in love with her, even though he’s fully committed to Verity’s recovery. Give me a break….Ugh.

I kept reading this book, mostly to see if Verity was faking or not, or if Lowen was going crazy. I’ve only read one other CoHo book, and apparently, this one is out of the norm. I just don’t think she’s a writer for me.