27 December 2020

Review: Greenlights

Greenlights Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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A look back on 2020 book picks

 Today I thought I would look back at a year of Read with Michelle.  I chose a book (or two---and a couple of bonuses) for us to read together.  I thought I would put the list here in case anyone wanted to look back or revisit the list.  

1. The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

2. Dear Edward by ann Napolitano

3.  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

4.  They Called it Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

5.  Follower: A Novel by Megan Angelo

6.  The Queen's Secret by Karen Harper

7.  Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens

8.  The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

9.  The Lions of 5th Ave by Fiona Davis

10.  Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly

11.  The Luckiest Man by Mark Salter

12.  The Oregon Trail by Lauren Reeve and Wow, no thank you by Samantha Irby

Bonus books:

Recipe for the Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams

25 December 2020

How is your reading challenge going?

Hello to you fellow readers!

 Here we are approaching the onset of winter. I am ok with winter as long as I have enough clothes to keep warm.  I love snow if it snows like it means it and not spit snow. I hate nothing more than snow that just messes up things and then leaves and you get nothing out of it (snowcream, snowman, or photos). 

Winter is the perfect weather to just grab a book, curl up in your favorite chair with your favorite cat, and spend the day in another world.  


I only did one reading challenge this year and it was the one I created.   I am not sure exactly why because usually I have three or four going at once.  Covid has changed so much this year and I guess this is just another thing that I let slip by during the quarantine, healthy at home, and all the jazz.  

My reading goal was 100 books read and as of today, December 21, 2020, I have read 124, so there is one goal complete!!! In the next week, I will compile my reading stats and share those with you, but for today you get my complete reading challenge.

Have you made new reading habits or completed a challenge in 2020?  Share here or on my Facebook page, Read with Michelle in 2020.   



21 December 2020

Read with Michelle first book pick(s) of 2021---a new classic and a new release

  The January book pick is On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

In September 2009 I discovered this little book, basically because the cover gripped me the second I saw it sitting on the library shelf.  I took it home that day and finished it before I went to bed (September 20 according to my book journal).  The story was riveting and I may have shed a tear or two during my journey.  I have picked it up a few times since that first reading and every time I love it a tad more.  

It is the story of Henry Lee, a Chinese American man, who in present-day sees that inside the Panama Hotel are found trunks of belongings from families that were sent to internment camps during WWII.  He wonders if he knows anyone whose belongings are in that basement.  He flashes back on Keiko, a Japanese American girl that he loved.  During the war, Keiko and her family were sent to an internment camp in the USA, yes they existed here on American soil).  

In 2013, Jamie published a digital read called Middle, Lost and Found.  It is a little small work that talks more about the lunch lady (who is one of my favorite characters in OTCOB&S).  If you can find this, I highly recommend it to you also.  I met Jamie in 2014 and I had printed off this digital book (because he likes physical books) and bound it for him.  Actually, I made two, one for him as a gift and one I wanted him to autograph for me.  My autographed Jamie Ford books are some of my prized possessions.  

In 2015, my husband and I went to Seattle and we both looked and looked for the Panama Hotel. I know we were close, but my husband got sick (drat that Norwalk virus) and we had to abort the plans, I went to the first Starbucks instead.  

Please don't stop with this book, Jamie has other books that are simply divine.  Songs of Willow Frost and my second favorite of his, Love and Other Consolation Prizes.  Also, there is a movie being filmed, or maybe has completed and Covid has screwed up its release too (stay tuned).  

I also want to give you a currently published book in case you have read this or only want to read new releases.  I have not read this one, but I have read every book by the author and she has never let me down.  So the bonus January pick is Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson.  I admit I have no idea what this one is about...I just know that I will read it because (as I said I love all of her books) she is a fantastic writer.  I actually was granted the right just today to read it before it was published so stay tuned.  

Review: A Promised Land

A Promised Land A Promised Land by Barack Obama
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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17 December 2020

Book Journal System---Michelle Style

 I have kept a paper book journal since 1996 (and a digital one for stat purposes since 2011), and I have edited it a lot over the last 25 years.  At the bottom of this post, you will find the actual log that I have used for about five years.    I finally think I have found a formula that works perfectly for me, so much so that I had a rubber stamp printed with exactly this text on it so that I could stamp it in a Moleskin journal (they are my favorite journal books).  While I did not create the original layout, I have had added to it, changed it, and made it my own.  I am sharing it with you today in case you want to use this version or get inspired to create your dream reading log too.  Maybe you just want to keep a Moleskin (I am telling you they are the BEST) with just the title and the dates read. My 1996 journal looks exactly like that, a title and a date, nothing else.  That little pet postage stamp journal has been tortured over the last 25 years as I perfected what I wanted to retain in a reading journal.  

I would love to know how you keep a log of your reading life. Please don't hesitate to reach out and let me know.  

My reading journal page can be found here.  Below you will have a snippet of what you will find on the download (there are three entries on a page with the download).  

Kelly's 2021 Reading Challenge

 If you follow or know me at all, you probably know Kelly is one of my very good friends.  She is a librarian and the host of a book club/Facebook group called Bookworms (she is also part of the reason my TBR list is about 100 books long).   

Kelly and I both like to get folks to read more books and almost at the same time we told each other "I am working on a reading challenge".  I shared mine with you a few weeks ago (but if you missed it go here) and today I am sharing Kelly's.  

It is a fabulous challenge!!  Her goal is to read a book a week, but you can do it as you like.  There are some good categories here, and I think you will have a good time with this.  Remember reading challenges are to inspire you not overwhelm you.  You do you, but have fun and hopefully, our challenges will inspire you to read more.  

Kelly's Reading Challenge

Review: The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents by Kate Messner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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15 December 2020

Review: Beverly Hills Country Club

Beverly Hills Country Club Beverly Hills Country Club by Earl W. Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Review: The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Review: Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Review: ...And Then You Die of Dysentery: Lessons in Adulting from the Oregon Trail

...And Then You Die of Dysentery: Lessons in Adulting from the Oregon Trail ...And Then You Die of Dysentery: Lessons in Adulting from the Oregon Trail by Lauren Reeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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14 December 2020

2021 Read with Michelle Book Challenge

 Good day to you all.  I hope this finds all of you doing great and planning out those 2021 reads.

Every year I do multiple challenges and create my own too, but for the first time ever I am sharing my challenge with you.  There is only one rule....... you do what you want to do.  While I do hope you like some of the categories I have chosen, my goal is to help you be the reader you want to be. If you don't like a category, feel free to change it.  If you fill there are too many, mark out six of them.  If you want one book for each category, on one book to cover multiple categories, all of that is fine. You are in charge of your reading challenge.  I am hoping my challenge ignites that spark in you, and I would love your feedback too!!

You can download the form here.  

Missed the 2020 challenge?  Click here to download.  

12 December 2020

Thankful for you

 I am so thankful for those of you that started following me this year.  You have challenged me in so many ways and I am just so grateful. I hope that you will continue to follow me in 2021. I have high expectations for us in so many ways....the first is to get rid of covid19 and start living and being friends again.  The second is I hope to challenge myself (and hopefully you too) to a new reading journey.  While there may be some new releases that I just MUST share with you, I am going to try and focus most of our monthly books on backlisted titles.  I have already picked out January's book and in a few days, I hope to share it with you.  Before I share it I have a reading challenge that will go up on Monday morning.  Woo hoo!!!  

Thank you for everything and if you didn't already get this end of year gift (book journal page) please download it and post your end of the year "books read" on my Facebook page, I would also LOVE to see your reading stats for 2020.  I know some of you that have played along this year have read some awesome titles.  

27 November 2020

December book pick

 Here we are at the last month of our 2020 reading journey.  When we began this ride, I never dreamed we would spend most of the year trapped by a global pandemic.  My expectations were for us to carve out more time in our lives to read and keep our minds sharp.  I did achieve my goal by watching less tv along with less social media and I used the extra time to craft, work on my house, and read.  I hope you have had a good reading year too.  I plan to do this again next year and hope you will read along.  

For our last pick of 2020, I wanted you to choose which of these two lighthearted books (or any other book that is less pressure than the "real" world) you would like to read.  I am going to read them both because they are both highly recommended but "Wow, no thank you" will be the one I read in December. I do think whichever one that you choose will be fun, and a little escape from a pandemic that is wearing us all down in so many ways.  Happy reading and thanks for a great reading year.  

Happy Thanksgiving

 Thank you for reading with me in 2020.  It has been a long year in some aspects, but short in others.  My reading life has been pretty much on par with what it usually is, numbers wise. I am hoping when I do the break-down of all next month that I have expanded on some categories and jumped out of my usual WWII genre a little more often.  

Every year I prepare a spread sheet of my books read with all kinds of stats (I will share that with you next month), but for this year I decided to do a little journal page for my regular journal.  I thought I could insert this like I would a card or something.  When I was making it I thought I would share it with the folks that read with me this year.  It is a Book Nerd End of Year Stats sheet.  Find it here, but below you will see a sneak peak of my stats sheet.  Enjoy and thanks for reading with me.

16 November 2020

November Book Pick

I just realized today that I forgot to post this on Halloween, what a dork.  I wasn't sure of any of you would read this or not, but it is a very good book and I very much hope you will.  Senator McCain is a giant hero to me.  It started when I learned of his time as a POW and then his new career in government.  I have always felt he tried to do his best for all his fellow Americans and often that meant crossing the aisle.  Read this book and you'll see how dedicated his was to this country he loved so very much. 

The Luckiest Man  starts with Senator McCain's birth and is speckled with stories from his life that he never shared in the books he had penned some good, some bad. 

I cried a few times about his death, the missed opportunities and because he would have made a wonderful President. Some of my prized possessions are the books he.autogrpahed for me.  

A couple of days after the book was published I got to participate in a Zoom call with the author, Mark Salter and Senator Joe Liberman.  What a wonderful opportunity to ask Mark and Senator Liberman what it was like to work alongside someone like Senator McCain.  Mark said "exhausting" and Senator Liberman agreed.  

07 November 2020

30 days of books to be thankful for in 2020

30 days of great books!! 

This list is full of fabulous books that I loved and think you might too. I tried to go across different genres, but you know how I stay in that WWII historical fiction vein.  

  I have put a sticker on some of the book covers because they are my pick books of the year.  My sticker is not part of the cover, just a sticker to denote that I love it and think you should buy it and you should be able to see all of the fabulous covers under my sticker.

November 1-The Glittering Hour by Iona Gray---Serena is one of the Bright Young things that will do anything to stay in the limelight;  that is until she finds the man of her dreams.  Will she give it all up for him?  We will find that out and get a huge surprise at the end.

November 2-The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel---Eva is a Jewish girl that has to flee her home when her father is arrested. She takes her mother with her and they both assume false identities with documents Eva created.  Once the underground discovers her talent they recruit her to help them make identities for Jewish children in order to save their lives.  

November 3-Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson---Two children spontaneously combust at the worst of times.  That's right, the children catch on fire. The children are the offsprings of a senator and a beautiful lady that hires an old school friend to watch the children so the public won't find out that the children catch on fire.  This is a riot!   

November 4-Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens---Jessup Missouri has lots of problems, a factory worker has disappeared, a foreman has been demoted and replaced by an outsider that is African American, a gang of white boys are trying to take over the town,  and two young men form a friendship that will help them get through the hard teenaged years and a town full of prejudice.  

November 5-The Luckiest Man: Life with John McCain by Mark Salter---it is no secret that I love John McCain.  When I heard John's longtime writing partner was writing a book on John I just had to have it.  This book shows us some of the stories we already knew, but this time we hear the backstory and the true thoughts of Senator McCain.  A fantastic book was written by a man that admired his friend very much. 

November 6-The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles---Odile procured a job in the American Library in Paris, a job that she longed to have but did not think she could ever obtain.  Everything is perfect until the Nazis storm Paris.  When that happens the Library has to be creative in order to hide the most precious books and make sure that the Jewish families they serve can still get books to read. 

November 7-  Hope Never Dies and Hope Rides Again by Andrew Shaffer--- A couple of quick-paced murder mystery books where Joe Biden is your crime fighter.  These are short and very fun and yes, Barack comes and hangs out with Joe along the way.  

November 8-The Answer is: Reflections on my life by Alex Trebek---This book will give you little snippets of Alex's life.   He sums up 79 years of experiences in a nice little package.  I was going to feature this book on November 30, but I moved it up to celebrate his life.  I will miss him so. 

November 9-Camino Winds by John Grisham---This one is kind of like a sequel to Camino Island.  I think you can read it without reading Island, but you will not understand some of the references.  In this book, the island is hit by a hurricane and someone will be murdered during the hurricane.  The gang from the bookstore will be on the case.  I loved these two books! 

November 10-The King's Justice by Susan Elia MacNeal---This is a great series that features a spy named Maggie Hope.  This is number 9 in the series (if I have counted correctly), so if you have not read the first one, what are you waiting for?  Get you a copy of Mr. Churchill's Secretary and start this series.  

November 11- The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester---As you read this one you will be transported from a spy plane during the war to an event wearing a Dior gown. This book is set in WWII and has another timeline in modern times.

November 12- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett----This book is about twin girls that live in a rural black community ...they run away from home to fulfill their needs/dreams. One will be the prodigal daughter and return home, the other will be living her life as a white woman. She completely gives up everything to be a woman with a hidden past/story. Until......well you need to read this one to find out. I promise you it is worth your time.

November 13-Recipe for the Perfect Wife by Karma Brown--A modern-day woman who buys a house with her husband in a rural area. Buried in the basement she finds cookbooks and belongings of a 1950s woman. She immerses herself into a 1950 lifestyle because of the things she finds becoming the perfect wife. A second storyline features that woman from the 1950s and how she too might have been the perfect wife. This book went in a direction I didn't expect but LOVED!November 14-Sex with Presidents by Eleanor Herman--Some of the stories you know already, others you will find shocking and a few of them are just jaw-dropping. While I enjoyed the read I also questioned it every time the author said "he was an attractive man", ewwwww no. I mean LBJ, handsome? This book will give you the scoop on everyone from a Treasury Secretary, to Senators, and Presidential hopefuls fall alongside the tales of Presidents from Grover Cleveland to William Jefferson Clinton.

November 15-Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano---I loved this book so much. Edward is the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed all the members of his immediate family. He has to move in with his aunt and uncle and somehow come to terms with why he survived and no one else did. The book also has flashbacks to the day the plane went down and how the passengers lived their last day on earth.

November 16-Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams---
What would a pilot give up to be the first female to bring all the air flight records? Then at the peak of her career, she disappears without a trace. A reporter will try to discover what happened to her, but she uncovers lots of secrets on the path to the pilot, Irene.

November 17-The Heart of the Lion by Martin Turnbull--Martin's books are some of my favorite out there. They are all about a subject in Hollywood long ago, and this one is the king of all (IMHO). Irving Thalberg was Mr. MGM. He put an unknown actor named Gable in a few movies and created a monster star. There were many Oscars won from films that came out of the Thalberg unit, Grand Hotel, Camille, The Divorcee, Mutiny on the Bounty, China Seas, Bombshell, so many good films. It was all over so fast, Irving died at 37. This book shows what the rise and death of Irving might have looked like, including his marriage to my favorite, Norma Shearer.

November 18- The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton-- A hurricane is barrelling down on Key West, three women will make choices that will change the course of their lives right before the hurricane, but the hurricane will have the last word.

November 19-Lana's War by Anita Aribel---I love the WWII books and I read many of them, most are set in Paris, and this one starts there....but it will end up in the French Rivera. I loved the setting and the very unique storyline a spy on the French Rivera, doesn't that just sound fantastic?

November 20-The Lions of 5th Avenue by Fiona Davis---What an amazing, perfect book. Just dream of what life might be like if you could live in an apartment over the New York Public Library. What a life!! Then throw in some stolen book drama and you have a perfect scenario. You need to read this one if you love libraries or just a good read.

November 21-The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. I loved this book! It is all about a girl, Adunni that wants nothing out of life but to go. to school. However, she lives in Nigeria and she is only able to go to school until she marries and her father sold her off to a man much older than she when she was 14. I am not going to tell you what happens, but it is truly a wonderful story.

November 22- Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly
Yes, I read this one again this year. It is a great book, reads like a book report, just the facts no elaboration. Today is the 57th anniversary of the assassination.

November 23- Larry Hagman day brings a nice book penned by Larry....fun fact I once wrote him and got an autographed picture from him 4 days before he died. #imurderedjr

November 24- The Sundown Motel
I have been making everyone read this, so if you haven't you should. I loved this book so much! I thought it would be a book about a hotel in Key West when I picked it up (I judge all books by the cover) but no, it was a very unique tale set in Illinois and very difficult to put down. 

November 25-Surviving Savanah 
This one won't be released until 2021, but go ahead and put it on your TBR. This is about the Titanic of the South, a shipwreck from the 1800s. You will learn how it sank and what happened in the aftermath. There is a second timeline in modern-day because the shipwreck has been found!

November 26- Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. This read is all about a mother who fakes her child's illness and uses this fake illness to pay all her bills for years until she is busted and ends up in jail. We will then see Rose Gold as an adult and this is where the twist starts. I could not put this book down!
November 27-The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This book reminded me of a mix of Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Mary Miles Minter...Old Hollywood, lots of marriages for different reasons and true love.


November 28-Followers by Megan Angelo-What if all your life took place all on social media? What if you could not do anything without the followers of your social media page approving? What if you found a way to escape and live your life? I absolutely loved the plotline of this one!!!!!!!

November 29 Working on a Song by Anais Mitchell- This book is a wonderful gift to enjoy for anyone missing stage shows.  This book will take you through every song in the musical...you will get all the lyrics, notes on the conception of the tunes, how the songs evolved during the workshops and Broadway stage, and little insights by Anais herself.  

November 30 Mitch, please! by Matt Jones-  You will get political talk in this book.  I mean it is all about the reason Matt did not run for Senator, but that is not why I am thankful for this book.  I am thankful for it because Matt visits ALL 120 counties in KY.  He not only visits each county, but he also stops and talks with locals, goes to schools, eats at the best diners, and checks out the landmarks.  I loved this part of this book.  I loved that someone would take the time to talk. to people about the "best hamburger in the county" or another local specialty instead of just how does someone beat McConnell.  I found this book insightful but also enduring as a Kentuckian and the very unique folks and places that live in our state.