Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Title: Circling the Sun, Author: Paula McLainCircling the Sun.  Finished 7-1-17, rating 4.5/5, historical fiction, pub. 2015.

Unabridged audio read by Katharine McEwan. 12.5 hours.

Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly. 

-from Goodreads

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up, only that it was written by a Clevelander and someone mentioned that they liked this better than her other bestseller, The Paris Wife.  Little did I know that I would love this story of 1920’s Kenya so much.

Beryl’s upbringing was eccentric and because of that she was a fantastic main character.  Her English mother couldn’t handle her life in Kenya so she moved back to England with her son, leaving Beryl with her father.  Beryl was able to run wild as a child and was accepted by the local native tribe, at least until she was old enough to be sent away to school.  She was attacked by a tiger and lived to tell the tale.  She was fearless with horses and broke every mold a woman trainer could in the 1920’s.  Her unbridled nature led her to questionable relationships and choices, but she always maintained her independence and paid dearly for mistakes.

I don’t know how much this Beryl matches the real Beryl, but I am interested in finding out by reading Beryl Markam’s autobiography West with the Night.  I have never even seen or read Out of Africa, where Beryl is part of the tragic love triangle in this novel.  I need to rectify that soon.  She was an immensely flawed character, but that made me love her that much more.  And I loved learning about Kenya at that time as big changes were happening.

Highly recommend this one.  The audio was a wonderful way to experience this one.

So, for those of you who have seen or read Out of Africa, what did you think of Beryl?

 

 

July 20, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 3 Comments

I need your help!

Last year Jason and I started doing monthly challenges and created a new website to keep us honest, My 30 Day Challenges.  Last September I read a book a day for the month and, while difficult, it was fun.  This September I want to read a book a day and make it just a tad bit harder.  I want it to be a month of reading a biography or autobiography a day.  I don’t read enough of them, but when I do I always come away a bit smarter and definitely filled with more empathy.  But, because they aren’t my genre of choice I’d love to hear some suggestions.

I need biography/autobiography recommendations.  They can’t be too long (I only have one day to read them!) so let’s not go over 400 pages. 

For every recommendation in the comments (here on the blog – not FB) I’ll put your name in a drawing for my favorite book of the month 🙂

I’ll keep this open for a month, let’s say August 24th, so I have time to track down the books I’m interested in.

Thanks so much!!!

 

 

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Bookish Stuff, FREE | 12 Comments

The Mid-Year Freakout Book Tag

Originated at Maureen’s Books, but I first saw it at Carol’s Notebook.

I’ve read 31 books this year and I feel pretty good about that.

1 – The Best Book You’ve Read So Far In 2017

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman.  I fell in love with Ove and his collection of merry wo(men) around him.  For every trouble he caused those surrounding him, at least one blessing was given out.  Ove was a man with a heart, who didn’t always play well with others.  I think everyone knows an Ove, some of us better than others.

2 – Your Favorite Sequel This Year

Waiting On You by Kristan Higgins, Blue Heron #3.   I love this series set in New York wine country.  The small town is charming, the people are eccentric and the dialogue is snappy.  As with the first two books I laughed out loud many times and was brought to tears at least once.  Higgins is so talented. I can’t wait to read everything she’s written.

3 – A New Release You Haven’t Read But Really Want To

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.  I read his interview in Poets & Writers magazine and am eager to pick it up.

4 – Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half of the Year

Whatever the yearly Harlan Coben release is!

5 – Biggest Disappointment

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie. I usually love her but this oldie was too dated and stereotypical.

6 – Biggest Surprise

Dream More:Celebrate the Dreamer in You by Dolly Parton.  I’ve never really followed Dolly Parton, but after listening to her narrate her book I’m a fan.

7 – Favorite New Author (Debut Or New To You)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Fantastic debut about something so important going on right now.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.

8 – Your New Fictional Crush

I had a little crush on Ove 🙂  He may have been a 59 year old curmudgeon, but I loved him.

9 – A Book That Made You Cry

A Man Called Ove, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

10 – A Book That Made You Happy

Good romances always make me happy and I’ve read several so far this year.  The Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas, When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James, Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins

11 – Your Favorite Book To Movie Adaption That You’ve Seen This Year

A Man Called Ove was well done, subtitles and all.  Although the book and movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close were different, I thought they were both well done.

12 – Favorite Book Post You Published This Year

I loved having my first Bookish Wine Party and hope to make it a yearly thing.

13 – The Most Beautiful Book You Have Bought/ Received This Year

Of the books I’ve read I really liked Almost Famous Women

21411936

14 – What Are Some Books That You Need To Read By The End Of The Year

I need to knock a few of my Classics Club list. I’m woefully behind.

 

If you want to have some fun, consider yourself tagged.

July 11, 2017 Posted by | Bookish Stuff, lists | 7 Comments

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

Title: Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Author: Sy MontgomeryTemple Grandin. Finished 6-28-17, rating 4/5 stars, Kids Biography, 148 pages, pub. 2012

When Temple Grandin was born, her parents knew that she was different. Years later she was diagnosed with autism.
   While Temple’s doctor recommended a hospital, her mother believed in her. Temple went to school instead.
   Today, Dr. Temple Grandin is a scientist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Her world-changing career revolutionized the livestock industry. As an advocate for autism, Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make.
   This compelling biography complete with Temple’s personal photos takes us inside her extraordinary mind and opens the door to a broader understanding of autism.    (from Goodreads)

I love Temple.  I knew of her before my life in the autism world began, but now, she’s like a rock star.  The autism community is so lucky to have her be their spokesperson.  I’ve heard her speak in person twice, both different and inspirational.  I was looking for some books for Gage and saw this kids biography and picked it up for myself.  Over 100 pages with lots of pictures and Temple drawings and it captures her personality perfectly.

The book tells of her upbringing from the horror of her father’s distaste to the unwavering loved of her mother.  It shows the difficulty she had in school after elementary school, but also the friends she made and still has.  It showed that she was a workhorse, holding a number of jobs and never tiring, even now as she approaches 70.

This was a book that explained how she got to where she is today.  She is an autism champion now, but she started by designing cattle shoots.  And when she was rebuffed in the male dominated field of cattle she always found a back door and a way to succeed.  She is one tough cookie.

Temple does not represent everyone on the autism spectrum, obviously, but I would encourage those of you who don’t have a loved one on the spectrum to read this. Spend an hour and see what parents and grandparents see when they look at their kid.  All the possibilities are here and Temple embodies them.

 

July 7, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 5 Comments

June’s movies

How as your movie month?  Anything I need to see?

Add your 5 words (or less!) to mine in a comment and earn $1 for charity.  Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity.  Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to.  Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

We’re at $55.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to participate when you can each month.  It’s fun for me and for everyone else who reads it.  I’m not looking for a critical review, just a few words about how you felt about the movie.  This is ongoing so you can leave your 5 words anytime.

Film poster showing a man in his underwear with a cape on his neck, standing on top of a building. A moon showing a silhouette of an underwear.Captain Underpants, 2017 (Voices-Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Tomas Middleditch, Nick Kroll)                                      Grade B+

Misbehaving friends won me over.


Moonlight (2016 film).pngMoonlight, 2016 (Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome)  Grade B-

Wanted to like it more.

Coming-of-age story about gay black man . (Heather)


LiloandStitchmovieposter.jpgLilo & Stitch, 2002 (Voices-Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Tia Carrere, Ving Rhames)                                         Grade B-

Alien monster finds human family.

Heartwarming story of family and acceptance.  (Heather)


Movie poster Around the World in 80 Days.jpgAround the World in 80 Days, 2004 (Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cecile De France, Jim Broadbent, Ian McNeice, Karen Joy Morris)    Grade C

Silly but entertaining Chan comedy.

July 3, 2017 Posted by | 5 Word Movie Reviews | 3 Comments

Sundays with Gage – Learning about Artists

As a summer daily project I started doing themed mini-lessons with Gage.  We read a book about a particular subject and then he draws a picture from the book.  This, of course, serves two purposes and both have worked very well.  We hang up each day’s picture in the kitchen until the end of the week when we take them all down and put them in a folder with labels.  He is so proud of this book of his art and it’s nice to see the growth of his artistic abilities.

My favorite so far was the week and a half we spent reading about artists. I checked out the picture books about painters at the library and found seven that worked.  artbooks

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel.  Mary Cassatt by Mike Venezia. An Eye for Color: The Story of Joseph Albers by Natasha Wing.  Monet Paints a Day by Julie Danneberg.  The Yellow House: Vincent van Gogh & Paul Gauguin Side by Side by Susan Goldman Rubin.  The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinksy’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock.  Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe.

Both The Noisy Paint Box and Radiant Child are Caldecott books and deservedly so. They were my favorites, along with An Eye for Color.

If you follow me on Facebook you saw what happened at the end of the week when I set him up with some paints and an easel.

IMG_0257He painted a portrait of me 🙂  I think playing with proportion might be his thing, lol.

As the grand finale I planned a trip with him to the Cleveland Museum of Art.  I checked to see which artists we would find in the museum and then printed all 9 paintings and told him what room to find them.  He had to find them on the museum map, only two rooms so it wasn’t hard, and then get us there and find the pieces.  I knew he would just race around so I told him beforehand that I had to take his picture with each one. That slowed the racing only marginally.

We did walk around a bit after and he loved the video art.  So much so that Friday after his camp at the Botanical Garden across the street he asked if we could go back and see it!

IMG_0385I’m feeling like our first art study was a success!

Other topics we’ve covered are feelings, Disney (the week before our trip to Disney), and jobs.  Next time I’ll show you his art book 🙂

If you have any good ideas for good themes please share!

 

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Heroes For My Son by Brad Meltzer

Heroes for My SonHeroes For My Son. Finished 6-19-17, rating 3.5/5, inspiring people, 108 pages, pub. 2010

When Brad Meltzer’s first son was born eight years ago, the bestselling writer and new father started compiling a list of heroes whose virtues and talents he wanted to share with his son: Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Jim Henson, Amelia Earhart, Muhammad Ali . . . and so many more, each one an ordinary person who was able to achieve the extraordinary. The list grew to include the fifty-two amazing people now gathered in Heroes for My Son, a book that parents and their children—sons and daughters alike—can now enjoy together as they choose heroes of their own.

From the Wright Brothers, who brought extra building materials to every test flight, planning ahead for failure, to Miep Gies, who risked her life to protect Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis during World War II, Heroes for My Son brings well-known figures together with less famous ones, telling the inspiring, behind-the-scenes stories of the moment that made them great. They are a miraculous group with one thing in common: each is an example of the spectacular potential that can be found in all of us.

-from Goodreads

As a mom to a young child I appreciated the sentiment behind this book. When bestselling author Brad Meltzer and his wife had their first son he felt the need to impart his wisdom to his son through the written word. On the night of his birth he started a list of instructions on how to be a good man.  1. Love God and 2. Be nice to the fat kid in class.  Both great pieces of advice but the book didn’t turn out the way he wanted so he wrote this one instead.

In a square hardcover Meltzer devotes two pages to each to the inspirational people that he feels have something important to teach his children.  One page is a picture with caption and the other page he writes briefly about why they are included in the book with a quote. The Wright Brothers are here not because they invented an airplane but because every day when they went out to fly they brought extra materials because they knew they would fail.  They knew they would fail but every day they tried anyway.  That’s the lesson.  Thomas Jefferson was included not because he was President but because he wrote the Declaration of Independence but didn’t tell the public.  Humility is in short supply these days, especially in our elected officials so this was a nice story.

I liked the mix of famous and not-so-famous people, both men and women, and the new things I learned.  This would be a nice book to read with your child or grandchild. This isn’t for boys only and had plenty of women on the list.  I made a list of some of the people I’d like to know more about, so this would be a great shared reading experience but will also add to your wish list 🙂

 

June 19, 2017 Posted by | 3 1/2 Star Books | 5 Comments

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

Title: The Farm, Author: Tom Rob SmithThe Farm. Finished 5-26-17, rating 3.5/5, suspense, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read by James Langton and Suzanne Toren. 8.5 hours.

If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son.

Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.

Your mother…she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow. 

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

from Goodreads

Daniel lives in London with his boyfriend, a boyfriend his parents know nothing about.  After his parents moved to Sweden the closeness between the three of them widened and Daniel thought his secret was the reason.  A phone call from his mother helped him see the truth.  He was not the only one harboring a secret.  His mother had quite a story and Daniel wasn’t sure what to do and who to believe.  When he decided to do a little investigating himself he found out more than he really wanted to know.

I liked the suspense of his mother’s story and questionable sanity but was wishing that it might not have lasted as long.  I was growing weary of not knowing.  But I thought the payoff made it worth it.  This is my first Smith book but I look forward to reading more from him.  The narrators were excellent and I can recommend the audio.

 

June 8, 2017 Posted by | 3 1/2 Star Books | 6 Comments

Sundays with Gage – First plane ride and Disney!

I have resisted taking a long vacation with Gage, one that required an airplane and less access to food from home,  but when Jason had to go to Orlando for work last week I couldn’t not take advantage of the opportunity.  Gage is sensitive to loud sounds and I was afraid that the airplane might be too loud.  It wasn’t.  I was afraid of trusting restaurants to handle Gage’s diet.  I was right on that one.  But, in the end we had a fantastic family vacation and Gage gave Florida two thumbs up, which according to him means, “we’re coming back soon.”  We’ll see.

disney2We flew Frontier for the first time on the way there and except for the dirty snacks all over the floor, it was fine.  Gage loved the flight!

We stayed at Coronado Springs Resort in Animal Kingdom at Disney World and it was really nice.  I was under the impression from different people that Disney did a good job accommodating special diets and I guess they did, but to a bare minimum.

disney3We ordered at their restaurant and when they brought out his chicken, potatoes and grapes there was a big smear of melted cheese on the plate!  These are the things that keep moms like me on the crazy side when it comes to food.  He always found something to eat in the 2.5 days we were there, but I have no doubt there was gluten in there somewhere.  We saw behaviors that we haven’t seen in years, but better gluten than dairy since that would have sent us to the hospital.  So, the silver lining was that there were no hospital visits 🙂

Two tips that I had from people before we went.  One, we rented a stroller and it was a lifesaver.  Gage is 6 and I donated our strollers 2 summers ago, so I was a bit skeptical of this advice at first, but it came from mamas who had kids older than Gage. Without a doubt he would not have lasted 9 hours at the park had we not had the stroller.  It also saved us from having to drag or tell him to hurry all day.  The second tip was to get the fast pass.  We didn’t, BUT we did wait 20 minutes when we got there to get the disability pass, which they give to kids on the spectrum.  So, when we went to a ride and there was an hour wait, we signed in and came back in 50 minutes to ride.  Essentially, we still had to wait (minus 10 minutes) but we could go do other things instead of waiting in line.  It was free and we only had to sign up the first day and it was good for a month at all the Disney parks.  It’s a great feature.

disney4 disney1We spent our first day at Magic Kingdom and we all loved it.  It was hot and busy, but it was Memorial Day so that was to be expected.  The second day we spent at Animal Kingdom and I was miserable.  It was 95 and a worker there told me that because of the greenhouse effect of all the trees the park was often 10 degrees hotter.  I was dripping sweat within about 15 minutes. Gage barely made the height requirement for Expedition Everest, but he wanted to ride the big coaster and he did twice – with dad.

disney8

We then moved on to the Hyatt Regency where Jason had a conference.  Gage and I got to spend a few days hanging out together in Orlando.  We didn’t venture all that far, but had fun.  When Jason was finished on Friday we headed to Sea World and had a great time.  This was my favorite park.  The crowds weren’t too bad and the weather was more reasonable for this Ohio gal.  Gage insisted on riding this water ride four times, twice with Jason and twice with me.  He claimed he loved it.  But look a little closer at his face the third time he rode it…disney6  disney7Look at that face! He looks like he’s being tortured! Jason looks like he’s having fun at least 🙂 Makes me laugh a little every time because I know that he kept begging to ride it.  We had a fun day there, even if it got cut short by rain.

The trip was a success, but the food was a problem, so I’ll be planning a little better next time.  I’m so glad that we were able to do it.  And I got to be the parent that told his kid’s teachers that he was missing the last two days of kindergarten to go to Disney World 🙂

 

 

 

June 4, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

May’s movies & $ for charity

How as your movie month?  Anything I need to see?

Add your 5 words (or less!) to mine in a comment and earn $1 for charity.  Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity.  Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to.  Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

We’re at $55.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to participate when you can each month.  It’s fun for me and for everyone else who reads it.  I’m not looking for a critical review, just a few words about how you felt about the movie.  This is ongoing so you can leave your 5 words anytime.

Snow White 1937 poster.pngSnow White & the Seven Dwarfs, 1937    Grade B

Original Show White sweetness.

Grumpy is my favorite – married him!  (Kay)

A much loved childhood favorite.  (Michelle)

Good first effort for animation.  (Heather)


Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon with Felicity Jones as Sienna Brooks running together, with the film's title is written vertically in the middle between them, the film's director's name above and the billing and credits underneath them.Inferno, 2016 (Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones)   Grade B-

Langdon in Florence, read the book.

Good. Need to read book.  (Michelle)


Smurfs The Lost Village poster.jpgSmurfs:The Lost Village, 2017 (Voices-Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer)    Grade C-/D+

I liked them as a kid?!!?!?!?


A black-and-white poster of a mass of people being surrounded/tortured by the aliens, not unlike the Renaissance depictions of Hell, with one alien at the center highlighted by a shaft of light from the upper-left.Alien:Covenant, 2017 (Michael Fassbender. Billy Crudup, Katherine Waterson, Danny McBride, the alien(s))    Grade D

Good grief! Stupidest humans ever!

What? OMG, I loved it!  (Michelle)

Never ever go off course…..  (Heather)


May 27, 2017 Posted by | 5 Word Movie Reviews | 10 Comments