July’s Movies & $ for charity

Last month we reached $100 and Sheree chose her charity (here).  Contribute the most reviews this go round and next time it could be your charity of choice $100 richer!

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 $6 to start the round.

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.

A girl in a red dress, laughing in the rain, alongside a tall red-haired man wearing a suit.About Time, 2013 (Cast-Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie)    Grade B+

Sweet love story about time.

Great mix of sentimentality & humor.  (Kathy)

Bill Nighy, sweet time travel   (Mary)

Shrek forever after ver8.jpgShrek Ever After (voices-Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas)   Grade B

Always fun to visit Shrek.

Adventuresofrockyandbullwinklemovieposter.jpgThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, 2000 (Cast-Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, Rober DeNiro, Piper Pirabo. Jonathan Winters, Whoopi Golderg…)       Grade C+

Expect little and laugh lots.

Transcendence2014Poster.jpgTranscendence, 2014 (Cast-Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy)  Grade C

Watchable if ridiculous AI warning.

House at The End of the Street.jpgThe House At the End of the Street, 2012 (cast-Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows)

Grade C/C-

One messed up spooky killer.

Friendly neighborhood sociopath next door…..   (Heather)

Lookbook Cookbook:Simple, Delicious, Gluten-Free & Vegan Dishes for Fashion-Loving Foodies by Jessica Milan

Lookbook Cookbook: Simple, Delicious, Gluten-free & Vegan Dishes for Fashion Loving FoodiesLookbook Cookbook. Read 7-15-15, rating 3.75/5, cooking, 192 pages, pub. 2015

Who says fashionistas can’t enjoy delicious food? Jessica Milan, a model-turned-photographer and health-conscious foodie, brings you a lookbook of unique style and a cookbook of tasty vegan and gluten-free meals.

Flip through and you will find super simple recipes for smoothies, apps, snacks, mains and treats paired with photos of real girls indulging in the finished products. You will love looking through the photos as much as you enjoy preparing and eating these amazing recipes, like Tex-Mex Potato Skins, Veggie Pad Thai, Quinoa Yam Patties and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Pesto. All of the recipes are vegan and completely soy- and gluten-free, using only fresh, all natural, good-for-the-body-and-the-mind ingredients, so you can savor every bite with no guilt.
The heart of Lookbook Cookbook is in the clean, delicious and easy-to-make recipes, but also the soul is in its message: all girls deserve to have their pancakes and eat them too. So, whether you follow a strict vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free diet, or you simply want to incorporate more healthy meals into your week, Lookbook Cookbook is your must-have source of inspiration!

from Goodreads

I am always looking for great gluten free-dairy free recipes to try for Gage and I saw this fun book on the shelf at the library so I brought it home.  And I totally appreciate that these recipes are also soy free.  Soy is bad, people 🙂  Anyway, the girls featured with each recipe are young, attractive and very modern.  I love that these girls are showing that healthy recipes are the way of the future.

The recipes themselves were easy to follow, many very basic, and a few that I plan to try in the next few weeks (once I get Gage through this period of acid reflux 😦 ). Here are a few that I’m anxious to try.


Isn’t it an attractive presentation?  I really enjoyed this fashionista take on healthy cooking.  This book was based on a website by Jessica Milan, Lookbook Cookbook, if you want to take a look there first.  It was refreshing to find a book making special diets seem so on trend and hip 🙂


Mary Doria Russell book talk and My own reading habits

This week I was able to hear local author, Mary Doria Russell, speak at the Orange library and catch up with an old friend from my Washington DC days.  Amy Preneta's photo.Mary is a hoot and I hope you all take a look at her schedule and plan to hear her speak about her latest book, Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral.  I last heard her speak in 2008 and she did an email interview with me on this blog in 2009 (parts 1 & 2).  Many bloggers love her first novel, The Sparrow and its follow-up, Children of God (actually my friend Amy and I read Sparrow together in the same DC book group!).  She wrote those two sci-fi novels and has been writing historical fiction ever since.

I will go out on a limb and say that even if you have zero interest in Doc Holiday or the shootout at the OK Corral, you will want to read them after hearing Mary’s passionate talk and response to these men and their stories (especially Doc who is still her favorite character).  I admit that I know, well knew, nothing about the OK Corral but I am very excited to read both Doc and Epitaph with Jason.  She knows her stuff and she has me interested in the OK Corral because she told us that it was about gun control.  Sound relevant?  As a cop’s daughter she was able to see these men for what they were warts and all, even making many connections with stories of today.

I’m so glad that I was able to hear her speak again and I hope you can find a tour stop where you can too!

imagesI’ve been tagged by Vicki at I’d Rather Be At the Beach to answer some questions about my reading habits.

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?  Not really.  Our front room is great for natural light during the day and I have been known on occasion to take a book into the hot tub with me 🙂

Bookmark or random piece of paper?  I have a basket of random bookmarks on my desk so I will usually use those, but in a pinch any piece of paper or wrapper will do.

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/a certain amount of pages?  My reading time is ruled by a 4 year old so stopping at the end of a chapter seems like pointless goal 🙂

Do you eat or drink while reading?  One or the other for sure.  A glass of tea or wine in the evening with or without Skinny Pop usually does the trick.

Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?  I don’t need either but both are fine – unless it’s a show I’m halfway interested in and then the book usually loses.  But I have so little tv or reading time that this seems like a moot point really.

One book at a time or several at once?  I never thought I had ADHD but my reading seems to point in that direction (and I say this with love since I have a son who is most likely ADHD).  I always have 2-5 books going at once.  If one really grabs me I will lose the others until I finish it.

Reading at home or everywhere? I read pretty much everyone, most often while I’m waiting for Gage at different activities or when I happen to be in the car by myself.  I’ve also been known to read books in line at Chipotle because we have the slowest Chipotle in the country.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?  Do people really read out loud?

Do you read ahead or even skip pages?  I don’t skip pages but I have read the last page on occasion.  It used to be all the time but now it’s only if not knowing what will happen is causing me stress.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?  Breaking the spine is okay and sometimes the only way to enjoy reading a paperback.

Do you write in your books?  Depends.  In college we were told to teach active learning so writing in books was encouraged.  I have some classics and non fiction that have received some active learning 🙂

If you thought these questions were fun I hope you will consider yourself tagged!

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

fpoThe Woman in White. Finished 7-6-15, rating 4.25/5, classic thriller, pub. 1860

Unabridged audio read by Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins :)). 24 hours, 37 minutes. 783 pages (paperback). I both listened and read this one.

‘In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

from Goodreads

I first heard of Wilkie Collins from my fellow bloggers, he certainly hadn’t been on my radar before.  I read ‘first gothic thriller’ and I knew I wanted to take a look.  I mostly listened but there were times during the 24 hour audio that I just needed to know what happened so I followed along in the book.  Published in 1860, it’s long and slow but very satisfying.

The story was told after the fact and by many different characters at Walter Hartright’s request.  Walter had a chance encounter with a mysterious woman who was obviously fleeing someone the night before he left for Limmeridge House to become an art instructor for a young lady there.  These two women, who looked eerily alike, are the heart of this mystery thriller.  The story was full of twists and turns, heroes and villians and comic relief (my favorite chapter was written by Laura’s uncle, Mr. Fairlie, and it had me laughing out loud).  I especially loved Laura’s strong half-sister Marian. She was a breath of fresh air in a book that takes place when women were more delicate and had no power without money or looks.  I was rooting for her way more than Laura.

As the first successful gothic thriller I can say that it delivered.  If published today it may have been quite a bit shorter since there were many lulls, but that only built up the suspense for me and let me enjoy the mystery a little bit longer.  My husband had a hard time listening to the audio because he was frustrated with the language (listening during rush hour might not be the best idea). He gave up but I think if he’d given it some time his ears would have adjusted 🙂

A perfectly satisfying read for classic and mystery fans.

I read this as part of my 50 in 5 Classics Club challenge.





Six in Six, 2015

I saw this at JoAnn’s who saw it at Jo’s and I had to participate.  They both chose slightly different categories so I’m choosing my favorites.  I’ve only read 33 books so far and a few that made the lists I haven’t even reviewed yet but it was a fun exercise.  Why not join in too?

Six books I have enjoyed the most

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

The Reader by Bernard Schlink

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins

Six tried-and-true authors

Sarah Addison Allen

Lee Child

JoJo Moyes

Taylor Stevens

Kristan Higgins

Agatha Christie

Six classic novels

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Six nonfiction titles

What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

As You Wish:Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Carey Elwes

The Residence:Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower

Lookbook Cookbook:Simple, Delicious Gluten-Free and Vegan Dished for Fashion Loving Foodies by Jessica Milan

The Hidden Connection:Discover What’s Keeping You from Feeling Happy, Healthy and Symptom-Free by Kathleen DiChiara

Healing Our Autistic Children by Julie Buckley, MD

Six new-to-me authors

Bernhard Schlink

Wilkie Collins

Menna van Praag

Michael Koryta

Ted Dekker

Eowyn Ivey

Six books I’ve received that I haven’t read yet

The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax

Losing Faith by Adam Mitzner

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland

Belonging by Nancy Thayer

fpoBelonging. Finished 6-22-15, 3/5 stars, 341 pages, pub. 1995

Today Joanna has the life she’d always dreamed of…
Joanna Jones, the successful host of Fabulous Homes, a New York based TV show, seems to have it all. Blessed with great looks, she has a successful lover and a job that gives her fame and money, while allowing her to indulge her passion for beautiful homes.
Tomorrow she might lose it all…
Suddenly and shockingly, Joanna will discover what she doesn’t have: a committed relationship she can depend on. Now she faces a stunning discovery alone and makes the tough decision to leave her glittering life for an old Nantucket house on the ocean, new friends, and unexpected enemies. The choices ahead will test her courage; the surprising twists of fate will challenge her faith as she faces a day of ashes, a time of sorrow, and one extraordinary new chance for love, happiness, and…

from Goodreads

This has been languishing on my shelves for many years and many moves and finally the Nantucket setting reeled me in.  I love the idea of being able to find a place that feels like home and helps you heal with beauty and friendship.

What I didn’t love was Joanna herself.  She initiated an affair with a man she knew was married and even pregnant with twins managed to find herself drawn to married men.  Her life wasn’t perfect, but she still had all of the advantages of beauty, wealth, fame…and I never really forgot that.  I loved her companion, Madaket, and she brought the only warm feelings I had for any of the characters.

The beautiful Nantucket and spiritual Madaket made the sometimes slow-moving story worth reading.  This is an older book and I will probably try one of Thayer’s more recent books because I’ve seen lots of positive blogger reviews.

We have WINNER and a charity $100 richer

Four years ago I started writing my 5 word movie reviews and asking for your input too, tying it to raising money for charity.  I love seeing what you all come up with.  The more participants the more fun!

We hit 100 reviews this month (our fourth time around) and have a new winner! Sheree topped the reviews this round with 23!  Way to go Sheree 🙂 And thanks to the other 16 of you who added your two cents (and $1 for charity).  So where is the money going? Only Sheree can do justice here so I am including the whole email she sent me.  I really hope you’ll take the time to read it and Sheree’s beautiful post  about her daughter.

I’d love it if the donation could go to Heartfelt … in memory of my daughter Taleah. My post on Tuesday in memory of Taleah and her 25th birthday probably explains it so I’m more than happy for you to link to that … and who knows maybe it will touch someone going through that heartbreak.


Losing Taleah so many years ago, there were very few precious things to keep, a few photos, a tiny name band. Things have changed, in part due to many people like myself who wrote letters for childbirth education groups, participated in neonatal death follow-ups and grief groups, talked to doctors and midwives and funeral directors about things that could be done better. We as a society generally don’t ‘do’ grief well but by talking and sharing our experiences we learn and grow, it fosters change and healing and death becomes more ‘normalised.’

When you don’t take your baby home, when your arms are empty and your heart is full, when there are so few physical things to treasure, memories are all you have, so the ones we create after a baby dies are all we have to share. So I make memories and celebrate and remember Taleah and all she gave in her short time in my arms.  This is where wonderful organisations like Heartfelt make a difference.

“Heartfelt is a volunteer organisation of professional photographers from all over Australia dedicated to giving the gift of photographic memories to families that have experienced stillbirths, premature births, or have children with serious and terminal illnesses.   

Heartfelt is dedicated to providing this gift to families in a caring, compassionate manner.

All services are provided free of charge.”

The $100 donation was enough to pay for two sessions and I am so thankful for knowing a warrior mom like Sheree!

Mailbox Monday – July 13

mmb-300x282Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Four books arrived in my mailbox the past few weeks.

mm 713

The first, A Housefly in Autumn is written by my old Barnes & Noble boss in Okemos, Michigan.  You can enter the Goodreads giveaway here.  He also writes an excellent blog about being a dad to 3 small boys, Snoozing on the Sofa.

A Housefly in Autumn is intended for Young Adults and up. A historical novel, set in 19th century Europe, it follows the life of a young man whose dreams have crumbled down around him. In an act of heroism, he sacrifices his own promising future to save the life of another. Now he must decide whether to cling to the unlikely hope of regaining his old life, or aim his efforts toward making the most of the life fate has dealt him. Though it is difficult to let go of the rewards that life once promised, perhaps the greatest rewards are the ones earned by building new hope from the bits and pieces of wrecked dreams.

Then I received The 3rd Woman for a TLC Book Tour next month.  Looks good!

The United States have yielded to the People’s Republic of China – Beijing has written off trillions of dollars of US debt in return for a permanent military presence on US soil. America is now a former global superpower, dependent on and junior to China. And the evidence – cultural and political – is everywhere.

Madison Webb is a work-obsessed journalist who will do anything to get to the heart of a story; to expose lies and corruption. When her sister is brutally murdered, the police seem too eager to write it up as an isolated incident. Madison starts digging and uncovers a series of similar rape-murder cases.

As her investigation beings to attract the media spotlight, Madison draws the attention of some powerful people. And when she reveals the link between the victims, Madison will find out that the Chinese military makes for a terrifying enemy…

And I ordered the next two books of the Blue Heron series.  Can’t wait since I loved the first two.

Waiting On You

Colleen O’Rourke is in love with love… just not when it comes to herself. Most nights, she can be found behind the bar at the Manningsport, New York, tavern she owns with her twin brother, doling out romantic advice to the lovelorn, mixing martinis and staying more or less happily single. See, ten years ago, Lucas Campbell, her first love, broke her heart… an experience Colleen doesn’t want to have again, thanks. Since then, she’s been happy with a fling here and there, some elite-level flirting and playing matchmaker to her friends.

But a family emergency has brought Lucas back to town, handsome as ever and still the only man who’s ever been able to crack her defenses. Seems like maybe they’ve got some unfinished business waiting for them—but to find out, Colleen has to let her guard down, or risk losing a second chance with the only man she’s ever loved.  

In Your Dreams

Emmaline Neal needs a date. Just a date—someone to help her get through her ex-fiancé’s wedding without losing her mind. But pickings are slim in Manningsport, New York, population 715. In fact, there’s really only one option: local heartthrob Jack Holland. Everyone loves Jack, and he won’t get the wrong idea…. After all, Jack Holland would never actually be interested in a woman like Em. Especially not with his beautiful ex-wife creeping around, angling to reunite ever since he rescued a group of teens and became a local hero.

So what arrived in your mailbox this week?

Sundays with Gage – Camps and Cleveland

I feel like I have been absent from the blogging world this summer even though I have posted a few things and visited a few of you.  The first few weeks meant lots of Gage and mommy time and the last few have been camps and a quick July 4th trip to Michigan. IMG_3658[1]This is a picture of a picture so sorry about the glare.  Here he is at nature camp, 5th one from the left.  These are 3&4 year olds and the camp is 3 hours, up to half of that walking through the miles of trails they have.  He likes it a lot and will be going 4 more weeks this summer.  It’s in Shaker Heights and takes us 20 minutes in rush hour to get there. I spent the first week exploring the area by walks of my own and some shopping.  I’ve already told Jason I would love to live the area near the nature center. IMG_3577[1]This last week I took him downtown for week of camp at the Great Lakes Science Center.  This is picture is from first day drop off, there were 15 kids in his group.  Unfortunately, camp was from 8:30-11:30 which meant I was driving during rush hour.  It normally took 35 minutes but one day it took an hour! I decided to treat this camp as a mini-break for me and spent some time exploring the waterfront area, one day my mom joined me and one day I met Jason for coffee.  It was a fun week, but by the time we got home for lunch every day I was exhausted!  He loved this camp too, but I’m honestly not sure how much science was going on.  On the first day Gage’s favorite thing was riding the elevator and the rest of the days I heard a lot about the indoor playground. Cleveland gets a bad rap much of the time so I want to share a few pics I took so you can see that it has some beauty too. IMG_3579[1]IMG_3613[1]IMG_3645[1]The Science Center from the front, back, and inside.  Yes, that is the back of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from the inside and those benches between the two buildings were my favorite reading spot.IMG_3602[1] A few fun views of the Rock and Roll Hall of FameIMG_3594[1].IMG_3582[1].IMG_3600[1]. On the other side of the HOF is the Coast Guard. I walked by at 9:10 one morning and they were playing a game of football outside. You might be able to see them if you look closely.IMG_3639[1] As I walked out to edge of Lake Erie it got quieter and more peacefulIMG_3642[1]. IMG_3618[1]The Arcade is beautiful and attached to the Hyatt if you are ever looking to stay. And now indulge me further with a few photos of the Eastman Reading Garden between the Historic Main Library and the newer Louis Stokes Wing.  I was enchanted. IMG_3619[1]IMG_3625[1]IMG_3621[1]    IMG_3623[1]IMG_3626[1]

Have you been to Cleveland?

Fun fact –  Cleveland was home to the first electric traffic signal in 1914.

The Mask by Taylor Stevens

The Mask: A Vanessa Michael Munroe NovelThe Mask. Finished 7-2-15, 4/5stars, thriller, 352 pages, pub. 2015

Book 5 of the Vanessa Michael Munroe series  (1-Informationist) (2- The Innocent) (3- The Doll) (3.5- TheVessel) (4-The Catch)

Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and information hunter, has a reputation for getting things done: dangerous and not quite legal things that have taken her undercover into some of the world’s deadliest places. Still healing from a Somali hijacking gone wrong and a brutal attack that left her near death, Munroe joins her lover, Miles Bradford, in Japan where he’s working as a security consultant protecting high-value technology from industrial espionage. In the domesticity of their routine she finds long sought-after peace—until Bradford is arrested for murder, and the same interests who targeted him come after her, too.
    Searching for answers and fighting to stay alive, Munroe will soon discover how far she’ll go to save Bradford from spending the next twenty years in locked-up isolation; how many laws she’ll break when the truth seems worse than his lies; and who to trust and who she must kill. Because she’s a strategist and hunter with a predator’s instincts, and the man she loves has just stabbed her in the back.  

from Goodreads

I have been a fan of Michael’s since her first book and suggest that you start there or maybe the second if you are a newbie to the series.  I know these books can be read as standalones but I really don’t think you’d get Michael without the other books.  This latest entry to the series was a lot different from the others, in a way that I can appreciate as a fan, but if I had only read this one I’m not sure if I would have been as invested.

Michael is still recovering emotionally from her last job in Africa and she takes the peace that living with Miles, a man who loves her and her complicated ways, offers her.  She relocates to Japan and sits idle while he works.  This is a recipe for unhappiness for the fiery and capable Michael, normally the one who gets paid handsomely to acquire information.  She is in the passenger seat and only when the wheels come off and land Miles in a Japanese prison is she able to get back to what makes her tick, her work.

I loved learning about the Japanese culture, the work culture especially since the corporate world is where most of the story took place.  For me, this was the best part of the book.  Actually, it’s always one of my favorite parts of each of the books in the series.  Stevens, who grew up travelling around the world in a cult, knows how to really immerse the reader in a foreign place.  I loved learning more about what life looks like in Japan.

Michael was healing  and there was enough kick-assery to show her core strength but not as much as we’ve seen in previous novels. I liked this as a part of the series, almost like Michael’s pause for healing, and am looking forward to more of her story and Miles too since he is one awesome dude to love a woman as tough as Michael.

This book was sent to me by the publisher.