September’s Movies & $ for charity

I caught a few old movies on TV as I’ve been cleaning and decluttering this month. The movie Straight Outta Compton was good but I question its complete accuracy since the men who it’s about are also the producers and they all came off looking just like they wanted to.  Hope to see some better movies in October!

Another month and another chance to contribute money to charity.  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 $9.

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.

Straight Outta Compton poster.jpgStraight Outta Compton, 2015 (Cast-Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Paul Giamatti, Neil Brown Jr, Aldis Hodge)          Grade B

Compelling tale of hip hop.

Runaway Bride.jpgRunaway Bride, 1999 (Cast-Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Rita Wilson)   Grade B

Love the Gere-Roberts chemistry.

A Walk in the Woods Poster.jpgA Walk in the Woods, 2015 (Cast-Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen)   Grade C+

Quiet, meandering oldies road trip.

Terminator1984movieposter.jpgThe Terminator, 1984 (Cast-Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn) Grade C

Future killer will be back.

Liked Arnold – loved Michael Biehn!   (Kay)

Just friends.jpgJust Friends, 2005 (Cast-Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, Chris Klein, Christopher Marquette)    Grade D

A jerk, skinny or heavy.

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb

fpoBest Boy. Finished 9-25-15, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 246 pages, pub. 2015

Sent to a “therapeutic community” for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the “Old Fox” of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel “normal” again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return “home” to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams.    from Goodreads

Okay, let’s start with the ways that this book was a difficult read for me. Autism communities, like the one in the book, are both reassuring and frightening for a parent. I know someone who works at a community home, similar but on a much smaller scale, and he said because of the pay the staff turnover was high and the quality of employees was sometimes so bad that the residents were robbed of the money their families sent.  This is something I pray about every night, Gage’s independence. But the surprising thing for me was how hard I was hit by Todd’s love for his dead mother. Todd still needed his mother and she had been the only one who really looked out for his best interests, so I shed a few tears at those points of the book that I’m sure wouldn’t affect someone else the same way. I need to live forever, guys!

To the story, I love that this was told from Todd’s first person perspective.  Todd is a higher functioning man in his 50’s and this is not a character I’ve seen before.  Todd loves his routine, oldies music and to be helpful. He works around the center and even goes to the local school to help serve lunch.  But Todd’s routine was disrupted by a hateful roommate, a girl who makes him ‘have wind in his pants’, and new staffer who uses Todd to cover for his extracurricular activities.  Those three people leave Todd unsettled and wanting to return home to his brother so he does something drastic.

Gottlieb, whose autistic brother lives in a community not unlike Todd, gets the voice just right. Every person on the spectrum is different, with different abilities, but Todd is a fair representation of many of the commonalities of those on the spectrum.  I enjoyed my time with Todd even it was tinged with apprehension.  If you’ve never spent time with an adult on the autism spectrum then I think this book would give a great perspective with a great story too.  The end was very satisfying and left Todd and the reader in a good place.

Thanks for sending me a copy Golda!  I also enjoyed meeting the author when he was on tour last month and he wrote this article  in the Washington Post about his real life experiences with his 57 year old brother.  I highly recommend it.

Sundays with Gage – a new era

Gage started all day Pre-K last month, 6.5 hours 4 days a week, and he is doing well.  He has one class in the morning and one in the afternoon, so two different teachers and friends, and he seems to have adjusted.  He loves eating lunch in the cafeteria with the big kids and has even managed to embrace ‘rest time’ on his cot, a thing I cannot even picture since he has not had a nap in well over a year (oh how I miss those naps!).  He is learning to draw new  things and his morning class even cooks once a week, usually something that Gage can’t eat.  The food is the bane of my existence right now.  I have to send in snack for both classes and send his lunch and if I want him to be able to cook I have to send in alternative ingredients.  I admit I’ve been grumbling about them cooking in class, but he has turned into my little helper at dinnertime, always wanting to help me with a recipe, so I should probably quiet the complaints.

So what have I been doing?  The first week I cleaned house and waited for a call from the teacher to come pick up Gage… which reminds me of a funny story I have to share. During the third week I went to pick him up and kids were filing out of the school with their class and the alarm was ringing.  After 10 minutes I finally went and found a teacher and asked what was going on. She said they weren’t allowed back into the building until the firemen had come and checked the building and turned off the alarm and then she said the words that had been what kept me close to the phone that first week.  She said that it had been the second time that day that a student had pulled the fire alarm.  I nervously laughed and said, “I hope it wasn’t my kid.”  She said the first kid had been sent home – I later find out it’s Gage’s friend from his morning class. LOL.  I never did find out who the second kid was but as long as they didn’t catch my kid I’m good.  He still thinks it’s funny that his friend pulled the alarm. I would be more worried about this if I didn’t know that he hates the piercing sound.

As Gage has gotten more comfortable at school, I have easily adjusted to my free time.  That second week I think I came home and took a nap every day. I’ve started decluttering the house, cooking new recipes (none of which Gage really likes), and planned play dates for me and for Gage 🙂  To put it simply, I am in a very good place.  I feel more relaxed and myself than I have since before Gage was born.  I can credit Gage’s school for much of my comfort.  Some of these aides or class therapists have known Gage for over two years now.  He is in very good hands and I get to let my body decompress.  I think I am going to like this school thing!

A few pics of this first month of the school era

IMG_4112First day of school!IMG_4253His OT intern left after 4 months 🙂IMG_4305We’ve had a few playdates.IMG_4149And he’s still loving horseback riding!

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

The Homecoming of Samuel LakeThe Homecoming of Samuel Lake. Finished 9-3-15, rating 5/5, southern fiction,344 pages, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio read beautifully by Catherine Taber. 10 hours, 30 minutes

Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John.

Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.           from Goodreads

In 2012 I won this book from the gushing Lisa at Southern Girl Reads and it finally made it to the top of my reading list. Why, oh why, do I wait so long to read the books I win because the blogger loves them so much? (take heart Lloyd, The Language of Flowers will be coming to the top of my reading pile soon  :))  I started listening to this because that is how much of my reading happens these days, but there were times that I had to pick up the book and read ahead because I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.  This is Southern fiction at its best and it’s a debut novel too.

I know that the synopsis from Goodreads focuses on Swan, but I fell in love with this entire family.  Set in 1950’s Arkansas it brings to life a simpler, yet harsher time.  A time when playing in the woods with your siblings filled the days and men being able to put food on the table made them worry at night.  It was a coming of age summer for Swan, her brothers, and neighbor Blade, but even the adults went through a metamorphoses. Swan will win your heart with her spirit, but so will Toy, probably my favorite character.  He was the solid and intimidating uncle who was known for killing a man and getting away with it and the kids loved him.  Samuel, the preacher without a church, spent much of the book as peripheral character for me, one I didn’t understand much until he too became as sympathetic as Toy.

There was not a false word in this book. It was honesty infused in warmth and it made me smile and it broke my heart.  If you like Southern fiction you cannot go wrong with this book.  This is not the type of story I usually pass on to my husband, but I did because it is sure to be a favorite at the end of the year and he loved it too.  One night he even quoted from it while making a joke.  That alone should be recommendation enough 🙂


Postcrossing Train

IMG_4294At the beginning of the year I started requesting train postcards and people I’ve never met from around the world came through.  I couldn’t even get all 37 of the cards in the picture!  I still get cards that I like (trees and someone sent me a beautiful one of wine glasses yesterday) but Gage LOVES to check the mailbox everyday for train cards. That Thomas box in the picture is here he keeps them now, but I’m looking for a way to showcase them.  It’s a great way to talk about different places and to use our globe.

I’ve received a total of 306 postcards from around the world in the 2+ years I’ve been a member of Postcrossing.  AND as you will see a few fellow book bloggers made Gage’s day too, Mouse alone has sent 4. I wish we could get those two together for a playdate 🙂  Let’s take a closer look at Gage’s train…


1-Minnesota, 2-Mouse from California, 3-Germany, 4-Finland, 5-Mouse from California, 6-Connecticut, 7-Taiwan


8-from Grandma& Grandpa, 9-Taiwan, 10-England, 11-Netherlands, 12-Germany, 13-Australia, 14-Germany, 15-Canada


16-Great Britain, 17-Russia, 18-California, 19-Germany, 20-Pennsylvania, 21-Germany, 22-Minnesota


23-Taiwan, 24-Finland, 25-Kay in Texas, 26-Pennsylvania, 27-Mouse from California, 28-Netherlands


29-Latvia, 30-Japan, 31-Mouse from California, 32-California, 33-Ohio, 34-Germany


35-Taiwan, 36-Canada, 37-Virginia

Do you have a favorite?  My two favorites are 11 & 14.  If you are out and about and see a train postcard I hope you’ll consider putting it in the mail for Gage!  Which reminds me that we need to get something in the mail for Mouse 🙂

A winner and a quiz update

Gage started school three weeks ago and I thought all the extra time would allow me to get back into the blogging groove, but that hasn’t happened yet. I have high hope that I’ll get into a rhythm soon.  Until then I can’t stress out about Wednesday Quizzes.  They WILL be back but probably in October.

And I have a winner to announce. I have a signed ARC Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb.  The winner is……


Congratulations, Vicki.  It will be in the mail soon 🙂

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

fpoThe Stranger. Finished 8-25-15, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by George Newbern. 10 hours.

The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them      from Goodreads

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harlan Coben fan.  He is a master of fast paced thrillers filled with quick wit and sharp dialogue.  The storylines always seem to have an element ripped from the headlines; in this case the ruse of the Stranger and his band of merry tech (wo)men seems to mirror the hilarity/debacle of the recent Ashley Madison hack.  Coben always has  a relatable hero and a common entry into the cat and mouse game his stories share.  This was not a favorite of mine for reasons I’ll go into next, but it’s solid and satisfying which is something I can always count on with Coben.

How frightening would t be if someone showed up out of nowhere and revealed a terrible secret held by someone you love?  Depending on the nature of the secret it would probably be devastating.  The Stranger has a small group who use the internet to track down secrets people didn’t even know were there and then they blackmail them.  Pay up or a loved one hears the news.  When Adam confronts his wife with what he found out she mysteriously disappears, leaving Adam to ask the wrong questions and make a few missteps.  His perfect life in the ‘burbs is threatened but he fears there’s more at stake.

I liked the idea of this one, but it went in so many different directions that it really felt pretty flimsy when it all came together.  Even Adam felt flimsy to me and he was supposed to be a sympathetic character!  The end was a surprise that I mostly liked so that helped end on a high note.  With all of the possibilities of the Stranger I was expecting more.




August’s Movies and $ for Charity

Another month and another chance to contribute money to charity.  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 $8 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 graphic promotional film posterMission Impossible:Rogue Nation, 2015 (Cast-Tome Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rames,Alec Baldwin)   Grade B+

So much international spy fun!

Not fav MI – thrills still!  (Kay)

The Judge 2014 film poster.jpgThe Judge, 2014 (Cast-Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent  D’Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga, Dax Shepard)   Grade B

Slow but worthwhile family drama.

The Calling (2014 film) poster.jpgThe Calling, 2014 (Cast-Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace, Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Donald Sutherland         Grade B-

Faith-filled Canadian mystery thriller.

The Raven Poster.jpgThe Raven, 2012 (Cast-John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson)    Grade  C+

Poe’s last dramatic, fictitious days.

Love Edgar & John – odd story  (Kay)

A woman in a skirt and red knee-high boots holds a closed umbrella out while three men stand on her left closely observing herAll About Steve, 2009 (Cast-Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong)   Grade C-

A rare Sandra Bullock misstep.

A GIVEAWAY you won’t want to miss!

Last night I had the pleasure of taking my mom to a “Meet the Author” event at a local library where we ran into a friend who was also there with her mother! Both of us have children on the autism spectrum and were there to hear Eli Gottlieb talk about his just released book, Best Boy.

Best Boy is written from the voice of Todd, a 50-something autistic man who lives in a group facility and has since he was eleven.  He misses his mother (these have been emotional points for me so far) and just wants to go home. Both of his parents are gone and his brother who lives far away has responsibility for his care.  Todd is straightforward, loves the encyclopedia, and likes routine.

This book has received rave reviews and it was released last week. Eli read two chapters from the book and then opened the floor for questions.  Here are a few of the things I found interesting…

*his older brother is autistic and Eli is his guardian.  While the character of Todd was high functioning, his brother is not and he does not consider this a memoir.  He doesn’t even want to say it’s an accurate representation of autism (and a passionate parent asked), instead he sees it as a sympathetic work that is an emotional journey for the reader.

*when asked if he resented his brother growing up he responded with, “how could you not? he absorbed all the oxygen in the room.”  He was brokenhearted and angry and writing was his outlet.  This was the part that my friend and I talked about afterward.  She was sitting there, a mother of three, listening to the reality of sibling angst and I was sitting there wondering who is going to be looking out for my guy when I’m gone.  There is no perfect answer and Eli didn’t attempt to give one.

*this took 3 1/2 years to write although the voice was there for as long as he could remember. It left him psychologically exhausted to live inside Todd’s head for that long.  When asked about how he writes he said that he is disorganized with no blueprint or notes and he is in the dark, linking one sentence to the next until an arc emerges.

*His brother, who inspired the character of Todd, will be featured in a New York Times op-ed this week or next.

Okay, so my friend sent me an ARC of the book that I’ve been carrying around in my purse for at least a week (I’m halfway through) and I had Eli sign it tonight to give to one of you!


Sound good?  All you need to do is tell me you want it in a comment.  Please include an email address so that I can easily reach you if you win.  Open internationally.

It would be cool if you included how autism has touched your life, if at all.

I’ll draw a winner in 2 weeks, the week of September 14th.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

fpoThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Finished 7-27-15, rating 4.75/5, thriller, 590 pages, pub. 2005

I both listened and read this one.  The audio was expertly read by Simon Vance, 16 hours and 30 minutes.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.  from Goodreads

When I first started listening to this one I found myself lost in a sea of unfamiliar names and it made the beginning a slow start.  The set up of the Vanger history and all of the players, big and small, was something to get through not really to relish.  That came later.  Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and magazine publisher, was convicted of libel and looking at jail time when Henrik, the head of the Vanger family, makes him an offer he can’t refuse.  Henrik also tapped the troubled and enigmatic Lisbeth Salander to check him out and what she found made her more than curious about Mikael.

All three, the Vangers, Mikael and Lisbeth, had their own stories and then came together for one big revelation.  Just as one storyline came to a close there was still plenty more story to tell and what a story it was.  For me, it was the way everything was expertly woven together that made the characters so rich and vibrant.  These were characters that I had never met before and I was intrigued.  All three were unapologetic and totally at home in their own skin and I loved it.

If the story started a bit bogged down it certainly didn’t suffer from that by the middle when the investigation and personal relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth became heated.  This was when listening to the audio in the car wasn’t enough and I had to pick up the book.  There was abuse, horrific abuse and violence, but it only made me in more of a hurry to see what would happen next, how redemption might come.  As for Mikael, he seemed to have no problem loving the ladies and I was struck by the very civil way the women sharing him acted.  I’ve never seen anything like it in real life, but hey, maybe I need to visit Sweden to see if that’s the way it works over there 😉

I already have the next one ready to go!