January’s movies

This month Jason and I watched 30 documentaries in 30 days for our monthly challenge, so I’m amazed we had time for even one fun movie.  If you are curious about the documentaries we watched and what our favorites were click on over to our wrap-up post here .

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 $36.

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

Why Him.pngWhy Him?, 2016 (James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Meagan Mullally, Zoey Deutch)                    Grade B-

Lots of warmhearted potty humor.

Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You by Dolly Parton

Title: Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You, Author: Dolly PartonDream More. Finished audio 1-26-17, 3.5/5, memoir, pub.2012

Unabridged audio read by Dolly Parton. 1.5 hours.

Based on the hugely popular commencement speech Dolly Parton gave at the University of Tennessee that became a sensation, Dream More is a deeper and richer exploration of the personal philosophy she has forged over the course of her astonishing career as a singer, songwriter, performer, and philanthropist.

Using her speech as a jumping-off point, Parton explores the four great hopes she urges us to embrace: dream more, learn more, care more, and be more. She culls examples of these values from her own life as illustrations, from growing up poor in the hills of eastern Tennessee to her experiences as the iconic performer she has become today.         from Goodreads

I needed this little bit of light this week.  I don’t know much about Dolly Parton. I saw her in a few movies way back when, remember hearing her sing (I loved Islands in the Stream and 9 to 5 when I was kid), and know her as a big personality in a tiny(ish) body.  This short memoir laying out her philosophy of living was inspirational – but too short. It really did need to be longer.

“Care more and leave the judging to God.”

Dolly wants us all to dream more, learn more, care more, and be more.  And after listening to her tell you about it you’ll want to do just that.  She has so much energy and joy and does so much with what she’s worked so hard for that she has a new fan.  I loved hearing how her Dad told her he was proud of her and she thought it would be something about her great success, but he went on to say that he was proud of her for being known as the Book Lady around town.  Love that.  I didn’t know anything about the charity she founded to get books in the hands of every child from birth to kindergarten and am so impressed and inspired.

I looked into Imagination Library, the non-profit that Dolly and her team have helped replicate all over the world, and saw that there was no library in Cleveland!  How can that be?  Needless to say it’s going on my list of things to look into in the near future.  Is anyone involved in one of these local groups?

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie

Title: Strange Bedpersons, Author: Jennifer CrusieStrange Bedpersons.  Finished 1-22-17, rating 2.5/5, romance, pub. 1994

Unabridged audio read by Madison Vaughn. 7 hours 26 minutes.

Tess Newhart knows her ex-boyfriend Nick Jamieson isn’t the right guy for her. He’s caviar and champagne; she’s take-out Chinese pot stickers. He’s an uptight Republican lawyer; she was raised in a commune. He wants to get ahead in business; she just wants…him. But there’s no way Tess will play second fiddle to his job.

Yet somehow she finds herself agreeing to play his fiancée on a weekend business trip that could make or break Nick’s career. And while he’s trying to convince Tess that he needs her in his respectable world, Tess is doing her best to keep her opinions to herself and her hands off Nick.       ftom Goodreads

I realize this was published in 1994 but it really stretched the limits of realness (Is that a word? Why doesn’t that feel like a word?), but I’m sticking with it.  Hippie Dippy Liberal Crusader Tess versus Uptight Ambitious Chauvinist Right Winger Nick.  They broke up because of their differences, but Nick needs her back for a weekend so he can land his dream job, partner at his law firm.  The weekend takes place at the home of a famous writer and the interplay between Tess and the author was the most fun to be found in the book.

It felt formulaic and dated.  I love Crusie but not this one.


Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins – love this romance series!

Title: Waiting on You (Blue Heron Series #3), Author: Kristan HigginsWaiting on You. Finished 1-16-17, rating 4.5/5, romance, 457 pages, pub. 2014

Blue Heron series #3  (1-The Best Man) (2-The Perfect Match)

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.    from Goodreads

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.

Colleen, who owns the town bar with her twin brother, was in the first two books, but I was never really interested in her story.  Probably why it took me so long to start this one.  Colleen, it turns out, is a beautiful but somewhat broken 31 year old and I felt for her.  Lucas came to Manningsport broken by the deaths of his parents and he and Colleen found love.  Of course, young love rarely runs smooth and the two part ways.  I loved Colleen’s attempts to set up athletic Paulie with beautiful Bryce and her relationship with her half sister.

There were a few somewhat problematic parts for me on both sides, but in the end that’s what makes this one more real than some other romances.  They both did some unappealing things and in the end that made me cheer for them to find solace in each other all the more.

Sundays with Gage – Martin Luther King Jr.

One of the picture books in Gage’s Christmas advent tree was Martin’s Big Words:The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier.  It is a gorgeous book, this picture of the cover doesn’t do it justice.  It’s oversized and has won many well-deserved awards.

Jason read the book to Gage (now 6-still can’t believe it) first and I remember Gage asking a lot of questions about him getting killed at the end.  Not a lot of books prepare a child for this sort of ending.

The second time I sat down to read it with him a few days ago and before we even sat down he was telling me how King did good things. I told him yes, Martin Luther King changed the world (something we talk about often with different people) and even before I got the book opened he asked me, “How old was he when he knew?”  “Knew what?” “That he wanted to change the world.”  My heart melted.  It is never too early to talk to kids about grand ideas or big dreams!  We find out in the book that the seeds were planted when he was Gage’s age.

A beautiful book and starting place for young kids to learn about a civil rights icon.  It led to great questions and a real interest to learn more.  For both of us.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr  img_9740

The Dead Key by DM Pulley

Title: The Dead Key, Author: D. M. PulleyThe Dead Key. Finished 1-12-17, rating 4/5, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Emily Sutton-Smith. 13 hours 47 minutes.

It’s 1998, and for years the old First Bank of Cleveland has sat abandoned, perfectly preserved, its secrets only speculated on by the outside world.

Twenty years before, amid strange staff disappearances and allegations of fraud, panicked investors sold Cleveland’s largest bank in the middle of the night, locking out customers and employees, and thwarting a looming federal investigation. In the confusion that followed, the keys to the vault’s safe-deposit boxes were lost.

In the years since, Cleveland’s wealthy businessmen kept the truth buried in the abandoned high-rise. The ransacked offices and forgotten safe-deposit boxes remain locked in time, until young engineer Iris Latch stumbles upon them during a renovation survey. What begins as a welcome break from her cubicle becomes an obsession as Iris unravels the bank’s sordid past. With each haunting revelation, Iris follows the looming shadow of the past deeper into the vault—and soon realizes that the key to the mystery comes at an astonishing price.

In 2015 I had the opportunity to hear Pulley speak (wrote about it here) and the talk made me excited to read the book (the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Award winner). So much of what she writes about came from her experience as an engineer and being able to see the safe deposit boxes left as they were described in an old bank she was surveying.  I think seeing her presentation definitely made the book better.  If you’re interested this is a talk ( link )she gave at a local library.

The mystery follows the popular two storylines taking place in different time periods approach and works well enough, but I almost wish there’d been less of the 1998 story because the storyline and main character weren’t nearly as interesting as 1978.  I loved young Beatrice getting caught up in scandal and intrigue at the bank during a time that women had less options than they do today.  I was rooting for her to make her way out of the mess without getting caught but we never really knew until the last chapter with Iris in 1998.

Beatrice had all of the dignity that Iris lacked.  Iris drank too much, smoked too much, was late for work too much and maybe let her curiosity get the better of her too much.  I didn’t have problem with her but it was Beatrice’s story that kept me reading.

I liked it and am glad that I was able to hear her speak first because it put the story in context.  I also loved that it took place in Cleveland (and that means I can count it for my Read Harder Challenge).


Love Between the Covers

Jason and I are watching a documentary a day for our January 30 day challenge.  We are on schedule with the watching but two reviews behind. I blame it on the snow day Gage had yesterday.  Over the weekend we watched one that I thought my romance reading friends might like.

Love Between the Covers, 2016, is on Netflix.

For three years, we follow the lives of five published romance authors and one unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same.

They had a few of my favorites – Jennifer Crusie, Kristan Higgins, Eloisa James, Nora Roberts and many others.  Have any of you watched it?  What did you think?

You can read our thoughts here and scroll through the documentaries we’ve watched (and reviewed) here.


Here Be Dragons: A Parent’s Guide to Rediscovering Purpose, Adventure, and the Unfathomable Joy of the Journey by Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh and Ken Harbaugh

Title: Here Be Dragons: A Parent?s Guide to Rediscovering Purpose, Adventure, and the Unfathomable Joy of the Journey, Author: Annmarie Kelly-HarbaughHere Be Dragons. Finished 1-9-17, 4.5/5 stars, parenting, 204 pages, pub. 2016

Before our three kids, we had been decent people. Interesting even. One of us had taught Shakespeare to gang members while the other flew reconnaissance missions off North Korea. But our own children had proven our biggest challenge. We were passionate and service-driven folks, except we were not demonstrating this to our kids. We spent so much time trying to be good parents that we forgot to be good people.

Something had to change.

Two parents challenge one another to find balance between work and family life. Their stories are both uproarious and poignant as they raise children and strive to leave their mark on the wider world. Filled with tender moments and plenty of laughs, Here Be Dragons recounts the adventures of a family trying to stay afloat, and offers a life raft to the rest of us in choppy waters.    from Goodreads

When Annmarie emailed me about reviewing the book she had written with her husband it was plum luck that I read it.  I confess that I am a book blogger who very rarely opens up requests from people I don’t know.  For some reason I clicked it open and saw that that it was being published on my birthday and that Annmarie and her family live in the Cleveland area so I asked her to send me a copy.  What fun it was to read about Annmarie and Ken’s journey to parenthood and beyond.  I don’t usually use an author’s first name unless I know her but after reading the book I feel like I do and you will too.

Annmarie and Ken met in college and were friends who eventually saw a future together.  Both independent and driven they each sought to make a difference in the world, sometimes that meant they were in the same place on a map, but often it didn’t.  They married and had kids.  Usually this is where the story would become all about raising baby and how life stopped, but that isn’t what happened.  Amidst the trials of being a first-time stay-at-home mommy (been there and Annmarie made me laugh with her spot on observations) Annmarie and Ken still strived for more adventure, more purpose.

Their search for adventure and purpose has led them to live from coast to coast and in Ken’s case continent to continent, again, sometimes together and sometimes not.   More babies came but that didn’t stop them from moving when they felt called to do so.  They spent several years in the village next door (the one I’m always trying to convince Jason we need to move to) before heading to California with three kids and a packed car.

These are two parents trying to teach their kids what it means to be fully engaged by living a fully engaged life themselves. Their giving spirits come through loud and clear. They show the ebb and flow of a marriage with kids and they do it with warmth and humor.

The book is told in alternating voices.  They are both skilled writers so the book is beautifully written.  If you google them you can find links to some of their writing (Annmarie has quite a few pieces I loved on Huffington Post).  They also have a blog.

Ken spends a chapter or so writing about his time with Team Rubicon.  They put veterans to work in disaster areas and it looks like a great program that would do good things with a donation.

I really liked this one and think any parent will too.  They have given me inspiration to do more (and move to Chagrin Falls ;)).

I’m turning 9 today!

Who knew that when I published my first post here that I would still be around nine years later talking about books, movies, trips? Not me that’s for sure. I think that years 2-4 were the most successful ones. I was active in the book blogging community and I had time to visit my blogger friends EVERY DAY.  Times have changed and bloggers have come and gone, but there are many of you who have been here since the first few years and I appreciate your friendship so much.  Thanks for sticking around and being a part of my on-line, and often real, life.

I plan on another great blogging year with the admission that the weekly quizzes are gone for the forseeable future. I think it’s fun, but it takes up too much time. I’m not sure how I’ll replace them but I’ve got some ideas 🙂

Here are my favorite pics from each year of blogging.  Tell me if you have a favorite. I may use it on my front page this month.

Trevi Fountain in Rome2008


























first book2016





1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die,141-166

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

It’s been awhile since I posted about the albums from this book (Over a year. Yikes!).  I’ve only managed 25 more, but after I post this will put some more on hold at the library.

Two summers ago I started using this book as a guide to explore music with my son.  Gage has been a part to some of the journey, but not all.  I try to play at least parts from every album for him, except the explicit ones, and some he likes and some he covers his ears.  He is probably more discerning than I am.  This post is more for me than you because I know that these lists can get boring, but feel free to comment if I’ve listened to a favorite of yours (whether I liked them or not :)).  Happy listening.

I’ve decided to list them in the order I liked them best.  If you click on my favorite song on each album it will take you to the video.

The Rising by Bruce Springsteen, 2002. Songs about 9/11. Very powerful.  Favorite songs – Into the Fire & Countin’ on a Miracle

Elephant by White Stripes, 2003. Favorite song – In the Cold, Cold Night

Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen, 1984. Favorite songs- I’m On Fire & Glory Days

Traffic by Traffic, 1968. Favorite songs – Feelin’ Alright & You Can All Join In

The Slider by T.Rex, 1972. Favorite song – Metal Guru

Electric Warrior by T.Rex, 1971 Favorite song- Banga Gong

Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter, 2010. Favorite song – Earthquake

The Wall by Pink Floyd, 1979. Favorite song – Another Brick on the Wall, part 2

Private Dancer by Tina Turner, 1984. Favorite song- What’s Love Got To Do With It

Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash, 1968. Favorite song – Folsom Prison Blues

Pyromania by Def Leppard, 1983. Favorite song- Foolin’

Hysteria by Def Leopard, 1987. Favorite song – Love Bites

Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen, 1975. Favorite song – Born to Run

461 Ocean Boulevard by Eric Clapton, 1974. Favorite song – I Shot the Sheriff

John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic, 1970. Favorite song – John Barleycorn Must Die

Nebraska by Bruce Sprinsteen, 1982. Favorite song – Atlantic City

At Budokan by Cheap Trick, 1979. Favorite song – Come On, Come On

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, 1959. Favorite song – So What

If I Could Only Remember My Name by David Crosby, 1971. Favorite Song- Cowboy Movie

The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest, 1991. Favorite song – Excursion

LA Woman by The Doors, 1971. Favorite song – Love Her Madly

Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967. Favorite Song – May This Be Love

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West, 2010. No favorite.

Homework by Daft Punk, 1997. No favorite.

Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, 1970. No favorite

List of the albums we listened to from the book(The Visitors by ABBA, Back to Black and Highway to Hell by AC/DC, 21 by Adele, Pump and Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith, School’s Out by Alice Cooper, Dirt by Alice in Chains, Among the Living by Antrax, Tidal by Fiona Apple, Funeral by Arcade Fire, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by Arctic Monkeys,  The B-52’s by the B-52’sThe Atomic Mr. Basie by Count Basie, Abbey Road, The Beatles (white album),  A Hard Day’s Night, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With the Beatles by The Beatles, The Band and Music From Big Pink by The Band, Pet Sounds by the Beach BoysLicensed to Ill and Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys, Parallel Lives by Blondie, Boston by Boston, Station to Station by David Bowie, Safe As Milk and Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds, Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash,  Abattoir Bllues/The Lyre of Orpheus, The Boatman’s Call and Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, At Budokan by Cheap Trick, Chicago by Chicago Transit Authority461 Ocean Boulevard by Eric Clapton, The Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs of Love and Hate by Leonard CohenA Rush of Blood To the Head and Parachutes by Coldplay, A Love Supreme by John Coltrane, Be by Common, If I Could Only Remember My Name by  David Crosby, Crosby Stills & Nash by Crosby Stills & Nash, Homework by Daft Punk, Bitches Brew and   Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter,  Hysteria and Pyromania by Def Leppard, Are We Not Men?We Are Devo! by Devo, Brothers in Arms by Dire StraitsThe Doors , LA Woman, and  Morrison Hotel by The DoorsGris-Gris by Dr. John, The Night Tripper, Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, Bringing It All Back Home, Freewheelin’ Bob DylanHighway 61 Revistedby Bob Dylan,  Eagles and Hotel California by The Eagles, Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow, The Marshal Mathers LP andThe Slim Shady LP by Eminem, Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics, The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips, Rumours and Tusks by Fleetwood Mac, Foo Fighters by Foo Fighters,  Frampton Comes Alive by Peter Frampton, Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand, The Score by Fugees,  Maggot Brain by Funkadelic, So and Melt by Peter Gabriel, Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses, Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, In Our Heads by Hot Chip, Dare by The Human League, Make Yourself by Incubus, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly, Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson, BadOff the Wall and Thriller by Michael Jackson, The Blueprint by Jay-Z,  Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane, Darklandsand Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain, Aqualung by Jethro Tull, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John, Now I Got Worry by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Come Away With Me by Norah Jones Pearl by Janis Joplin, British Steel by Judas Priest, Cross by Justice, Tapestry by Carole King,  Destroyer by KISS, Tragic Songs of Life by the Louvin Brothers, Illmatic by Nas, In Utero, MTV Unplugged in New York, and Nevermind by Nirvana, Ready to Die by The Notorious B.I.G.,  Straight Outta Compton by NWA, The Wall and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, Regatta de  Blanc and Synchronicity by The Police, Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley, 2112 by Rush, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols by Sex Pistols, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon & Garfunkel,  Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim and In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra, Me Against the World by Tupac Shakur, Born in the USA and Born To Run, Nebraska, The Rising by Bruce Springsteen, System of a Down by System of a Down, Electric Warrior and The Slider by T.Rex, John Barleycorn Must Die and Traffic by Traffic, The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest,  Private Dancer by Tina Turner, Dear Science by TV on the Radio, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, Joshua Tree, and War by U2, Velvet Underground & Nico by Velvet Underground, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West,  Elephant by White Stripes,   Red Headed Stranger andStardust by Willie Nelson, Back to Black by Amy Winehouse, XX by The XX,  It’s a Blitz! by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Close To the Edge, Fragile and The Yes Album by Yes,  After the Gold Rush, Harvest, and  Tonight’s the Night by Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Hot Rats by Frank Zappa) 140/1001

Linkup to my past posts

1-10, 11-30 31-60, 61-90, 91-140