January’s Movies and Money for Charity

Usually January is a busy movie month for us, but this year not so much.  What did you see this month that you’d recommend?

You know the drill, 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 $30 right now.  Your charity could be next 

1917 (2019) Film Poster.jpeg 1917, 2019 (George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Colin Firth, Richard Madden, Benedict Cumberbatch)    Grade B+

War stops for no one.

It was very well done.   (Marg)

Secret in Their Eyes poster.jpg Secret in Their Eyes, 2015 (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Robertsm Dean Norris, Michael Kelly, Alfred Molina, Joe Cole)     Grade B-

Parent’s worst nightmare come true.

Heartbreaking, horrifying…compelling mystery. (Michelle)

Selfless poster.jpg Self/Less, 2015 (Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Victor Garber, Derek Luke, Natalie Martinez)      Grade B-

No body is immortal.

Reynolds…need I say more. 🙂   (Michelle)

Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Title: Exit Strategy, Author: Steve Hamilton Exit Strategy.  Finished 1-29-20, 4/5 stars, thriller, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio read by Ray Porter.  6 CDs.

Book 2 in the Nick Mason series (1-The Second Life of Nick Mason)

Nick Mason has been given a true mission impossible: Infiltrate WITSEC, the top-secret federal witness-protection program that has never been compromised, locate the three men who put his boss Darius Cole behind bars for life, and kill them.

But first he has to find them—they’re ghost prisoners locked down around the clock in classified “deep black” locations by an battalion of heavily armed U.S. marshals charged with protecting them—and the clock is ticking. Cole is appealing his conviction, and these witnesses are either his ticket to freedom or the final nail in his coffin.    As he risks everything to complete his mission, Mason finds himself being hunted by the very man he replaced, the ruthless assassin who once served, then betrayed, Darius Cole. 

In an action-packed journey that leads from a high-security military installation in the Appalachian Mountains to a secret underground bunker hidden far below the streets of New York City, Nick Mason will have to become, more than ever before, the lethal weapon that Darius Cole created.   fromGoodreads

I listened to the first Nick Mason book last month and liked the way Nick, a low level criminal turned killer, was portrayed as a man making bad decisions based on wanting to live another day.  I’m not sure sympathy is the best word, but definitely some feeling of understanding kept me listening.  In this second book with Nick, one that starts about a month later, the bigger picture becomes clearer and his luck with women goes from bad to worse to the worst.  I think at least one of those could have been left out.

Somehow, Nick has become this uber assassin and I was a little confused about how he obtained all of these skills in such a short amount of time, but once I just accepted it as fact the story became more fun.  Well, as fun as killers hunting killers and leaving lots of dead bodies in wake can be.  Again, once accepted the entertainment value goes way up.

I like Nick Mason and this series, improbable as it may be, and am looking forward to the next book.

Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues That Will Change Your Life and the World by Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity

Title: Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues That Will Change Your Life and the World, Author: Jonathan Reckford Our Better Angels. Finished 1-28-19, 4.25/5 stars, volunteerism, 223 pages, pub. 2019

In this first-ever book for adults from Habitat for Humanity, CEO Jonathan Reckford shares moving and inspiring stories of ordinary people whose lives have been changed by working together to help one another. And he shows what we can all learn from these everyday heroes.

Having witnessed people beat back the storms of life, Reckford came to see how we can all find our better selves by tapping into seven old-fashioned virtues—kindness, generosity, community, empowerment, respect, joy, and service. And he came to see how the strength gained from these virtues can help each of us build our best selves in ways that impact all areas of our lives—from our careers to our families, from how we behave in our communities to how we see the world.

With a separate chapter devoted to each of these seven virtues, Reckford introduces us to remarkable people Habitat has served, like Jed, whose family received a Habitat home and who could barely wait to donate it back Habitat to help others in need. And we also meet volunteers like Vic, a veteran who was inspired to return to Vietnam to help build housing there. Each vivid story in this book carries its own lesson and epiphany – to help readers find their own better angels.

The book begins with an inspirational foreword by Jimmy Carter.     from Goodreads

There are few public figures I respect as much as Jimmy Carter.  He and Rosalynn’s  commitment to service, well into their 90’s with health issues as an added hurdle, inspires me.  He is known for his work with Habitat for Humanity and he writes the moving Foreword for this book filled with Habitat stories.

Jonathan Reckford shares the stories of the volunteers who have helped build Habitat homes and the recipients who have been given new leases on life by receiving one.  He breaks them up into seven sections; kindness, community, empowerment, joy, respect, generosity, and service.  I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite story, or even two, but I was left with new insight to how people live around the world and even here in the United States.  I read one short story every morning for about a month and a few stuck out for me in their ability to make me feel another place, another way of life.   In Romania a small village had the good fortune to have a woman who discovered the organization and it changed her village forever.  In Africa, the picture of a family of 14 living in one big tent with muddy floors was hard to imagine. In India, neighbors of different religions at odds with each other came together to work side by side as people.  And in Vietnam, soldiers once sent there for war return to make peace with the people and the land.

I loved this book as an easy to read inspirational collection of stories full of people who are changing the world.  And the best part is that you can be a part of it.  If you’ve never volunteered at a Habitat house you should give them a call and see what you can do.  There is no one less handy around the home than me and years ago I volunteered with a group of women at local home going up.  I helped with a few different things, but spent most of the day caulking, after instruction of course.  I was out my element, but was welcomed and left feeling not only like I’d helped in a small way but also that I’d learned a few new things about building a house.  I’ve already told Jason that in the spring we’d start having a few dates at Habitat homes 🙂  All proceeds from the book go to the organization.




This Week – Snow is here to stay

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It snowed much of last weekend and it was the big snowflake, movie kind of snow.  Just beautiful.  It’s supposed to be another snowy weekend.

Highlights of the Week  We had dinner out with friends, followed by a 4th grade basketball game and then ice cream.  It was fun being back in a gym watching kids play basketball.  I wasn’t too many years older when I played.  IMG_3236  It was Gage’s movie night at school.  I worked the drink table so the kids kept me busy.  The kids are always so excited and it’s fun to see them with siblings and parents.  I also completed my 4 hour manager training for the Ohio primaries at the beginning of March.


Finished This Week  Title: Keep This Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save TIme, Money, Space, and Sanity, Author: Jamie Novak (review) IMG_E3283

Currently Reading Liars' Legacy Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues… Morning Meditations: Awaken Your Power …

Listening To Exit Strategy (Nick Mason, #2)  Last week I started the Ruth Bader Ginsberg audio and really liked it, BUT it was too hard to appreciate with short trips around town.  I will be giving it another try when I have some real time on the road.

Received in the Mail Title: Home Truths: A Novel, Author: Susan Lewis

Library Book Sale Finds IMG_3285

Documentaries Watched American Factory poster.jpg

This Weekend  Jason and I will head to the movies tomorrow, but I’m not sure what we’ll see.  Any recommendations?

Keep This Toss That by Jamie Novak

Title: Keep This Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save TIme, Money, Space, and Sanity, Author: Jamie Novak Keep This Toss That. Finished 1-19-20, 3.5/5 stars, home, 304 pages. pub. 2015

Quick answers to the one key question everyone needs to answer in order to get organized and save their time, money, space, and sanity: “Should I keep or toss this?”

Keep This, Toss That answers all of these questions and much more. Featuring dozens of illustrated Keep/Toss Checklists, the book shows you exactly what you need—and what you can safely toss, regret-free (even if you’re a sentimentalist or saver)—in every room of your house, for each hobby or activity, and even online. It also includes:
• quick tips on clever storage solutions
• tools and utensils that can do double duty
• advice on how to customize the lists to suit your house, your family, and your lifestyle Answering the one key question you need to get organized and live happily with just the stuff you love, Keep This, Toss That is the one organizing book you must have.   from Goodreads

I have a clutter problem.  If there is a flat surface in a well used area of our home I am fighting a constant battle.  I can pare down, but it must be something I do fairly regularly.  Some of the problem is just not having a home to put everything, more of an organizational issue I guess.  So, I picked this up as I was browsing the library shelves in this area and found it useful and easy to read.

There are lists of what to keep and what to toss or give away for every room in your home, including outdoor spaces.  The lists themselves became somewhat redundant, but the extras that were included were where I found most of the value.  Recipes for natural cleaners to eliminate all those cleaner bottles, lists for emergency bags or boxes for different purposes, lists of different ways to wear a simple white shirt and the shoes every woman should have, and different places to donate your extras.  Have too many reusable bags (who doesn’t have too many of those freebies you get?) send them here and let them find new life.

I found it’s value in the easy and fast way it read and how it encouraged me to rethink some of the organizational choices I’ve made.  The paperwork section was helpful because I am forever trying to find something  that works for me.  If you’re a clutterbug like me this is worth taking a look at.  There is a newer revised edition so that may be the way to go.

This Week – A few new challenges

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IMG_3209 (2)

This is the only fun picture I took all week.  As Gage and I were walking back home from the bus stop we found the only snow left on a 40 degree day.  A gross mound of snow and who knows what.  But at least the kid is cute!

Highlight of the Week  Well, the highlight was supposed to be seeing author Marie Benedict, but I got the times wrong and we arrived at the library 20 minutes late.  The door to the library was closed so we couldn’t even sneak in 😦  I refuse to choose another highlight because I’m still bitter.  At least I got to eat at The Cheesecake Factory first, I guess.

New Challenges

I don’t remember how I first found the 1000 Hours Outside blog, but when I did at the end of the year I knew this would be the perfect challenge for Gage.  He was excited about it after I printed out the tracker sheets, but wanted me to do it with him (because I’m not challenging myself enough already, sigh).  So we both have our tracker sheets on the refrigerator and he’s currently beating me by a few hours.  I love this challenge and recommend it for anyone with children.

And although I’m late to the game I’m joining Shelleyrae’s2020 Non-Fiction Challenge at Book’d Out.  I’m signing up for the Non-Fiction Nibbler where I’ll be reading 6 non-fiction titles chosen from 12 categories.  Fun!  It’s not too late to join in.

Ongoing 30 day challenge.


Finished this week Hands Up (reviewThe Complaints (review)

Currently Reading Liars' Legacy Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues… Morning Meditations: Awaken Your Power …Keep This, Toss That: Thousands of Orga…

Currently Listening My Own Words

Puzzles Started  IMG_3224 (2)

Plans for the Weekend  We were so on the fence about taking a quick trip this weekend, but we decided to stay home and have friends over tonight.  Then we’re taking Gage tobogganing on Monday.  We’ll have to see what Sunday brings 🙂

I hooked up with the Sunday Salon this week.

The Complaints by Ian Rankin

Title: The Complaints (Malcolm Fox Series #1), Author: Ian Rankin The Complaints.  Finished audio 1-14-20, 4/5 stars, mystery, pub. 2009

Unabridged audio read by Peter Forbes.

Book 1 in the Malcom Fox series

Nobody likes The Complaints–they’re the cops who investigate other cops. It’s a department known within the force as “The Dark Side,” and it’s where Malcolm Fox works. He’s a serious man with a father in a nursing home and a sister who persists in an abusive relationship, frustrating problems about which he cannot seem to do anything.   from Goodreads

Fox is a good cop who investigates bad cops, so imagine his surprise when someone turns the table and suddenly he’s on the wrong side.  He finds himself sympathetic to the suspected and at the same time goes too far in helping his sister, enough so that he is the one under suspicion.  Fox brings a sense of good even when you aren’t sure he’s doing the right thing, you trust him but you’re not sure why.  Maybe some of the trust you feel is because of his relationships with his father and sister.  Both relationships strain for different reasons and yet Fox never wavers in his attitude toward them.  A good solid read for lovers of Scottish mysteries or police procedurals.

I picked up this book at our library sale because it was Ian Rankin (my most read author last year) and the book was in brand new condition.  I started it thinking it was a standalone.  Turns out it’s the first of a new character who will eventually share books with Rankin’s other series with John Rebus.  I’ll probably read more with Rebus first because he has more books before the two characters meet, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it connected to a series I already love.

I recommend anything that Rankin writes 🙂

Hands Up and a Quick Question for author Stephen Clark

Hands Up by Stephen   Clark Hands Up. Finished 1-12-2020, fiction, 272 pages, pub. 2019

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.   from Goodreads

Police shooting unarmed men of color is a hot button issue and it is dealt with here in a measured way while still telling the story of what happens after the shooting.  How do the parents and family have the strength to go on camera?  How do the protests get organized?  How is pressure applied to get an indictment?  And what if the policeman, while guilty, is also a victim of things out of his control?

The story is told from three different perspectives and I think this worked extremely well.  The sister, who was close to her brother, lashes out in anger.  The absent father comes home to redeem himself.  The police officer, whose complicated experience with racial issues leaves him drowning in guilt and alcohol.  I found sympathy, lost sympathy and fought incredulity at different parts in the book.

The character that made the most sense to me was Kelly, the wayward street hustler who returns home under threat of his life even while burying his own son.  His family, especially his daughter Jade, don’t want him there and he struggles to get out of the homeless shelter.  When he does find a way to make himself useful you begin to worry if he can really change.  His daughter doesn’t think so even as her mother considers bringing him back into the family.

It was an interesting story with a lot of moving parts.

Quick Question for author Stephen Clark.  I had the opportunity to exchange a few emails with the author (who sent me a copy of his book) and I asked him one question I’m sharing with you.  I think we can all relate to his last statement 🙂

 What was your favorite book of 2019?

Most of the books I read last year were published in prior years, such as The Firm and The Runaway Jury by John Grisham. The most recently published book I read was Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, which was released in 2018. And boy was it good! There was also a documentary on Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of Theranos. I’m currently reading Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, which was published in 2019. But I’m not finished yet. However, the book I enjoyed reading the most in 2019 was, far and away, The Smack by Richard Lange. Superb crime novel published in 2017. He’s also one of my favorite authors. Sorry for the long answer. But when it comes to books, I usually don’t have short responses. 😂

This Week – Back to School

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IMG_E3174 Learning to roller skate with Dad.

Highlights of the week 

IMG_3193 Our book group met and discussed The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and there was so much to discuss.

We enjoyed Gage’s last few days of winter break. We took him roller skating for only second time.  And then he and I got to spend Monday just palling around shopping and eating and taking walks and it was really nice.

Finished this week The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson reviewed it here.

Currently Reading Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues… Liars' Legacy Hands Up

Currently listening  The Complaints

Library Book Sale Finds (There are advantages to being one who sorts the donations.  I get first pick!)  IMG_E3202

Movies watched  Secret in Their Eyes Poster

Plans for the weekend

We have dinner plans with old neighbors so Gage gets spend time with Emi. She’s in 8th grade and both of her older sisters babysat Gage when he was a baby. Time flies!

I’m linking up with the Sunday Salon this week.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Author: Kim Michele Richardson The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.  Finished 1-8-19, 4.75/5 stars, historical fiction, 308 pages, pub. 2019

In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.    from Goodreads

Oh, I loved this book.  As I started reading about the blue people I did a Google search and this painting of the Fugates, the real-life family that settled in the Kentucky hills…Related image Martin Fugate came over from France and started his own blue family.  The story’s main character is based as a descendant of this family.  Cussy Mary, or Bluet, was also one of the Book Women of the Pack Horse Library Project…Related image a travelling group of women who rode their horses to the people who lived in the hills.  This was a project that came about from Roosevelt’s New Deal and the WPA and was meant to bring literacy to the Appalachian Mountains.  Both of these aspects of the story will have you doing more research after you finish the book and make it perfect for book club discussion.  We read this for my book group this month and it was well-liked by all.

I was surprised at how many issues were in the book.  These two I already mentioned plus discrimination, how little control over their own lives women had, the start of the unions in the coal mines, aggressive medical experimentation, and loving who you are.  Too much?  Nope.  Somehow the characters managed to shine through and what wonderful characters they were!  Richardson did an expert job of creating characters I’m going to remember and educating me, and encouraging me to educate myself.  I may have even shed a tear or two.  Bluet is one of my favorite characters in quite a while.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this book.