A Housefly in Autumn. Finished 9-2-16, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 191 pages, pub.2015
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. from Goodreads
This book was such a fun and surprising read for me. I chose it because an old friend wrote it, but it didn’t really look like something that I’d like. I was so wrong. I love everything about this book, from the hero Anders Christiansen (Hans Christian Andersen similarity intentional) to the stories he told to children to the hope that his life represented. I may have even cried once or twice so obviously I was invested!
Anders was a star. At 17, he had loving parents and was considered the next big thing at university. But life has a way of changing in the blink of an eye. Hans circumstances change, but his character doesn’t. I was rooting for Hans and even when he (and I with him) faced disappointment I could always count on his ability to soldier on.
Honestly, I don’t want to give too much away, but this book really touched me and I cannot wait to read it with Gage so that he too can become a fan of Hans, who faced adversity with an ability to find something good in every situation. Important life lessons are taught but never at the expense of the story.
This one feels like a fairy tale and is filled with fairy tales and if you give it a read I bet it will charm you too.
This is my second book in my 30 books in 30 days challenge and you can read more about it here.
Following Ezra:What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from his Extraordinary Son. Finished 9-1-16, rating 4/5, autism, 241 pages, pub. 2011
When Tom Fields-Meyer’s son Ezra was three and showing early signs of autism, a therapist suggested that the father needed to grieve.
“For what?” he asked.
The answer: “For the child he didn’t turn out to be.”
That moment helped strengthen the author’s resolve to do just the opposite: to love the child Ezra was, a quirky boy with a fascinating and complex mind. Full of tender moments and unexpected humor, Following Ezra is the story of a father and son on a ten-year journey from Ezra’s diagnosis to the dawn of his adolescence. It celebrates his growth from a remote toddler to an extraordinary young man, connected in his own remarkable ways to the world around him. from Goodreads
This was the first book that I picked up for Jason after we received Gage’s PDD-nos diagnosis when he was two. Now that I’ve read it I understand that it was the PERFECT book for him at the time and would recommend it to any other dad just entering the autism world. I remember Jason telling me that his big take away was that this dad chose to embrace the obsessions (obviously trains for Gage) and that is something that we still do. But my biggest take away from the book is the utter acceptance of Ezra by his parents. I’m not saying they didn’t struggle, they are parents after all, but they weren’t struggling to change him. This is the approach Jason has always taken and it tones down my, “I can fix this,” attitude.
There was so much that was recognizable here, the sensory issues, the endless loop of questions, the laughing when being corrected that it was comforting to read about Ezra and his continual progress. Fields-Meyer writes with compassion, love and humor about something that turns a family upside down. Not just for dads, but for anyone who wants to understand what autism really looks like day to day, this is a great read. It doesn’t dwell on the therapies but on the boy. As it should be.
This is my first book of my 30 books in 30 days challenge that you can read more about here.
Life has been a whirlwind, August in particular being ridiculously stressful. With Gage starting school I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my time, but knew that it was going to involve something for me. Stay at home moms, at least this one, get lost in the day-to-day and then all of the sudden they realize that they are not the same person they were before kids. If this is true then kindergarten is a litmus test, of sorts. Which way is the wind of the future blowing?
Jason came to me last weekend with an idea crazy enough to interest me. We were always fans of Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days series and of his documentary Supersize Me and Jason and I are both motivated by challenges so the idea was that we would start a series of personal 30 day challenges. For the next year I hope that I can challenge myself to dream a little, explore the world, push myself to conquer fears all while learning and changing. That sounds easy, right?
So, I set up a blog where I could blog everyday and Jason could contribute his own challenge every other month (someone has to pay the bills!). I hope that you’ll click over to My 30 Day Challenges and follow me as I start this first month with a book challenge I’m excited about. It’s only because of my great experience with you, the book bloggers I know and love, that I’m ready to take on another blog. I don’t know what will happen to this blog long term, after 8 years I’m not planning on stopping, but it may change. For this first month at least, and probably many others, it will be easy to post on both.
And, just so you know, I am planning on inspiring you all to try a 30 day challenge and blog about it with me🙂
Go on, see what I’m taking on this month. You know you want to.
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 $35.
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.
Captain Fantastic, 2016 (Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn) Grade B+
Family’s heartbreaking funeral road trip.
The Painted Veil, 2006 (Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Diana Rigg, Toby Jones) Grade B
Slowmoving drama honest to original.
Dark Skies, 2013 (Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, JK Simmons, Dakota Goyo) Grade B-
Alien Abductors Are Among All.
One Kick. Finished 8-29-16, 4/5 stars, thriller series, pub. 2014
Unabridged audio read by Heather Lind.
Kick Lannigan series #1
Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick’s experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past… from Goodreads
I loved Cain’s first book, Heartsick, but didn’t care for the next in the popular series so I didn’t continue. With One Kick she has won me back. This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s set in the world of child abduction and pornography, of safehouses and pedophiles, of locked boxes and bombs. Kick Lanagan is a survivor but an eternal victim and she is damaged in a way that, thankfully, most of us don’t understand firsthand. She is a compelling character that I’m curious to know more about as the series continues.
Kick is known as Beth to the thousands of men who have downloaded her child pornography. Between the ages of six and twelve, Beth lives with Mel and his wife and they are part of a pedophile ring and Kick, even seeing freedom in sight, shields them and countless others in a moment she will regret. Enter Bishop ten years later who offers her a chance to redeem herself by helping him locate a missing boy.
This is a solid start to a new series. Kick is profoundly damaged, as is everyone around her, nary a decent person in sight, but she is also looking to make things right when she can. Given that she is a victim of sexual abuse I know that it will always be part of the story, but I hope that the next book offers some light and hope and joy. Kick deserves it.
One of my favorite places in Cleveland is Lake View Cemetery. You can find the history of Cleveland and its place in the world here in the 200 acre, beautifully landscaped land. I take Gage to school in the mornings and the cemetery is only ten minutes away so I spent two mornings this week walking the grounds revisiting old favorites and discovering new stories and beauty.
This will probably be my first of a few posts about Lake View, so I’m going to start with who is buried here that you may know.
President James A Garfield (1831-1881)
His memorial is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is the only Presidential casket on full display. The 2oth President is buried with his wife, one his daughters and her husband. You can start in the basement to see the caskets, visit the first floor (none of my pictures did it justice so I didn’t include them), and then head up to the balcony where you get the best view of downtown Cleveland, six miles away.
John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)
The first billionaire in the United States and considered the wealthiest American of all-time. He started his career by founding the Standard Oil Company in Cleveland. His immediate family is buried here too.
Eliot Ness (1903-1957)
His ashes were scattered in the small pond behind this headstone. Made most famous after his death by the book and movie chronicling his efforts to bring down Al Capone as one of the Untouchables.
Harvey Pekar (1939-2010)
Next to Eliot Ness is Pekar, known for his autobiographical comic American Splendor (made into a 2003 movie). I love the Sharpies that people have put in the ground beside his tombstone.
Alan Freed (1921-1965)
Cleveland can thank Alan Freed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as this local DJ coined the phrase in 1951. I saw this jukebox headstone from Pekar’s grave and walked over to find out who it was.
This is just a small number of the famous people I ran into this week, but there are more. The first day I walked around in the older section and didn’t see anyone I knew but just enjoyed the grounds.
A great touristy place to visit and, if interested, you can still be buried here. They give themed tours all the time and they are even having a concert today on the lawn of Garfield’s Memorial!
More Heaven. Finished 8-22-16, 3/5 stars, special education, 232 pages, pub. 2016
Based on a true story, More Heaven is about six children with special needs and the remarkable teacher who gives them a chance at learning and life. Despite challenges and a lack of support, Miss Tina Randolph’s commitment to reach, teach, and inspire these children is unwavering. By accepting their uniqueness and participating in their private fantasy world, while at the same time engaging them in the real world, she eventually succeeds. Tina, her quick-witted teacher’s aide Kaye, and the children mount a tireless, daily battle to shift the tide toward the acceptance of people who are different. The experiment, begun in chaotic, uncharted waters, bridges the gap of understanding and paves the way for the inclusionary practices of education and society’s acceptance of children and adults with special needs. This is a road that continues to need paving, making the messages in More Heaven equally relevant today. The book evolved from an experiment in the Philadelphia school system in the late 1970s in response to the 1975 Education for the Handicapped Act, ruling that public schools in the US educate all children with disabilities, despite their severity. Previously, many of these special needs children were kept at home-isolated and denied access to the mainstream. More Heaven is a powerful story of compassion, determination, disappointment, triumph, and love. from Goodreads
Fictionalized journal entries from a teacher who is given the responsibility of teaching special education in the public schools make up this book. In 1975, it became mandatory that public schools offer free and appropriate education for all children, including those with physical or mental handicaps. I’m familiar with the law, called IDEA, and while this book didn’t delve too much into the specifics, it does touch on it a bit.
This book would be great for anyone who is interested in education, especially those with an interest in special ed. The kids each have their own quirks and the teacher and aide have hearts of gold and are willing to work with what they have. It’s a collection of snippets about kids with differences who come together like family in the end. As for it being of general interest, I don’t know. Given the journal format and the lack of any story outside of the classroom, it might not appeal to the masses.
Author Jo Anne White has spent years working with these children. She generously sent me this book and I want to thank her for her generosity.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home. Finished 8-22-16, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub.2012
Unabridged audio read by Amy Rubinate. 12 hours.
1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.
An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again. from Goodreads
Fourteen year old June loved her Uncle Finn and his death of AIDS had her experiencing a grief that no one could really understand until she met Toby and let him into her life. Reviled by her family, Finn’s boyfriend of nine years, draws June into his world, a very adult world, but one with shared loss. The two form an odd relationship that helps them both cope with a life without Finn. Greta, the over-achieving older sister and once best friend, is crying out in her own way and the portrait done by her famous-in-the-art-world uncle before he died, in its secure hiding spot, became a way for the sisters to communicate without words. June’s life will never be the same.
I really don’t want to say a whole lot more about he plot of this debut novel. There are so many layers to the relationships that it’s best read with a fresh mind so that you can form your own opinions, and you will have them since this novel pushes more than one button. Perfect for book group discussion.
Will this end up on my favorite list at the end of the year? I don’t know. In some ways I didn’t even like it, but in others it will stay with me in its richness. It’s an old one and lots of you have read it. What did you think?
I read this article in Town and Country magazine written by Amor Towles and how he was inspired to write his book about a man sentenced to ‘house arrest’ in the Metropol hotel across from Kremlin. It got me thinking.
If I were put under indefinite house arrest in the hotel of my choice (because in my daydream I’d get to choose :)) which one would I pick? The rules are that I’d have the run of the hotel and I had to have stayed there already. So, it would have to have food and preferably a nice lobby and bar to meet new people. As Towles talks about in the article, the people who come into the hotel are going to be your touch with the outside world, so that’s a consideration too.
After spending a little too long making a list of possibilities last week after I took Gage to school. I made my choice.
Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont. We were upgraded to a suite and it was my favorite room we’ve ever stayed in. It was cozy and felt like home. The food was good and the lobby was gorgeous. There was also a spa, so that’s a bonus. The cold weather wouldn’t matter since, hello, I couldn’t leave anyway. Here are a few pics from our trip there in 2013.
So, what hotel can you see yourself holed up in for an extended period of time? Can’t wait to see what you choose!
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. Finished 7-21-16, 3.75/5 stars, graphic memoir, 208 pages, pub. 2010
Sarah Glidden’s charming and funny travel memoir of her trip through Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Masada and other historic locales, brought to life with lush watercolors in all of their quirky and breathtaking detail.
At the same time, ISRAEL is a sensitive, deeply thoughtful and personal examination of a highly charged issue, an account of a journey Sarah never expected to take. Her experience clashes with her preconceived notions again and again, particularly when she tries to take a non-chaperoned excursion into the West Bank. As she struggles to “understand Israel,” Sarah is forced to question first her beliefs, then ultimately her own identity. from Goodreads
Sarah, a progressive New Yorker is ready to take her Birthright trip, a 10 day tour of Israel for those of Jewish descent. She is interested in getting to the bottom of th Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is expecting the trip to reinforce her views. What she finds is a country and people more complicated than she could have ever imagined.
I picked this one up mainly because we live in a neighborhood with a large percentage of Jewish families and aside from some holidays I learned about the year Gage spent at a Jewish preschool, my understanding is limited. I loved learning about some of the cities on the tour and their history. I think I did come away with a better understanding, but, like Glidden, found no answers to the centuries old conflict.
I’d recommend this to readers interested in learning more about Israel or fans of graphic memoirs.