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.
A new chapter in my motherhood journey began today as I dropped off Gage at school for his first day of Kindergarten.
Julie Billiart is a Catholic school that specializes in kids with learning differences, including kids on the autism spectrum. We chose it for many reasons with the biggest one for me being the small class size (12), but the two recesses and sensory accommodations in the classroom were big plusses too.
This is a big, great beginning for Gage, but with that I feel an ending of something too as the tears come. I pushed and prodded him to his starting line while moving closer and closer to my own finish line. Yes, I know my mothering days aren’t over, not by a long shot, but there is a definite shift in the air and it freaks me out a bit. I want time to slow down so I can enjoy and appreciate every moment.
I’m going to sit here, enjoy a cup of coffee and contemplate what to do with these thirty hours a week that just opened up to me. Should I get a job, go back to school or lose some weight? I don’t think I have time for all three but it will be nice to spend the next few mornings mulling my choices.
In January I began a Kay inspired Bookish Nostalgia feature that I call A look back. I’m revisiting my 2010 blogging life to see what was going on. So far, this has been a lot of fun! If you care to revisit your own blog in June 2010 and want to share your favorite post, I’ll add it here.
I posted 21 times, reviewed seven books, watched six movies, posted four quizzes, participated in three Monday Movie Memes, and wrote about my Favorite Film #24 A Few Good Men.
My favorite (and only) photo – Me at 6+ months preggers…
Wow. This seems like a lifetime ago.
My favorite post – Historical Romances…
…Many people don’t read romances. Think they are predictable, all about sex, or poorly written and some of them are, but not the good ones. I’m a romantic and I like knowing that when I pick up a romance it is not going to depress me. It is a comfort read…
I’m surprised I’ve only added one new author to my favorites list, Eloisa James. I’m picky about my historicals. I need to go back and see how many of the recommendations I read.
My Favorite Book(s) – a tie between
…It is haunting, sad, and drew me in right away. Beautifully told by alternating the past with the present I was even more invested in the old mystery surrounding a double murder and life on the inhospitable islands at the time. It was made better because it is based on a true story. Shreve used the old courtroom transcripts word for word, but made up the rest. It definitely made me curious about the real murders.
This is not a long novel and one that will keep you riveted. I never did fully connect with Jean, but I was fully engaged in the story. It left me thinking well after I finished reading and that is about as good a recommendation as I can give. I absolutely loved it!
Let me start by saying that I am a girl who cannot even watch the nature channels once one animal kills and eats another. It’s a little too much reality for me. I am much more likely to cry in a movie if a beloved animal is killed than a person. So, when I say that I love White Fang and all of his wild ways it is no small thing. I am sure that part of it is London’s writing – I loved The Call of the Wild as well- but the story itself is so compelling that I was riveted by White Fang’s life.
The book is mostly told from White Fang’s perspective once he is born, but the opening scenes that tell the tale of a sledding team on the run from wolves was perfect. I won’t tell you who wins, but it was as good as any thriller I’ve read lately. There was so much cruelty and abuse that White Fang never really had a chance until someone took the time to try to save him. It is a lesson in humanity and redemption and I loved it.
My Favorite (new) Movie – Inception…
My five word review…
Dreams. Orginal. Ending Greatly Debated.
So what was going on in your blogging life in July 2010?
I could watch a great romantic film again and again (and have!) but bad ones are hard to stomach (I’m looking at you Nicholas Sparks). 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.
The Secret Life of Pets, 2016 (Louis CK, Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Steve Coogan, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey) Grade B+
Enemies become best friends.
Living on One Dollar, 2013 (Ryan Christoffersen, Zach Ingrasci, Sean Leonard, Chris Temple) Grade B
College guys head to Guatemala.
The Legend of Tarzan, 2016 (Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Dijmon Hounsou) Grade B
Tarzan and Jane go home.
Tarzan fights greed and oppression. (Michelle)
My Last Day Without You, 2011 (Nicole Beharie, Ken Duken, Reg E Cathey) Grade C-
Cheesy love at first sight saga
The Best of Me, 2014 (James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Gerald McRaney, Liana Liberato, Luke Bracey) Grade F
I wanted to poke my eyes out.
The Girl From Summer Hill. Finished 7-19-16, rating 3.5/5, romance, pub. 2016
Unabridged audio 12.5 hours. Read by Emily Rankin.
Sparks fly as fiery Casey Reddick and brooding Hollywood actor Tate Landers clash in the Virginia summer heat. A chef who puts her career first and her love life second, Casey doesn’t see what every girl in town is swooning over. She made up her mind the moment she met Tate—he’s gorgeous, but stuck-up, nothing like his ex-brother-in-law, Devlin who’s playing the Wickham to Tate’s Darcy in local production of Pride & Prejudice. Casey makes the perfect Elizabeth Bennett—how could she be star-struck when she’s heard Devlin’s damning stories about Tate? As they rehearse together, however, Casey finds herself attracted to Tate—he’s much more down-to-earth than she expected and any physical contact between the two of them literally gives her a tingling, electric shock. As opening night draws near, Casey has some difficult decisions to make. Whom should she believe? from Goodreads
I enjoyed this fresh take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From the opening scene (let’s just say it’s hot and wet) to the ending full of love and friendship this book was fun. It wasn’t the most comparable to the original, but the main characters were there and recognizable. It’s also the start to a new series set in small town Virginia, Summer Hill, where this story was set.
Summer Hill is putting on Pride & Prejudice to raise money for charity and Casey, in town to lick her wounds from her last job and relationship, is in charge of catering. She is independent and outspoken and not impressed when two movie stars show up in town, even if one of them sends electric running through her every time they touch. The sparks between Casey and Tate land them the lead roles in the play which also leads them to their expected happily ever after. There is, of course, a Wickham but this one is even more devious than the original and is responsible for most of the (non-sex) action in the story.
This was light and fun and perfect for a summer read.
Before the Fall. Finished 7-5-16, rating 4/5, thriller, 390 pages, pub. 2016
On a foggy summer night, eleven people—ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter—depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs—the painter—and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.
With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members—including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot—the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage. from Goodreads
I hate to fly, I do it when I have to because I know it will get me somewhere beautiful, but I still hate it. This book started with a bang, or a blast, or a fire, or whatever might have brought the plane down and led is into cold Atlantic waters with a swimmer and a boy trying to survive. Even knowing from the description that they will be safe didn’t make those pages any less tense or nail biting. I was hooked. What happens when the two hit land is where the story and the condemnation of 24 hour cable news, especially the ones touting a specific point of view, begins.
But journalism was something else, wasn’t it? It was meant to be objective reporting of facts, no matter how contradictory. You didn’t make the news fit the story. You simply reported the facts as they were. When had that stopped being true? (page 274)
This book has been called the book to read this summer from just about every corner of the blogging and print world so I was curious. I loved the first half of the book very much. The victims of the crash all had their say and it was compelling, even though they were dead. The mystery of the crash remained and Scott was a character I wanted to figure out. It is a very smart book. I did think it was a little anticlimactic by the end, but I’d still recommend it.
The Girl on the Train. Finished 6-3-16, rating 4/5, thriller. pub. 2015
Unabridged audio read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher. 11 hours
EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? from Goodreads
I’m a little late on this one and that’s okay. There was so much hype it scared me away for a while. I’d seen the comparisons to Gone Girl and I had a love/hate relationship with that book. I do remember the end made me so mad that I wanted to throw it across the room (actually, that might have happened). So, I went into this one with dark, twisty expectations and it delivered. As with Gone Girl, the multiple points of view and the hot mess of unlikable characters, were somehow elevated by terrific storytelling.
I don’t even really want to say more. I think the less you know the better. I’ll just say that someone dies and there are quite a few people who could have done it. And Rachel, the first narrator, isn’t even the biggest hot mess of them all. Quite a story. It may make you feel like going to your happy place afterward since none of those people have seen a happy place in just about forever.
Perfect for thriller lovers who like dark, twisty novels.