Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

Postcarding

I’ve written about my love affair with Postcrossing before (you can do a search if you want to see my old posts) but now I may have gone a step too far.  In October we painted four rooms that had previously been covered with wallpaper.  All rooms look great, BUT our front room remained bare because I had not decided what to do with it. The color is okay, but I decided to get rid of the blinds and curtains so it’s been plain Jane ever since.  I came up with an idea for Gage to display his train postcards in his bedroom and made the mistake of checking out Pinterest.  Well, I decided to use my favorite postcards to accent our front room.  It’s been fun.

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This is the corner where I’ve grouped food and books and movies.  I’ll reveal other spots later.  So, now that I’m obsessed with getting more postcards I’m writing as many as I can (17) in hopes of getting more creative on my walls 🙂  I received three this week, only one for me but it will be added to this display.

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Both cats wanted to be involved.  That’s big boy Razzi up top and little Sammi looking right at you.

The beautiful bookshelves came from Annika in Stockholm, Sweden,  She takes the pictures herself and has them printed as postcards.  Love it!

The white postcard with the train on it came from an 4th grade class in Taiwan. Each of the kids take turns writing postcards. Ours came from Danny and he had excellent handwriting.

The other train postcard came from Alan, a retired teacher in France.

Come back next week to see another wall and postcards I’ve been lucky enough to receive.

February 17, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Title: The Dinner, Author: Herman KochThe Dinner. Finished 2-14-17, rating 4/5, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Clive Mantle. 9 hours.

A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened… Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.       from Goodreads

This is one of those books that the less you know the better so I’m not going to spoil any more than the description from Goodreads, and even that I deleted a few sentences. Amsterdam at an expensive restaurant, brothers and their wives, testy relationships put to the test.  It was…different.  Thought provoking, yes.  Enjoyable, sorta.  Recommended, if unlikeable characters are your thing.

I’m so glad that I listened to the audio. Mantle really sold Paul and elevated the story with his performance.

The movie featuring Richard Gere and Laura Linney is coming out in May!

 

 

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

My favorite love stories

I grew up reading romances. I started with the teen romances of the 80’s, moved on to Harlequin, and then to the full-fledged romances for big kids.  I earned a degree in English Ed with lots of classic reading for classes so my weekend historical romance reading was relaxing.  Here are a few of the love stories that have stuck with me.

Books

1-Jamie and Claire from the Outlander series.  Although I am woefully behind in the series I love this couple so much.

2-Rochester and Jane. They became my first classic love story and I love them still.  I watched a bunch of the Jane Eyre films a few years ago and Timothy Dalton was my favorite Rochester.

3-Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride & Prejudice and Anne and Wentworth from Persuasion are the two Jane Austen couples I love the most.

4-Almost Heaven (historical) and Paradise (contemporary) are two oldie but goodies from Judith McNaught.  I’ve read all of her books, many multiple times.  I wish she was still writing!

5-I remember reading so many of Jude Deveraux’s historicals as a teen, but A Knight in Shining Armor still stands out for me.

A few honorable mentions – Francesca and Calder from Brenda Joyce’s Deadly series and the authors Susanna Kearsley, Kristan Higgins and Eloisa James are consistently good.

Movies

1-CK Dexter Haven and Tracy Lord from A Philadelphia Story.  I loved the maturity and reality of their relationship.  Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart were superb.

2-Harry and Sally. Loved the movie and Billy and Meg in the lead. When Harry Met Sally remains a favorite.

3-Lucy, Jack, Peter and family all won me over in While You Were Sleeping.

4-Colin, Bridget and Hugh made Bridget Jones’s Diary a treat to watch. That last scene gets me every time 🙂

5-Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable make a memorable couple in the classic It Happened One Night.

 

So tell me.  Who are your favorite couples in books and film?

 

February 14, 2017 Posted by | lists | 14 Comments

Film Friday

I have been a little out of the loop movie-wise but I can always count on the Oscars to help steer me toward wonderful films.  Let’s take a look at the nominees in the big categories.

Best Picture

Arrival (loved it)

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land (liked it, but had some problem spots)

Lion

Manchester by the Sea (tore me apart but what a great movie)

Moonlight

Opinion – the three I’ve seen are all worthy.

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Ruth Negga (Loving)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Emma Stone ( La La Land) (she really carried the movie)

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Opinion – I’ve only seen one performance and she was fantastic

Best Actor

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) (incredible performance)

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Ryan Gosling (La La Land) (good lead)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) (he kills it every time and this was no different)

Denzel Washington (Fences)

Opinion – Personally I’d choose Casey or Viggo but I know La La is getting all the love)

 

So, tell me what you think about the ones that you’ve seen and maybe I can get to them before the Oscars!

 

February 10, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Title: Almost Famous Women: Stories, Author: Megan Mayhew BergmanAlmost Famous Women. Finished 2-8-17, rating 4.5/5, short stories, 236 pages, pub. 2015

The fascinating lives of the characters in Almost Famous Women have mostly been forgotten, but their stories are burning to be told. Now Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, resurrects these women, lets them live in the reader’s imagination, so we can explore their difficult choices. Nearly every story in this dazzling collection is based on a woman who attained some celebrity—she raced speed boats or was a conjoined twin in show business; a reclusive painter of renown; a member of the first all-female, integrated swing band. We see Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s troubled niece, Dolly; West With the Night author Beryl Markham; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister, Norma. These extraordinary stories travel the world, explore the past (and delve into the future), and portray fiercely independent women defined by their acts of bravery, creative impulses, and sometimes reckless decisions.       from Goodreads

I don’t read short stories. I like big books where I can really get to know a character and spend time with a story that has the time to develop and take a few twists and turns.  But for book group this month we read Almost Famous Women  and I was pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, I was the only one since the other seven ladies didn’t care for it as a whole.

Each story started with a picture of the woman so that you could have a visual when you were reading and that was important for the first story.

Violet and Daisy Hilton were joined at the hip, literally.  This one was both disturbing and fascinating. People that you know showed up in the stories, Marlene Dietrich, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Lord Byron, Butterfly McQueen, Beryl Markham…but like the title says, most of the women in the book were almost famous.  I liked some more than others but particularly liked the one about Joe Carstairs and her private island, Romaine Brooks and her very creepy nurse, and Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter broke my heart.  I liked the mix of known and unknown and it made me check out more information on a few of the women.

The book group as a whole found the stories needlessly depressing and I can’t really argue on that point.  They were dark. There was a PTSD link in a few and more than one death.  We all noticed a homosexuality thread throughout the stories.  Most of us could pick out a favorite story or two and the book read really fast so that’s a plus.

So, I really liked it but I was the only one.  Read at your own risk 🙂

This counted as one for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, story collection by a woman.

February 9, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Title: The Liar, Author: Nora RobertsThe Liar. Finished 2-7-17, 3/5, romantic suspense?, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by January LaVoy. 16 hours 41 minutes

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …
 
The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.
 
Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …        from Goodreads

I thought about quitting this one a few discs in but it was such an easy listen that I continued to let it play when I was in the car or cleaning the kitchen.  There isn’t a lot to recommend this one, really, except if you love Nora Roberts.  I don’t love her but have had good luck with the last few I’ve tried by her.

There were a few problems including the heroine, Shelby, who was clueless.  Then there was the fact that it was about 50% too long.  So much repetition and too many mundane, useless conversations.  And the end was something you could see coming from the first few chapters.

Did I forget to mention the good parts?  Okay.  Roberts does know how to write.  I loved the relationship between Griff and Shelby’s little girl, Callie.  The narrator, January LaVoy, did a great job so that probably helped the entertainment factor.

So, if you’re a fan of Roberts you’ll probably like it. But for newbies, I’ve read a few of hers that I’ve really liked that I’d recommend first.

February 7, 2017 Posted by | 3 Star Books, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Sundays with Gage – Steamboat School

Did you think I meant that Gage went to steamboat school?  Nah, but he did read a book that was inspired by the true story of the Freedom Floating School in 1847 Missouri.

ssSteamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Ron Husband

“I always thought being brave

was for grown-up heroes doing big, daring deeds.

But Mama says that sometimes courage

is just an ordinary boy like me

doing a small thing, as small as picking up a pencil.”

These opening words let me know that this book would reinforce much of what I’m trying to instill in Gage’s mind.  Be brave, do the little things that can make big changes.  When Gage is older and can hear that mama voice in his head I always want it encouraging him to be the best person he can be and to look for ways to make a positive change in the world. Sometimes I think I push him too much, but tonight he told me I was the best loving mother, (I’ve never heard him use the word loving before, yay!) so I must be doing okay.

The book is the story of Reverend John (Berry Meachum) who worked hard to free himself and then his family from slavery.  He taught African-American children in the basement of his church until the state of Missouri made it illegal for him to continue teaching them to read and write.  He found a way around that by building a steamboat in the Mississippi River where he could continue to teach children.  Missouri law had no say in federal waters.  What an ingenious way around the law!

So, the discussion about race was harder to discuss in this book than in the Martin Luther King Jr. book a few weeks ago. It is essentially about kids, like Gage, being told they didn’t have a right to learn. How can you explain something so hateful and ridiculous to a six-year-old?  By his questions I know that he doesn’t really ‘get’ it and why should he, I guess. I’m not even sure I understand how people can be so full of hate and fear.

I loved the story and the illustrations enough that I’d like to buy this one to have as a part of Gage’s library.  Highly recommend it. Thanks for the recommendation Jill 🙂

 

February 5, 2017 Posted by | Gage, Kids Books, Uncategorized | 15 Comments

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.

January 31, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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?

January 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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.

 

January 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment