What I Read In September

Before we get into all the books I read, I wanted to let you know that I'm hosting an online Usborne Books party. I LOVE these books for my boys! If you have to buy gifts for kids aged 0-14 this holiday season, check it out! We especially love all the non-fiction books. My party will be open until noon on Friday, just select my name right here and start shopping!

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Somewhere in mid-September I completed my Goodreads challenge of 110 books, like a psycho. I know for sure that I've never read that many books in one year before. I blame you guys. Everything in this link up looked so good I had to keep adding books to my list! Then I kept checking out too many books from the library and forcing myself to finish them before they were due. I also started listening to audiobooks, which means I can "read" while I clean and drive and do all sorts of other boring things. Anyway, here's what I read last month.

Intimacy Idiot I really enjoyed this collection of stories by Issac Oliver, who is a single gay man living in NYC, working at a theater ticket booth. His observations about the city and it's people are hilarious and the essays about his love life are honest and awkward. I think he's witty and love his self-depreciating humor. I breezed through this book in one day. 

Ready Player One (Audiobook) In a dystopian 2044, teenager Wade Watts, along with the rest of the world, is on a scavenger hunt taking place in a virtual reality-type environment with the prize of a late billionaire's empire. This isn't the kind of book I usually read, but it's being made into a movie by Steven Spielberg, so I had to check it out. The '80s references were fun, the online world was interesting, I enjoyed the characters, and it was narrated by Wil Wheaton. I liked it, but I don't know that I'm geeky enough to really, truly get it. 

Summerlong (Audiobook) This book revolves around an unhappy married couple and takes place over one summer when their lives are flipped upside-down after each meeting someone new on the exact same night. It reminded me of all those TV shows with middle-aged, middle to upper class suburbanites who hate life for no real reason. The characters weren't dark or deep and it was hard to relate to their self-absorption, but it was very well-written and kinda depressing, in a good way. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns The characters of Mariam and Laila are a generation apart but their lives become intertwined after drastic events. They form a friendship and support each other under the most horrifying circumstances. It wasn't boring or slow by any means, and of course it was really hard to read at times, but it wasn't as compelling to me as most people feel it is. 

The Grownup I felt like Flynn's homage to a classic ghost story is unlike anything she's written before. I read it in thirty minutes and it left me wondering what really happened and who was really to blame. Though none of the characters are very likable, I enjoyed it! 

Why Not Me? (Audiobook) I'm one of those people who wants to be BFFs with Mindy so of course I loved her second book, though not as much as the first. It's a lot shorter and more random. She gives glimpses inside her Hollywood life, love life, and friendships, and touches on self confidence, work ethic, and body image. I loved the essay comparing and contrasting herself with her character on The Mindy Project

The Rumor This story of two Nantucket families takes place over one summer when their lives seem to fall apart and everyone in town is talking about them. It was soapy and predictable, mindless and breezy, and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. I'll definitely look for more by this author. 

The Admissions This book follows one seemingly perfect, successful California family as the oldest daughter applies to Harvard. It's such a great look at the expectations placed on kids these days and how hard it is for parents to deal with it. It was slow and detailed, even monotonous at times, but I thought it had funny moments and liked it overall.     

Disclaimer (Audiobook) Catherine is sent a novel written about her and an event that took place twenty years ago. It doesn't paint in her the best light and now she must come to terms with her past. I really liked this quick, twisty psychological thriller. It was slow at times and the change in time and narrator confused me a little because I was listening to the audiobook, but it definitely kept me guessing. 

I also read these five books from NetGalley. Check out my reviews here.

 I can't wait to see what you read!

Life According to Steph


Fall Film Challenge: Movie Reviews

Remember when I posted my list for Jenn's Fall Film Challenge? Well, I finished it on Friday, which means I watched 25 movies in 32 days, not including the few I rented and the three I saw in the theater that didn't count towards this challenge. That's a whole lot of movies! My TiVo misses me! Jenn is posting a bonus round soon, so I'll keep you posted on that. The best part of this whole thing has been cuddling up with Jacob to watch most of these because he hurt his knee. We typically don't watch many movies together. I also really love the Facebook group Jenn created where we all talk about what we're watching. It's been so much fun! I loved some movies I chose, hated others, and really liked that I watched movies I never would have seen if it weren't for this challenge. Here are my quick reviews. 

1. Any set in New York City: Splash It was cute and cheesy and not that funny for a comedy, but who can resist Tom Hanks? I had anxiety watching the closing credits because I hate long underwater scenes. I really miss John Candy.

2. Any incorporating hot air balloons in the story: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band I'm a huge Beatles fan and can see why other hardcore fans hated this movie, but I was into it! It's so random and crazy and there are soooo many surprising people in it. I loved that it was sung-through with just George Burns narrating a line or two between songs. I'd definitely watch it again.

3. Any featuring a child as the main character: The Man in the Moon It started out such a sweet coming-of-age story so I wasn't expecting the heavy ending. Reese was adorable and Sam Waterston was so young. I loved all the Elvis!

4. Any Disney film: Tangled I liked this a lot more than my kids did. It was kinda dark, but I loved the songs and felt like the animation was better than Frozen. Cute enough to watch once.

5. Any set in Egypt, has an Egyptian character, or stars an Egyptian actor/actress: Cleopatra Did you know this movie is FOUR HOURS LONG?! I didn't. It was so over the top, but I loved her style evolution and all of the grand entrances and processions. I still think it could have been edited down at least an hour. 

6. A close friend or family member's favorite film: Blade Runner (Jacob's favorite) Blah. I'm not into sci-fi, but everyone loves this movie so I was expecting to at least like it. It was really slow, but Jacob said that could have something to do with the director's cut we watched. BTW, this is like his tenth favorite movie, but I'd already seen the others.

7. Any with the word great in the title: Great Expectations (1998) Some shots were really pretty and I liked the '90s alt soundtrack, but it lacked something for me. I don't think it was a successful contemporary adaptation. Oh, and the art was really, really bad. Ha!

8. Any starring Harrison Ford: What Lies Beneath I thought it was scary right from the beginning, had a really slow middle, but was crazy intense at the end. Harrison just wouldn't die! I liked the music and always think Michelle Pfeiffer is so pretty.

9. Any featuring an idiot as the main character: The Jerk Big fat nope. It was not enjoyable in the least. The only part I liked was when they sang while walking on the beach and he played ukelele.

10. Any mentioned in Levis Strauss' list: Denim and the Oscars: A Look at Jeans in CinemaOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest It was the only one on the list I hadn't seen and it is so good! I read the book for the first time a few years ago and there are some differences, but I liked the movie better. Jack Nicholson is amazing. Actually, the whole cast is really great.

11. A film about a knight: A Knight's Tale I don't think I like anything about knights. I only chose this one for Heath. It has a surprisingly great cast for such a bad movie. I liked the dance scene and the modern soundtrack, but otherwise, it wasn't good. It took me a few days to get through it.

12. A love story: Aloha I really wanted to disagree with the critics on this one because I love Cameron Crowe and the cast, but it wasn't very good. I felt like I was watching two movies mashed into one. I usually adore Emma Stone, but she kind of bugged me. Bummer.

13. A movie about something miraculous: The Martian I loved it! It left out a few things from the book, but not enough to bother me. I liked that Matt Damon's Watney wasn't as nerdy and I loved Donald Glover's small part!

14. Any starring an actor/actress with the same first name as yours: Cursed (Christina Ricci) There are so many people in this 2005 Wes Craven teen werewolf movie, I'm surprised I'd never heard of it before. It was absolutely cheesy, but I was entertained up until the end fight scenes, which had the worst special effects.

15. A film about the olympics: Chariots of Fire It was pretty slow, but I loved the story. I'm a sucker for underdog/sports/Olympics movies and I liked that this had a little history thrown in. I really loved the costumes, cars, buildings, scenery, etc.

16. A film on Time Magazine's list: The Top Ten Newspaper MoviesWelcome to Sarajevo Heartbreaking! I'm ashamed to admit I didn't know much about this conflict. I vaguely remember Anderson Cooper reporting on it when I was in 7th and 8th grade. The whole movie is tough to watch, but especially the raw footage. What's even worse is that this kind of thing is happening right now. 

17. Any with a question in the title: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? This movie was surprisingly entertaining! It was slow in the beginning, but picked up and Bette Davis played crazy so well! I can see why it's a cult classic.

18. Any with a score of ninety percent or greater on Rotten Tomatoes: Lolita I've never read the book, but know enough about it, so I appreciated this watered down version of the story. I thought it was beautifully shot and I liked the music, but I really hated all the characters. It's probably just the overacting of that time period though.

19. A film about a superhero: The Dark Knight Rises I never wanted to see this one because I can't stand Anne Hathaway. I loved Bane and JGL did just fine, but Anne was terrible and ruined it for me. It was the definitely the weakest of the trilogy.

20. Any with subtitles: Force Majeure This was really slow and uncomfortable to watch at times, but also had funny, relatable moments and was really pretty. I liked it!

21. Any incorporating unicorns in the story: Heavenly Creatures What the heck did I just watch?! It was VERY weird but kept my attention so it wasn't a total waste. I think Melanie Lynskey is underrated and she had a pretty awesome/creepy performance. Just so weird.

22. A film about a personal victory: Invincible (*I changed this selection from Room because it won't be in theaters for a few more weeks and I wanted to win!) I love an inspirational sports movie, no matter how cliche they are. This one was slow moving and Mark Wahlberg isn't the greatest actor out there, but I liked him here.

23. A film with black or white in the title: Black Mass It was a little slow at first, but I got into it in the second half and really liked it. It's the first performance from Johnny Depp I've appreciated in a long time. He made my skin crawl in a few scenes. I thought the clothes, cars, and locations were perfect.

24. Any set in a country you would most like to visit: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Iceland) I usually steer clear of Ben Stiller movies, but I've come to realize I like him in dramatic roles. I thought this was a cute movie with funny moments. It's very visually appealing. 

25. A film set in a zoo: Zookeeper I was confused while watching because I thought it was a kid movie, but it's actually a love story with talking animals and dumb jokes. I didn't even chuckle.


Cheers & Jeers: On The Homefront

The past month was quite the roller coaster for me. Let's just break it down cheers and jeers style.

Cheers to nine years! Jacob and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary yesterday. And when I say celebrated, I mean we acknowledged the date and went about our day. We're going out tonight for dinner and drinks and to see The Martian. We go big, you guys. We also exchanged gifts. I got him a wallet and a pizza stone and he got me the Kate Spade initial pendant necklace I've wanted for years. I sure do love him and that's all that really matters.

Cheers to my new job! I wasn't planning to go back to work until Milo's in first grade, but my old co-worker called and asked if I'd work 10-15 hours a week at the old law office. It's under a new attorney (the ones I was a paralegal for before are now a chief prosecutor and a judge), but it's still criminal defense, which is what I did before. We all went out to lunch and right away my new boss said, "This isn't an interview. You got the job. Let's just talk about it." Awesome. It's super flexible so I can go in when Milo's in preschool, I can bring him in with me, and can work evenings and weekends if I need to. It's sort of crazy right now because she just moved into the office last month and her former assistant wasn't very good, so I'm organizing and getting systems in place. As soon as it's up to par (I'm kind of anal, which is why I'm an excellent assistant), it should be smooth sailing. Even though it's overwhelming right now (I seriously forgot how do simple things like use a fax machine!), I'm so excited to be back out in the legal world and love that it doesn't really impact my stay-at-home life. I won't be making much of a financial contribution to our household, but it's perfect for getting my feet wet and reestablishing connections. Yay!

Cheers to vacations! We're working on three trips in 2016. Disneyland in February for Milo's fifth birthday is booked and paid for. Next summer we're thinking about Pahoa, Hawaii where Jacob's uncle owns a vacation rental on Kopaho Bay near the Puu Oo lava flow and tide pools. Finally, Jacob and I want to spend our tenth anniversary in Niagara Falls and Toronto. And Carrie and I have even started to plan our Texas road trip in January 2017. I love having travel plans on the calendar!

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Jeers to Jacob's knee. He hurt his knee over Labor Day and finally got a surgical consult yesterday. It's either going to be a quick fix with a week in an ace bandage or a repair which means six weeks in a knee brace and on crutches. They don't know what they're doing until they get in there, but the surgeon said he's aiming for a repair. That means no driving, limitations at work, no pumpkin patches/corn mazes, and coaching soccer from a chair until the end of November. Ugghhhh!

Jeers to cold and flu season. My kids had the stomach flu from hell for TEN DAYS! Since Jacob has a bum knee, I was doing all the clean up. Oh, the joys of motherhood. I took them to the doctor after the fifth day because they weren't getting any better and it scared me. They were tested for parasites and bacteria and thankfully didn't have anything serious, but it didn't explain why they were hit so hard. Nolan missed seven days of school! Then one week later we all came down with a really bad cold/flu/respiratory infection and they missed even more school. Germs are the only thing I hate about fall.

Jeers to Julep. I just found out Julep is closing the parlor near my house and I'm so dissapointed! I was told they were having a hard time keeping it staffed and couldn't keep up with demand. I've been a member for nearly five years and absolutely loved it. They were clean and chemical free, everyone was so friendly, and I'm really going to miss watching rom-coms while getting mani/pedis. At least I'm still a Maven and can bring in my own 5-free polish to another salon. Still, such a bummer.


Fall Movies

Summer was a bust for me, as far as movies go, so I'm really looking forward to fall. I already saw Everest and Black Mass and really liked both of them. Here's what else I want to watch this season.

99 Homes
This looks super dramatic and might be hard to watch because the events are so recent, but it looks good.

The Walk
Insanity. I seriously had no idea this really happened. I love JGL.

The Martian
I CANNOT WAIT. Jacob and I both really loved the book so we're exited to plan a date around this movie.

It's not getting the best reviews, but I still want to see it. Bring tissue!

Steve Jobs
You can't go wrong with Aaron Sorkin and this cast.

I have mixed feelings about the book, but still really want to see this, mostly for Brie Larson.

I Smile Back
This looks heartbreaking. I'm excited to see Sarah Silverman in something dramatic.

I didn't know anything about Milgram's obedience experiment! This looks great.

Beasts of No Nation
This looks hard to watch, but so good. And it's coming out on Netflix on the same day!

Bridge of Spies
It's Steven Spielberg, the Coen brothers, and Tom Hanks. How could it be bad?

Our Brand is Crisis
I've seen the documentary and liked it. The critics don't like this fictionalized version though.

The Peanuts Movie
Peanuts movies are a tradition around here. My kids are excited to see this. 

Another tough subject, but the movie looks so good. I love films about journalists.

Great cast, awesome period, interesting topic! Cranston's performance looks great.

The 33
This story of the 2010 Chilean mine rescue looks like a classic feel-good movie.

Love The Coopers
This looks cheesy, but I love Christmas movies. I'll probably see it with Carrie.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Secret in Their Eyes
This looks heavy.

The Good Dinosaur
Another one I can't wait to see with the kids! They're going to love it.

The Night Before
So stupid, but I'll probably see it at some point because of the cast.

The Danish Girl
I love Eddie Redmayne so much.

This honestly doesn't look very good, but it's got my girls in it, so I have to see it, right?

Also playing this fall: The Green Inferno, Hotel Transylvania 2, The Intern, Before I Wake, Ashby, Mississippi Grind, Legend, Pan, Masterminds, Knock Knock, Hell & Back, Goosebumps, Crimson Peak, Momentum, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Jem and the Holograms, The Last Witch Hunter, Burnt, Rock the Kasbah, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Autobahn, Spectre, By The Sea, Rings, Victor Frankenstein, Creed, Krampus, Youth, In the Heart of the Sea, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

What are you excited to see?


Latest NetGalley Reads

I received these books from NetGalley for review purposes.

Bennington Girls Are Easy: A Novel by Charlotte Silver This book follows best friends Cassandra and Sylvie from their time at Bennington College through their 30s, where they have to deal with how hard it is to make a life for yourself in New York City. Both characters are completely unlikable and the plot goes nowhere fast. That may be the only thing that redeemed this book for me though. Life wasn't easy breezy for these girls or for their friends who never really had to worry about money. I just wish they were a little bit nicer and more relatable. 

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino Matt and Grace were in love in college, but their careers took them separate ways and they don't reunite until fifteen years later when Matt places a missed connection on Craigslist. I was excited about it in the beginning, but it became too cliche and predictable. I just don't love plots surrounding misunderstandings. Talk to each other! And the supporting characters, one in particular, were super weird. People seem to love this book though, so it's probably just me. 

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North This story is told by the people closest to Sophie (a talented, but strange, filmmaker) during different stages of her life. She was hard for me to relate to, but the book redeemed itself with interesting narrators. It's well-written, but very drawn out. 

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel Kate's husband died in a car accident twelve years ago and is now planning her wedding to Dan, but she starts seeing her first husband in her dreams and can't seem to move forward. I'm not really into the whole parallel universe thing, especially when it comes to sappy rom-coms, and I figured out the ending within the first few chapters. I also felt like there was too much mindless dialog. 

Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg This collection of short fictional stories was pretty great. Some are in the form of text messages, emails, and restaurant reviews, which I thought was fresh and fun. He's an excellent writer and I laughed out loud a few times, though not every single story did something for me. The book was unexpected, in a good way, and I'd read more from him in a heartbeat.