Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

fpoThe Stranger. Finished 8-25-15, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by George Newbern. 10 hours.

The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them      from Goodreads

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harlan Coben fan.  He is a master of fast paced thrillers filled with quick wit and sharp dialogue.  The storylines always seem to have an element ripped from the headlines; in this case the ruse of the Stranger and his band of merry tech (wo)men seems to mirror the hilarity/debacle of the recent Ashley Madison hack.  Coben always has  a relatable hero and a common entry into the cat and mouse game his stories share.  This was not a favorite of mine for reasons I’ll go into next, but it’s solid and satisfying which is something I can always count on with Coben.

How frightening would t be if someone showed up out of nowhere and revealed a terrible secret held by someone you love?  Depending on the nature of the secret it would probably be devastating.  The Stranger has a small group who use the internet to track down secrets people didn’t even know were there and then they blackmail them.  Pay up or a loved one hears the news.  When Adam confronts his wife with what he found out she mysteriously disappears, leaving Adam to ask the wrong questions and make a few missteps.  His perfect life in the ‘burbs is threatened but he fears there’s more at stake.

I liked the idea of this one, but it went in so many different directions that it really felt pretty flimsy when it all came together.  Even Adam felt flimsy to me and he was supposed to be a sympathetic character!  The end was a surprise that I mostly liked so that helped end on a high note.  With all of the possibilities of the Stranger I was expecting more.




September 9, 2015 Posted by | 3 1/2 Star Books | | 11 Comments

August’s Movies and $ for Charity

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 $8 to start the round.

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.

A graphic promotional film posterMission Impossible:Rogue Nation, 2015 (Cast-Tome Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rames,Alec Baldwin)   Grade B+

So much international spy fun!

Not fav MI – thrills still!  (Kay)

The Judge 2014 film poster.jpgThe Judge, 2014 (Cast-Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent  D’Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga, Dax Shepard)   Grade B

Slow but worthwhile family drama.

The Calling (2014 film) poster.jpgThe Calling, 2014 (Cast-Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace, Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Donald Sutherland         Grade B-

Faith-filled Canadian mystery thriller.

The Raven Poster.jpgThe Raven, 2012 (Cast-John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson)    Grade  C+

Poe’s last dramatic, fictitious days.

Love Edgar & John – odd story  (Kay)

A woman in a skirt and red knee-high boots holds a closed umbrella out while three men stand on her left closely observing herAll About Steve, 2009 (Cast-Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong)   Grade C-

A rare Sandra Bullock misstep.

September 3, 2015 Posted by | 5 Word Movie Reviews | | 10 Comments

A GIVEAWAY you won’t want to miss!

Last night I had the pleasure of taking my mom to a “Meet the Author” event at a local library where we ran into a friend who was also there with her mother! Both of us have children on the autism spectrum and were there to hear Eli Gottlieb talk about his just released book, Best Boy.

Best Boy is written from the voice of Todd, a 50-something autistic man who lives in a group facility and has since he was eleven.  He misses his mother (these have been emotional points for me so far) and just wants to go home. Both of his parents are gone and his brother who lives far away has responsibility for his care.  Todd is straightforward, loves the encyclopedia, and likes routine.

This book has received rave reviews and it was released last week. Eli read two chapters from the book and then opened the floor for questions.  Here are a few of the things I found interesting…

*his older brother is autistic and Eli is his guardian.  While the character of Todd was high functioning, his brother is not and he does not consider this a memoir.  He doesn’t even want to say it’s an accurate representation of autism (and a passionate parent asked), instead he sees it as a sympathetic work that is an emotional journey for the reader.

*when asked if he resented his brother growing up he responded with, “how could you not? he absorbed all the oxygen in the room.”  He was brokenhearted and angry and writing was his outlet.  This was the part that my friend and I talked about afterward.  She was sitting there, a mother of three, listening to the reality of sibling angst and I was sitting there wondering who is going to be looking out for my guy when I’m gone.  There is no perfect answer and Eli didn’t attempt to give one.

*this took 3 1/2 years to write although the voice was there for as long as he could remember. It left him psychologically exhausted to live inside Todd’s head for that long.  When asked about how he writes he said that he is disorganized with no blueprint or notes and he is in the dark, linking one sentence to the next until an arc emerges.

*His brother, who inspired the character of Todd, will be featured in a New York Times op-ed this week or next.

Okay, so my friend sent me an ARC of the book that I’ve been carrying around in my purse for at least a week (I’m halfway through) and I had Eli sign it tonight to give to one of you!


Sound good?  All you need to do is tell me you want it in a comment.  Please include an email address so that I can easily reach you if you win.  Open internationally.

It would be cool if you included how autism has touched your life, if at all.

I’ll draw a winner in 2 weeks, the week of September 14th.

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Book signings, FREE | | 6 Comments

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

fpoThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Finished 7-27-15, rating 4.75/5, thriller, 590 pages, pub. 2005

I both listened and read this one.  The audio was expertly read by Simon Vance, 16 hours and 30 minutes.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.  from Goodreads

When I first started listening to this one I found myself lost in a sea of unfamiliar names and it made the beginning a slow start.  The set up of the Vanger history and all of the players, big and small, was something to get through not really to relish.  That came later.  Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and magazine publisher, was convicted of libel and looking at jail time when Henrik, the head of the Vanger family, makes him an offer he can’t refuse.  Henrik also tapped the troubled and enigmatic Lisbeth Salander to check him out and what she found made her more than curious about Mikael.

All three, the Vangers, Mikael and Lisbeth, had their own stories and then came together for one big revelation.  Just as one storyline came to a close there was still plenty more story to tell and what a story it was.  For me, it was the way everything was expertly woven together that made the characters so rich and vibrant.  These were characters that I had never met before and I was intrigued.  All three were unapologetic and totally at home in their own skin and I loved it.

If the story started a bit bogged down it certainly didn’t suffer from that by the middle when the investigation and personal relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth became heated.  This was when listening to the audio in the car wasn’t enough and I had to pick up the book.  There was abuse, horrific abuse and violence, but it only made me in more of a hurry to see what would happen next, how redemption might come.  As for Mikael, he seemed to have no problem loving the ladies and I was struck by the very civil way the women sharing him acted.  I’ve never seen anything like it in real life, but hey, maybe I need to visit Sweden to see if that’s the way it works over there ;)

I already have the next one ready to go!


September 1, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 8 Comments

The Hidden Connection:Discover What’s Keeping You from Feeling Happy, Healthy and Symptom-Free by Kathleen DiChiara

fpoThe Hidden Connection. Finished 7-8-15, rating 4.25/5, health, 167 pages, pub. 2015

The body doesn’t lie. At the root of all chronic health issues is an immune response to something in your environment, often leading to poor gut health, nutrient deficiencies, and internal inflammation.

The modern system of medicine has created a paradigm in which it’s normal to suffer from many conditions. You have been taught how to “manage” disease rather than uncover the root cause of the symptoms. This book will awaken the health detective in everyone, by teaching you how to listen to your body’s messages and discover what’s feeding your disease. It invites us to consider the functional approach to nutrition by looking at the systems of the body to correct imbalances and dysfunction.    from Barnes & Noble

I met this warrior mom at the Autism One conference after I listened to her presentation.  This was the description of her workshop…

Using the D.E.A.P.™ approach to wellness, Kathleen will take you through a journey of hope and triumph as she demonstrates the power of food as medicine that she used to reverse 21 chronic health conditions in her family, including PDD-nos, fibromyalgia, IBS, severe food allergies, chronic pain syndrome, endocrine disorders and more. She believes the body has the greatest ability to heal when we “lift the burden.” Her personal story, nutrition expertise, and insatiable curiosity will awaken the health detective in you.

She started on her healing journey after she had been put on disability because of her health issues and one of her sons was diagnosed with PDD-nos (Gage’s diagnosis).  This book is a great primer for what you need to know to start working toward better health.

I’ve read this book once and will read many sections again.  She will teach you what symptoms mean, digestion, the roles of our  body systems, common disorders, allergies, supplements, how to shop for real food, and how to detox not only your body but your home.  Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  She makes it easy to understand and each section gives you the highlights and how you can take action.

In my own journey to restore Gage’s health I have let my own decline with excess weight gain, terrible eating, and too much stress.  This book will be something I’m going to be working through a little more in the next few months as time allows.  My first goal is the elimination diet she outlines. The diet itself only last 10 days of eating basically fruits, meat and most veggies – wish me luck!  I did get a chance to meet her when I bought the book and she even gave us moms some kid friendly alternatives to unhealthy favorites.

Honestly, I recommend this to anyone, especially those with chronic conditions.  She and her family were in the same boat and this is how she plugged the holes and made the boat whole again.

This is her website and this is a 5 minute talk on YouTube that gives an overview of her outlook on health.

August 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Mailbox Monday – I’m back!

mmb-300x282Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I’m back! It’s Gage’s first day of Pre-K and I have six hours to myself!  Woo Hoo :)

Here’s what’s shown up at the house in the past month.

IMG_4117The kids books, movie (Big Sur) and The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde arrived from the generous Vicki (I’d Rather Be At the Beach). Thank you Vicki!!

PokerGeist by Michael Phillip Cash arrived with a deck of cards and a poker chip key chain arrived from Red Feather Productions.

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave arrived from a Good Reads win!

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell and Doc by Mary Doria Russell I picked up at the author signing last month.

Son-Rise:The Miracle Continues by Barry Neil Kaufman and Let Me Hear Your Voice by Catherin Maurice are both autism books that I bought used at the library.

Did anything fun arrive in your mailbox?


August 24, 2015 Posted by | Mailbox Monday, Uncategorized | | 11 Comments

Sundays with Gage – Pre-K

Mom life these first 4+ has been exciting, fulfilling, and stressful, and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said or thought, “When he’s in school all day…”  As a stay-at-home with a son who has food allergies, tummy problems and who benefits from various therapies, I have been operating on DEFCON 2 for many years just looking forward to some rest.

Tomorrow is pseudo-finish line that I’ve been aiming for as Gage starts full day Pre-K and I find myself surprisingly tearful and sad.  The summer is over and I’m sending my guy to school for 6 1/2 hours a day. That’s six+ hours that I am not cooking, chauffeuring, obsessing, getting frustrated…and I thought I’d be celebrating I in the streets. Instead, I am feeling resistant to be handing off these duties to someone else for the day.

.baby gage 023Remember this guy?

IMG_4015This is him last weekend at bedtime storytime at Great Wolf Lodge.

So, today I am sad, but tomorrow when I come home after dropping him off at school I may feel differently. I have a feeling that I will start decluttering the house at a feverish pace or I’ll take a nap. I’ll keep you posted.

This was taken at the botanical garden last week on their “zip line”. He looks ready to conquer the world right?


August 23, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland

The 3rd Woman: A ThrillerThe 3rd Woman. Finished 7-15-15, rating 4/5, thriller, 480 pages, pub. 2015

The first two murders went unnoticed. The third will change everything. . . .

She can’t save her sister.

Journalist Madison Webb is obsessed with exposing lies and corruption. But she never thought she’d be investigating her own sister’s murder.

She can’t trust the police.

Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail’s death was an isolated crime. She uncovers evidence that suggests her sister was the third victim in a series of killings hushed up as part of a major conspiracy.

She can expose the truth.

In a United States that now bows before the People’s Republic of China, corruption is rife—the government dictates what the “truth” is. With her life on the line, Madison must give up her quest for justice—or face the consequences. . . .

Los Angeles and the rest of California has become a dark, dreary place thanks to the smog and Chinese military bases along the coast, placed there after The U.S. defaulted on its debt.  Maddy, award winning journalist, publishes a expose at the same time her little sister is murdered and the already high-wired writer starts an immediate investigation.  She knows her sister did not do heroin but she’s having a difficult time convincing the police of  this and when she finds a connection to other murders her life starts to spin out of control.

It was around this point in the story that Maddy, as a real person, lost me.  She took maybe five minutes out of her life to tell her distant sister and then check in with her sick mom.  Finding Abigail’s killer was all she could focus on, with little regard for the family she had left, and it made her seem cold.

Now, aside from Maddy not being a character I understood or much liked, the story of the murders of young blond women, the Chinese takeover, and the political intrigue made this an exciting thriller.  The internet could bring people together to stand up to the powers that be, even of the all of the things that are wrong with politics now are still wrong in this new world.

I liked the premise since I can see a version of it happening and there were so many twists and turns that I was always excited when I found time to read it.  Maddy was a kick-ass lead character and the end did not temper her, but she remained true to herself and I can respect that.

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, a number one bestselling author, and a broadcaster. He is the Guardian’s executive editor for Opinion and also writes a weekly column. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, and presents BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series The Long View. In 2014 he won the Orwell special prize for journalism.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me as a tour host and providing the book :)

August 19, 2015 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 7 Comments

Traveling the States with Gage – Indiana and Arizona

I had the best of intentions of working our way through many states this summer, but as  the first days of school looms we have managed only two.

fpoExploring the States:Arizona, the Grand Canyon State

This was the first state that Gage chose himself and I have no idea why, but was happy to see him take an interest.  We started by reading through the book and then I chose some  5-10 minute activities over the three days.  My goal is really just two activities  for each of the three days and then a book or two.


  1. Traced the state map, marked the capital and put on some stickers having to do with Arizona (thank you Jill!).  Wrote Arizona.

2. Colored the state flag, state reptile (ridge nosed rattlesnake) and state flower (cactus blossom).

3. We made our own cactus blossom using this pin as an inspiration.  We used a brown paper wine bag since it was brown and we could cut it to make it stand up.  First we painted his hand green (he looked very Hulkish), then he used the dot paints to make the flowers.  After the paint dried he added the ‘ouchies’, wrote his name at the bottom (any excuse to get him to practice), and he cut along the line I drew.  Wha-la!  a perfectly lovely cactus blossom.IMG_3832IMG_3836IMG_3843

4. Since the state coloring page included a snake we used this pin and made our own snakes.  Here’s Gage making his.  This activity is great for fine motor. First he cuts the strips, then he has to make a chain.  He had to concentrate but he did it.  We drew on eyes an a tongue and had snake fights.IMG_3899IMG_3903IMG_3905

5. Kay sent me this great book and it’s an Arizona spin on the Three Little Pigs.  fpoThe Three Little Javelinas was PERFECT for learning about Arizona.  Javelinas are sometimes called wild pigs, they are related to swine and hippopotamus and instead of them running from the Big Bad Wolf they are on the run from a coyote.  The two brothers and one sister use traditional southwest things for their three houses; tumbleweed, sticks from inside a cactus (called saguaro ribs), and adobe bricks.  Along the way you learn a few Spanish and Native American words and about how the traditional things are made or where they come from.  The illustrations were wonderful and Gage loved it!  So did I – thanks Kay!  32 pages and perfect for ages 3-7.

fpoExploring the States:Indiana, the Hoosier State

I found myself very uninspired by Indiana when we did this state so we didn’t do as much as I would have liked.

  1. Traced the state map, marked the capital and wrote Indiana.
  2. Colored the state flag.
  3. Drew lots of racetracks.  IMG_3036
  4. Watched the movie Cars.IMG_3066
Yes, I know, lame.

Keep sending me ideas for your state – especially book ideas!

Our Michigan activities. Ohio activities. Pennsylvania activities. West Virginia activities.

August 15, 2015 Posted by | Gage, Kids Books | 8 Comments

Film disappointments – Sandra Bullock

I love Sandra Bullock and have ever since I saw her in Speed and While You Were Sleeping.  No matter what the film, she was always likeable and fun to watch.  In addition to those first few I’ve loved her in The Proposal, The Heat, 28 Days, The Lake House, Crash, Miss Congeniality, Murder by the Numbers…you get the idea.  I even liked her in the bomb Forces of Nature!  I think, in all, I’ve seen her in 24 movies.

So, I brought All About Steve, co-starring Bradley Cooper, home from  the library.  I know it was panned by the critics when it came out but I figured Sandra could really pull off anything, especially if it was supposed to make me laugh.  I was wrong.  She was so completely miscast in this disjointed 2009 movie.  She was very strange and that’s okay because I’ve always considered normal pretty boring, but not strange in much of a real way.  Also, I know she looks young, but I’m not sure what age she was supposed to be pulling off.  It was very disappointing, even with the overriding message of it’s okay to be different.

Has one of your favorite actors or actresses let you down lately?


August 7, 2015 Posted by | movies | | 9 Comments


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