Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up InThe House We Grew Up In. Finished 12-10-14, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 386 pages, pub. 2014

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in — and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

from Goodreads

 

I received this book courtesy of the publisher and  She Reads and I was supposed to have my review posted by the end of November.  Well, life happens and I didn’t even finish reading it until a few days ago.  My tardiness is not a reflection on the book because I LOVED IT!  If you like family drama with a large side of dysfunction then this is the story for you.

The Birds, thanks to matriarch Lorelei, are a colorful and life-loving family.  Lorelei loves to savor the beautiful moments and because she attaches these moments to actual objects in her mind the Bird home slowly starts to collect more things than it needs.  When tragedy strikes and dysfunction ensues, the clutter becomes something much worse.  Lorelei, beautiful and sparkly, needy and dark, is powerless as her family starts to unravel. Each of her children affected in different ways by what happens.

I don’t want to give too much away.  There is enough drama for ten families but it was told in such a way that it was both light-hearted and surprisingly deep without ever feeling too heavy.  The Birds are going to stay with me for awhile and possibly help me with my penchant for clutter.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 14 Comments

The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

The Best ManThe Best Man. Finished 10-21-14, rating 4.5/5, romance, 432 pages, pub. 2013

This is the first in the Blue Heron series.

Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she’s ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family’s vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there’s some great scenery there….

Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief – and best friend of her former fiancé. There’s a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it’s not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she’s having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosé, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.

from Goodreads

This is the first book in the Blue Heron series.

Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she’s ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family’s vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there’s some great scenery there….

Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief – and best friend of her former fiancé. There’s a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it’s not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she’s having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosé, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.

from Goodreads

What a fun contemporary romance!  It was lighthearted and the Finger Lakes region of New York was a great setting.  I love that beautiful region and loved visiting all of the local wineries when we took a trip there a few years ago.  At first I wasn’t sure I even wanted Faith and Levi to have a happily-ever-after because he was so…rigid? Then as I got to know him, of course, I loved him.  He is an alpha male as I prefer them in my romance novels. Good romance authors can make that alpha male melt under the spell of his crush and still remain true to his strong sense of self.  Higgins did that well with Levi.  It was never too much.

Faith really did have bad luck with men and then with women when she tried to find her dad a girlfriend.  She had a big family that loved her and when she came home it was no surprise that she stayed, but what was a little surprising is the friendship that she renewed with her ex-fiance.  She is a stronger woman than I am!

This was not all light and breezy, there were some somber issues like guilt, class, and abandonment and that added a nice layer to the story. The only thing keeping this from a higher rating is the mention Faith’s ‘rack’ more than once.  But the tone and characters of the book left me happy and looking forward to the next in the series!

I bought this one after so many bloggers raved about it and now I’m a Higgins fan :)


 

Enter to win a signed book by bestselling author Thrity Umrigar here.

November 11, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 10 Comments

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

The Silent SisterThe Secret Sister. Finished 10-13-14. rating 4.25/5, fiction, 343 pages, pub. 2014

In The Silent Sister, Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager.  Now, over twenty years later, her father has passed away and she’s in New Bern, North Carolina cleaning out his house when she finds evidence to the contrary.  Lisa is alive.  Alive and living under a new identity.  But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago, and what secrets are being kept now?  As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family.  Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality, in this engrossing mystery from international bestselling author Diane Chamberlain.

from Goodreads

I received this from the publisher courtesy of She Reads and it’s the first book I’ve read by Chamberlain.  I’m so glad I discovered another great author!  This book was addicting right from the very first page and I was always looking for a spare minute to read it.

Riley felt lost and abandoned when her father died. She had a brother, but he was fighting his own battles and wanting to relive the past talking about their dad was not something he was willing to do.  Riley started taking care of her father’s estate and made some weird discoveries causing her realize how little she really knew about his life.  I felt for Riley but it was really the secrets that kept me reading.  Yes, Riley was alone (ish) after losing a sister and both of her parents but there was a woe-is-me attitude about her that rubbed me the wrong way at times.

I was invested in Riley’s story and then we switch to Lisa’s and I was disappointed at first, but as the book progressed it worked.  Where Riley felt somewhat entitled to me, Lisa did not.  Lisa, a girl what had been caught in a hard place and only the love of her father gave her a chance at a life, was such an interesting character.  She made such a rich life for herself, with purpose and people, and it was impossible not to like her.

Obviously, I really liked this one.  It didn’t finish as strong as it started, but it was a great ride.

 

October 28, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 8 Comments

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike Series #1)The Cuckoo’s Calling. Finished audio 10-10-14, rating 4.5/5, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Robert Glenister. 16 hours.

Book 1 of the Cormoran Strike series.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

from Goodreads

Like most readers of Harry Potter, I am a JK Rowling fan, but unlike some I wasn’t too keen on reading her adult books.  I think I just wanted her to live in my Hogwarts bubble and that would have been a shame.  After reading mixed reviews of her first book The Casual Vacancy I decided to skip it, but when I started seeing the reviews for this one I knew I’d have to give her a post Harry Potter chance to win me over again.  And she did.  I loved the start of this new series.

Strike is a smart but struggling private investigator in London who has money and girl problems.  He hires a new temp, Robin, and manages a new client, an old childhood acquaintance, so things are looking up.  The only problem is that he has to prove the infamous suicide felt ’round the world wasn’t a suicide at all.  As far as mysteries go this was solid with lots of characters and potential suspects.  I didn’t know for sure what would happen at the end although I had a sneaking suspicion every now and then.

What sets this apart from others in this genre is the flawed and solid character of Strike.  He’s a mess but an honest and earnest one.  While his fledgling business shows his shortcomings, the way he treats people and his intelligence made me love him.  I am excited to see what’s in store for Strike and his not-so-temp Robin in the next book. I already have it on hold at the library.

I loved the narration by Robert Glenister. He became Strike for me so it looks like I’ll be going the audio route for the series.

Checked this one out of the library.

October 23, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 22 Comments

The Witness by Nora Roberts

The WitnessThe Witness. Finished 7-22-14, rating 4.5/5, romantic suspense, pub.2012

Unabridged audio expertly performed by Julia Whelan.  16 hours, 30 minutes.

Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever. 

Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems — and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail’s reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something — and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.

from Goodreads

I am not a big Nora Roberts fan but have enjoyed her books from time to time, so when I saw Sheree’s review I knew I’d have to give this one a listen.  Like Sheree, I have to give major props to narrator, Julia Whelan.  She really did elevate the story.  And, also like Sheree, I was riveted.   I do think it could have been a tad shorter but that is my only minor complaint.  This is a win from Roberts.

I fell in love with the very smart Elizabeth from the beginning.  Her time as a teen was my absolute favorite part of the book.  She was a smart girl who was controlled by a cold mother and one night she decided to live a little and act her  (young) age.  When the night ends in murder, the Russian mob, and a chase, Elizabeth ends up in the Witness Protection Program.  Okay, I guess I do have another small squabble with the book.  I don’t think Roberts portrayed this program accurately, but it’s fiction so that’s okay, I guess.  This section of the novel had me on the edge of my seat, and surprisingly, a little teary.  Not a reaction I’ve had from any previous Roberts work.

Fast forward a few years and Elizabeth is now Abigail and as much as she likes to remain invisible she catches the eye of small town police chief, Brooks Gleason.  Brooks was everything she wasn’t- charming, laid back and surrounded by a loving family.  Obviously, they hook up at some point (this is a romance after all) but what does that mean for Abigail’s anonymity?  It’s worth the listen to find out!

I checked this out of the library.

August 20, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 17 Comments

The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver

The Kill RoomThe Kill Room. Finished audio 5-28-14, rating 4.25/5, thriller, pub. 2013

Lincoln Rhyme series #10 (1 The Bone Collector) (2 The Coffin Dancer) (3 The Empty Chair) (4 The Stone Monkey) (5 The Vanished Man) (6 The Twelfth Card) (7 The Cold Moon) (8 The Broken Window) (9 The Burning Wire)

Unabridged audio 13.5 hours. Read by Jay Snyder, January LaVoy, Edoardo Ballerini

It was a “million-dollar bullet,” a sniper shot delivered from over a mile away. Its victim was no ordinary mark: he was a United States citizen, targeted by the United States government, and assassinated in the Bahamas.
The nation’s most renowned investigator and forensics expert, Lincoln Rhyme, is drafted to investigate. While his partner, Amelia Sachs, traces the victim’s steps in Manhattan, Rhyme leaves the city to pursue the sniper himself. As details of the case start to emerge, the pair discovers that not all is what it seems.
When a deadly, knife-wielding assassin begins systematically eliminating all evidence–including the witnesses–Lincoln’s investigation turns into a chilling battle of wits against a cold-blooded killer.

(from Goodreads)

Quadriplegic forensic specialist Lincoln Rhyme is back with his girlfriend Amelia Sachs along with a few of our favorite friends and this case couldn’t be more timely.  A targeted killing of a US citizen by the US government.  Ring a bell?  Only the victim was a vocal dissident, not a terrorist.  Who would dare (aside from the 24 hour news channels if it suited their targeted audience) stand up to this injustice?  Enter ADA Jance who is ready for battle.  I liked the moral quandary that was explored , even if the guys in charge were the bad guys with very little nuance.

It was great to see Lincoln outside the country, at a tourist location no less!  It gave him a new locale where he might come to harm, difficult for a quadriplegic.  He befriended a local policeman in the Bahamas and I hope  we’ll see more of him in the future.  And I love that Amelia was able to bond with another woman, for too long she’s been lacking a good girlfriend and I see potential in Jance.

I know that no one wants to jump into a series on book 10, BUT I want to say as loud as I can without shouting in all caps, that this is one of the most consistently good series that I have read.  I haven’t rated any of these less than a 4 on Goodreads.  So, start with The Bone Collector (or watch the movie if you want to take a shortcut to the series) and enjoy :)

A note about the audio production: I loved the three readers. Having a real voice for Rhyme and Sachs made the audio so much more enjoyable than if it had just been a single narration. Well done.

I checked this out of the library. 

June 10, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 11 Comments

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

The Shadow YearThe Shadow Year. Finished 5-25-14, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 416 pages, pub. 2013

On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.

Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?                                                           (from Goodreads)

Kat and her friends are graduating from university, but they aren’t quite ready for the real world yet, so they find an abandoned cottage and decide to live off the land (which you might say is more real world than anything else!). Kat is in love with Simon, the obvious but unnamed leader, and Mac is the loner who can share his survival skills, and Ban and Cara are a couple in love.  It’s a challenge, but one that is working until Kat’s sister shows up.

Lila and her husband have just suffered a miscarriage and the marriage is in trouble.  Her father has recently died and she has mysteriously been left an isolated plot of land with a rundown shack on it.  She decides to take the opportunity to get away from her husband Tom and fix up the small house on her own.

It didn’t take me long to start disliking Kat, but the group dynamics were interesting so I liked reading about them. Lila wasn’t always the most sympathetic character either, but I didn’t dislike her, I just didn’t care as much about her story until later.  It’s obvious that these two stories were connected somehow, but the alternating storylines were told at just the right pace to keep me riveted.  I admit that the connection itself was not that surprising and even the twist at the end was one I sort of saw coming, but it was a fun ride.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more from Richell.

I received this book from She Reads.  Go on over and see what other bloggers think about this one. You can take a look at her writing space (I always love this – I’m nosy) here.

 

May 28, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 7 Comments

T is for There’s To Toms Thoreau with Taylor

The Doll (Vanessa Michael Munroe Series #3)The Doll by Taylor Stevens. Finished 4-15-14, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Hillary Huber.  14 hours.

I read the first two books in this series and really liked them both, and chose to listen to this one on audio and may have liked it even better that way!

Vanessa Michael Munroe is a tough woman in a man’s world.  She makes her living finding information and selling it to businessmen who need it to make a deal.  She speaks over 20 languages which serves her well since she spends most of her time overseas, blending in with the natives wherever she goes, even passing as a man is if serves her well.  If she doesn’t find trouble first, trouble finds her.  She is enjoying some resemblance of a normal life in Dallas when she is drugged and taken to another country and thrown into the web of human trafficking.

Perfect for international thriller fans and those who like kick butt females.   This was my favorite of the series so far, but do think that if you want to read these books they are best read in order (The Informationist) (The Innocent).

Blogging from A to Z

movieThere’s Something About Mary, 1998

One of my ten ten favorite movies.  This raunchy, perfect-for-teen-boys humor is not my thing at all.  I remember feeling embarrassed at some of the crude things I laughed at when I saw it at the theater.  It was not in my comfort zone, and yet at its heart it was a love story between two characters that I loved and was rooting for the whole way.  It made me laugh and it satisfied my goofy heart.

bookTo Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I was reading this classic southern novel when we rescued a kitten and she promptly received the name Scout.  It’s a shame this was Harper Lee’s only book.

authorHenry David Thoreau

Transcendentalist writer, who was introduced to the movement by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson is even the one who loaned Thoreau Walden Pond, for his two-year experiement.  Open your mind and delve in!

actorTIE! Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise

Tom Hanks is the more likeable author, but when I look at a list of both of the Toms movies I find that it’s Cruise that has been in more of my favorite movies (Collateral, A Few Good Men, Rain Man) and his role as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder stole the show.

 

April 23, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books, Blogging from A-Z | | 12 Comments

J is for Joaquin Judgement of Jennifer, Joyce & Jane

Blogging from A to Z

Maybe This TimeMaybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie.  Finished 4-10-14, rating 4.5/5, haunted romantic comedy, 342 pages, pub. 2010

Andie Miller wants to marry her fiancé and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband.  A very distant cousin of his has died and left him as the guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already. He needs a very special person to take care of the situation and he knows Andie can handle anything. 

When Andie meets the two children she quickly realizes things are much worse than she feared. The place is a mess, the children aren’t your average delinquents, and the creepy old house is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. What’s worse, Andie’s fiancé thinks this is all a plan by North to get Andie back. 

What follows is a hilarious adventure in exorcism, including a self-doubting parapsychologist, an annoyed medium, her Tarot-card reading mother, an avenging ex-mother-in-law, and, of course, her jealous fiancé. And just when she thinks things couldn’t get more complicated, North shows up on the doorstep making her wonder if maybe this time things could be different between them. 

from Goodreads

Fun, fun, fun!  I loved this romp in a haunted Ohio castle.  Crusie will have you chuckling out loud and leave you with a smile on your face. Andie is a great heroine, easy to like, and the kids are damaged enough to make her show her grit.  And that’s before the ghosts show up.  Lots of great characters, a moody castle, ghosts to sort out, a murder, and sex.  What more could you want?

I love Crusie’s writing.  Her books are always lighthearted and the canvas of characters is always colorful.

 

authorBrenda Joyce

I consider Joyce my go-to historical romance author.  I loved her Deadly series and consider it one of my all-time favorites (I reviewed the 9 romanctic suspense series here).  When I checked with Goodreads, I have 23 of her 50+ books marked as read.  This makes me very happy because it means I can turn to her for years to come.  A must try for historical romance readers!

bookJane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This was the first work of literature that I read on my own.  I think I was trying to impress my freshman English teacher during our free reading time in class.  I did reread it sometime after college and I watched a bunch of the movie adaptations (most are pretty good).  I also saw the musical during its short stay on Broadway.  It was excellent and I was sad to see that it closed early.  Anyway, this is all to say that this classic gothic romance has it all: love, death, abuse, madness, money, power, a family made not born into, and finally, peace.

movieJudgement at Nuremberg, 1961

In 1948, four Nazis are tried for war crimes.  You can’t go wrong with this all-star cast-Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Maxmilian Schell, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland.  See the very dramati courtroom scene….

 

actorJoaquin Phoenix

This was a hard one.  I could have just as easily chosen Hugh Jackman (more easily actually), but if I am honest I find Joaquin so much more interesting.   Maybe it’s his bohemian childhood and the tragedy of witnessing the death of his brother, Phoenix, but he brings such heft to each of the characters he portrays.  I liked him in Walk the Line, and he was my favorite actor in Gladiator, but his latest, Her, I haven’t seen yet because the premise freaks me out a little.  Have you seen it?

 

April 11, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books, Blogging from A-Z | , | 9 Comments

Six Years by Harlan Coben

Six YearsSix Years. Finished 12-22-13, rating 4.5/5, thriller, 351 pages, pub. 2013

Six years have passed since Jake Sanders watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.

But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life – a time he has never gotten over – is turned completely inside out.

As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart – and who lied to him – soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction.

from Goodreads

I consider myself a Harlan fan, having happily read every one of his books, first falling in love with Tell No One and then the Myron series.  I find his stand-alones hit or miss but this one was one of the most enjoyable of his that I’ve read in a while. 

I liked the premise, the writing kept me turning pages and I really didn’t want to put this thriller down at all.  Jake finds himself in some crazy situations and like all of Harlan’s main characters, he can take a beating, find more clues, cheat death again, find the answer he was looking for, and still manage to come out relatively unharmed.  Considering I’m still suffering from headaches and some dizziness due to my car accident last week I think I’d like some of their durability!

This was from my personal library and I think it was one of his better standalones.

December 26, 2013 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 7 Comments

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