Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

Cover ImageFinished 3-12-08, rating 2/5, fiction, pub. 1902

Joseph Conrad was born in the Ukraine in 1857 and lost his parents at a young age.  He went on to serve as a French seaman and later became a captain in the British Merchant Navy.  The most fascinating fact of his life is that he learned English at 21!  And this acclaimed novelist did not begin his writing career until he was 37 (there is hope for me yet). 

This is the story of Marlow, a seaman sent to rescue a boat deep in the Congo.  He was working for an ivory company and they also want Marlowe to bring back Mr. Kurtz, one of the company’s best representatives.  Marlow journeys to the heart of the Congo and slowly loses his mind along with everyone else he meets along the way.  By the completion of his journey he discovers the enigmatic Mr. Kurtz, who has become a savage.

My husband and I read this book aloud to each other over the span of a few weeks.  The beautiful language and words, while wonderful on paper, were a challenge to read aloud.  We both loved the writing, but were a bit disinterested in the story.  It was an interesting look at human nature, but not one I really enjoyed.

Steve recommended Joseph Conrad and I thank him 🙂  I will give Conrad another shot because his writing is challenging and wonderful.  Next time I’ll read it myself and see if that makes a difference.

March 12, 2008 Posted by | 2 1/2 Stars or Less | , , | Leave a comment

The First Patient, by Michael Palmer

Cover ImageFinished 3-10-08, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 2008

“An exciting thriller…full of surprises; captures the intense atmosphere of the White House.”—President Bill Clinton

This is the sticker affixed to the cover of my book and the President should know about the intensity of the White House.  This book is first and foremost a page-turner, but it is also a glimpse into the Washington political scene and to a lesser and more scary degree, nanotechnology.

I picked up the book because of its premise.  What would happen if the President of the United States was going insane (some would argue this has happened to more than one President already, but we won’t get into that here)?  Who would decide and could they hide it from the public?  Well, Dr. Gabe Singleton is called by his old college roommate and asked to serve as the President’s personal doctor.  Once in DC Gabe is confronted by the startling possibility that the President is not going mad, but being drugged. 

The book provides a look at the inner-workings of the White House medical team and those who have access to the President.  The 25th Amendment, or the succession amendment, also plays a big role in the book.   I feel I know a little more about the White House and that’s a good thing.

On the scientific front there is the cutting edge technology of nanoscience.  Much of the detail was lost on me, but the horrifying image of two functioning brains in jars being probed and studied was disturbing. 

I liked the book.  There was an interesting plot, lots of suspects, a few surprises, and a love connection.  That said, it might have been better.  The past history between the President and Gabe seemed a bit contrived.  A successful Doctor nearing 50 should have more of his demons under control, but, hey, maybe I’m just an optimist 🙂

March 10, 2008 Posted by | 3 Star Books | , , , | Leave a comment

Fear and Trembling, by Amelie Nothomb

Cover ImageFinished 3-8-08, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 2002

“How could our business partners have any feelings of trust in the presence of a white girl who understood their language?  From now on you will no longer speak Japanese.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You no longer know how to speak Japanese.  Is this clear?”

“But it was because of my knowledge of your language that I was hired by Yumimoto!”

“That doesn’t matter.  I am ordering you not to understand Japanese anymore.” 

“That’s impossible.  No one could obey an order like that.”

“There is always a means of obeying.  That’s what Western brains need to understand.”

–from pages 11& 12

This is just one of the many hilarious exchanges in this short novel by Belgian author Amelie Nothomb.  The spunky Western narrator is aptly named Amelie as well  and this is a record of her year long experiences working for one of the  largest Japanese companies.  Living in Japan forces Amelie to adopt the Japanese way of life and work and nothing could be more charming than Amelie’s oft misunderstood actions.

In the business hierarchy Amelie is forced from one humiliation to another until she can fall no further.  It is only through her sheer determination not to lose her honor that she withstands her torment.  Her travails will leave you smiling and heartbroken at the same time.

Thanks to my Belgian friend, Virginie, I checked this book out of the library and read it in a few hours time.  Thanks for the recommendation.  I loved it!

March 8, 2008 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , , , | 2 Comments

Harlan Coben News

Harlan’s new book will be available on April 15th.

Visit his website ( to find out about his appearances for his new book.  Jason & I went to one of his book signings a few years ago in Houston and really enjoyed it.  I think you will too.

The following is directly from his mailing list. 

MYRON TV SERIES? Help do the casting.
Hart Hanson, the creator and executive producer of the TV series BONES, is writing a pilot for Twentieth Century Fox studios and Fox network to bring Myron and the gang to a TV near you. The working title — and this could very easily change — is PROMISES AND LIES. Okay so let’s hear your casting suggestions for Myron, Win and Esperanza. Keep in mind that this is a TV series, not a movie, so if you’re thinking, say, George Clooney or Vince Vaughn, you’re probably wasting your time. That’s all the details I know now. As I know more, you’ll know more. You can email your suggestions to Yes, I will try to read them all, though please don’t expect replies. Thanks!

Lastly, the French movie TELL NO ONE, which was a huge box office hit and was nominated for nine Cesar (French Oscar) winning four of them, will be released in theaters in the USA in June (it was already released in the UK and Australia and is now out on DVD) with English subtitles. I don’t have details yet or know when it will be on DVD, so keep checking the website. In the meantime, you can see the trailer here:

March 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

Cover ImageFinished 3-3-08, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2006

  This is a beautifully written mystery, family study, and ghost story all wrapped up in one.  Margaret, lonely employee of her father’s bookstore and Vida, ailing best-selling author, come together for a wonderful tale that envelopes you completely.   Vida needs someone to tell her life story before she dies and she chooses Margaret, who has never before written a biography about a living person.  The friendship between the two women grows as Vida’s story is told. 

Vida draws us into a world of incest, neglect, insanity, love, murder, and jealousy.  Even as you are drawn in there is uncertainty about the truth which encourages you to keep turning the pages as fast as you can so that you can know what is real.  As Vida tells her story, we also are involved in Margaret’s life of loneliness and secrets.  The stories intertwine perfectly to make this a compelling novel.

At last the truth is revealed and all is right with the world.  My only small (very small) complaint was that the end seemed to wrap up a bit easily.  This book has been compared to Jane Eyre and Rebecca and I don’t disagree.  They feel similar although at its heart this is not a love story.  I recommend this book to anyone who loves books, words, and fans of Jane Eyre and Rebecca.

March 7, 2008 Posted by | 4 Star Books | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ohio Primaries

This will be my first and only non-book blog, but so many of you have asked me about being a poll worker that I thought I’d share my experience today working at the Ohio primaries in the Cleveland area. 

This was my second time being a poll worker, but our first time using paper ballots.  My alarm went off at 4:30 am and I was at my polling station at 5:25 am.  Those of you who know me might be chuckling at this improbable feat.  By 6:30 when the polls opened we had a line of people waiting to vote.  The Democrats outvoted the Republications at my precinct by a ratio of 5 to 1.  I voted and I had a favorite, but it was so great to see so many first time voters and people voting for a candidate they never thought they’d see (be it a woman or an African-American).  It was heartwarming really and I was glad to be a part of it. 

Things were steady and smooth until about 7 pm when the lights went out.  People were using their cell phones for light to complete their ballots.  Everyone was so happy to be voting that there was good humor all around.

Now at 7:30 pm when the polls closed and we started adding up signatures and ballots we were all tired.  We all had a one hour break in the middle of the day, but were were starting our 13th hour of work.  It took us another 2 1/2 hours to reconcile our numbers, so it was 10 pm when we all went out to our cars to get the ice off our cars and go home. 

I think that working at the polls is something everyone should do once.  You will get to see how the democratic process really works and you get to make a little money too.  I will do this again because I can and and so should you  if you are able.

I’ve been home for an hour and see that they have called Ohio for Hillary.  I know this may be short on details (my mind is a little fuzzy right now 🙂  If you have any questions just leave a comment and I’ll answer it here.

Thanks Marilyn for taking care of Max while I was gone today 🙂

March 4, 2008 Posted by | Election | , | 4 Comments