Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

Title: In Your Dreams (Blue Heron Series #4), Author: Kristan HigginsIn Your Dreams. Finished 10-10-17, rating 4/5, romance, 469 pages, pub. 2014

Book #4 in the Blue Heron series.  (1-The Best Man) (2-The Perfect Match) (3-Waiting on You)

Emmaline Neal needs a date. Just a date—someone to help her get through her ex-fiancé’s wedding without losing her mind. But pickings are slim in Manningsport, New York, population 715. In fact, there’s really only one option: local heartthrob Jack Holland. Everyone loves Jack, and he won’t get the wrong idea…. After all, Jack Holland would never actually be interested in a woman like Em. Especially not with his beautiful ex-wife creeping around, angling to reunite ever since he rescued a group of teens and became a local hero.

But when the wedding festivities take an unexpectedly passionate turn, Em figures it was just one crazy night. Jack is too gorgeous, too popular, to ever end up with her. So why is she the one he can talk to about his deep, dark feelings? If Em is going to get her dream man, she’ll have to start by believing in him…   from Goodreads

Oh, how I love this romance series.  The Holland clan from wine country New York is a family we all wish we were somehow a part of, even if only through friendship.  Two of the Holland sisters started the series and this time around it was brother Jack’s turn to find love.  Gorgeous and always gracious, Jack was still damaged goods after his wife broke his heart.  Emmaline had her heart stomped on by her first love who dumped her when he lost a ton of weight.  They didn’t seem like a love connection, but love is rarely a straight line.

Emmaline’s ex-fiancé is getting married and Jack’s heroic rescue had left him emotionally devastated.  The two pretend to be a couple, but nothing goes as it should.

Higgins always manages to create light-hearted and charming stories that tackle serious issues.  This one is no different by highlighting the dark sight of obesity weight loss and the daily toll of PTSD.  Looks like I only have one more book to read in this series and I almost don’t want to read it because then I’ll have to say goodbye to Manningsport.

 

 

 

 

November 22, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 4 Comments

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Mariana, Author: Susanna KearsleyMariana. Finished 10-4-17, rating 5/5, historical time travel romance, 373 pages, pub. 1994

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she’s at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason.

As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love.

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past…until she realizes Mariana’s life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time.   from Goodreads

Here were my first thoughts on Goodreads when I finished this one, “My love affair with Susanna Kearsley continues. This was one of her first books and it may be my favorite so far. I didn’t want it to end. I was worried that the ending would be all wrong. But it wasn’t. It was perfect.”  There is something so magical and romantic about her stories.  There is history, romance, and a perfect sense of place in all of her books.  This one also felt a little like a ghost story.

Julia was sure she’d found her house and she packed up and moved from London to a small English village without a second thought.  She was a children’s book illustrator and was able to make a few friends right away just as she was being transported back in time at unpredictable times.

It’s tricky when you are going back and forth between time periods and characters.  Inevitably, you are drawn more to one story than the other.  This one did a great job of tying the two together so I was invested in both.  Was this book, the first time she tried the time travel travel romance, perfect? No.  Was it perfect enough to have me rereading the last few chapters again and again because I wasn’t quite ready for it to end?  A resounding YES!

November 20, 2017 Posted by | 5 Star Books, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J Gaines

Title: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Author: Ernest J. GainesThe Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Finished 9-28-17, rating 5/5, classic, 246 pages, pub. 1971

“This is a novel in the guise of the tape-recorded recollections of a black woman who has lived 110 years, who has been both a slave and a witness to the black militancy of the 1960’s. In this woman Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure, a woman equipped to stand beside William Faulkner’s Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury.” Miss Jane Pittman, like Dilsey, has ‘endured,’ has seen almost everything and foretold the rest. Gaines’ novel brings to mind other great works The Odyssey for the way his heroine’s travels manage to summarize the American history of her race, and Huckleberry Finn for the clarity of her voice, for her rare capacity to sort through the mess of years and things to find the one true story in it all.”  — Geoffrey Wolff, Newsweek.

I wish I had taken the time to write this soon after I read it in September because although I absolutely loved this book some of the details now allude me.  I loved Jane.  She is a true survivor.  This book, spanning her 110 year life really comes full circle in the end and I would have been happy to spend another 110 with Jane.

Jane was a little girl of 10 or 11  when Lincoln freed the slaves and she left her plantation with a small group hoping to walk their way north from Louisiana.  When something bad happens Jane is left in charge of 3 year old Ned and she must rely on her wits to keep them safe and free.  She eventually come to raise him like he was her own son and find both happiness and heartache, never leaving her beloved Louisiana.

Jane is a warrior, a realist, and a trailblazer.  This story, which spans the time between slavery and the beginning of the civil rights movement told the story with real events and people framing Jane’s experiences.  This is one worth reading.

This was my 18th selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!

 

November 17, 2017 Posted by | 5 Star Books, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Classics Spin #16

Even though I’ve been in the Classics Club for a few years I haven’t participated in a Classics Spin yet, so I’m going to give it a try.  I have until January 1, 2020 to read 50 classics from a list of my own making.  I’ve read 20 so far.  This is my list of the next 20 I’d like to read.  On Friday the Classics Club will pick a number and that will be the book I finish by the  end of the year.  Fun!

  1. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
  2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  3. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
  4. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
  5. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  6. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  7. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  8. Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
  9. A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  10. Washington Square by Henry James
  11. Women in Love by DH Lawrence
  12. The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
  13. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  14. The Sea Wolf by Jack London
  15. Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham
  16. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
  17. The once and Future King by TH White
  18. Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  19. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
  20. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Which one of these have you read and loved?

November 15, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Title: Don't Let Go, Author: Harlan CobenDon’t Let Go. Finished 11-11-17, rating 4.25/5, thriller, 347 pages, pub. 2017

Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he’s been looking for. 

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.   from Goodreads

No one can keep me turning pages long into the night like Harlan Coben.  The man has a gift and I look forward to his yearly contribution to my personal library.  I love his Myron Bolitar series and although this is a standalone Myron does make an appearance at a local pick-up basketball game.  There are a lot of similarities between Myron and Nap as far as geography and attitude.

Told exclusively from Nap’s point of view we learn about the worst night of his life when his twin brother was killed and the love of his young life disappeared.  Years later he’s a police detective who has been mentored by the father of his brother’s girlfriend who also died that night.  When Maura’s fingerprints show up at a murder scene, Nap finds himself involved in finding out what really went down 15 years ago.  Coben tells us at the beginning that this is based on rumors from where he grew up in New Jersey so you know that Nike missiles are going to show up.

I really liked this one.  As with all of Coben’s books it moves fast and has lots of moving parts so it keeps you on your toes.  My mom read my copy before I did and I found her reading it in the car when she was waiting to pick up Gage, so I knew it was going to be good.   I was a bit let down with the end for a few different reasons but that’s probably just me.  I’d still recommend it because, hey, it’s Harlan Coben!

November 13, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

1984 by George Orwell

Title: 1984, Author: George Orwell1984. Finished 9-18-17, rating 3.5/5, classic, pub. 1949

The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia” -a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions -a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.            from Goodreads

Unabridged audio read by Simon Prebble.  11.5 hours.

I listened to this almost two months ago, but these were my initial thoughts – “a book first published in 1949, has so much to say about today that it’s scary.  The Doublespeak coming from the White House everyday should scare the crap out of everyone, no exceptions.  As a story it wasn’t the best, but the world building and insight into human nature make this a worthy classic.”

Now that I’ve had some time to process, I can say that this should be read and discussed by everyone interested in being more watchful and wary of the powers that lead us.  Big Brother, Thought Police, Doublespeak are ideas we all understand because of Orwell and this warning of a book.  It is bleak and by the end you will feel as caught in the nightmare as Winston, especially in these times that prove Orwell a fortune teller.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake.  We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.”

“War is Peace.  Freedom is Slavery.  Ignorance is Strength.”

Scary stuff.  A must read.

This was my 17th selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!

November 10, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Title: Little Fires Everywhere, Author: Celeste NgLittle Fires Everywhere. Finished 11-8-17, rating 4.75.5, fiction, 338 pages, pub. 2017

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.  from Goodreads

We read this for my book group last night and we all liked it.  It also led to great discussion.  There are limitless things to talk about and over the course of appetizers, pizza, dessert and wine we touched on a lot of them. The author was in town (Shaker Heights where the story takes place) and a few of the members were able to go and hear her speak and they came away impressed with how intelligent she was.

Shaker Heights is a real place and I love it.  If not for Jason being put off by the high taxes I think I could get him to live there 🙂  Ng chose to show the Shaker that she grew up in and I think it’s fair, even though it has changed over the years it does still remain a progressive hotspot with old mansions lining picturesque streets.  The Richardson family embodies this perfectly.

Ng is genius at getting into the minds of so many different characters and giving them unique voices.  I understood and felt for every one of the characters in the book (save one who I just did not get – Izzy) and even when I didn’t like them I understood them.

The story centers around not only the fight over a baby left at a fire station by a distraught mother but also the mysterious Mia.  So many layers to this story and they were all connected by mothers.  What makes a good mother? At the end of this book I just wanted to hug Gage and tell him I was doing the best I could. One of the ladies in book club commented that it forced her to do a self-check on her own parenting skills.

I loved this book because it is overflowing with gray area. There are a few areas that I felt were black or white, but the rest was left for you to decide.  I admit that this one started slow for me (the only one in my group to feel this way), but by the hundred page mark I was hooked!  I loved Mia the most even though she was probably the one with the most issues.

Do yourself a favor and check it out.  Especially if you’re in a book club.

 

 

 

November 9, 2017 Posted by | 5 Star Books, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee

Title: We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter, Author: Celeste HeadleeFinished 11-5-17, rating 4.25/5, 244 pages, pub. 2017

Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Harper Collins

In this urgent and insightful book, public radio journalist Celeste Headlee shows us how to bridge what divides us–by having real conversations

BASED ON THE TED TALK WITH OVER 10 MILLION VIEWS

Today most of us communicate from behind electronic screens, and studies show that Americans feel less connected and more divided than ever before. The blame for some of this disconnect can be attributed to our political landscape, but the erosion of our conversational skills as a society lies with us as individuals.

And the only way forward, says Headlee, is to start talking to each other. In We Need to Talk, she outlines the strategies that have made her a better conversationalist—and offers simple tools that can improve anyone’s communication.

Whether you’re struggling to communicate with your kid’s teacher at school, an employee at work, or the people you love the most—Headlee offers smart strategies that can help us all have conversations that matter.

I’d never heard of radio host Celeste Headlee, but I agreed to read whatever Trish sent me and she chose this little gem of a book.  It’s based on a Ted Talk, but my speakers aren’t working so I couldn’t listen, but I’d give it a try if you can since the book stems from that talk.

Headlee had me at her dedication, “For Grant: I wanted to be a better person so I could be a better mom.”  I think this speaks to so many parents out there.

This book is so timely in our current politicized environment and she touches on having discussions with people who differ on politics as well as having productive discussions with your boss or employees.

Did you know humans now have the attention span of a goldfish?  Technology over the last few years has made up skim and look for sound bites instead of taking the time to read or really listen.  I love to blog, but to post and read other blogs it takes more time that I sometimes have.  Throwing an update on Facebook takes less than a minute. This affects our conversations too.  How many times have you found your mind wandering when someone is talking?  Or just waiting for a break so that you could add your own story or comment?  Most of us are guilty.

This book was easy to read and had great information, even for people who think they don’t need help.  I like that she added lots of studies to back up her recommendations.  I found so many things to work on in my own conversations.

Here are a few tips for you.  Put away your phone!  Even having your phone on the table inhibits conversation.  Be present (meditation can help with this).  Be respectful and end on a good note.  It’s not about you.  Keep it short and don’t repeat (especially the negative stuff).  Ask open-ended questions and don’t unload your daily accomplishments on an unsuspecting acquaintance.

I really liked this one and can’t wait to try out some of the tips.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of the book so I could give you all my honest opinion.

 

November 6, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Mini-Review Time

The further we get from September the more behind I get in writing reviews for the books I read.  So, I’m catching up a bit with five memoirs that I found to be good to okay.

What Would Martin Say?What Would Martin Say? by Clarence B. Jones. Finished 9-26-17, 3.75/5 stars, non-fiction, 232 pages, pub. 2009

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man taken to soon by a madman’s bullet (too common even today because of the NRA). What would have happened if he lived (would he still be attending RNC conferences?)?  How different would America look?  See what I did here by adding pointless political comments that add nothing to the conversation?  Clarence B. Jones, King’s personal lawyer for eight years, couldn’t seem to stop from adding these asides to illuminate the Republican party in a positive light. The first half was so interesting and I loved the behind the scenes look at history.  It led to great discussions with Jason as I was reading.  This was pretty much a play by play of the conservative view of race and how it should be handled.  I recognized all of the talking points, but the stories and the ease of the storytelling made it fresh.  Then halfway in he turned to immigration, anti-Semitism, and terrorism and it felt more like Jones justifying how he felt and using King to do so.  The problem is that these are different problems than when Martin was alive and Jones was too adamant about putting words in King’s mouth, understandable since he helped write King’s speeches.  I no longer felt like he was channeling King.
So, it was a mixed bag for me.  I loved the history and personal stories.  The beginning about how King recruited him was fun and also showed a lot about King himself.  It was worth reading for sure, but it did disappoint in the end, not because I agreed or disagreed, but because he never really convinced me that he knew with certainty what Kings’ views would be.  It was a discussion starter for sure.


Bad Mother: A Chronicle of ...Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace. by Ayelet Waldman.  Finished 9-21-17, rating 3.75.5, memoir, 213 pages, pub. 2009

I’m not sure why I was expecting something funny, but I was.  Although Waldman does write with humor this book was heartfelt and dealt with some heavy topics.  Sex, abortion, bipolar disorder, sexual identity, social media pushback, four kids with different needs.  There’s a lot to take in and appreciate.  Her honesty was admirable, her battles recognizable, and her love of family inspiring.  I really liked this one even though it wasn’t the barrels of laughs I was hoping for.


How Starbucks Saved My Life...How Starbucks Saved My Live: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else.by Michael Gates Gill. Finished 9-10-17, 3.5.5 stars, memoir, 268 pages, pub. 2007

Gill was successful ad man in New York City who met lots of famous people growing up.  His father, a writer at The New Yorker, ran in some pretty interesting circles.  But one day in his 50’s Gill is let go from his job, has an affair and gets her pregnant and then must come clean to his wife and four children.  He wasn’t exactly eliciting a great deal of sympathy.  After several years of trying to make it on his own he was out of money.  He happened into a job at Starbucks and turned into a walking advertisement for the company.  I don’t doubt his sincerity and I loved the connections he made, but he was still a man who loved to name drop and still seemed a little oblivious to the real world.  But, all in all, it was a heartwarming story and made me want to be reading it at a Starbucks!


Unabridged audio read by Hillary Huber. 8.25 hours
The Mennonites aren’t new to me,  live within an hours or so of the biggest Amish community outside of Pennsylvania and have visited often, but if they had been maybe this would have been a little more interesting.  Rhoda had a string of bad luck culminating when her husband left for someone he met on gay.com and she moved back in with her parents in her 40’s.  It was a little disjointed, but ultimately I liked it.


Hermann Hesse: A Pictorial ...Hermann Hesse: A Pictorial Biography by Volker Michels. Finished 9-17-17, 2.5/5 stars, biography, 238 pages, pub. 1971

I have never read anything by Hermann Hesse, but on my mom vacation I saw this out of print book and was intrigued.  It is seriously like an Hesse Instagram.  Pictures, drawings, and book covers on every pages with captions to tell his story.  I thought this translation was fun and loved to see the pictures from pre 1900’s in Europe with the captions that told his story.  It didn’t necessarily make me want to read his classic Siddhartha, but I did find it interesting.  Instagram before its time.

 


 

November 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

October’s Movies and $ for Charity

Jason and I binge watched Harlan Coben’s The Five on Netflix and really liked it.

How as your movie month?  Anything I need to see?

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 $59.

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.

Wind River (2017 film).pngWind River, 2017 (Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham)    Grade B+

Atmospheric Reservation Murder Mystery.


The Lego Ninjago Movie.jpgLego Ninjago, 2017 (Jackie Chan, voices-Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Olivia Munnm Kumail Nanijani, Michael Pena, Zach Woods)                                                                   Grade B

Loved the feline Ultimate Weapon.

October 31, 2017 Posted by | 5 Word Movie Reviews, Uncategorized | 5 Comments