Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Title: The Liar, Author: Nora RobertsThe Liar. Finished 2-7-17, 3/5, romantic suspense?, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by January LaVoy. 16 hours 41 minutes

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …
 
The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.
 
Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …        from Goodreads

I thought about quitting this one a few discs in but it was such an easy listen that I continued to let it play when I was in the car or cleaning the kitchen.  There isn’t a lot to recommend this one, really, except if you love Nora Roberts.  I don’t love her but have had good luck with the last few I’ve tried by her.

There were a few problems including the heroine, Shelby, who was clueless.  Then there was the fact that it was about 50% too long.  So much repetition and too many mundane, useless conversations.  And the end was something you could see coming from the first few chapters.

Did I forget to mention the good parts?  Okay.  Roberts does know how to write.  I loved the relationship between Griff and Shelby’s little girl, Callie.  The narrator, January LaVoy, did a great job so that probably helped the entertainment factor.

So, if you’re a fan of Roberts you’ll probably like it. But for newbies, I’ve read a few of hers that I’ve really liked that I’d recommend first.

February 7, 2017 Posted by | 3 Star Books, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Tinkers, Seven Spiders Spinning, Discovering Ohio

I read these three books during my 30 books in 30 day challenge in September.  Since they were all just okay I thought I’d group them together.


Title: Tinkers, Author: Paul HardingTinkers. Finished 9-25-16, 2/5 stars, fiction, 191 pages, pub. 2009

Tinkers by Paul Harding is a Pulitzer Prize winner and I did not care for it. I was mostly bored out of my mind, with a few pages here and there that gave me a half-hearted reason to continue. If I taken another book I would not have bothered to finish it.  But at 190 pages it was an easy plane book.


Title: Seven Spiders Spinning (Hamlet Chronicles Series #1), Author: Gregory MaguireSeven Spiders Sinning. Finished 9-23-12, 3 stars, young readers, 132 pages, pub. 1994

I read Seven Spider’s Spinning by Gregory Maguire Friday night after we were back to the room for the night (Boston trip).  I must have picked this up at a book sale after I read Wicked and it was a perfect, easy choice for the trip.  Seven huge, tarantula-type spiders escape and try to take out the girls at a local elementary school.  There were spiders drawn on the margins of the pages and it was creepy, but at 132 pages I wasn’t going to complain.


abad26Discovering Ohio. Finished 9-25-16, 3 stars, travel, 95 pages, pub. 2001

I’ve had this in my unread stack for years, at least since 2008 when I started taking a yearly picture, so it’s good that I finally got around to reading it.  I think, the problem for me at least is that when you read something about a place that you know and love you are overly critical.  The pictures were great and I do like how the author tried to paint a picture of Ohio through the years, all the way back to when white settlers came here, but she made a choice not to focus on the cities which I think does a major disservice to the state.  Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland are top 50 cities in population. I know from living in Cleveland just how much history there is here.  Yes, Ohio is full of farms and mining and industrial places, but that is really only half of the picture.  Reading this I think you’d get a fairly one-sided picture of the state.

 

December 2, 2016 Posted by | 2 1/2 Stars or Less, 3 Star Books, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Talking About Detective Fiction

Title: Talking about Detective Fiction, Author: P. D. JamesTalking About Detective Fiction. Finished 9-9-16, rating 3/5, readers reference, 198 pages, pub. 2009

Unabridged audio read by Diana Bishop.

P. D. James examines the genre from top to bottom, beginning with the mysteries at the hearts of such novels as Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, and bringing us into the present with such writers as Colin Dexter and Henning Mankell. Along the way she writes about Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie (“arch-breaker of rules”), Josephine Tey, Dashiell Hammett, and Peter Lovesey, among many others. She traces their lives into and out of their fiction, clarifies their individual styles, and gives us indelible portraits of the characters they’ve created, from Sherlock Holmes to Sara Paretsky’s sexually liberated female investigator, V. I. Warshawski. She compares British and American Golden Age mystery writing. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, how critics have reacted over the years, and what she sees as a renewal of detective fiction—and of the detective hero—in recent years.    from Goodreads

I listened to the audio for the first half of PD James’s Talking About Detective Fiction and was a little bored so I switched to the paper version.  And had the same problem.  The book is about the history of detective fiction, mostly British. She names the best of the best and goes into the model of what makes a mystery great.  I don’t read enough of the classic mystery writers. Sure, I’m a somewhat recent fan of Agatha Christie, but many of the others I’m not familiar with at all.  Readers more well versed in detective fiction than I am would probably get more enjoyment than I did.  When she talked about a few of the books I read (ie. The Woman in White) I was more engaged.

She gave a shortlist for the four most important women in the genre’s golden age and I’ll be trying the others soon.  She chose Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh.

I think it would be a great place to start for  anyone interested in writing a detective novel since it gives you the basics and a great reading list.

October 26, 2016 Posted by | 3 Star Books | 2 Comments

More Heaven:Because Every Child is Special by Jo Anne White, PhD

More Heaven: Because Every Child is SpecialMore Heaven. Finished 8-22-16, 3/5 stars, special education, 232 pages, pub. 2016

Based on a true story, More Heaven is about six children with special needs and the remarkable teacher who gives them a chance at learning and life. Despite challenges and a lack of support, Miss Tina Randolph’s commitment to reach, teach, and inspire these children is unwavering. By accepting their uniqueness and participating in their private fantasy world, while at the same time engaging them in the real world, she eventually succeeds. Tina, her quick-witted teacher’s aide Kaye, and the children mount a tireless, daily battle to shift the tide toward the acceptance of people who are different. The experiment, begun in chaotic, uncharted waters, bridges the gap of understanding and paves the way for the inclusionary practices of education and society’s acceptance of children and adults with special needs. This is a road that continues to need paving, making the messages in More Heaven equally relevant today. The book evolved from an experiment in the Philadelphia school system in the late 1970s in response to the 1975 Education for the Handicapped Act, ruling that public schools in the US educate all children with disabilities, despite their severity. Previously, many of these special needs children were kept at home-isolated and denied access to the mainstream. More Heaven is a powerful story of compassion, determination, disappointment, triumph, and love.    from Goodreads

Fictionalized journal entries from a teacher who is given the responsibility of teaching special education in the public schools make up this book.  In 1975, it became mandatory that public schools offer free and appropriate education for all children, including those with physical or mental handicaps.  I’m familiar with the law, called IDEA, and while this book didn’t delve too much into the specifics, it does touch on it a bit.

This book would be great for anyone who is interested in education, especially those with an interest in special ed. The kids each have their own quirks and the teacher and aide have hearts of gold and are willing to work with what they have. It’s a collection of snippets about kids with differences who come together like family in the end.  As for it being of general interest, I don’t know.  Given the journal format and the lack of any story outside of the classroom, it might not appeal to the masses.

Author Jo Anne White has spent years working with these children. She generously sent me this book and I want to thank her for her generosity.

 

August 25, 2016 Posted by | 3 Star Books | | Leave a comment

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Author: Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower. Finished 5-13-16, rating 3.25/5, YA, pub. 1999

Unabridged audio read by Noah Galvin. 6.25 hours

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This is a book that has been embraced as a modern YA classic and for good reason.  Charlie is a naïve, but insightful, high school freshman who is quite a loner after losing his best friend and he took a leap of faith in befriending Sam and Patrick, older and more worldly students.  Charlie fits into their circle of friends because he is older and wiser than his years, even if he tends to cry and become flustered easily.

The book is a series of letters written to a virtual stranger over the course of the year.  It masterfully touches on many serious problems that kids are dealing with, like suicide, abuse, sex, sexuality, abortion, drugs.  I think this book would speak to mature teens and start much needed conversations.  I liked Charlie but, maybe because I listened to this in too many sessions too far apart, I was ready for it to be over, hence the average rating.  I honestly think that’s just me because, looking back, I really have no complaints.

I’m interested in watching the movie, mainly because I’d like to see Emma Watson as Sam.

June 3, 2016 Posted by | 3 Star Books | 2 Comments

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Title: The Bluest Eye, Author: Toni MorrisonThe Bluest Eye. Finished 2-13-16, 3/5 stars, classic fiction, pub. 1970

Unabridged audio read by author, Toni Morrison. 6 hours 53 minutes.

Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.  from Goodreads

I LOVED Beloved when I read it in 2012, so it was a given that I’d read more Morrison for my Classics Club challenge. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel much of a connection to this book.  As I’ve spent some time reading other reviews and then looking at my original review for Beloved I’m taking a guess that it was listening to it rather than reading it that lessened my enjoyment.  I love Morrison’s magical writing, but I’m not sure I got that same magic while listening to her narration.  My next Morrison book (and there will be more, she has a gift) will be paper, not audio.  Here’s a sample…

You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question…. And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it. 

She is talking about the Breedlove family, the youngest Pecola, is the one who wants to replace her brown eyes with blue so that the world may find her pretty and worthy of notice.  Hers is a heartbreaking story of neglect, abuse, and incest.  The varying points of view both worked and didn’t.  I loved her friend Claudia’s narration, she was my favorite character, but it’s also true that Claudia, although the same age as Pecola, had loving support.  There was also some backstory for Pecola’s parents, that was intended to provoke some sympathy, but just didn’t do it for me.  I liked that it was set near my neck of the woods and where Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio.

This is a well-written story about race in 1960’s America from the perspective of young, pre-teen black girls.  I own a paperback and would love to read it and see if my perception of the novel changes. I mean this is Morrison’s debut novel and led her to a world of love from readers and critics alike, so I know that I’m the outlier here.

This was my 10th selection for the Classics Club.

 

 

March 25, 2016 Posted by | 3 Star Books | , | 8 Comments

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

fpoLord of the Flies. Finished 12-21-15, rating 3/5, fiction, 208 pages, pub. 1954

William Golding’s compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first, it seems as though it’s all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious & life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic & death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket & homework & adventure stories—& another world is revealed beneath, primitive & terrible. Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was 1st published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought & literature. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a classic.   From Goodreads

I tried to listen to this one earlier in the year and the audio was unfortunately read by the author.  I gave up fairly quickly and fared better with the print version.  This won’t be making any of my favorite lists but I am glad I read it just because of its cultural impact and the influence it continues to have over 60 years later.

Think TV show Lost meets reality TV Survivor and you have an idea of where this slim classic is going to take you.  Boys, aged 6-12, stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash struggle to join forces to survive.  Ralph, leader, keeper of the conch shell and the voice of order, and Jack, wanna be leader of the island but starts with leader of the hunters, start off on the same side but as time goes by and boys struggle to do what needs to be done these two boys become enemies.

I loved the concept and, even with the sometimes stilted or dated writing, it was easy to read. I liked their struggles with how to make order out of nothing, but did find the descent into the surreal not as engaging.  I wanted more reality I think.  And as much as I hate to say this, I wonder if I was less engaged because it was an island full of boys?

I think this is one that would have benefitted from reading in class or with a group. I know I missed a lot of the symbolism and nuance.  I’m glad I read it but it was just okay for me with the plusses and minuses being equal.

My 8th read for The Classics Club! I have 5 more years to finish my list of 50 classics 🙂

December 26, 2015 Posted by | 3 Star Books | | 3 Comments

Shattered by Dean Koontz

fpoShattered. Finished 12-5-15, rating 3/5. fiction suspense, 289 pages, pub. 1973

The van was in back of them again. Closer this time. There could be no mistake–they were being followed.

RUN… OR DIE

But why? The question kept nagging at Alex and Colin as they left Philadelphia behind and sped toward their new home in San Francisco. Courtney would be waiting for the, ready to begin a wonderful new life with her husband, her brother…

RUN… OR DIE

Now, someone else is driving cross-country to see Courtney, too. Someone whose brain is rotting inside. Someone who knows their route, their stops, even their destination.     

RUN… OR DIE

He’s got an ax.     from Goodreads

I like Koontz but haven’t read too many of his older titles.  Somehow this one ended up in Mt. TBR and I wanted something quick, so I picked it up and read it in about a day.  Aside from it being quite dated – which felt quaint, even when a psycho was wielding an axe – it was fun.

Alex and Colin were pretty fleshed out characters for such a short book. I liked their relationship and the bonding road trip of the new family they were making with Courtney.  Even though this was written over 40 years ago it seemed longer.  It’s amazing how technology has really left stories like this in the dust. Now there would be pics posted on social media and to the police of the offending man.

I liked it well enough but wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it.

 

December 11, 2015 Posted by | 3 Star Books | 9 Comments

Stillwell by Michael Phillip Cash with a GIVEAWAY

Stillwell: A Haunting on Long IslandStillwell. Finished 4-8-15, rating 3/5, horror, 232 pages, pub. 2013

Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife’s spirit hostage on the other side. His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife’s soul free.

from Goodreads

Paul is a mess after his childhood sweetheart and mother of his three young children wastes away from cancer right in front of him.  His once successful realtor business has all but dried up along with the family’s savings.  He is lucky to be surrounded by loving family who are willing to pitch in and help with cooking and homework.  When an old family friend gives him the opportunity to sell his $20m mansion Paul knows he desperately needs the sale.  Only the house is haunted and the scene of a murder-suicide or two and everyone knows it.  When a demon starts visiting his dreams, Paul knows he is going mad.

This is more paranormal than true horror, in my opinion, and that’s not a bad thing.  I liked Paul’s family and friend from work, who had been covering for him during his wife’s illness.  The evil, dark manor was par for the course and the ghosts were spooky.  I wish it had been a little longer and had more of everything.  It was a super quick and enjoyable read.

Red Feather Productions sent me TWO copies of this book and I’d love to pass it on to one of you. First one who tells me they want it in the comments will get their very own copy 🙂

April 9, 2015 Posted by | 3 Star Books | , | 5 Comments

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

The Bride CollectorThe Bride Collector. Finished 3-28-15, rating 3/5, thriller, pub. 2010

Unabridged audio 14 hours. Read by John Glover.

FBI Special agent Brad Raines is facing his toughest case yet. A Denver serial killer has killed four beautiful young women, leaving a bridal veil at each crime scene, and he’s picking up his pace. Unable to crack the case, Raines appeals for help from a most unusual source: residents of the Center for Wellbeing and Intelligence, a private psychiatric institution for mentally ill individuals whose are extraordinarily gifted.

It’s there that he meets Paradise, a young woman who witnessed her father murder her family and barely escaped his hand. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Paradise may also have an extrasensory gift: the ability to experience the final moments of a person’s life when she touches the dead body.

from Goodreads

As far as thrillers go, I thought this was good. I liked the focus on the residents of the psychiatric institute, especially since each of the characters was unique and interesting. The story told from Paradise’s viewpoint was, as you might expect, scattered and increasingly neurotic.  It was an interesting and fresh view.  Brad the FBI agent and the Bride Collector himself were both somewhat standard fare.  Since the story really alternated between Paradise, Brad and the Bride Collector there were three very distinct and unsettling viewpoints.  Brad and Paradise’s attraction was both unexpected and somewhat unbelievable.

I admit that the narration made this story seem so melodramatic that it may have contributed to my ambivalence toward the book.  It didn’t help elevate it, that’s for sure.  I thought the FBI’s use of the psychiatric institute seemed false.  It seemed like Brad wasn’t doing any real detective work and just spent his days planning how to see Paradise again and use her real or imagined powers of seeing death from the dead’s point of view.  I hope this is not how the real FBI operates. I’m okay with using alternative avenues of investigation, but it was the only avenue he was using.

I’ve been wanted to read Dekker for a while and I’m glad I finally got around trying one. I’m undecided on whether he’s worth giving a second shot.  Any Dekker fans out there who have a favorite that I should try?

April 2, 2015 Posted by | 3 Star Books | | 7 Comments