Elevation by Stephen King

Elevation by Stephen King Elevation.  Finished 8-3-19, 3/5, fiction, pub. 2018

Unabridged audio read by Stephen King. 3 hours 46 minutes

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face—including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.   from Goodreads

I was engaged in this feel good story, but the failure at the end for true resolution left me feeling ambivalent about it.  I have no idea how this was named Best Horror in the Goodreads poll last year.  I suppose people saw the name Stephen King and nominated and voted accordingly, but there was not one sentence of horror in this one.  Just an interesting idea, some good people, and hope that everyone can get along.

Sound Bites: Life Lessons By a Boy Who Has Autism by Aaron Broadstreet and Taff Price

Sound Bites. Finished 8-3-19, 43 pages, pub. 2014

Aaron is a boy with Aspergers, no longer a diagnosis on its own but now just part of the autism spectrum.  He is local and I was delighted to find his book for sale at our local grocery store.  The book was written by Aaron in his journal at the encouragement of his parents.  Aaron mentioned that he wished there was a life guidebook and his father told him he should be the one to write it.  So he did.

It’s a brief glimpse into his view of the world and how we can be better.  I enjoyed his voice and his drawings.  We all need to see life from someone else’s eyes more often and this book can do that for you.

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

Title: The Friend Zone, Author: Abby Jimenez The  Friend Zone. Finished 8-3-19, 3/5 stars. romance, 362 pages, pub. 2019

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.   from Goodreads

My book group received the ARC for our August meeting, but I missed it so I have no idea how the others liked it.  I started reading and enjoyed the banter and predictable romance plot.  The main character is kept from loving herself because of her ongoing issues with her reproductive issues and the knowledge that she is infertile.  She has a perfect boyfriend who is in the military and she only sees for a few weeks every year, but he’s getting ready to come home for good.  Enter Josh, a sexy fireman and carpenter who steals her heart.

So, had this been the story it would have been fine, but there were a few things that happened at the end that were…wrong, just wrong.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was disappointed in the direction it took because it felt insulting to the reader.  Nonetheless, I did like the main characters and their chemistry and it was fun read, for awhile.

 

Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

Title: Airs Above the Ground: The suspenseful, romantic story that will sweep you off your feet, Author: Mary Stewart Airs Above the Ground. Finished 7-22-19, 3.25/5 stars, suspense, 373 pages, pub. 1965

Lovely Vanessa March, two years married and very much in love, did not think it was a strange for her husband to take a business trip to Stockholm. What was strange was the silence that followed. She never thought to look for her missing husband in Vienna — until she saw him in a newsreel shot there at the scene of a deadly fire. Then she caught a glimpse of him in a newsreel shot of a crowd near a mysterious circus fire and knew it was more than strange. It was downright sinister.

Vanessa is propelled to Vienna by the shocking discovery. In her charge is young Timothy Lacy, who also has urgent problems to solve. But her hunt for answers only leads to more sinister questions in a mysterious world of white stallions of Vienna. But what promises to be no more than a delicate personal mission turns out to involve the security forces of three countries, two dead men, a circus and its colourful personnel. And what waits for Vanessa in the shadows is more terrifying than anything she has ever encountered.   from Goodreads

I’ve been wanting to try a Mary Stewart book for years since I knew she was one of the first writers of romantic mystery.  Although over 50 years old, the characters and dialogue hold up remarkable well.  I enjoyed Vanessa and Tim and their adventures across parts of Europe.  There was a twist not quite in the middle that I loved, but I don’t want to spoil it by telling you any more about it.  There was some brief romance, but I’d have a hard time characterizing this as romantic suspense by today’s standards.

As much as those things worked for me, just when the story hit its peak, there was a long, drawn out chase scene that bored me to tears.  And there is a lot of horse in this story.  If you like horses I’d guess that you would get way more out of the story than I did.  I learned a lot about the Spanish Riding School and it’s not something that drew me into the story, but might someone else.

Overall, I thought it felt fresh even though it was written in a time when people watched their news at the movie theater 🙂

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Title: The Dinner List: Roman, Author: Rebecca Serle The Dinner List.  Finished 7-9-19, fiction. 3/5 stars, 273 pages, pub. 2018

When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also her favorite professor from college, her father, her ex-fiance, Tobias, and Audrey Hepburn.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Sabrina contends with in Rebecca Serle’s utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as Sliding Doors, and The Rosie Project.

As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together, and as Rebecca Serle masterfully traces Sabrina’s love affair with Tobias and her coming of age in New York City, The Dinner List grapples with the definition of romance, the expectations of love, and how we navigate our way through it to happiness. Oh, and of course, wisdom from Audrey Hepburn.    from Goodreads

The book starts and ends at a 30th birthday party that takes place at a restaurant.  Sabrina finds all of the people she put on a proposed list her BFF Jessica made her come up with in college.  Jessica, Tobias (her one true love), Conrad (college professor), her dad who abandoned her, and the one and only Audrey Hepburn.  What?  Audrey Hepburn is dead you say?  Yes, well she’s not the only one and this is just one of the things that doesn’t make sense during this 4+ hour dinner that we Seinfeld fans could call ‘the airing of grievances’.

I wanted to love this.  I kept waiting for something to happen that would make me love it, but all I felt at the end was sadness.  Maybe you could consider this a cautionary tale since there are life lessons served with the meal.  It was an easy read, but not one I rushed through because I just wasn’t that invested.

The best part of the book was the premise, the question we’ve all heard, what five people, living or dead, would you want at your dinner party?  I put this question to Jason when I started the book and now that I’ve finished we’re both due to share our lists with each other.  Come back tomorrow and I’ll share both of our lists with you and be prepared to share YOUR list.  If you post about it you can leave a link I’ll add to my post.

 

Maria Shriver – I’ve Been Thinking and Ten Things

Title: I've Been Thinking...: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life, Author: Maria Shriver  vs. Title: Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Out into the Real World, Author: Maria Shriver

I’ve Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life VS Ten Things I Wish I’d Known-Before I Went Out into the Real World

Titles – Both way too long, but accurate.

Author – I’ve Been Thinking- Divorced mom facing an empty nest.  Ten Things- Working married mother of young children.

Purpose – I’ve Been Thinking Bite sized chapters addressing a multitude of life’s issues always ending with a prayer.  Ten Things– An extended form of a popular graduation speech she gave at College of the Holy Cross.

First and last chapter titles – I’ve Been Thinking- I Am Who I Choose to Become and Hope.  Ten Things– Pinpoint Your Passion and Laughter.

Page Count – I’ve Been Thinking– 225 pages.  Ten Things– 125 pages.

Best Advice – I’ve Been Thinking- “I know it’s hard to pause in our daily lives, to stop and be quiet and truly listen.  I know it’s hard to hear other people’s pain, frustration, anger, and loneliness without internalizing it ourselves or letting our judgments get the best of us.  But when you do listen deeply, you realize that while out experiences are vastly different, our hearts and desires are not”  page 47.  Ten Things– “The love and the laughter are what you need most in your life.  They’ll fill out all the potholes in the road.”  page 115.

Final Analysis – Stick with I’ve Been ThinkingTen Things is a bit dated.

I’ve Been Thinking.  5 stars. Finished 2-28-19.

Ten Things.  3 stars.  Finished 3-15-19

Origin by Dan Brown

Title: Origin, Author: Dan Brown Origin.  Finished 2-20-19, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio read by Paul Michael. 18 hours.

Robert Langdon series #5 (1-Angels & Demons) (2-The DaVinci Code) (3-The Lost Symbol) (4-Inferno)

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.  from Goodreads

I love Robert Langdon and I usually enjoy his grand adventures, but not so much with this one.  Maybe it’s because when I read the first four I read so fast that I missed the so-so writing that is impossible to skip when listening.  When you are on a road trip with your husband and he says halfway through that he doesn’t think he can listen to the repetitive writing anymore that is a bad sign.  We did eventually finish separately, but both of us were just meh on the ending.  The great shocking discovery Robert and Ambra were racing to release to the world was not so shocking and really wasn’t going to end religion forever, which is what was continually mentioned throughout the 18 hours.

Okay, what about the story you ask?  Well, Robert is in Spain because an old student, Kirsch, is about to make his discovery known to the world, but disaster ensues and Robert and Ambra are on the run with the help of Kirsch’s assistant Winston.  There are visits to churches and places that I was not familiar with and clues to be solved all while the world watched the chase live.  As for the story itself, Winston was a bright spot.  Was he good, was he not?  By far he was the most interesting thing about the story for me and he wasn’t even human.

So, I will continue with Robert because I love him so, but I will stick to the print version so I can skim past the multitude of parts that need editing.  As I look back over my reviews of past books I see that this is not the first time that I’ve mentioned the need for an editor.  Hm.

 

 

The Year of Less and Road Trips

Title: The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store, Author: Cait FlandersThe Year of Less by Cait Flanders. Finished 9-9-18, 3/5 stars, memoir, pub. 2018

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy-only keeping her from meeting her goals-she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year. The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt. Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life-and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less.    from Goodreads

I was disappointed with this one.  There’s nothing wrong with Cait’s story, but there isn’t anything that hasn’t been said before.  I realize it was her journey so it’s different, but I wanted more about living with less and the shopping ban and way less about boyfriends and her job.

Road Trips: A Guide to Travel, Adventure, and Choosing Your Own PathRoad Trips:A Guide to Travel, Adventure, and Choosing Your Own Path by Jen CK Jacobs. Finished 9-11-18, 3.5/5 stars, travel, pub. 2018

Road Trips is the ultimate guide to inspire wanderlust and spark new adventures. From coming-of-age solo journeys to romantic weekend getaways, friend-filled road trips, and more, Road Trips features eight travel stories packed with photos and personal experiences that bring the adventures of the road to life. Inspiring and practical, this book also has key tips for enhancing every part of your trip, from getting out the door (with essential tips on packing and eating on the road–including recipes for road snacks) to taking in new experiences (with creative ideas for journaling and photographing) and bringing experiences from the road back home (through creative collecting). We are all drawn to adventure. Whether you’re a road warrior or you have a hard time getting out the door, Road Trips is the perfect way to inspire a life of travel.  from Goodreads

I love road trips and this would be a great gift for anyone who likes to pack up and hit the road when they can.  There is nothing earth shattering, but the layout, photography and good ideas make it a fun one to read through.

6 mini-reviews from my 30 day challenge

Title: The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks, Author: Bruce BartlettThe Truth Matters by Bruce Bartlett. Finished 9-2-18, 4/5 stars, current affairs/reference, pub. 2017.

It’s only 136 pages and reads fast.  I assumed by the title that this was about Trump and his loose grasp of the truth so I was surprised when I realized it was written by a Republican who had worked for both Reagan and the first Bush.  This is a nonpartisan book and it was good.  He touches on many things…why the traditional media no longer serves our needs, differences between primary and secondary sources, trusting academic sources, using your local libraries, numbers must be put into context, polling, using Wikipedia, fake news, and more.

“President Trump has used the term (fake news) as an accusation against news organizations reporting accurate news that he doesn’t like.” (emphasis mine)  The book isn’t about Trump, but he is mentioned when talking about his obsession with what he calls fake news.  Bartlett gives a list of credible sources and gives you tips on how to not fall for the lies.

“In the end, the best defenses against fake news are critical thinking; taking in news from a variety of sources, including those that don’t confirm your own biases; being skeptical about information that sounds too good (or bad) to be true; and other self-defenses.” page 126

I think everyone should read this book.  It’s short enough and provides great historical context and sources.  If in doubt, go to your library.  They can show you what resources they have to help you.


Title: ScandiKitchen: The Essence of Hygge, Author: Bronte AurellScandikitchen:The Essence of Hygge by Bronte Aurell. Finished 9-3-18, 4/5 stars, culture, pub. 2017

I chose this as I was browsing library books for short books (this one clocks in at 160) and saw that it was about something that I was completely clueless about.  It’s a Scandinavian term that suddenly hit the mainstream in the past few years. It’s all about being present in the moment, a perfect companion to my love of mindfulness.  It included great quotes from the likes of Gandhi, Epicurus, and Julia Child.  It is beautifully done with quality paper and gorgeous photographs.  The recipes she included look so yummy I’m to try a few (gluten & dairy free adapted, of course).  The small square size makes it a perfect book to give as a gift – maybe even to yourself!  I have at least one person in mind who will be getting it for Christmas 🙂 It’s about something real and important and inspiring.


Title: Wishful Drinking, Author: Carrie FisherWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. Finished 9-5-18, 5/5 stars, memoir, 163 pages, pub. 2008

What a hoot!  I loved her snark and stories and our shared love of Cary Grant.  This is a memoir, complete with pictures of her life growing up with famous parents (she calls them the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston of their day).  Considering that she also married someone famous, expect lots of people you know.  I won’t say name dropping, because this just felt like her life and it all seemed relevant.  I know she also wrote novels and I may have to add them to my reading list because I enjoy her writing and sense of humor so much.


Title: The Joy of Cookies: Cookie Monster's Guide to Life, Author: Cookie MonsterCookie Monster’s Guide to Life. Finished 9-5-18, 2/5 stars, humor, pub. 2018

Today after school Gage and I read a book together. I found Cookie Monster’s Guide to Life The Joy of Cookies in the 818 section of the library.  Really?  The high ratings on Goodreads make me think I missed something, but as I page back through the 160 pages of Cookie Monster screaming about cookies, I think maybe they got it wrong.  Well, anyway, G laughed a lot when I did the Cookie Monster voice and he even tried it out himself when he read, but he’s a kid.  This book was in the adult section.  I don’t get it.


Title: God: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk About God, Author: Jennifer BerneGod: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk About God by Jennifer Berne. Finished 9-10-18, 3/5 stars, pub. 2017

Quite a mix of believers in math and science mixed in with those who embrace the unknowable.  I returned the book to the library this morning or I’d offer a few quotes.  Illustrations for every quote.


Cleveland A to Z: Historical Essentials for Newcomers and Residents in Northeastern OhioCleveland A-Z by John J Grabowski. Finished 9-7-18, 5/5 stars, local history, pub.2017

Perfect for new Clevelanders and old.  A fun pictorial history lesson for the storied city of Cleveland.

 

 

I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark

Title: I've Got You Under My Skin, Author: Mary Higgins ClarkI’ve Got You Under My Skin. Finished audio 10-2-18, 2.75/5 stars, mystery, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read by Jan Maxwell. 7 discs.

A Manhattan ER doctor is brazenly murdered in front of his young son in a city playground. Five years later, his killer is still at large.

Meanwhile his widow, Laurie Moran, is now an award-winning TV producer. Still haunted by her husband’s murder, she has been raising their son alone. Laurie and her TV crew have just received the green light to produce a new “cold case” series. Revisiting unsolved crimes one at a time, she and her TV crew will gather a victim’s friends and family, who have lived under suspicion of guilt for many years. By getting paid to reenact the crime on TV, each will have the chance to clear their name—unless, of course, someone is guilty… The first case centers on the murder of a wealthy Westchester matron, who was killed overnight while her college-aged daughter and her three best friends were having a sleepover following their celebratory graduation party… Now grown, the four women reunite to re-create the scene of the crime…    from Goodreads

I read a lot of Mary Higgins Clark back in high school and occasionally I’ll pick up one her recents to listen to in the car, like I did this one, but she’s one of those authors who I feel like I outgrew a long time ago.  Maybe it’s because I found this one so disappointing.  The first chapter really grabbed me as it was told from the perspective of the man who shot a doctor in public right in front of his son and got away with it.  I liked the ex-cop grandpa and his few scenes, but other than that it was just blah for me.  There were way too many other characters to try and connect with and none of them had to do with the first chapter so it was just a let down.

Maybe this was just one that was not her best, but it’ll be a while before I pick up another.