Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

A Life in parts by Bryan Cranston

Title: A Life in Parts, Author: Bryan CranstonA Life in Parts. Finished 9-7-17, 4.5/5 stars, memoir, pub. 2016

Unabridged audio read superbly by author.

Bryan Cranston landed his first role at seven, when his father, a struggling actor and director, cast him in a United Way commercial. Soon, Bryan was haunting the local movie theater, memorizing and reenacting favorite scenes with his older brother. Acting was clearly the boy’s destiny—until one day his father disappeared. Suddenly, destiny took a back seat to survival.

Seeking something more stable, perhaps subconsciously trying to distance himself from his absent father, Cranston decided on a career in law enforcement. But then, a young man on a classic cross-country motorcycle trip, Cranston one day found himself stranded at a rest area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. To pass the time he read a tattered copy of Hedda Gabler, and in a flash he found himself face-to-face once again with his original calling. Suddenly he thought: This was what he wanted to do, what he would do, with the rest of his life. Act.    from Goodreads

Today I finished listening to A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston. It was read by Cranston himself and it was 8 cds. I love when actors read their own books!  I did watch one or two seasons of Breaking Bad and have seen him in other things, but I wouldn’t have picked this one up unless Diane recommended it.  Cranston’s dad was an actor and left his three kids when they were young.  Cranston and his brother survived their childhood together, living with relatives, traveling overseas, and taking motorcycle road trip across America.  Cranston has led a very bold and ambitious life and he pulls no punches.  It started a little slow, but for most of this book his stories made me laugh out loud or have a motherly concern for his wellbeing.

If you are at all interested in reading about the acting life or love Walter White then this will be a good fit for you.  Perfect for a road trip with the hubby or wife, but not suitable for kids. Lots of language and sex.

I read this on day 8 of my monthly challenge.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 2 Comments

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Title: Cat's Cradle, Author: Kurt VonnegutFinished 9-4-17, rating 4.5/ 5, classic fiction, 191 pages, pub. 1963

Told with deadpan humour & bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut’s cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon &, worse still, surviving it …

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding ‘fathers’ of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he’s the inventor of ‘ice-nine’, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker’s three ecentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Felix Hoenikker’s Death Wish comes true when his last, fatal gift to humankind brings about the end, that for all of us, is nigh…  from Goodreads

I haven’t read Vonnegut since Slaughterhouse-Five in college, a book I disliked.  So, imagine my surprise when I found myself charmed by this one.  The father of the hydrogen bomb made something even more deadly and, left in the hands of his three children, the fate of the world is in peril.  John, a writer and our narrator, finds himself drawn into the lives of these offspring and sent on an adventure that would leave the world changed forever.  This book was a hoot in its absurdity, but pointed in its observations of humanity.  Vonnegut has won me over.

This was my 13th selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!

September 11, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 7 Comments

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Title: Circling the Sun, Author: Paula McLainCircling the Sun.  Finished 7-1-17, rating 4.5/5, historical fiction, pub. 2015.

Unabridged audio read by Katharine McEwan. 12.5 hours.

Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly. 

-from Goodreads

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up, only that it was written by a Clevelander and someone mentioned that they liked this better than her other bestseller, The Paris Wife.  Little did I know that I would love this story of 1920’s Kenya so much.

Beryl’s upbringing was eccentric and because of that she was a fantastic main character.  Her English mother couldn’t handle her life in Kenya so she moved back to England with her son, leaving Beryl with her father.  Beryl was able to run wild as a child and was accepted by the local native tribe, at least until she was old enough to be sent away to school.  She was attacked by a tiger and lived to tell the tale.  She was fearless with horses and broke every mold a woman trainer could in the 1920’s.  Her unbridled nature led her to questionable relationships and choices, but she always maintained her independence and paid dearly for mistakes.

I don’t know how much this Beryl matches the real Beryl, but I am interested in finding out by reading Beryl Markam’s autobiography West with the Night.  I have never even seen or read Out of Africa, where Beryl is part of the tragic love triangle in this novel.  I need to rectify that soon.  She was an immensely flawed character, but that made me love her that much more.  And I loved learning about Kenya at that time as big changes were happening.

Highly recommend this one.  The audio was a wonderful way to experience this one.

So, for those of you who have seen or read Out of Africa, what did you think of Beryl?

 

 

July 20, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 3 Comments

The Quiet Game by Greg Iles

Title: The Quiet Game (Penn Cage Series #1), Author: Greg IlesThe Quiet Game. Finished 5-6-17, rating 4.5/5, mystery, 624 pages, pub. 2000

Penn Cage #1

Penn Cage is no stranger to death. As a Houston prosecutor he sent sixteen men to death row, and watched seven of them die. But now, in the aftermath of his wife’s death, the grief-stricken father packs up his four-year-old daughter, Annie, and returns to his hometown in search of healing. But peace is not what he finds there.

Determined to save his father from a ruthless blackmailer, Penn stumbles over a link to the town’s darkest secret: the thirty-year-old unsolved murder of a black Korean War veteran. But what drives him to act is the revelation that this haunting mystery is inextricably bound up with his own past. Under a blaze of national media attention, Penn reopens the case, only to find local records destroyed, the FBI file sealed, and the town closing ranks against him.     from Goodreads

Penn Cage’s sixth book was released this year and I was able to hear author Greg Iles as he came to a local library to promote, Mississippi Burning, but I decided to start back at the beginning.  Penn lives in Natchez, Mississippi and much of this 2000 book was about race.  A race crime took place when Penn was a child and the FBI, under Hoover, closed and sealed the case without ever solving it.  When he finds out someone is blackmailing his daddy, he runs smack dab into this old powder keg of a case.

I liked Penn and his family.  Penn, prosecutor turned bestselling author, lost his wife to cancer but little Annie was the apple of his eye.  His parents were both pillars of strength and good in Natchez.  Penn himself was just trying to do what was right.  He managed to have a few romantic entanglements as the bullets were flying around him, but I won’t hold that against him.

It was a long book, but I found ways to sneak reading time in here and there, a certain sign of a great book.  I already have the second Penn Cage book and am looking forward to reading it soon.  If you like southern stories, mysteries, and great writing I think this may be the book for you!

 

May 22, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 4 Comments

U – Unbroken

Blogging from A-Z

 

Title: Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive, Author: Laura HillenbrandUnbroken. Finished 4-24-17, 4.5 stars, YA non-fiction, pub. 2014

On a May afternoon in 1943, an American military plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary sagas of the Second World War.
 
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. As a boy, he had been a clever delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and stealing. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a supreme talent that carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war came, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
 
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a sinking raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would respond to desperation with ingenuity, suffering with hope and humor, brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would hang on the fraying wire of his will.
 
In this captivating young adult edition of her award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller, Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of a man’s breathtaking odyssey and the courage, cunning, and fortitude he found to endure and overcome.  from Goodreads

Jason read this and we saw the movie together when it came out.  I liked the movie, but he was disappointed and now that I’ve read the book (the YA version, but still) I see why.  A word about the YA adaptations of bestsellers…This is the second time I’ve been burned by the YA abridgement.  When searching for this title on the library website the first audio that popped up was this one so I put it on hold, only it wasn’t the original.  I will be paying better attention next time.  Fool me twice and all that.

Louis was an amazing force of nature.  He was rebellious, talented, a hard worker, a survivor, a drunk, and ultimately a man of God.  His story was so inspirational.  The story of he and two of his comrades on the life boats in the middle of the ocean for 46-47 days with no food or water after the first few days.  Imagine having to fight of sharks that jump into your raft.  Imagine that when found, it’s your enemies not your friends.  Amazing.

The book was great, but I wish I had read the full-length book instead of the abridged version.  But one plus was that the late, great Edward Hermann read the 8 hour audio.  Do yourself a favor and read the book, skip the movie.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books, Blogging from A-Z | 3 Comments

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

When Beauty Tamed the BeastWhen Beauty Tamed the Beast. Finished 3-20-17, rating 4.5/5, historical romance, 372 pages, pub. 2011

Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty . . . Naturally, she’s betrothed to a Beast.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.

Linnet is not just any woman.

She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love—in just two weeks.

Yet Linnet has no idea of the danger posed to her own heart by a man who may never love her in return.

If she decides to be very wicked indeed . . . what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?      from Goodreads

When I heard Eloisa James say that she had read 7 years worth of House MD scripts to get the character of House just right, I knew I would love this one.  The classic tale of Beauty and the Beast is a timely one one right now and even though I haven’t seen the movie yet, I can recommend the book.  Like yesterday’s novel this takes me to Wales, only it’s the a few hundred years ago.  House, I mean Piers, was a solid curmudgeon of brilliance, complete with bum leg.  Linnet was beautiful enough to interest a prince, but not to seal the deal so the two are thrown together as a last resort for one and an olive branch, of sorts, for the other.

It’s witty, sexy and smart.  I love that Piers had his own hospital inside his castle with a loyal and loving family, even if dysfunctional.  Linnet, for all her beauty, had no one even though every man in the same room fell at her feet.   The two recognized something in each other and it was only a matter of time until they had their happily ever after.

 

March 28, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 9 Comments

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics:Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies:The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders by Kenneth Bock, MD and Cameron Stauth

Title: Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders, Author: Kenneth BockHealing the New Childhood Epidemics. Finished 3-23-17, rating 4.5/5, children’s health, 458 pages, pub. 2007

Doctors have generally overlooked the connections among the 4-A disorders, despite their concurrent rise and the presence of many medical clues. For years the medical establishment has considered autism medically untreatable and utterly incurable, and has limited ADHD treatment mainly to symptom suppression. Dr. Bock and his colleagues, however, have discovered a solution – one that goes to the root of the problem. They have found that deadly modern toxins, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic imbalances, genetic vulnerabilities and assaults on the immune and gastrointestinal systems trigger most of the symptoms of the 4-A disorders, resulting in frequent misdiagnosis and untold misery.  from Goodreads

Since this was first published in 2007 it’s probably not correct to call it groundbreaking, but for some parents whose children have just been diagnosed with one of these four conditions, it will be.  It’s a well laid out introduction to the biomedical approach of the 4-A’s (autism, ADHD, asthma, allergies).  To be fair, there is way more information on Autism and ADHD, but so many of the underlying health issues of all of these is similar.  Actually, of all the biomedical books I’ve read this one is most likely the best laid out, especially considering the four pronged approach Dr. Bock recommends.

As a mother with a few years of biomed under her belt I can say with certainty that this is a good starting place. I plan on starting one of his nutritional components tomorrow with a few new supplements to follow.  Also, it helped me put into focus the things that Gage’s integrative doctor has us working on right now and helped me clarify a few questions for when I talk to him next.

You can work through two of the four areas on your own, the nutritional and supplements, but your will need a doctor for detoxification and medication (if needed).

There are a few hot button issues that shouldn’t stop you from picking it up.  Like most integrative doctors I’ve met, listened to, and read, Dr. Bock believes that vaccines contribute to these conditions.  If I could only go into my own feelings on it, made even more clear by this book I would, but this post is not about that.  He believes that kids should be vaccinated and even provides a schedule that he considers safer, BUT #1 of his general safety guidelines is administer vaccinations only to abundantly healthy children.  This book will help you get your kid there if he or she isn’t already.

I took lots of notes, did a fair amount of highlighting and have a plan in place to move forward. I’d say the book served its purpose.

 

March 23, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books, Autism | 2 Comments

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Title: Almost Famous Women: Stories, Author: Megan Mayhew BergmanAlmost Famous Women. Finished 2-8-17, rating 4.5/5, short stories, 236 pages, pub. 2015

The fascinating lives of the characters in Almost Famous Women have mostly been forgotten, but their stories are burning to be told. Now Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, resurrects these women, lets them live in the reader’s imagination, so we can explore their difficult choices. Nearly every story in this dazzling collection is based on a woman who attained some celebrity—she raced speed boats or was a conjoined twin in show business; a reclusive painter of renown; a member of the first all-female, integrated swing band. We see Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s troubled niece, Dolly; West With the Night author Beryl Markham; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister, Norma. These extraordinary stories travel the world, explore the past (and delve into the future), and portray fiercely independent women defined by their acts of bravery, creative impulses, and sometimes reckless decisions.       from Goodreads

I don’t read short stories. I like big books where I can really get to know a character and spend time with a story that has the time to develop and take a few twists and turns.  But for book group this month we read Almost Famous Women  and I was pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, I was the only one since the other seven ladies didn’t care for it as a whole.

Each story started with a picture of the woman so that you could have a visual when you were reading and that was important for the first story.

Violet and Daisy Hilton were joined at the hip, literally.  This one was both disturbing and fascinating. People that you know showed up in the stories, Marlene Dietrich, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Lord Byron, Butterfly McQueen, Beryl Markham…but like the title says, most of the women in the book were almost famous.  I liked some more than others but particularly liked the one about Joe Carstairs and her private island, Romaine Brooks and her very creepy nurse, and Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter broke my heart.  I liked the mix of known and unknown and it made me check out more information on a few of the women.

The book group as a whole found the stories needlessly depressing and I can’t really argue on that point.  They were dark. There was a PTSD link in a few and more than one death.  We all noticed a homosexuality thread throughout the stories.  Most of us could pick out a favorite story or two and the book read really fast so that’s a plus.

So, I really liked it but I was the only one.  Read at your own risk 🙂

This counted as one for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, story collection by a woman.

February 9, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 6 Comments

Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins – love this romance series!

Title: Waiting on You (Blue Heron Series #3), Author: Kristan HigginsWaiting on You. Finished 1-16-17, rating 4.5/5, romance, 457 pages, pub. 2014

Blue Heron series #3  (1-The Best Man) (2-The Perfect Match)

Colleen O’Rourke is in love with love… just not when it comes to herself. Most nights, she can be found behind the bar at the Manningsport, New York, tavern she owns with her twin brother, doling out romantic advice to the lovelorn, mixing martinis and staying more or less happily single. See, ten years ago, Lucas Campbell, her first love, broke her heart… an experience Colleen doesn’t want to have again, thanks. Since then, she’s been happy with a fling here and there, some elite-level flirting and playing matchmaker to her friends.

But a family emergency has brought Lucas back to town, handsome as ever and still the only man who’s ever been able to crack her defenses. Seems like maybe they’ve got some unfinished business waiting for them—but to find out, Colleen has to let her guard down, or risk losing a second chance with the only man she’s ever loved.    from Goodreads

I love this series set in New York wine country.  The small town is charming, the people are eccentric and the dialogue is snappy.  As with the first two books I laughed out loud many times and was brought to tears at least once.  Higgins is so talented. I can’t wait to read everything she’s written.

Colleen, who owns the town bar with her twin brother, was in the first two books, but I was never really interested in her story.  Probably why it took me so long to start this one.  Colleen, it turns out, is a beautiful but somewhat broken 31 year old and I felt for her.  Lucas came to Manningsport broken by the deaths of his parents and he and Colleen found love.  Of course, young love rarely runs smooth and the two part ways.  I loved Colleen’s attempts to set up athletic Paulie with beautiful Bryce and her relationship with her half sister.

There were a few somewhat problematic parts for me on both sides, but in the end that’s what makes this one more real than some other romances.  They both did some unappealing things and in the end that made me cheer for them to find solace in each other all the more.

January 17, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 5 Comments

Here Be Dragons: A Parent’s Guide to Rediscovering Purpose, Adventure, and the Unfathomable Joy of the Journey by Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh and Ken Harbaugh

Title: Here Be Dragons: A Parent?s Guide to Rediscovering Purpose, Adventure, and the Unfathomable Joy of the Journey, Author: Annmarie Kelly-HarbaughHere Be Dragons. Finished 1-9-17, 4.5/5 stars, parenting, 204 pages, pub. 2016

Before our three kids, we had been decent people. Interesting even. One of us had taught Shakespeare to gang members while the other flew reconnaissance missions off North Korea. But our own children had proven our biggest challenge. We were passionate and service-driven folks, except we were not demonstrating this to our kids. We spent so much time trying to be good parents that we forgot to be good people.

Something had to change.


Two parents challenge one another to find balance between work and family life. Their stories are both uproarious and poignant as they raise children and strive to leave their mark on the wider world. Filled with tender moments and plenty of laughs, Here Be Dragons recounts the adventures of a family trying to stay afloat, and offers a life raft to the rest of us in choppy waters.    from Goodreads

When Annmarie emailed me about reviewing the book she had written with her husband it was plum luck that I read it.  I confess that I am a book blogger who very rarely opens up requests from people I don’t know.  For some reason I clicked it open and saw that that it was being published on my birthday and that Annmarie and her family live in the Cleveland area so I asked her to send me a copy.  What fun it was to read about Annmarie and Ken’s journey to parenthood and beyond.  I don’t usually use an author’s first name unless I know her but after reading the book I feel like I do and you will too.

Annmarie and Ken met in college and were friends who eventually saw a future together.  Both independent and driven they each sought to make a difference in the world, sometimes that meant they were in the same place on a map, but often it didn’t.  They married and had kids.  Usually this is where the story would become all about raising baby and how life stopped, but that isn’t what happened.  Amidst the trials of being a first-time stay-at-home mommy (been there and Annmarie made me laugh with her spot on observations) Annmarie and Ken still strived for more adventure, more purpose.

Their search for adventure and purpose has led them to live from coast to coast and in Ken’s case continent to continent, again, sometimes together and sometimes not.   More babies came but that didn’t stop them from moving when they felt called to do so.  They spent several years in the village next door (the one I’m always trying to convince Jason we need to move to) before heading to California with three kids and a packed car.

These are two parents trying to teach their kids what it means to be fully engaged by living a fully engaged life themselves. Their giving spirits come through loud and clear. They show the ebb and flow of a marriage with kids and they do it with warmth and humor.

The book is told in alternating voices.  They are both skilled writers so the book is beautifully written.  If you google them you can find links to some of their writing (Annmarie has quite a few pieces I loved on Huffington Post).  They also have a blog.

Ken spends a chapter or so writing about his time with Team Rubicon.  They put veterans to work in disaster areas and it looks like a great program that would do good things with a donation.

I really liked this one and think any parent will too.  They have given me inspiration to do more (and move to Chagrin Falls ;)).

January 9, 2017 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 8 Comments