Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

fpoHow To Win Friends and Influence People. Finished 11-17-15, rating 4.5/5, relationships, pub. 1936

You can go after the job you want…and get it! You can take the job you have…and improve it! You can take any situation you’re in…and make it work for you!

Since its release in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies. Dale Carnegie’s first book is a timeless bestseller, packed with rock-solid advice that has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.

As relevant as ever before, Dale Carnegie’s principles endure, and will help you achieve your maximum potential in the complex and competitive modern age.

Learn the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, and the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment.     from Goodreads

I’ve had an old copy of this book in my boxes for so many years, curious despite my distrust of anything that can be called self-help, but since I started a new way to choose my books last spring I’ve been picking up some titles that have languished for years. It helped that the library had the audio, so I both listened and read. My biggest takeaway from this book is that it is amazing how relevant this book published in 1936 still is.  Yes, it can be considered self-help (I loved this post from earlier this month about a woman with Aspergers reading this book for the first time) but I think it’s also a really interesting look at human psychology.

I don’t think following the tips in this book will make you a better person (on the contrary, being too much of a people pleaser can be a bad thing) but I do think that it delves into what makes people tick. I found it easy while listening to see my strengths and weaknesses and that was helpful to me.  I don’t plan on using this as a guidebook or anything but I do think it’s a worthwhile read.  And if you read the post I mentioned you can see how there are a lot of people who can still really benefit from this oldie.


December 17, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 4 Comments

How To Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh – Great stocking stuffer!

fpoHow To Relax. Finished 11-8-15, rating 4.5/5, meditation, 120 pages, pub. 2015

How to Relax is part of The Mindfulness Essentials series of how-to titles by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, introducing beginners and reminding seasoned practitioners of the essentials of mindfulness practice. Pocket-sized, with original two color illustrations by Jason DeAntonis, How to Relax shows how critical it is to regularly interrupt the hub-bub and routine of our lives to stop, relax mindfully, and recharge.

Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we relax, we “become calm water, and we will reflect reality as it is. If we’re not calm, the image we reflect will be distorted. When the image is distorted by our minds, it’s not the reality, and it causes lots of suffering.” With sections on healing, relief from nonstop thinking, transforming unpleasant sounds, solitude, being peace, and more, How to Relax includes meditations you can do to help you achieve the benefits of relaxation no matter where you are.

It’s a unique gift for those who want a simple guide to achieving deep relaxation, controlling stress, and renewing mental freshness and clarity, appropriate for those practicing in any spiritual tradition, whether seasoned practitioners or new to meditations.  from Goodreads

I became a fan of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh when I read The Miracle of Mindfulness years ago.  It really did change the way I think and view everyday tasks and I’ve been meaning to reread it for years, but lucky for me I found this little gem that touches on the basics and is a great refresher.  How can you not like a guy who says that lazy days are important?  And there is a tiny section on using snoring as a way to bring you in the here and now and sleep easily. I made sure to read this page to Jason since he has to put up with my snoring 🙂

I am a worrier.  I come by it honestly, a family tradition, but it is not conducive to living life fully.  By focusing on my breath or even adding a few short meditations, I can come back into the present easily.  This is important since worry is all about the unknown future and happiness can be found in the present moment.  It takes practice and that’s why I love the format and length of this book. I can easily pick this up and turn to the pages I’ve marked for a peaceful moment.

If you’ve never really read anything written by a Buddhist monk on meditation (seriously, who hasn’t :)) I think this would be good, but The Miracle of Mindfulness even better.  I do think this is a perfect gift for people who may need to take a moment and relax.  It’s a great way to introduce the practice.


December 1, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 3 Comments

Breaking the Vicious Cycle:Intestinal Health Through Diet by Elain Gottschall

fpoBreaking the Vicious Cycle. Finished 11-4-15, rating 4.5/5, health, 205 pages, pub. 1986/2012

It is a strict grain-free, lactose-free, and sucrose-free meal plan.

Of all dietary components, carbohydrates have the greatest influence on intestinal microbes (yeast and bacteria) which are believed to be involved in intestinal disorders. Most intestinal microbes require carbohydrates for energy. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet works by severely limiting the availability of carbohydrates to intestinal microbes.

When carbohydrates are not digested, they are not absorbed. They remain in the intestinal tract, thus encouraging microbes to multiply by providing food for them. This can lead to the formation of acids and toxins which can injure the small intestine.

Once bacteria multiply within the small intestine, they can destroy the enzymes on the intestinal cell surface, preventing carbohydrate digestion and absorption. At this point, production of excessive mucus may be triggered as the intestinal tract attempts to “lubricate” itself against the irritation caused by the toxins, acids, and the presence of incompletely digested and unabsorbed carbohydrates.

The diet is based on the principle that specifically selected carbohydrates, requiring minimal digestion, are well absorbed leaving virtually nothing for intestinal microbes to feed on. As the microbes decrease due to lack of food, their harmful by-products also diminish. No longer needing protection, the mucus producing cells stop producing excessive mucus and carbohydrate digestion is improved. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet corrects malabsorption, allowing nutrients to enter the bloodstream and be made available to the cells of the body, thereby strengthening the immune system’s ability to fight. Further debilitation is prevented, weight can return to normal, and ultimately there is a return to health.  from Goodreads

I left the whole description in case you wanted a more detailed overview of some of the science behind the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).  Now let me tell you what has led us here (by us I mean me and Gage).  Gage stills has terrible reflux, even on Zantac, and it’s been going on since July.  But even before that his stomach was a mess.  He was on Zantac pretty much for 3 years before which I am positive led to his gut being in such bad shape now.  He isn’t growing up or out much either. All of these things led me to this book, but there is one more important reason I know about this book.  This is the foundation for many kids on the spectrum being recovered, ie. losing their diagnosis. I know people don’t like to believe things without a ‘study’ behind them, but all you have to do is talk to parents.  I mentioned to Gage’s teacher yesterday that we would be starting this soon and she said her friend started the GAPS diet (similar to SCD and the other game changing diet for kids with autism) for her son on the spectrum and he lost all of the problems that gave him a diagnosis in the first place. I’ve resisted this diet to this point because I was hoping gluten/casein/soy free would be enough.  I don’t think that anymore.

So, that’s how we got here and I’m so glad that we are finally taking this step, for our whole family. I’ll be starting the intro diet this week, chicken, chicken broth, and eggs and Gage will start next week.  The first week or two might be a bit rough and make us sick as we kill off the bad guys but as we slowly add foods back in we should start to feel better.  It works much like the elimination diet that I talked about from a book this summer only carbs will be gone for the duration of the diet.  To cure things like colitis or Crohn’s disease it takes a year or two and then you can try adding forbidden foods back in.  If your gut is properly healed you should be able to tolerate them better.

The science, studies, personal stories of success and details of the diet are included in the book.  The updated version even includes a chapter on autism because it has become such a savior to many parents with kids with autism or related conditions.  It’s not an easy diet and I’m nervous.  I had to tell Gage he wouldn’t be able to eat chocolate for awhile and that did not go well.  If you are interested in learning more you can visit the website.  This book is a must read for those with gut diseases like Crohn’s, colitis, CF, and yes, I consider autism one of those that starts in the gut.

November 10, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , | 8 Comments

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

fpoThe Blind Side. Finished 10-6-15, rating 4.25/5, sports, 320 pages, pub. 2006

Unabridged audio read by Stephen Hoye. 11 hours, 47 minutes.

When we first meet Michael Oher is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or how to read or write. He takes up football, and school, after a rich, white, Evangelical family plucks him from the streets. Then two great forces alter Oher: the family’s love and the evolution of professional football itself into a game in which the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist becomes the priceless package of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback’s greatest vulnerability: his blind side.    from Goodreads

I loved this book, even the very footbally parts.  Many people have seen the movie that won a Best Actress Award for Sandra Bullock and are familiar with the rags to riches story of NFL player Michael Oher.  His upbringing was heartbreaking, but good fortune finally showed him some love by getting him off the rough Memphis streets and into a private Christian school in his teens and having the privileged Tuohy family adopt him as one of their own.  His transformation was inspiring and proved so many things about race and wealth and the importance of a loving family.

The Tuohy’s seemed too good to be true in this book (and that fact that the author and Sean Tuohy are old friends should be taken into account).  What they did was the epitome of charity, not just giving money, but charity of the heart.  They saw Michael had a need, housing and someone to look after him, and they stepped in, arms wide open.  When this large black man joined their Southern white Christian Republican family others may have had reservations, but the Tuohy’s paid no attention.  The miracles they were able to make happen for Michael showed great love.

At its heart it is a football book and alternating with Michael’s story is the history of the left offensive tackle position, the very one  that Michael would be called to play because of his size and athletic ability.  It all started in the 1980’s with Lawrence Taylor and Lewis managed to make even these somewhat dry passages come alive with humor.  It deftly explains why the position became so important and allowed Michael the privilege of becoming so sought after, essentially every college in the country making visits and calls to get him to their campus.

I did have my reservations about the way Michael was portrayed.  So many stories about his lack of understanding of basic things, while highlighting the economic divide also repeatedly painted him in an unflattering light.  He is still playing in the NFL and has recently talked about this in an interview.

“People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am.  This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football. It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”

As much as Michael may not like it, the glaring light shone on privilege, be it the privilege of race or money, is an important one.  The inner city public schools were, at best, negligent and the city not much better.  The story of Michael Oher shows one of the few that made it, his last NFL contract paying him $7M over two years.  And the story of the Tuohys show that with a charitable heart the world can change, one kid at a time.

This is a football book, but Michael’s story will appeal to anyone.  If you don’t like football, you can just skip those parts 🙂

October 15, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , | 4 Comments

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb

fpoBest Boy. Finished 9-25-15, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 246 pages, pub. 2015

Sent to a “therapeutic community” for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the “Old Fox” of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel “normal” again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return “home” to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams.    from Goodreads

Okay, let’s start with the ways that this book was a difficult read for me. Autism communities, like the one in the book, are both reassuring and frightening for a parent. I know someone who works at a community home, similar but on a much smaller scale, and he said because of the pay the staff turnover was high and the quality of employees was sometimes so bad that the residents were robbed of the money their families sent.  This is something I pray about every night, Gage’s independence. But the surprising thing for me was how hard I was hit by Todd’s love for his dead mother. Todd still needed his mother and she had been the only one who really looked out for his best interests, so I shed a few tears at those points of the book that I’m sure wouldn’t affect someone else the same way. I need to live forever, guys!

To the story, I love that this was told from Todd’s first person perspective.  Todd is a higher functioning man in his 50’s and this is not a character I’ve seen before.  Todd loves his routine, oldies music and to be helpful. He works around the center and even goes to the local school to help serve lunch.  But Todd’s routine was disrupted by a hateful roommate, a girl who makes him ‘have wind in his pants’, and new staffer who uses Todd to cover for his extracurricular activities.  Those three people leave Todd unsettled and wanting to return home to his brother so he does something drastic.

Gottlieb, whose autistic brother lives in a community not unlike Todd, gets the voice just right. Every person on the spectrum is different, with different abilities, but Todd is a fair representation of many of the commonalities of those on the spectrum.  I enjoyed my time with Todd even it was tinged with apprehension.  If you’ve never spent time with an adult on the autism spectrum then I think this book would give a great perspective with a great story too.  The end was very satisfying and left Todd and the reader in a good place.

Thanks for sending me a copy Golda!  I also enjoyed meeting the author when he was on tour last month and he wrote this article  in the Washington Post about his real life experiences with his 57 year old brother.  I highly recommend it.

September 29, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , | 3 Comments

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

fpoThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Finished 7-27-15, rating 4.75/5, thriller, 590 pages, pub. 2005

I both listened and read this one.  The audio was expertly read by Simon Vance, 16 hours and 30 minutes.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.  from Goodreads

When I first started listening to this one I found myself lost in a sea of unfamiliar names and it made the beginning a slow start.  The set up of the Vanger history and all of the players, big and small, was something to get through not really to relish.  That came later.  Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and magazine publisher, was convicted of libel and looking at jail time when Henrik, the head of the Vanger family, makes him an offer he can’t refuse.  Henrik also tapped the troubled and enigmatic Lisbeth Salander to check him out and what she found made her more than curious about Mikael.

All three, the Vangers, Mikael and Lisbeth, had their own stories and then came together for one big revelation.  Just as one storyline came to a close there was still plenty more story to tell and what a story it was.  For me, it was the way everything was expertly woven together that made the characters so rich and vibrant.  These were characters that I had never met before and I was intrigued.  All three were unapologetic and totally at home in their own skin and I loved it.

If the story started a bit bogged down it certainly didn’t suffer from that by the middle when the investigation and personal relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth became heated.  This was when listening to the audio in the car wasn’t enough and I had to pick up the book.  There was abuse, horrific abuse and violence, but it only made me in more of a hurry to see what would happen next, how redemption might come.  As for Mikael, he seemed to have no problem loving the ladies and I was struck by the very civil way the women sharing him acted.  I’ve never seen anything like it in real life, but hey, maybe I need to visit Sweden to see if that’s the way it works over there 😉

I already have the next one ready to go!


September 1, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 8 Comments

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

fpoThe Woman in White. Finished 7-6-15, rating 4.25/5, classic thriller, pub. 1860

Unabridged audio read by Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins :)). 24 hours, 37 minutes. 783 pages (paperback). I both listened and read this one.

‘In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

from Goodreads

I first heard of Wilkie Collins from my fellow bloggers, he certainly hadn’t been on my radar before.  I read ‘first gothic thriller’ and I knew I wanted to take a look.  I mostly listened but there were times during the 24 hour audio that I just needed to know what happened so I followed along in the book.  Published in 1860, it’s long and slow but very satisfying.

The story was told after the fact and by many different characters at Walter Hartright’s request.  Walter had a chance encounter with a mysterious woman who was obviously fleeing someone the night before he left for Limmeridge House to become an art instructor for a young lady there.  These two women, who looked eerily alike, are the heart of this mystery thriller.  The story was full of twists and turns, heroes and villians and comic relief (my favorite chapter was written by Laura’s uncle, Mr. Fairlie, and it had me laughing out loud).  I especially loved Laura’s strong half-sister Marian. She was a breath of fresh air in a book that takes place when women were more delicate and had no power without money or looks.  I was rooting for her way more than Laura.

As the first successful gothic thriller I can say that it delivered.  If published today it may have been quite a bit shorter since there were many lulls, but that only built up the suspense for me and let me enjoy the mystery a little bit longer.  My husband had a hard time listening to the audio because he was frustrated with the language (listening during rush hour might not be the best idea). He gave up but I think if he’d given it some time his ears would have adjusted 🙂

A perfectly satisfying read for classic and mystery fans.

I read this as part of my 50 in 5 Classics Club challenge.





July 23, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 6 Comments

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie (a Tommy & Tuppence novel)

By the Pricking of My Thumbs: A Tommy and Tuppence MysteryBy the Pricking of My Thumbs. Finished 5-26-15, 4.5/5 stars, mystery, pub. 1968

Tommy and Tuppence series #4 (1-The Secret Adversary)

Unabridged audio read by Alex Jennings. 7 hours.

While visiting Tommy’s Aunt Ada at Sunny Ridge Nursing Home, Tuppence encounters some odd residents including Mrs. Lancaster who mystifies her with talk about “your poor child” and “something behind the fireplace”.

When Aunt Ada dies a few weeks later, she leaves Tommy and Tuppence a painting featuring a house, which Tuppence is sure she has seen before. This realization leads her on a dangerous adventure involving a missing tombstone, diamond smuggling and a horrible discovery of what Mrs. Lancaster was talking about.      from Goodreads

I discovered Tommy and Tuppence back in 2011 with their first book, The Secret Adversary, and loved their relationship and adventures.  As much as I feel the need to read a series in order, there are five books and several short stories, this audio called to me from the library bookshelves before my Chicago road trip. It was refreshing to find out that T&T age as their series progresses and instead of 20 year old whippersnappers I found a married couple well into middle age and settled in their life together.

Tommy’s crotchety old aunt dies, but before she does Tuppence meets another woman at the same nursing home who says a few mysterious things that unnerve her. When the lady goes missing, Tuppence sets her mind to finding her to return a painting.  As you might guess, the search leads to dead-end after dead-end until Tuppence is put in harm’s way and Tommy isn’t around.  The plot is convoluted, and full of suspects and possible crimes.  This book is creepy.  Even with the picturesque countryside and small villages, there are dead children and dark characters I wouldn’t want to meet in real life.

Even though Tommy and Tuppence were separated much of the novel I really enjoyed their comfortable relationship and willingness to go off on adventures (well, Tuppence mostly).  I haven’t read a lot of Christie, but I do plan reading the rest of this series.  Loved it.

June 23, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 9 Comments

What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

What I Know For SureWhat I Know For Sure. Finished 5-18-15, rating 4.5/5, inspirational, pub. 2014

From all her experiences, she has gleaned life lessons—which, for fourteen years, she’s shared in O, The Oprah Magazine’s widely popular “What I Know For Sure” column, a monthly source of inspiration and revelation.
Now, for the first time, these thoughtful gems have been revised, updated, and collected in What I Know For Sure, a beautiful cloth bound book with a ribbon marker, packed with insight and revelation from Oprah Winfrey. Organized by theme—joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity, and power—these essays offer a rare, powerful and intimate glimpse into the heart and mind of one of the world’s most extraordinary women—while providing readers a guide to becoming their best selves. Candid, moving, exhilarating, uplifting, and frequently humorous, the words Oprah shares in What I Know For Sure shimmer with the sort of truth that readers will turn to again and again.

from Goodreads

 “While I was waiting on God, God was waiting on me. He was waiting on me to make a decision to either pursue the life that was meant for me or be stifled by the one I was living.” – Oprah

I’ve never considered myself an Oprah fan.  Sure there are things that I like about her, she does good things and sends positive energy out into the cold, cruel world, but every time I watched her show she seems both sincere and out-of-touch.  But Kathy said she liked this one and the audio was short (only 4 cds) and read by Oprah herself so I thought I’d give it a listen.  I’m so glad that I did.

Oprah has many gifts and one is the power of communication.  I loved listening to her read her short columns from O Magazine about the things in life that she knows for sure.  It was like having Oprah sitting in the car with me (much like the cross-country road trip she takes with best friend Gayle that she talks about in the book) telling me to live my best life.  As often as I get pulled into the drudgery and annoyances of everyday life, it was such a breath of fresh air to hear Oprah tell me to open my eyes and live my best life.

There may have been no brand new lessons, we’ve heard many of these things before, but Oprah sharing her varied experiences and what they taught her left me with a smile on my face as well as in my heart.  Inspiring and positive and definitely worth a listen.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , | 9 Comments

The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos

The Precious OneThe Precious One. Finished 4-25-15, rating 4.5/5, fiction,

In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary — professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once.

Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister — a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?
from Goodreads

I really identified with Taisy, a woman in her 30’s who lost her only love and never really had the love of her father.  I think it’s easier to think that a parent doesn’t care about you by just telling yourself that they are a jerk, but what happens when another kid comes along and proves that your parent could love.  But it just didn’t happen with you.  Poor Taisy wanted the love of her father and never received it and has spent more than a decade always secretly hoping there might be a chance to reconnect.  When that time comes, we really get to see what an ass Wilson is.  I’m sorry I can’t come up with a nicer word, but he was something else.

At first I was a little disappointed when we cut to Willow’s story.  The Precious One had been raised pretty much single-handedly by her father and she had some very interesting and lofty ideas.  But, as she started working through being a teenager without her father’s influence my heart softened.  What makes a family?  Willow is about to find out.

I loved Marisa’s first book, Love Walked In, and I knew within five minutes that I would most likely love this one too.  Her writing engages me, it feels like a comfort read but with lightness and fun.  The story and the writing felt fresh and while there were serious storylines it never felt heavy.  Loved it.

I received this from the publisher courtesy of She Reads.

May 5, 2015 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 10 Comments