Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Title: Cold-Hearted Rake, Author: Lisa KleypasCold-Hearted Rake.  Finished 7-1-17, rating 4/5, historical romance, 402 pages, pub. 2015

The Ravenels #1

Charming rake Devon Ravenel inherits an earldom. But the decrepit estate is deep in debt, and the late earl’s widow and three sisters still occupy the house. His drunken brother West rides the land while Devon seeks financing in London. Kathleen, still Lady Trenear, knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But their fiery attraction is undeniable.

I’m always looking for a go-to historical romance writer and I thought I’d give Lisa Kleypas a try.  I’ve seen trusted bloggers love her and the covers of this series are hard to resist.  I was not disappointed.

Devon, like most alpha males, rubbed me the wrong way at first with his rakish past and disregard for anything resembling hard work.  Kathleen, the widow, was so responsible and loyal to her new sisters that she was bound to go toe-to-toe with the new lord of the manor.  The sparks didn’t disappoint.

This was a great start to a new series.  The three sisters plus Devon’s brother West were all fleshed out in this one.  And the cliffhanger?  Well, I finished the second book a week after this and I just picked up the third from the library today.

Perfect for lovers of 19th century English romance.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 7 Comments

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

Title: Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Author: Sy MontgomeryTemple Grandin. Finished 6-28-17, rating 4/5 stars, Kids Biography, 148 pages, pub. 2012

When Temple Grandin was born, her parents knew that she was different. Years later she was diagnosed with autism.
   While Temple’s doctor recommended a hospital, her mother believed in her. Temple went to school instead.
   Today, Dr. Temple Grandin is a scientist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Her world-changing career revolutionized the livestock industry. As an advocate for autism, Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make.
   This compelling biography complete with Temple’s personal photos takes us inside her extraordinary mind and opens the door to a broader understanding of autism.    (from Goodreads)

I love Temple.  I knew of her before my life in the autism world began, but now, she’s like a rock star.  The autism community is so lucky to have her be their spokesperson.  I’ve heard her speak in person twice, both different and inspirational.  I was looking for some books for Gage and saw this kids biography and picked it up for myself.  Over 100 pages with lots of pictures and Temple drawings and it captures her personality perfectly.

The book tells of her upbringing from the horror of her father’s distaste to the unwavering loved of her mother.  It shows the difficulty she had in school after elementary school, but also the friends she made and still has.  It showed that she was a workhorse, holding a number of jobs and never tiring, even now as she approaches 70.

This was a book that explained how she got to where she is today.  She is an autism champion now, but she started by designing cattle shoots.  And when she was rebuffed in the male dominated field of cattle she always found a back door and a way to succeed.  She is one tough cookie.

Temple does not represent everyone on the autism spectrum, obviously, but I would encourage those of you who don’t have a loved one on the spectrum to read this. Spend an hour and see what parents and grandparents see when they look at their kid.  All the possibilities are here and Temple embodies them.

 

July 7, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 5 Comments

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Title: Frankenstein (Barnes & Noble Classics Series), Author: Mary ShelleyFrankenstein. Finished 4-29-17, rating 4/5 stars, classic, 206 pages, pub. 1818

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.    from Goodreads

I read most of this one first thing during the 24 hour readathon.  During the readathon you want short books so this classic fit the bill, but you also want books that read fast and this failed in that department for sure.  I had a hard time with the archaic language at first, but got into the rhythm after about 20 pages or so and really got into the story.  Yes, I knew some of the bigger plot points just from, you know, living life, but the majority of the story was completely new to me and quite compelling.

Victor Frankenstein became interested in the ancient alchemists when he was a teen in Geneva.  He heads off to university to study chemistry when he becomes obsessed with bring inanimate objects to life.  He succeeds and Frankenstein’s monster is born.  Horrified by the ugliness before him he retreats, sickened.  Henry, a childhood friend visits from home and nurses him back to health not really understanding that Victor’s nightmares are not make believe at all.  After Victor gets better and life seems normal again, the monster finds Victor and begins a quest to hound him until a mate is made so the monster can have the companionship he deserves.

This story is almost 200 years old and still resonates for good reason.  It has all the elements of a great story with something to say.  The monster, aptly nicknamed, does horrific things, and yet, his first speech to Victor really inspired sympathy. The monster wanted only friendship and instead received nothing but terrified people in his wake.  What happens if a person is shunned by everyone, even the one who made him?  Especially the one he made him.  Nothing good.

It’s a story still worth the time and effort. I’ve never seen any of the movies, so  I might have to give those a look this summer.

This was my 12th selection for the Classics Club and it also counts for my Reading Harder challenge.

May 9, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 10 Comments

H – Head Strong:The Bulletproff Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-In Just Two Weeks

Blogging From A-Z

Today I am part of a TLC Book Tour for Head Strong.  I agreed to today last month and am lucky it worked for my A-Z challenge too 🙂

Title: Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks, Author: Dave AspreyHead Strong by Dave Asprey

When I saw this on the book tour list I was really thinking of my husband.  It my mind I think I had some vague notion of reading it together or some such sweet thought, but, like most sweet intentions, it just never happened.  So I found myself starting a book that I wasn’t all that interested in, but was immediately surprised by just how much this book is in my wheelhouse, so to speak.  This successful man could have easily written this book with a biomed mom, the two are that similar.

Asprey was an overweight and overwhelmed 20 something who would often fall asleep in meetings.  To his credit, he was very successful, but he also knew something had to give.  One thing led to another and he ended up doing a brain scan and finding out his mitochondria were way out of whack.  I think it’s important to note here that Gage has mitochondrial disorder, so I know that his knowledge is solid.  He even taught me a few things I didn’t know already about the science.

You can fix your mitochondria.  The first and most important way is through diet.  Hm.  Those who know me and have followed some of the books I read on the blog know that I am no stranger to diets and this one is everything I’ve been trying to tell parents for years: no dairy and no gluten.  I learned about mold in food which I knew nothing about and I’m a little miffed that I know about now because he’s ruined coffee for me.

Okay, let me focus here.  What you eat is important but so is the elimination of toxins and junk light and adding in sunlight, exercise and meditation.  These may not sound new, but he does go into the science and reasoning behind it.  He also talks about some high tech resources that are out there now that I know Jason will interested to read about.

The reasoning behind his recommendations is detailed and the book is laid out in such a way that you can skip the more confusing parts and go right to the recommendations.  I think the two week plan needed more recipes, but that is my only suggestion.

I liked it and think Jason will too.  It’s full of great tips and explanations.  (Be warned that this is not the book for you if you are looking for a quick fix.  Yes, the title says two weeks, but these are not minor changes easy to accomplish.)

Thanks to Harper Collins for sending me a copy of the book.

 

 

 

 

 

April 10, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books, Blogging from A-Z | 4 Comments

E- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Blogging From A-Z

This month I’m focusing on movies, but I plan to compare the book to the movie in another post so I’ll tell you about the book since I just finished it.

Extremely loud and incredibly close large.JPEGFinished 4-6-17, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2005

Unabridged audio read by multiple authors. 11 hours.

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is a precocious Francophile who idolizes Stephen Hawking and plays the tambourine extremely well. He’s also a boy struggling to come to terms with his father’s death in the World Trade Center attacks. As he searches New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he left behind, Oskar discovers much more than he could have imagined.             from Goodreads

This description is accurate but not complete.  There are really three storylines, with Oskar’s voice carrying most of the story.  His grandmother and grandfather are the other two narratives and to say that this family is a little different is an understatement.

Oskar is an old nine and very likely on the autism spectrum even though it’s never stated specifically.  After his father dies on 9/11 his emotions spiral, so some of the autistic like traits could stem from that, but I personally thinks he’s an asperger’s boy with many of the strengths.  I love that his dad really played up those strengths so when we saw Oskar hoofing it around New York on his own it didn’t seem completely out of the question.  I love Oskar.  I recognized my son in him and fell in love. He also made me laugh and broke my heart.  By being true to himself he brought happiness to people’s lives.

The dueling grandparent narratives were okay.  They were both broken people so their stories sometimes contradicted each other and always left me feeling sad.  For much of the book I had some sympathy for the mute grandfather and little to spare for the grandmother.  I guess that held true but I did at least understand the grandmother better by the end.

I think I would have really loved this one if I had read the actual book.  I understand that there were drawings and illustrations that really helped make this something special, but the library didn’t get the book to me in time 😦  When it comes in I will flip through a take a look.  For that reason I don’t recommend the audio.

Take a chance and fall in love with Oskar.

April 6, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books, Blogging from A-Z | 7 Comments

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Title: I Let You Go, Author: Clare MackintoshI Let You Go. Finished 3-25-17, rating 4.25/5, suspense, pub. 2016

Unabridged audio read by Nicola Barber and Steven Crossley. 12 hours.

On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.    from Goodreads

I remember all the hype for this book when it came out and when it showed up on a recent unputdownable list, I checked the audio out of the library.  For the first few cds I really couldn’t figure out why there were so many raves about it.  I actually stopped listening for a week and was questioning to bother with the rest since I definitely didn’t get the unputdownable label at all.  But, I decided to give it a bit longer when I was cleaning one day and it started to build some steam.

This was a good book that starts with the horrific death of a child.  There was more than one big twist and the less you know the better. I loved  the Wales seaside Jenna found comfort in.  I would love to visit someday, under happier circumstances.

So, I think the slow beginning could deter some people, but if you can make it past that it turns into something unexpected and I liked it.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 6 Comments

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Title: My Name Is Lucy Barton, Author: Elizabeth StroutMy name is Lucy Barton. Finished 2-25-17, rating 3.75/5, fiction, pub. 2016

Unabridged audio read by Kimberly Farr

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lies the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters.  from Goodreads

I was going to wait to write about this one until after our book club meeting, but since it’s been postponed until June I think I’ll go ahead before I forget about it completely.  I listened to this short book and it was okay.  The writing was great and the mother-daughter relationship at the center was complex and interesting.  The mother was infuriating and I was hoping that Lucy would stand up to her, but as is the case in most parental relationships, they are fraught with landmines that one or both parties would just like to avoid.  This made Lucy a weaker character that she might have been if the story had been told just from the point of view of her escaping her poverty-stricken childhood.

It did feel disjointed, jumping from here to there, with nothing much going on, but then by the end all of the little paths merged into something quite complete.  I did like it, but I’m not sure I’ll be reading more from the author.

 

March 22, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 11 Comments

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: Maybe in Another Life: A Novel, Author: Taylor Jenkins ReidMaybe in Another Life. Finished 3-16-17, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Julia Whelan. 9 hours 10 minutes.

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?  from Goodereads

I’ve been listening to this book in the car for over a week and this morning I finally caved and bought a cinnamon roll and ate the whole glorious thing.  Hannah loves cinnamon rolls and cinnamon rolls were mentioned a lot by pretty much every character throughout the book even til the very last pages.  This is not a complaint but a warning.  If you listen to someone talk about cinnamon rolls enough you will find one to devour.  Just sayin’.

We meet Hannah at the beginning of the book as she moves back to Los Angeles.  She’s a bit of a mess, but through her best friend Gabby’s eyes we see Hannah for the loved and loving woman she is.  When she meets up with an old boyfriend on her first night back Hannah must choose to stay with him or leave with Gabby.  The stories then go from there.

In the next chapter she goes home with Gabby and disaster strikes. The chapter after that she goes home with Ethan and a love is rekindled.  The storylines alternate by chapter so that you are never too long in one that you’ve lost interest in the other. Knowing this is how it was set up I thought for sure I’d hate it.  I didn’t.

There were many ways this could have ended and Reid teased them all.  I probably would have preferred a different ending, BUT I liked it.  Are our lives decided by fate or do we make our own decisions?  If we make a choice will fate keep bringing us back to a preordained life?  This book was fun and though provoking.  I’m looking forward to going back and reading her earlier books.

This made lots of best of  lists when it came out a few years ago and I can see why.

 

March 17, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 6 Comments

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Title: The Dinner, Author: Herman KochThe Dinner. Finished 2-14-17, rating 4/5, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Clive Mantle. 9 hours.

A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened… Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.       from Goodreads

This is one of those books that the less you know the better so I’m not going to spoil any more than the description from Goodreads, and even that I deleted a few sentences. Amsterdam at an expensive restaurant, brothers and their wives, testy relationships put to the test.  It was…different.  Thought provoking, yes.  Enjoyable, sorta.  Recommended, if unlikeable characters are your thing.

I’m so glad that I listened to the audio. Mantle really sold Paul and elevated the story with his performance.

The movie featuring Richard Gere and Laura Linney is coming out in May!

 

 

February 16, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 11 Comments

The Dead Key by DM Pulley

Title: The Dead Key, Author: D. M. PulleyThe Dead Key. Finished 1-12-17, rating 4/5, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Emily Sutton-Smith. 13 hours 47 minutes.

It’s 1998, and for years the old First Bank of Cleveland has sat abandoned, perfectly preserved, its secrets only speculated on by the outside world.

Twenty years before, amid strange staff disappearances and allegations of fraud, panicked investors sold Cleveland’s largest bank in the middle of the night, locking out customers and employees, and thwarting a looming federal investigation. In the confusion that followed, the keys to the vault’s safe-deposit boxes were lost.

In the years since, Cleveland’s wealthy businessmen kept the truth buried in the abandoned high-rise. The ransacked offices and forgotten safe-deposit boxes remain locked in time, until young engineer Iris Latch stumbles upon them during a renovation survey. What begins as a welcome break from her cubicle becomes an obsession as Iris unravels the bank’s sordid past. With each haunting revelation, Iris follows the looming shadow of the past deeper into the vault—and soon realizes that the key to the mystery comes at an astonishing price.

In 2015 I had the opportunity to hear Pulley speak (wrote about it here) and the talk made me excited to read the book (the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Award winner). So much of what she writes about came from her experience as an engineer and being able to see the safe deposit boxes left as they were described in an old bank she was surveying.  I think seeing her presentation definitely made the book better.  If you’re interested this is a talk ( link )she gave at a local library.

The mystery follows the popular two storylines taking place in different time periods approach and works well enough, but I almost wish there’d been less of the 1998 story because the storyline and main character weren’t nearly as interesting as 1978.  I loved young Beatrice getting caught up in scandal and intrigue at the bank during a time that women had less options than they do today.  I was rooting for her to make her way out of the mess without getting caught but we never really knew until the last chapter with Iris in 1998.

Beatrice had all of the dignity that Iris lacked.  Iris drank too much, smoked too much, was late for work too much and maybe let her curiosity get the better of her too much.  I didn’t have problem with her but it was Beatrice’s story that kept me reading.

I liked it and am glad that I was able to hear her speak first because it put the story in context.  I also loved that it took place in Cleveland (and that means I can count it for my Read Harder Challenge).

 

January 12, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 4 Comments