Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

Yes Please! by Amy Poehler & Something New by Lucy Knisley

Two memoir catch ups!  How did I get so behind?!

Yes Please! Finished 9-27-17, rating 4/5, memoir, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read by Amy Poehler.  7 hours 30 minutes.

Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy’s one-liners?

If your answer to these questions is “Yes Please!” then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.   from Goodreads

Amy read it along with a few friends helping along the way: Kathleen Turner, Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, her parents, and probably one or two more that I forgot about.
I liked it, but for me, I felt like she was trying too hard.  Maybe that’s just part of her charm, because I know she’s funny.  I laughed and learned that she’d been at this comedy thing longer than I thought.  I was impressed to learn about the Upright Citizens’ Brigade that she helped form, less impressed with her sex tips. She is accomplished and successful and full of energy.  I LOVE Parks and Recreation and might have loved a book written by the great Leslie Knope even better.


Something New: Tales from a Makeshift BrideSomething New. Finished 9-29-17, rating 3.5/5, graphic memoir, 292 pages, pub. 2016

A funny and whip-smart new book about the institution of marriage in America told through the lens of her recent engagement and wedding…. The graphic novel tackles the all-too-common wedding issues that go along with being a modern woman: feminism, expectations, getting knocked over the head with gender stereotypes, family drama, and overall wedding chaos and confusion.    from Goodreads

This is my third book by the talented graphic artist and author and this fell between the first two for me.  I liked it and loved her drawings, but I was also bored.  Wedding planning is a wonderful and tedious business and it is probably most interesting to the people who know you or are going through the same process.  I do think this would be a perfect gift for the newly engaged.

 

December 7, 2017 Posted by | 3 1/2 Star Books, 4 Star Books | 3 Comments

Ack! Two way past their due date book reviews- Loving Frank & Rules of Civility

Title: Rules of Civility: A Novel, Author: Amor TowlesRules of Civility. Finished 8-28-17, rating 4.75/5, fiction, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio read by Rebecca Lowman

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast–rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is a ahead of her time,and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets.   from Goodreads

I listened to this beauty of a book and loved it.  It felt like a classic throwback.  The language, the atmosphere, the characters, the story.  Perfection.   Katey was a wonderful protagonist.  Unlike my problems with Mamah in Loving Frank, Katey was smart, independent, driven, and, ultimately, likeable.

This is a perfect New York City story, circa 1938, and I wish I had more to say to recommend it, but I waited too long to write this.  I read this for my book group but didn’t end up going to the discussion.  Later, one of the ladies mentioned she thought it had a Great Gatsby feel to it and she’s right (although I’m no GG fan I do appreciate it).  Read it!

Title: Loving Frank, Author: Nancy HoranLoving Frank. Finished 8-22-17, rating 4/5, historical fiction, pub. 2007

Unabridged audio read by Joyce Bean. 15 hours.

“I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.”

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this groundbreaking historical novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Mamah’s profound influence on Wright.

from Goodreads

I went in to this one knowing very little about Wright’s personal life and I think that was a good thing.  As far as I can tell, very little is known about the real affair between Frank and Mamah so the author had great license to depict the two and their relationship.  Neither of them comes off as particularly warm and fuzzy.  They are both married with children when they meet and still manage to go off to Europe together leaving them behind.  Back in the early 1900’s this was more scandalous than we might find it today and they faced a backlash from the press.

Mamah left her very small children behind.  As easy as it might be to understand her attraction to a successful, gifted man, it was less easy to understand her abandonment of her children.  So, she had flaws, maybe just as many as Frank Lloyd Wright himself, but the story was compelling.  But, the ending, the ending!!  Wow.  I would recommend this one. As a matter of fact, a friend handed this to me at a party and told me I had to read it.  Now I’m telling you.

 

December 6, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books, 5 Star Books | 3 Comments

In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

Title: In Your Dreams (Blue Heron Series #4), Author: Kristan HigginsIn Your Dreams. Finished 10-10-17, rating 4/5, romance, 469 pages, pub. 2014

Book #4 in the Blue Heron series.  (1-The Best Man) (2-The Perfect Match) (3-Waiting on You)

Emmaline Neal needs a date. Just a date—someone to help her get through her ex-fiancé’s wedding without losing her mind. But pickings are slim in Manningsport, New York, population 715. In fact, there’s really only one option: local heartthrob Jack Holland. Everyone loves Jack, and he won’t get the wrong idea…. After all, Jack Holland would never actually be interested in a woman like Em. Especially not with his beautiful ex-wife creeping around, angling to reunite ever since he rescued a group of teens and became a local hero.

But when the wedding festivities take an unexpectedly passionate turn, Em figures it was just one crazy night. Jack is too gorgeous, too popular, to ever end up with her. So why is she the one he can talk to about his deep, dark feelings? If Em is going to get her dream man, she’ll have to start by believing in him…   from Goodreads

Oh, how I love this romance series.  The Holland clan from wine country New York is a family we all wish we were somehow a part of, even if only through friendship.  Two of the Holland sisters started the series and this time around it was brother Jack’s turn to find love.  Gorgeous and always gracious, Jack was still damaged goods after his wife broke his heart.  Emmaline had her heart stomped on by her first love who dumped her when he lost a ton of weight.  They didn’t seem like a love connection, but love is rarely a straight line.

Emmaline’s ex-fiancé is getting married and Jack’s heroic rescue had left him emotionally devastated.  The two pretend to be a couple, but nothing goes as it should.

Higgins always manages to create light-hearted and charming stories that tackle serious issues.  This one is no different by highlighting the dark sight of obesity weight loss and the daily toll of PTSD.  Looks like I only have one more book to read in this series and I almost don’t want to read it because then I’ll have to say goodbye to Manningsport.

 

 

 

 

November 22, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books | 4 Comments

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Title: Don't Let Go, Author: Harlan CobenDon’t Let Go. Finished 11-11-17, rating 4.25/5, thriller, 347 pages, pub. 2017

Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he’s been looking for. 

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.   from Goodreads

No one can keep me turning pages long into the night like Harlan Coben.  The man has a gift and I look forward to his yearly contribution to my personal library.  I love his Myron Bolitar series and although this is a standalone Myron does make an appearance at a local pick-up basketball game.  There are a lot of similarities between Myron and Nap as far as geography and attitude.

Told exclusively from Nap’s point of view we learn about the worst night of his life when his twin brother was killed and the love of his young life disappeared.  Years later he’s a police detective who has been mentored by the father of his brother’s girlfriend who also died that night.  When Maura’s fingerprints show up at a murder scene, Nap finds himself involved in finding out what really went down 15 years ago.  Coben tells us at the beginning that this is based on rumors from where he grew up in New Jersey so you know that Nike missiles are going to show up.

I really liked this one.  As with all of Coben’s books it moves fast and has lots of moving parts so it keeps you on your toes.  My mom read my copy before I did and I found her reading it in the car when she was waiting to pick up Gage, so I knew it was going to be good.   I was a bit let down with the end for a few different reasons but that’s probably just me.  I’d still recommend it because, hey, it’s Harlan Coben!

November 13, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee

Title: We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter, Author: Celeste HeadleeFinished 11-5-17, rating 4.25/5, 244 pages, pub. 2017

Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Harper Collins

In this urgent and insightful book, public radio journalist Celeste Headlee shows us how to bridge what divides us–by having real conversations

BASED ON THE TED TALK WITH OVER 10 MILLION VIEWS

Today most of us communicate from behind electronic screens, and studies show that Americans feel less connected and more divided than ever before. The blame for some of this disconnect can be attributed to our political landscape, but the erosion of our conversational skills as a society lies with us as individuals.

And the only way forward, says Headlee, is to start talking to each other. In We Need to Talk, she outlines the strategies that have made her a better conversationalist—and offers simple tools that can improve anyone’s communication.

Whether you’re struggling to communicate with your kid’s teacher at school, an employee at work, or the people you love the most—Headlee offers smart strategies that can help us all have conversations that matter.

I’d never heard of radio host Celeste Headlee, but I agreed to read whatever Trish sent me and she chose this little gem of a book.  It’s based on a Ted Talk, but my speakers aren’t working so I couldn’t listen, but I’d give it a try if you can since the book stems from that talk.

Headlee had me at her dedication, “For Grant: I wanted to be a better person so I could be a better mom.”  I think this speaks to so many parents out there.

This book is so timely in our current politicized environment and she touches on having discussions with people who differ on politics as well as having productive discussions with your boss or employees.

Did you know humans now have the attention span of a goldfish?  Technology over the last few years has made up skim and look for sound bites instead of taking the time to read or really listen.  I love to blog, but to post and read other blogs it takes more time that I sometimes have.  Throwing an update on Facebook takes less than a minute. This affects our conversations too.  How many times have you found your mind wandering when someone is talking?  Or just waiting for a break so that you could add your own story or comment?  Most of us are guilty.

This book was easy to read and had great information, even for people who think they don’t need help.  I like that she added lots of studies to back up her recommendations.  I found so many things to work on in my own conversations.

Here are a few tips for you.  Put away your phone!  Even having your phone on the table inhibits conversation.  Be present (meditation can help with this).  Be respectful and end on a good note.  It’s not about you.  Keep it short and don’t repeat (especially the negative stuff).  Ask open-ended questions and don’t unload your daily accomplishments on an unsuspecting acquaintance.

I really liked this one and can’t wait to try out some of the tips.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of the book so I could give you all my honest opinion.

 

November 6, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

A few mini-reviews from last month

Last month while reading a book a day, I had very little time to review books on this blog, so I’m going to group these four with the reviews from my 30 day challenge.  The rest of the books I’d like to take some time with and will post about later.

We are working on yeast issues in the house so I’m trying to convert over to this diet, but it is a very difficult thing to force on a 6 year old.

Title: The Everything Candida Diet Book: Improve Your Immunity by Restoring Your Body's Natural Balance, Author: Jeffrey McCombsThe Everything Candida Diet Book. Finished 9-30-17, 4.5/5 stars, diet, 304 pages, pub. 2014

This book is an excellent resource and surprisingly progressive in it’s knowledge.  Highly recommended if you suspect you have a candida problem. You can treat at home without a doctor using diet and supplements.  It has lots of recipes.  The two I’ve tried so far have been big hits with all three of us.

Title: Candida Albicans: Could Yeast Be Your Problem?, Author: Leon ChaitowCandida Albicans. Finished 9-20-17, rating 3/5, health, 150 pages, pub. 1998

Candida Albicans is a parasitic yeast that is present in all of us, but in most people it does no noticeable harm. This book provides a comprehensive and non-drug programme for its control.   from Goodreads

This was a fine overview of the issue, but dated.  There are better, more current books out there.  I only read this one because a friend loaned it to me.

Title: Why I March: Images from The Women's March Around the World, Author: Abrams BooksTitle: Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope--Voices from the Women's March, Author: Artisan Finished 9-24-17, rating 4/5, current events, pub. 2017

Between the two, Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope by Artisan Press and Why I March: Images from the Woman’s March Around the World edited by Samantha Weiner and Emma Jacobs, I preferred the former (on the bottom in the picture).  It had quotes from the march in Washington DC that the other didn’t.  Both were great and took me back to one of the most inspiring days of my life.  This country needs a little more protesting and a little less sitting on our butts and complaining about people who don’t agree with us.  There were marches on every continent – even Antarctica – and no arrests. I will always support a peaceful protest. I was inspired all over again.  Here are a few of my favorite signs.

IMG_1665 IMG_1655  IMG_1656

 

October 6, 2017 Posted by | 3 Star Books, 4 Star Books, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sundays With Gage – A Mother – Son Reading Challenge

IMG_1387 (2)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Sundays with Gage.  I intend to, but always seem to be short on time.  First grade seems to be going well.  He’s at the same school he attended last year and, even though it’s private, the city school bus takes him and brings him back to the elementary school half a mile from our house.  This saves me two hours every day and it’s bliss 🙂

Gage is great with numbers, he plays chess, he can play Old MacDonald on the piano, he shows no fear when he should, he can tell you about all of the planets, space and black holes.  But until this summer reading wasn’t coming along and it caused him a lot of frustration.  In June, he started going to the local Kumon tutor center once a week for 30 minutes and did about 10 minutes of daily homework and slowly, but surely progress is being made.  It’s a relief to me, but we have a long way to go.  It’s hard for him when something is just too challenging because he really does want to do everything well, so I am trying very hard to go slow and just give him some confidence.

So, the day that I started my new 30 Day Challenge I asked him if he wanted to finally join me in his first 30 day challenge.  He was so happy that I asked and said yes right away.  So, he is reading a new book every day this month and so am I.  He gets to choose the easiest books because I just want him to stay excited and  I look forward to seeing him willing to read every day!

Please hop over to my 30 Day Challenges Blog to follow along.

So far, Gage has read 3 Bob Books.  Not very exciting, but it is really helping his reading aloud fluency.

I’ve read 3 fantastic books so far…

Love That Boy:What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent’s Expectations by Ron Fournier (4 stars)

“This book  came about when reporter, Fournier, and his wife learned that their 12 year-old son had Asperger’s (from watching the TV show Parenthood.  Go Bravermans!)  As his wife started to assemble a team to help their son, Fournier, took him on a series of road trips to visit Presidential libraries and museums, something Tyler was really interested in.  This was a journey about a father finding his son.”

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi  (4.25 stars)

“Paul was a neurosurgeon resident and found out he had stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 36.  Between his diagnosis and his death he wrote this book about living.  Paul was able to choose two paths in his shorten life, as a writer in his youth and at the end of his life and his calling as a neurosurgeon in the middle.  I loved his relationship with literature and science and how he strived to make meaning of them both.  The world lost a great doctor and human being when he passed and I can only hope his words will inspire other young people to follow in his path.  A beautiful book about life and death and what to do with the time we have.”

Rosemary:The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson  (4 stars)

“I loved the inside look at the day to day lives of the Joe and Rose and their nine children.  I’d heard more about the ambitious, controlling father than about the mother, so I was intrigued and put off by her at the same time.  The Kennedy children are beautiful and brilliant, but Rosemary stood apart because she was different.  When she was born, during the height of the Spanish influenza in Boston, a nurse physically held her head inside of her mother after she’d already crowned.  I’m still horrified by it.  Whether that is what cause her ‘retardation’ we can only assume.  I can’t believe that Rose went on to birth 6 more children and live to be 104 after that!”

I’ll keep you posted as much as time will allow, but I’m updating the challenge blog and Facebook page everyday 🙂

 

 

September 3, 2017 Posted by | 4 Star Books, Gage | 12 Comments

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