Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J Gaines

Title: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Author: Ernest J. GainesThe Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Finished 9-28-17, rating 5/5, classic, 246 pages, pub. 1971

“This is a novel in the guise of the tape-recorded recollections of a black woman who has lived 110 years, who has been both a slave and a witness to the black militancy of the 1960’s. In this woman Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure, a woman equipped to stand beside William Faulkner’s Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury.” Miss Jane Pittman, like Dilsey, has ‘endured,’ has seen almost everything and foretold the rest. Gaines’ novel brings to mind other great works The Odyssey for the way his heroine’s travels manage to summarize the American history of her race, and Huckleberry Finn for the clarity of her voice, for her rare capacity to sort through the mess of years and things to find the one true story in it all.”  — Geoffrey Wolff, Newsweek.

I wish I had taken the time to write this soon after I read it in September because although I absolutely loved this book some of the details now allude me.  I loved Jane.  She is a true survivor.  This book, spanning her 110 year life really comes full circle in the end and I would have been happy to spend another 110 with Jane.

Jane was a little girl of 10 or 11  when Lincoln freed the slaves and she left her plantation with a small group hoping to walk their way north from Louisiana.  When something bad happens Jane is left in charge of 3 year old Ned and she must rely on her wits to keep them safe and free.  She eventually come to raise him like he was her own son and find both happiness and heartache, never leaving her beloved Louisiana.

Jane is a warrior, a realist, and a trailblazer.  This story, which spans the time between slavery and the beginning of the civil rights movement told the story with real events and people framing Jane’s experiences.  This is one worth reading.

This was my 18th selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!

 

November 17, 2017 Posted by | 5 Star Books, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Title: Little Fires Everywhere, Author: Celeste NgLittle Fires Everywhere. Finished 11-8-17, rating 4.75.5, fiction, 338 pages, pub. 2017

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.  from Goodreads

We read this for my book group last night and we all liked it.  It also led to great discussion.  There are limitless things to talk about and over the course of appetizers, pizza, dessert and wine we touched on a lot of them. The author was in town (Shaker Heights where the story takes place) and a few of the members were able to go and hear her speak and they came away impressed with how intelligent she was.

Shaker Heights is a real place and I love it.  If not for Jason being put off by the high taxes I think I could get him to live there 🙂  Ng chose to show the Shaker that she grew up in and I think it’s fair, even though it has changed over the years it does still remain a progressive hotspot with old mansions lining picturesque streets.  The Richardson family embodies this perfectly.

Ng is genius at getting into the minds of so many different characters and giving them unique voices.  I understood and felt for every one of the characters in the book (save one who I just did not get – Izzy) and even when I didn’t like them I understood them.

The story centers around not only the fight over a baby left at a fire station by a distraught mother but also the mysterious Mia.  So many layers to this story and they were all connected by mothers.  What makes a good mother? At the end of this book I just wanted to hug Gage and tell him I was doing the best I could. One of the ladies in book club commented that it forced her to do a self-check on her own parenting skills.

I loved this book because it is overflowing with gray area. There are a few areas that I felt were black or white, but the rest was left for you to decide.  I admit that this one started slow for me (the only one in my group to feel this way), but by the hundred page mark I was hooked!  I loved Mia the most even though she was probably the one with the most issues.

Do yourself a favor and check it out.  Especially if you’re in a book club.

 

 

 

November 9, 2017 Posted by | 5 Star Books, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Title: The Color Purple, Author: Alice WalkerThe Color Purple. Finished 9-19-17,  5/5 stars, classic, 295 pages, pub. 1982

The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence.

from Goodreads

Celie did not have an easy life.  Abused by her father and then her husband, she relied on the love of her sister to get her through.  When Nellie goes away and Celie doesn’t hear from her she begins writing letters to God. When her husband brings home his mistress, Shug, to live with them, Celie finally starts to see herself in a new light.

This is not an easy read.  It’s emotional, sexually explicit and might wake you up in ways that you don’t like.  Walker has created such a powerful group of women that you can’t help but feel empowered, even when they aren’t.  Celie’s perseverance gives a voice to all the women who experience abuse, verbal and physical, and still manage to stay on their feet.

Honestly, it was one of those classics that I thought would not live up to the hype.  Only it did.  It exceeded expectations and now I’m anxious to get my hands on the movie. I want to spend more time with Celie and Sofia and Shug and Nettie.  I kind of want to read it again right now.  In 1930’s Georgia what kind of life did black women lead?  Still relevant and still addictingly readable.

 

This was my 16th selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!

October 12, 2017 Posted by | 5 Star Books | 5 Comments

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give, Author: Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give. Finished 5-16-17, rating 5/5, fiction, 444 pages, pub. 2017

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.                      from Goodreads

This is one fantastic debut!  Thomas has taken a very important problem in America today and thrown back the curtains in a way that allows us all in on the experience.  That’s not to say that from a storytelling standpoint I didn’t have a few issues, but I think that’s pretty typical in most debut books. I can only imagine the bright future ahead of Thomas after this.

Starr has witnessed not one, but two, of her best friends get shot, one by a gang drive-by and one by a police officer.  It’s the one by the police officer that has turned into a national story and a powder keg for the community. Starr and her family live in the ghetto, as she likes to say, her father owns the local food shop and her mother is a nurse at the local hospital.  She has one half brother and one brother, but the five of them mostly live together as a close-knit family.  You will fall in love with Big Mav and Uncle Carlos.

Starr lives in a poor neighborhood but every day spends an hour in the car to go to a prep school, where she has white boyfriend and is one of the few black students.  As she tries to come to terms with the shooting and aftermath she tries to keep her involvement a secret from both areas of her life for different reasons.

It’s a powerful read told from the perspective of a 16 year-old girl who lives two lives and how a horrific tragedy forced the two to collide.  Starr acts like an adult most of the time, but her decisions show that she is also still a kid trying to figure out the crazy world we live in.  I loved her.  I wanted to shake her sometimes, but found her true to the teenager spirit.

I live in Cleveland, not so far from where 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot by police for playing with a toy gun at a park.  That story broke my heart.  Still does.  Even if you tend to choose a side in these true horror stories, this book will probably challenge some of your assumptions.  This book is powerful and should be a must read. 

My book group, save one, really liked the book and it led to great discussion.

May 23, 2017 Posted by | 5 Star Books | 10 Comments

O – A Man Called Ove

 Blogging from A-Z

I was going to blog about Outlander, the series of books and the Starz series, now preparing for season 3, BUT my book group read about Ove last week and I need to gush a bit.  Ove, a cantankerous Swedish man, was at a crossroads and contemplating ending his life, but living got in the way.

Title: A Man Called Ove, Author: Fredrik BackmanFinished 4-12-17, 5 stars!, fiction, pub. 2014

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.    from Goodreads

I fell in love with Ove and his collection of merry wo(men) around him.  For every trouble he caused those surrounding him, at least one blessing was given out.  Ove was a man with a heart, who didn’t always play well with others.  I think everyone knows an Ove, some of us better than others.

His pregnant neighbor, Parvaneh, was really the catalyst that got things rolling the right way for Ove.  She picked him up and kept him moving, until finally, he embraced the loving circle that surrounded him.

Everyone in my book group loved it.  One had even seen the Swedish movie (with subtitles) and said it was very good and true to the book.  I have no doubt that this will end up on my favorite list at the end of the year.

I’m not doing Ove or the book justice, but I have 20 minutes to get this posted for the A-Z challenge so I’m just going to leave it here.  I’m late to the Ove bandwagon, but I made it 🙂

 

 

 

April 18, 2017 Posted by | 5 Star Books, Blogging from A-Z | 4 Comments

After You by Jojo Moyes

Title: After You, Author: Jojo MoyesAfter You. Finished 12-13-16, 4.75/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Anna Acton. 11 hours.

Sequel to Me Before You

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.   from Goodreads

I knew when this came out that readers were disappointed, so I waited.  I didn’t want to be disappointed but I wasn’t sure how that would work since half of the reason I loved Me Before You was gone.  Gone but not forgotten as it seems since Louisa had moved away but not moved on.  But the truth is that I loved this one too.  In a different way, sure, but Louisa was there trying to find her way and I was rooting for her.

Louisa is in London but still mourning Will.  She is trying to move on, but seems stuck.  When a relative of Will’s shows up Lou is thrown for a loop and given a purpose, a way to honor Will and she jumps in with both feet.  All is not smooth sailing (where’s the story in that?!), but she joins a support group, moves in with her quirky family for a bit, meets a cute guy and things move forward.

I love Louisa and was happy for her. I might even have a bit of a crush on her cute guy, Sam.

December 20, 2016 Posted by | 5 Star Books | 11 Comments

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Title: Still Alice, Author: Lisa GenovaStill Alice. Finished 9-27-16, 5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2007

Unabridged audio read by the author.  I LOVED Genova’s narration and would happily listen to all of her books this way if she was reading them.

Last year I saw the movie with Julianne Moore and really liked it, even though it was sad.  I knew the book had been well received by bloggers but it sat on my shelf for years.  This is one of the few times when I think the movie held up well. Yes, the book was better and had more nuance, but the movie and Moore’s performance were spot on.  It was also a good time to read it since we just visited Cambridge, where this takes place, last week.  Interestingly, I enjoyed the audio even more than reading and found myself wasting time in the kitchen just so I could listen.

What’s it about – A well-respected 50 year old Harvard professor is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  There is a fast decline and family relationships are tested.  Her husband, just as in the movie, made me want to hit him even though I could see his pain too.

What did I learn – Before I saw the movie I hadn’t really known that people got Alzheimer’s so young.  The book provided even more details about the choices of treatment and support (or lack of, really).  I also had no idea that there was a gene that you could be tested for and was surprised that her daughter could use in-vitro and eliminate the risks of passing it on.

Who would love it – Anyone who loves or has loved someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease would appreciate the insight.  I think anyone, like myself, who enjoys a great story even if it’s depressing.

I did a comparison of the movie and the book if you’d like to weigh in.

 

December 13, 2016 Posted by | 5 Star Books | 4 Comments

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Title: Ethan Frome, Author: Edith WhartonEthan Frome. Finished 9-30-16, rating 5/5, classics, 181 pages, pub. 1911

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious, and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a “hired girl”, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.

In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio toward their tragic destinies. Different in both tone and theme from Wharton’s other works, Ethan Frome has become perhaps her most enduring and most widely read novel.     from Goodreads

I’m amazed at how much Wharton was able to accomplish in such a slim novel.  I think I saw the previews for the last Ethan Frome movie that came out in the 90’s and thought it looked so boring.  The barren earth with unhappy people didn’t really inspire, but once I started reading this I was hooked.

The narrator of the story meets Ethan after the bulk of the story takes place and what a story of unhappiness to tell. Don’t let that scare you off though. Sit down with a cup of tea on a chilly day and read it all in one sitting.  It will make an impact.  Loved it.

This was my 11th selection for the Classics Club and I need to pick up the pace if I hope to finish 50 by 2020!

 

December 6, 2016 Posted by | 5 Star Books | 13 Comments

Home by Harlan Coben

Title: Home (Myron Bolitar Series #11), Author: Harlan CobenHome. Finished 9-26-16, rating 4.75/5, mystery, 387 pages, pub. 2016

Myron Bolitar books  (1- Deal Breaker, 2- Drop Shop, 3- Fade Away, 4- Back Spin, 5- One False Move, 6- The Final Detail, 7- Darkest Fear, 8- Promise Me, 9-Long Lost, 10-Live Wire)

A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend? Drawing on his singular talent, Harlan Coben delivers an explosive and deeply moving thriller about friendship, family, and the meaning of home.     from Goodreads

I was so happy to pick up Harlan Coben’s new Myron Bolitar book.  I love many of his standalones, but it’s Myron and company who have my loyalty and since the last book of the series came out in 2011 I was craving me some Myron and Win.  This book does not disappoint.

Win, Myron’s best friend since college, asks for help in finding his cousin’s son who has been missing for ten years.  They start on the London sex trade streets and end up in an uber wealthy New Jersey neighborhood where the families have au pairs, not nannies. Or maybe they start in New Jersey and end in London, either way it’s a wild ride.

Coben always nails popular culture. Young kids know way too much about technology. They need to get outside and spend some time in the sun!  Of course, I say this as I sit here at my desk with my iPad and iPhone tempting me from my computer.  Moms are guilty too.

I think most everyone would like the series, but you’d have to start somewhere earlier. It wouldn’t have to be the first book, this one is #11, but maybe by 4 or 5 you should be on board.

November 21, 2016 Posted by | 5 Star Books, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/6311/22/63. Finished 3-16-16, rating 5/5, fiction, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio perfectly read by Craig Wasson. 31 hours.

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away . . . but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke. . . . Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten . . . and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.   from Goodreads

Stephen King sure does know how to tell a  story.  Everyone knows how imaginative he is based on his otherworldly horror novels, but what gets lost sometimes is just how good he is at drawing you in and keeping you there in his world well after the last page has turned.  This book is a departure of sorts and showcases just how well King can charm any reader.

In this ambitious novel, Jake Epping tries to become the hero the world needs.  In many ways he succeeds just by trying and in others his personal steadfastness saves the day.  In 2011, Jake is a high school teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, when he is approached by Al Templeton, owner of a local diner.  Al has a fantastical story to tell.  There is a time portal in his diner that goes back to 1958 and he wants Jake to go back in time to save President Kennedy from assassination.  Al has gone back many a time and gives Jake money, a plan, and all he needs to know to stop Oswald.  Is this a time travel story? Sure, but it’s also a love story, an inspirational story, a historical story…it packs a punch.  As it should since it’s over 800 pages!

I’m no JFK expert but I’ve read a few books and seen a few movies, so I was intrigued by the possibilities.  What if JFK had never been shot?  King weaves a thrilling story and the ending, haunting in its bleakness, will stay with you.  But so will Jake, and Sadie, and Jodie, Texas, and the many other colorful characters that fill the pages.  And if you’ve read It you’ll enjoy the stop in 1958 Derry.

Don’t miss this one!

 

April 12, 2016 Posted by | 5 Star Books | | 8 Comments