Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

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

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

fpoThe Rosie Project. Finished 1-22-16, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Dan O’Grady. 7.5 hours

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

I’m a Big Bang Theory fan and mother to a boy on the spectrum and I loved this book.  I was afraid to read it, characters on the spectrum make me nervous, wondering if the characterization will make me cry in my bed at night instead of getting what sleep I can.  No worries here though, Don hilariously lectures to a group of Asperger kids about the diagnosis never for a moment making the connection that he is talking about himself.  Somehow the story never laughs at Don, but with him as his quirks and earnest truthiness win the reader over quickly.

Don’s Wife Project leads him on a series of dates, hands full of a 16 pages questionnaire to weed out the  women who were unsuitable (which left about .0001 percent of the population).  When his slimy friend, Gene, sends Rosie to Don, he thinks it’s because Rosie has ‘passed’ the test. Don is looking for a wife and Rosie is looking for her biological father and the two embark on one adventure after another that leads Don to rethink his questionnaire.

I loved this charming love story and fans of The Big Bang Theory will too.  Stories about ‘Aspies’, those intelligent people on the high functioning end of the spectrum, too often make people think most people on the spectrum are this high functioning.  They are not. I do hope my guy will eventually grow up and find someone to love who loves him back, much like Don 🙂  I didn’t care for the ending, I had to go back and listen again to understand what happened, but that’s my only complaint.  I know the movie has been optioned and I’d love to see it on the big screen!

 

February 9, 2016 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books, 5 Star Books | , | 9 Comments

I Must Say by Martin Short

fpoI Must Say. Finished 1-12-16, rating 4.75/5, humor memoir, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read perfectly by Martin Short himself. 8.5 hours

In this engagingly witty, wise, and heartfelt memoir, Martin Short tells the tale of how a showbiz obsessed kid from Canada transformed himself into one of Hollywood’s favorite funnymen, known to his famous peers as the “comedian’s comedian.”

Short takes the reader on a rich, hilarious, and occasionally heartbreaking ride through his life and times, from his early years in Toronto as a member of the fabled improvisational troupe Second City to the all-American comic big time of Saturday Night Live, and from memorable roles in such movies as ¡Three Amigos! and Father of the Bride to Broadway stardom in Fame Becomes Me and the Tony-winning Little Me.

But there is another side to Short’s life that he has long kept private. He lost his eldest brother and both parents by the time he turned twenty, and, more recently, he lost his wife of thirty years to cancer. In I Must Say, Short talks for the first time about the pain that these losses inflicted and the upbeat life philosophy that has kept him resilient and carried him through.   from Goodreads

I need to say right off the bat that I’ve long been a fan.  His energy is infectious and because of that I think you must listen to this one.  Short is funny and sweet and you will love him.  And if you aren’t familiar with Martin Short I think you should still pick this one up.  Honestly, I laughed out loud and I cried for this man who, while bringing so much light to others, has dealt with deaths that came too soon.

Short grew up just outside of Toronto and during his senior year of college he decided to give comedy a year to see if he could make it.  He landed a role in Godspell with his BFF Eugene Levy and met Paul Shaffer, Gilda Radnor and a slew of other Canadian pranksters: John Candy, Dan Ackroyd, Catherine O’Hara… I had no idea that so many successful comics started there and worked together at the same time.   He landed a gig on Saturday Night Live that made him both a household name and miserable.  He was lucky to last a year but it did get him to the big time.

His memoir also spans his Hollywood years (Three Amigos, Father of the Bride) and the many friendships he formed there.  The spark he is on screen must carry over to real life because he has maintained friendships from the Toronto years (Levy & Shaffer) while becoming close with Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, and Kurt Russell and other famous pals.  Actually it was him talking about these friendships and the love that he had for his wife of 30 years that enabled me to see a new side to Short, a genuine guy who loves and is loved

He is so upbeat that you will love his life story and the interludes with his most famous characters.  As optimistic as he is, the part of the book dealing with his wife’s cancer will leave you in tears.  Tears that I didn’t mind because they were part of his story.

 

 

January 26, 2016 Posted by | 5 Star Books | , | 8 Comments

Night by Elie Wiesel

fpoNight. Finished 12-21-15, rating 5/5, Holocaust memoir, 120 pages, pub. 1958

Unabridged audio read by George Guidall. 4 hours.

Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of the Second World War. In just over 100 pages of sparse and fragmented narrative, Wiesel writes about the death of God and his own increasing disgust with humanity, reflected in the inversion of the father–child relationship as his father declines to a helpless state and Wiesel becomes his resentful teenage caregiver.

Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.    from Goodreads

Wow. This book is such an emotional experience that I really didn’t want it to end. At just over 100 pages there is no excuse not to pick it up and spend a few hours in the presence of a great author in the throes of the Holocaust.  Wiesel was a young teen when all the Jewish families in his neighborhood were torn apart and taken to concentration camps. 

This book made me cry, smile. love my life a little more, and worry that I am not doing enough to stand up to the people who would be okay with something like this happening again.  As has been pointed out since, it is those of us that remain on the sidelines and say nothing that are just as dangerous as those that perpetuate evil.

Elie won the Nobel Peace Prize and his powerful acceptance speech in 1986 is included in the new additions. 

I think this should be required reading for everyone.  There is a trilogy of sorts, with next, Dawn, being a fictional novella.  I’m not sure how that works but I’m willing to find out.

This was my 7th selection for the Classics Club.

December 23, 2015 Posted by | 5 Star Books | , | 7 Comments