Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz

The Crime WriterThe Crime Writer. Finished 12-1-14, thriller, pub. 2007

Unabridged audio read by Scott Brick. 9 hours, 50 minutes

Drew Danner, a crime novelist with a house off L.A.’s storied Mulholland Drive, awakens in a hospital bed with a scar on his head and no memory of being found convulsing over his ex- fiancée’s body the previous night. He was discovered holding a knife, her blood beneath his nails. He himself doesn’t know whether he’s guilty or innocent. To reconstruct the story, the writer must now become the protagonist, searching the corridors of his life and the city he loves.

Soon Drew closes in on clues he may or may not have left for himself, and as another young woman is similarly murdered he has to ask difficult questions not of others but of himself. Beautifully crafted and heartbreakingly told, The Crime Writer confronts our inherent fear of what we might truly be capable of—good or evil.

from Goodreads

I am not a fan of amnesia stories but this one was different since it involved a convenient brain tumor, one that appeared in a jar on a counter just a few pages into the book.  Drew goes on trial for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, but this isn’t a courtroom thriller.  Drew doesn’t know if he killed her, but he thinks he could have and sets out to prove his innocence for his own peace of mind.  Along the way the isolated writer makes a few new friends and relies on some old ones as he is pegged for another murder.

I really liked this Los Angeles noir thriller.  Drew was an unreliable narrator because of his memory loss and I could never quite rule him out as a killer.  Was he?  I think it’s worth a read to find out :)

I think the perfect narration by Scott Brick helped create Drew for me and his gravelly voice gave the story the bleakness and urgency it needed.

I think this will appeal to fans of noir, unreliable narrators, books about writers and Los Angeles.  I’ll definitely be reading more books by Hurwitz.

December 19, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 5 Comments

Gluten & Pregnancy mini reviews

The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful BeginningThe Kind Mama:A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning by Alicia Silverstone

Finished 12-17-14, 4.5/5 stars, pregnancy & health, 368 pages, pub. 2014

The Kind Mama will cover fertility, pregnancy, and post-pregnancy. In other words, it will help you get knocked up, have a goddess pregnancy and birth, and grow the healthiest, happiest child! I’ll be including valuable and inspiring information from doctors, friends, and other women (as well as a section for kind-dads-to-be) and, of course, my own journey through pregnancy, birth, and raising my little one. I hope that it will be a great resource for families looking to bring their baby into a happy, healthy, and natural world.  (from Goodreads)

I don’t remember why I requested this one from the library because I have no plans to get pregnant again (I could write a whole post on how I wish I were one of those women who just breezed through pregnancy and childbirth) but I’m glad that I took the time because I can’t really recommend it enough.  Silverstone is on point with so many of the things going on with our diets and chemicals in our homes that it may not be what you want to read but it will be beneficial.  The beginning section is to help women who may be having trouble getting pregnant prepare their bodies for pregnancy and having a friend who has just gone through this I can say that not only is Silverstone correct, but she’s not the only one saying it.  The books itself is beautiful and it covers pregnancy, birth and what to do after.  The girl is vegan and very much on the natural bandwagon, but I think every new mom will be helped by this book.  This would make a great gift for the pregnant woman in your life.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan CookingThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking by Julieanna Hever & Beverly Lynn Bennett

Finished on 8-23-14, 4/5 stars, cooking, 352 pages, pub. 2011

- With more than 200 recipes, this guide offers more delicious dishes than other cookbooks.
- Simplifies preparing delicious gluten-free meals.

(from Goodreads)

Well, I finished this one in August and, although I made copies of some recipes I wanted to try, I haven’t even tried one.  That could be because I tend to have great intentions and less than great follow through ;) The book itself was easy to understand and it walked you through the basics of going gluten-free AND vegan.  We are not vegan here but we are gluten and dairy free so I did learn a few new things.  One thing I wish more gluten-free sites and books would mention is how difficult it can be to find truly gluten-free beans, especially of the healthy dried variety.  We were using them in a sensory bin six months after we took Gage off gluten and it took me weeks to figure out that his behavior was due the beans. Are beans gluten? No, but when I called the company they admitted they are processed right next to barley, which is gluten, so they are contaminated.  Even my local, healthy grocery store admitted that none of their beans were truly gluten-free.  It’s this kind of stuff that until you or a loved one has a high gluten sensitivity, seems liked hocus-pocus.  It’s not.  Be thankful if you don’t have allergies!

 

 

 

December 17, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books, 4 Star Books | | 6 Comments

K-3 Climbers – Great Gift Idea!

I don’t typically review anything that’s not book or movie related but I have something special for you.  A friend of mine recently launched her own educational business (her story here) and she let me try it out and give some feedback.  I admit that at first I was skeptical about it because I think of myself as a creative person and I do have a degree in education so I know how to make a lesson plan, but now that I’ve started using the kit Gage and I are both sold!

This is  why I think it’s a great gift idea!  Sometimes moms and dads just don’t know what they should be doing to prepare kids for school.  This makes it so easy!  It’s a subscription service so you could just gift the kit and one month of activities and see how much the person likes it.  Check out their different plans here.  This is a perfect gift for grandparents to give because both grandkids and parents will benefit.

Here’s the deal-You buy a kit for your Pre-K to 2nd grader (there are 2 choices) and it comes with everything you need for daily 5-10 minute learning activities for you and your child.  Here’s what the kit looks like.

IMG_1341[1]It comes with everything you need for a month of activities and it is all planned for you and easy to use.

Here are a few of the activites

IMG_1346[1]Gage liked the spinning but it was also teaching him sight words and graphing.  We did this activity quite a few times.

IMG_1421[1]Working on fine motor skills is big around here so this was perfect.

IMG_1457[1]Some of the activities I’ve made harder for Gage, like this one.  He cut the strips for the puzzle himself and then used the numbers to put it back together.

IMG_1500[1]Telling time, learning about the small and big hands on the clock.  I was amazed that once I explained the concept of the ‘game’ he got them all right.

He loves all of these activities and there have only been 2 that he had trouble completely with the concept and I’m glad.  I think it’s great to encourage learning new things and to know where the problem areas are (for Gage that has been rhyming and estimating).  We’re still on the first month, but I do plan on signing up for the service. It’s learning made fun and easy and it comes delivered to my door.  What’s not to like?

If you have any questions just ask or you can go directly to the website for more info. K-3 Climbers

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up InThe House We Grew Up In. Finished 12-10-14, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 386 pages, pub. 2014

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in — and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

from Goodreads

 

I received this book courtesy of the publisher and  She Reads and I was supposed to have my review posted by the end of November.  Well, life happens and I didn’t even finish reading it until a few days ago.  My tardiness is not a reflection on the book because I LOVED IT!  If you like family drama with a large side of dysfunction then this is the story for you.

The Birds, thanks to matriarch Lorelei, are a colorful and life-loving family.  Lorelei loves to savor the beautiful moments and because she attaches these moments to actual objects in her mind the Bird home slowly starts to collect more things than it needs.  When tragedy strikes and dysfunction ensues, the clutter becomes something much worse.  Lorelei, beautiful and sparkly, needy and dark, is powerless as her family starts to unravel. Each of her children affected in different ways by what happens.

I don’t want to give too much away.  There is enough drama for ten families but it was told in such a way that it was both light-hearted and surprisingly deep without ever feeling too heavy.  The Birds are going to stay with me for awhile and possibly help me with my penchant for clutter.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 12 Comments

The Impostor’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell

The Impostor's Daughter: A True MemoirThe Imopostor’s Daughter. Finished 10-25-14, 3.5/5 stars, Graphic Memoir, 247 pages, pub. 2009

Laurie Sandell grew up in awe (and sometimes in terror) of her larger-than-life father, who told jaw-dropping tales of a privileged childhood in Buenos Aires, academic triumphs, heroism during Vietnam, friendships with Kissinger and the Pope. As a young woman, Laurie unconsciously mirrors her dad, trying on several outsized personalities (Tokyo stripper, lesbian seductress, Ambien addict). Later, she lucks into the perfect job–interviewing celebrities for a top women’s magazine. Growing up with her extraordinary father has given Laurie a knack for relating to the stars. But while researching an article on her dad’s life, she makes an astonishing discovery: he’s not the man he says he is–not even close. Now, Laurie begins to puzzle together three decades of lies and the splintered person that resulted from them–herself.

from Goodreads

I’ve read a few graphic memoirs over the years and while they are not my favorite medium I find them a good change of pace and a chance to read a memoir I never would have taken the time for otherwise.  I liked this presentation, thick pages and fun, colorful illustrations.  A memoir is unlikely to be written unless there something out of the ordinary and in this case that something was Laurie’s father.

Laurie’s father was a liar/hot head/bully/thief and as Laurie became old enough to understand that he wasn’t the multi-diploma, Green Beret, spy that she thought he was her life fell apart.  As most young adults with Daddy issues she tried some ill-advised activities until she started to take charge of her life.

I didn’t love Laurie, mainly because I didn’t understand her need to ‘out’ her father in a story so publicly.  I became engrossed in her story but never warmed up to her (at least the graphic her) so this book was both good and bad for me.

I bought this one with my own money.

 

December 10, 2014 Posted by | 3 1/2 Star Books | | 6 Comments

Gift idea- The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories

 

The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's StoriesThe Beginner’s Bible. Illustrated by Kelly Pulley. Read with Gage in 2014.Published in 2005. 512 pages.

When I was pregnant my grandmother gave me this Bible at my shower and this is what she wrote.IMG_1483[1] My grandmother had a habit of gifting Bibles signed by her and I have them all.  They are my connection to her now that she is gone and I’m so thankful that Gage has this Bible to hold onto to remember the few years he was able to spend with her.  So, that being said, if you are looking for a perfect and personal  Christmas gift for a child or grandchild I can think of none better than a meaningful and timeless book. For me and my family that has been a Bible.

This book is broken up into very short chapters telling the many well-known stories of the Bible, each chapter a perfect length for small ones.  We read one chapter every night before bed after his other picture books and he felt such a sense of accomplishment as the bookmark progressed through the book (don’t we all?). It’s a great starter Bible to familiarize young kids with most of the big stories.   I think we’ll probably read it again starting in January.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Kids Books | | 6 Comments

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

The Wedding DressThe Wedding Dress. Finished audio 11-12-14, rating 4/5, Romance, pub. 2012

Unabridged audio read by Eleni Pappageorge.

Four brides. One Dress.

A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new-shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.”

Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history-and its new bride-begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

from Goodreads

In 2008 I read my first inspirational romance and it just happened to be by Rachel Hauck. I liked it and even interviewed her in 2009 (here).  I knew I wanted to read more by her but until til haven’t managed to do it.  I picked this one up at a book sale a few years ago because I thought the cover was so pretty and the book pretty much lived up to the beauty of the cover.

Charlotte has a gift. She can help a bride choose just the perfect wedding gown for their weddings and she has made a very successful business doing it.  With her own wedding day fast approaching, not only has she not even searched for her own wedding dress, but the wedding invitations still sit in a box on her floor collecting dust.  Charlotte finds herself in possession of an old trunk that contains the most gorgeous wedding dress she’s ever seen just as her own wedding plans go up in smoke.

The story follows Charlotte as she finds out more about the mysterious dress and the women who wore it before her.  The focus alternated between Charlotte, the two living women who had worn the dress and Emily from 1912.  I wish we’d had more of a discovery of each of the women on their wedding days, but I still liked the two main storylines.  I especially liked how Charlotte, a woman with no family, finds people who make her feel loved. Sometimes it’s the people we find along our journey that make it worthwhile.

This was a perfect book for this time of year or whenever you want a nice southern romance with a splash of history.  Emily’s story in 1912 touched on a lot of hot button issues like Jim Crow laws and women’s suffrage.

Author Rachel Hauck is an Ohio State grad so I know that like me, she’ll be cheering on our Buckeyes on Saturday night :)  Go Bucks!

 

December 5, 2014 Posted by | 4 Star Books | | 10 Comments

November Movies

Okay, participation has been slow this year and I’d love to donate $100 to a deserving charity this year :)  If you have a few minutes to browse my past movies or look at the list I hope you will.

Now it’s your turn.  Add your 5 words (or less!) to mine and earn $1 for charity.  Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity.  Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to.  Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to participate when you can each month.  It’s fun for me and for everyone else who reads it.  I’m not looking for a critical review, just a few words about how you felt about the movie.  This is ongoing so you can leave your 5 words anytime.

We’re up to $61

St Vincent poster.jpgSt. Vincent, 2014 (Cast-Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts. Jaeden Lieberher)    Grade A-

Unapologetic Bill Murray is golden.


 

MockingjayPart1Poster3.jpgThe Hunger Games:Mockingjay, 2014 (Cast-Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hucherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman)     Grade A-

Badass Katniss shows softer side.


A ringed spacecraft revolves around a reflective sphere.Interstellar, 2014 (Cast-Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain)    Grade B

To space infinity and beyond!


 

Player ver1.jpgThe Player, 1992 (Cast-Tim Robbins, Peter Gallagher, Greta Scacchi, Whoopi Goldberg, Lyle Lovitt, Fred Ward)    Grade B

Happy endings are purely fiction.


 

Staring into the distance, a disheveled soldier stands in front of a tank, with "Fury" written on the barrel and other soldiers leaning/sitting on it.Fury, 2014 (Cast-Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal)            Grade B-

War from inside a tank.


Frozen (2013 film) poster.jpgFrozen, 2013 (Voices-Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad)    Grade B-

Ice keeps pushing love away.

Even “feminist” heroine dresses slutty.  (Jill)


 

Five people, three men, two women, dressed in '70s clothes, fading into a black backgroundAmerican Hustle, 2012 (Cast-Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner)   Grade C+

Needed a little more hustle.

Hair piece steals the show.  (Jill)


 

The-island.jpgThe Island, 2005 (Cast-Ewan McGregor, Scarlet Johanssen, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi)    Grade D

Hot clones on the run.

New-world mayhem, lame but liked ;)  (Sheree)

December 3, 2014 Posted by | 5 Word Movie Reviews | | 9 Comments

Rocco DiSpirito’s The Pound a Day Diet, week three

The strict diet portion of this book aimed at weight loss is meant for 28 days.  After that it moves into maintenance and I haven’t looked that far, although I do know it’s Mediterranean based. I took off three days this past week for Thanksgiving festivities, so I’m only on day 18.  I’m trying to get back on track (except last night when I was organizing my Christmas gift giving I might have, maybe, eaten 4 Godiva salted toffee caramels).  On Thanksgiving Day I ate everything I hadn’t had in a few weeks, noodles, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls and butter and I even skipped that low-fat bird and went straight for the ham.  Ah, Thanksgiving.

IMG_1389[1]Here I am enjoying the day with family (I think there were about 40 of us this year and somehow this is the only picture I have with me in it!)

Ok, the diet, it’s going well even with all my cheating this past week.  My goal at the start of the diet was to lose 10 in 28 and I’m almost there!

Week 1 – lost 6 pounds

Week 2 update – lost 0 :( gained 0 :)

Week 3 – lost 3 pounds

total loss so far – 9 pounds!

December 2, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Mailbox Monday – December 1

mmb-300x282Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

dec1I received 3 books in the mail and picked up the older Kingsolver book at Half-Priced Books for $2. Score!

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz (received from Goodreads 1st Reader)

Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the only life she ever wanted for herself, devoted to her husband, a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, their young son, Henry, and the patients she sees in her therapy practice. Grace is also the author of the forthcoming You Should Have Known, a book in which she castigates women for not valuing their intuition and calls upon them to pay attention to their first impressions of men.

But weeks before the book is published, a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (purchased)

Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver returns with her first nonfiction narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

“As the U.S. population made an unprecedented mad dash for the Sun Belt, one carload of us paddled against the tide, heading for the Promised Land where water falls from the sky and green stuff grows all around. We were about to begin the adventure of realigning our lives with our food chain.

“Naturally, our first stop was to buy junk food and fossil fuel. . . .”

Hang on for the ride: With characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that’s better for the neighborhood and also better on the table. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

“This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew . . . and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air.”

If You Were Me and Lived in Greece and If You Were Me and Lived in Peru by Carole P Roman (received from Red Feather Productions)

It’s never too early to start teaching children about the world around them. In If You Were Me and Lived in…Greece , early learners get a taste of what their life would be like if they lived in Greece while being introduced to the birthplace of democracy. This book is the latest installment of the educational series about the cultures of the world that speaks to young children about the topics that interest them, such as the foods people eat, the names of boys and girls, and the activities that children their age living in a foreign land are likely to engage in. This exciting visit to Greece also introduces the important concept of democracy to children and highlights some of the other cultural contributions that Greece has made to Western civilization. Basic information is offered in a playful way that won’t overwhelm children.
**
You’ll never guess what crazy dish the ancient Incan kings ate. But you can read all about it, and more, in If You Were Me and Lived in…Peru, the latest book in Carole P. Roman’s fun travel series for kids.

An exciting introduction to world cultures written for young readers ages three through eight, this new expedition takes kids to South America and gives them a colorful glimpse into what living in Peru is like. Highlighting a myriad of topics, including language, cuisine, climate, and history, this book teaches kids about diversity while also revealing to them the important truth that we are all connected.


 

Did anything arrive in  your mailbox this week?

 

December 1, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

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