Stacy's Books

books, movies, and boy

What Color is Monday: How Autism Changed One Family For the Better by Carrie Cariello

What Color Is Monday?What Color is Monday? Finished 9-25-13, rating 4.5/5, autism, 216 pages, pub. 2013

This book was sent to me months ago, and I put it on my shelf and promptly forgot all about it.  Then I read The Spark and it sparked a memory in my brain that I’d agreed to read another book by a mother of an autistic son.  I appreciated this book so much more than The Spark so I’m glad I read it after or else it might have spoiled the first one completely.

Carrie is a mom to five kids aged 3-9 and wife to a dentist super dad.  In this fast paced and amazingly upbeat book, Carrie warmly and humorously lets the reader have an inside look at life with Jack, her second son, diagnosed with autism at two.  She stresses the positives but doesn’t shy away from the day to day drain it takes on her, her kids, and her marriage.  She is not trying to cure Jack, she is trying to make him the best he can be.  From meltdowns to triumphs this book is such joy to read.  As an only child and mother to an only child I wanted to jump right into her big and loving family.

Today 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys is diagnosed with autism.  This tells one story of autism and I think that if you have anyone in your life who has been diagnosed that you should read this book, it tells the story of so many families so well.  Do it as a favor to the mother and father but also as a favor to yourself.  I think you will find yourself entertained and enlightened.  It’s an easy read that will touch your heart and probably make you want to spend a day with the Cariello clan.

I should mention that this is not a how-to book on treatments or how to navigate therapies after a diagnosis.  This book is for you to read, smile, and nod your head in agreement.  She gets it.

This book was sent to me by the publicist.

September 26, 2013 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 5 Comments

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life (Armand Gamache Series #1)Still Life. Finished 9-1-13, rating 4.5/5, mystery, 312 pages, pub. 2005

Book 1 in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series.

I made a small 2013 reading list based on other blogger’s best-of lists and whether I had the book or not (here). Still Life was on Staci’s 2012 list and I can see why.  I am really anxious to get my hands on the next one on the series. Thanks for the recommendation, Staci! I’m guessing this will end up one of my favorites of the year too.

Is this is a cozy mystery? Yes, but it’s one with that thing that makes it extra special.  To me, that means it never turns into classic caricatures following the same whodunit script.  The characters were real, even if some still have their secrets.  That can only be a good thing as the series continues.

Chief Inspector Gamache is a well-respected detected up in the Montreal area.  He is caring, thoughtful, patient, insightful, a bit of a rebel, a teacher and he gets the job done.  This was not his first case, he’s been around the block a few times and I loved that it felt like I was meeting a fully developed character, not just the bare bones version that sometimes happens in the first book of a new series.

The people of Three Pines are a varied collection of characters and I was fully invested in Jane  even though she died on the first page because of the way her friends saw her.  They loved her and that made me love her. I’m actually sad that she won’t be around for the next book!

It did take me a little while to get used to the writing style.  My eyes often had to drift back or forward to figure out who was talking, but once I got it I was hooked and I couldn’t put it down until I knew who had killed Jane.  And there were no shortage of suspects, even to the very end.

Highly recommend to every mystery lover.

This was from my own library.

September 5, 2013 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , | 16 Comments

Drift by Jon McGoran, a GMO thriller

DriftDrift. Finished 8-4-13, rating 4.5/5, thriller, 384 pages, pub. 2013

When Philadelphia narcotics detective Doyle Carrick loses his mother and step-father within weeks of each other, he gains a twenty-day suspension for unprofessional behavior and instructions to lay low at the unfamiliar house he’s inherited in rural Pennsylvania.
Feeling restless and out of place, Doyle is surprised to find himself falling for his new neighbor, Nola Watkins, who’s under pressure to sell her organic farm to a large and mysterious development company. He’s more surprised to see high-powered drug dealers driving the small-town roads—dealers his bosses don’t want to hear about.
But when the drug bust Doyle’s been pushing for goes bad and the threats against Nola turn violent, Doyle begins to discover that what’s growing in the farmland around Philadelphia is much deadlier than anything he could have imagined . . .

from Goodreads

I was excited to read this one since having a son with allergies and food sensitivities has led me to be more vigilant about the food he eats.  I am no expert, but I know enough to be worried about the food we buy and put into our bodies without a thought.  An example, I was about to buy a jar of pickles, hoping Gage would like them.  I checked the back and high fructose corn syrup was the second ingredient and Yellow dye was the last.  Sigh.  I did not buy them.  Anyway, the point is that I think this is an important subject.  This book was about that a bit, but it really was about the evils far beyond a dye here or a preservative there, way more than I like to even consider even though I know it’s happening.  GMOs may seem harmless, but most don’t understand enough to be worried.  At least until after they read this book.

Doyle is a cop with more than nine lives since he used at least that many while on this suspension from his job.  His spidey senses knew something was going on in the farming community where his mother and stepmother left him their house.  They also left him a junkie boarder, but that was only one of Doyle’s many problems.  The local sheriff had it out for him as did the local thugs and he did have a funeral to get through, so why not take the time to develop a crush on the organic farmer across the road?  He was a busy man.

This is a first-rate thriller.  Yes, you may have to suspend your disbelief here and there and I wish that Doyle had have had a little more retrospect as the dead bodies piled up at his hands, BUT I was never bored and was always engaged.  I can actually see a series started here although I don’t know if that’s what McGoran has in mind.  I’ve seen a few compare Doyle to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and while I get the comparison Doyle is still a cop, not a renegade.  But the dead bodies do seem to follow both characters.

Highly recommend.

I am a happy participant in this TLC Book Tour :)  Check out what other bloggers have to say about this eco-thriller. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy.

August 5, 2013 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 14 Comments

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, no sophomore slump here

Looking for MeLooking for Me. Finished 5-19-13, rating 4.5/5, 354 pages, ON SALE MAY 28, 2013

I was a little hesitant when author Beth Hoffman offered to send me her new book.  I loved her first, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, so much and I’ve also grown to be a fan of Beth Hoffman the person, so I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t like it, if I would be disappointed.  I needn’t have worried since Teddi, while not quite as endearing to me as Cee Cee, is great heroine.

Teddi grew up on a Kentucky farm with her parents, brother, and grandmother.  She was close to her loving father and her nature loving brother, but her relationship with her mother was prickly on a good day.  Especially after Teddi takes off after graduation and her brother goes missing.  Teddi makes a life in Charleston restoring furniture, but she is always drawn home where her brother’s disappearance still haunts her.

Teddi was refreshing.  She knew what she wanted to do from a young age and went after it, and in the process found a new family for herself.  I loved the fact that she was so determined in her goal to own an antique shop and she wasn’t distracted.  She was a successful woman who didn’t lament the lack of a man in her life, instead she lamented the fact that she was so happy without one.  Like most women, the relationship with her mother was a central to her life, and wanting to make her proud was something Teddi was hoping for. That storyline was such a strong one for me and I was rooting for Teddi and her mother.  As for her brother, he was an odd duck and I had a hard time loving him as much as Teddi, but he had a sweet relationship with his sister.

Beth Hoffman knows how to make me feel the southern atmosphere which is no small feat since she grew up not far from where I am in northeast Ohio.  I am especially grateful for her Buckeye roots since that means she always makes a stop here and I will get to see her on June 1st.  I had such a blast meeting her on the last book tour with fellow blogger Bonnie.  Beth is such a warm soul and I think this book showcases that.

May 22, 2013 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 21 Comments

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon, breaking my ban on short stories

You Know When the Men Are GoneYou Know When the Men Are Gone. Finished 3-19-13, rating 4.5/5, fiction short stories, 226 pages, pub. 2011

I read this because it was on JoAnn’s year end favorite list in December and I had it on my shelf.  I don’t often read short stories, so how this one ended up in my library is a mystery, but I’m so glad that it did and even happier that JoAnn loved and recommended it.  This may mean more short story collections in my future.

The stories-

1.You Know When the Men Are Gone, a married woman who is awaiting the homecoming of her husband feels drawn to life of her neighbor and children. My least favorite.

2. Camp Liberty, probably my favorite, the story of a deployed soldier who has a hard time reconciling life back home with the one he is living in Iraq.

3. Remission, a mom’s two kids go missing on base.

4. Inside the Break, a wife discovers her husband’s infidelity while he’s deployed.

5. The Last Stand, this one is a heartbreaker. A soldier returns home after being wounded in Iraq and spending months recovering at Walter Reed.

6. Leave, creepy story of a soldier sneaking home on leave to see if his wife is cheating.

7. You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming, a new mom dealing with her husband’s ager after returning home.

8. Gold Star, a widower’s life on base after her husband is killed.

These stories are a gritty look, at the reality of what most of us will never have to face.  Although I finished this book with a heavy heart  I thought it was a book full if incredible insight.  I gained a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices of the enlisted men and their families.  Fallon speaks from experience and her concise writing engaged me.  Surprsingly, I loved this one.

March 21, 2013 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 28 Comments

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen, just what I needed

The Girl Who Chased the MoonThe Girl Who Chased the Moon. Finished 1-29-13, rating 4.5/5, magical realism, 269 pages, pub. 2010

Something suddenly caught her eye. She quickly stepped to the balustrade.  She thought she saw something in the woodline beyond the gazebo in the overgrown backyard.

There! There is was again. It was a bright white light-a quick, zippy flash-darting between the trees. Gradually, the light faded, moving back into the darkness of the wood until it disappeared completely.

Welcome to Mullaby, North Carolina, she thought. Home of ghost lights, giants, and jewelry thieves.

Chapter One

Emily recently lost her mother, the only family she has ever known, and is shipped off to her grandfather in North Carolina.  Julia is from Mullaby but left as a teenager only to return as an adult after her father died.  Both plan on  being there for  short time, but both find themselves with reasons to stay in the quaint, close-knit town full of secrets and charm.

I loved Allen’s first book Garden Spells and found myself almost as enchanted with this quirky and magical tale of lost love and the trials of growing up.  She has a talent for making stories that are light and still satisfying.  Oh, and romantic.  Emily and Julia both found men to appreciate them even when they didn’t want to be appreciated.  Julia’s story of her teen years carried the novel for me and I was happy to see her get her happy ending (this is Sarah Addison Allen so I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that).

I like magical realism, especially when done well, and need to read more.  Let me know if you have a favorite.

This was from my personal library and I decided to read it after I saw it on Carrie’s 2012 favorites list.

January 30, 2013 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , | 17 Comments

In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad Series #1)In the Woods. Finished 12-26-12, rating 4.5/5, mystery, 464 pages, pub. 2007

Book 1 in the Dublin Murder Squad series.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

from Goodreads

Ryan narrates the book with humor and enough foreshadowing to keep you reading well past bedtime (at least it did for me).  He has his problems.  At the best of times he’s cool and fun, at the worst he’s a real piece of work who I wanted to pour a beer on.  He’s best friends with his partner, Cassie, and their brother-sister relationship was one to be envied, by their fellow detectives and the reader.  I loved Cassie.  Loved her more than Rob, especially by the end.

The old mystery of what happens to Rob as a child and the new case of who killed little Katy have a few pieces of connecting evidence and Rob is stuck in the middle of his own hell, one he stepped into willingly.  The mystery was very good, if not totally surprising.  I loved the characters and the history of the village.  French did an excellent job of making me feel right at home in Dublin.  Now I need to visit!

I really, really liked this one.  Yes, by the end I was fairly disgusted with Rob, but I am so looking forward to reading the next of this series.  I know that a lot of bloggers were upset by the loose ends but I was okay with it.  But that could have been because I was expecting it, who knows?

I bought this for my Nook and if any other Nookster wants to borrow it for 2 weeks, let me know!

December 28, 2012 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 13 Comments

The IT-along is finally over

ItFinished 10-16-12, rating 4.5/5, horror, 1090 pages, pub. 1986

 IT along: The End

I am so glad that I joined in the IT-along hosted by the wonderful Jill and Christina.  I received a great clownish book and bookmark from Jill and I’ve loved reading what the other IT-alongers had to say.  Sadly, I think much of this conversation happened on Twitter and I just don’t have time for it right now so I think I missed out on some of the fun.

Okay, so these were my thoughts halfway through.  I was so glad to throw the book across the room in celebration of being finished.  Not because I hated it but because this has really been a (too) long journey for me.  I get very little time to read and this book sucked all of that time down the storm drain.  A drain where IT was waiting with ITs web of horror.  A few nights I heard things in the house that in hindsight were not murderers coming to taunt me and my family, but at the time were a very real concern.  This may have been caused by Pennywise or it may have been the Diet Coke I thought was a good idea to drink at 10 pm.  Who can know for sure?  Okay, instead of a synopsis (you can find that here) I’ll give you a few of my SPOILERISH thoughts on IT.

*I love that Stephen King doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of human nature.  This book was not PC and I thought it was refreshing and it elevated the storytelling.

*I love fortune cookies, but King may have ruined them for me.

*The Loser’s Club was awesome and the bond of friendship they shared (if not their fate) made me want to be a part of their posse.  Not that I could have performed in either of the finales.  One, I am not a fan of orgies and two, I am ridiculously grossed out by spiders.

*After all of the grotesque deaths in this book, Tom really needed his due.  Why couldn’t IT start eating his appendages?  Why didn’t Beverly get to take an axe to him?  Either of these things would have helped the ending.

*Bill and Beverly.  Did we need to go there?  No.  We did not.

*I think I’m in the minority in liking the Interludes.  I think that they added a much needed layer to the city of Derry.  Some of it was dry, but for me at least, the end was richer for it.

*I did love the alternating past/present storylines at the end.  I knew I wanted to finish this book as close to the read-along date as I could and the last several hundred pages made it easy for me to pick up the book in spare moments.

“How old were they?  11, 12?  Entirely too young to excuse the group sex in the tunnels.  If that had happened earlier in the book I may not have finished it.

*I do think that King could use some editing, but I was so drawn into his world that I was okay with his excessive description.  It’s this lack of editing (and the gratuitous sex) that led me to not give this a perfect rating.

*After spending almost two months with the Loser’s Club from Derry, Maine, I am surprised that I will miss them.

I had a well-worn used copy of the paperback on my shelf which led me to join in the IT-along and it was worth it.

October 17, 2012 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | 14 Comments

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An AutobiographyStories I Only Tell My Friends. Finished audio 9-28-12, rating 4.5/5, autobiography, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio read by Robe Lowe.

It’s no secret that I am a child of the 80’s and lover of the teen movies of the day.  Rob Lowe was never one of my favorites, he was just too pretty, but he starred in some great 80’s films.  I picked up the book at a library sale but then remembered that a few bloggers (maybe Mary is one?) recommended the audio so I tried that instead and the audio is definitely the way to go with this one.  Lowe’ charm and intelligence come through loud and clear and I looked forward to getting in the car and visiting with him every day because that’s what it felt like.  He was very conversational and it was just a fun and easy listen.

Lowe knew he wanted to be an actor at an early age in Dayton, Ohio, and was involved in an acting group called Peanut Butter and Jelly.  He even had a few star encounters, a favorite of mine is when he knocked on Liza Minnelli’s hotel door and was allowed in to chat!  His parents divorced, his mother remarried and her behavior became erratic.  When she moved the family of three boys to Los Angeles it was culture shock for Rob, but the perfect place to really pursue his goal of becoming an actor.

Lowe is a master name dropper.  It is amazing to me how many famous people he came in contact with at a young age.  I LOVE Cary Grant and Rob got to watch his first after school special on Cary Grant’s bed with Grant and his daughter.  So cool (and not creepy at all).  The Sheens, Janet Jackson, Ron Howard and many others all come into Rob’s orbit before his first big break, The Outsiders (1983).   The Outsiders takes up a nice percentage of the book, but we get to meet these new upstarts as Rob does, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon…

I highly recommend this for any fan of the 80’s, Hollywood memoirs, or the man himself.  You’ll feel like Hollywood insider.  I think it could have been more complete, he does choose to gloss over chunks of his life, but what is included is very entertaining and insightful.  A man who has been on both the inside and the outside of the Hollywood scene and has managed to survive with sanity intact.

After finishing the book I immediately put The Outsiders on hold at the library.  I feel like I know so much about behind the scenes that the movie will be extra fun to watch.  I think my favorite role is Sam Seaborn from the West Wing.  What’s yours?

October 1, 2012 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , , | 18 Comments

The Violets of March, by Sarah Jio

The Violets of March: A NovelFinished 4-7-12, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 293 pages, pub. 2011

The moving story told in its pages, of love and loss and acceptance, of secret passions and the weight of private thoughts, forever changed the way I viewed my own writing.  It may have been why I stopped writing.  Joel had never read the book, and I was glad of it.  It was too intimate to share.  It read to me like the pages of my unwritten diary.

Chapter 1

Emily, author of one bestselling novel years ago, has just signed her divorce papers.  Not able to write and not sure what to do about it her best friend convinces her that a change of scenery will help, so Emily contacts her Aunt Bee on Bainbridge Island, Washington.  Once she’s back on the island where she spent the wonderful summers of her youth, she finds a hidden journal written by the mysterious Esther, and Emily wonders if she is somehow connected to her family.  Totally immersed in Esther’s story and frustrated by her aunt’s refusal to talk about family secrets, Emily found the perfect way to forget about her divorce and the muse to start writing again.

The story in the journal parallels current day Bainbridge Island and as Emily pieced together who was who I tried to keep up.  I admit I had some ideas, but did get a bit confused by the large cast.  I didn’t really care though, I was just happy to be along for the ride.  One of these days I hope I find my way to Bainbridge Island.  The place felt magical.

I loved this book.  The writing was beautiful, there was such depth and beauty on every page.  The awesome writing coupled with the two addicting storylines make this one easy to recommend.  I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump (probably because I have so little time for it these days so I tend to choose shorter books) but this one had me reading well into my sleep time and that’s not something I give up lightly!

There are two things that kept this from being perfect for me.  I wish there could have been another chapter to wrap things up a little more and I was surprised by how fast Emily recovered from her divorce.  She did not waste any time jumping back into the dating pool and seemed to think very little of her old life.  This felt a bit odd, but I’ve not gone through a divorce so maybe it is that easy to forget (and I mean forget a week later).  Both of these are minor complaints.

This is my favorite book this year, so far, and it was from my personal library.

Enter to win a copy of The Day the World Ends by Ethan Coen here.

April 11, 2012 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | | 33 Comments

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