Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Wednesday WarsThe Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set in the midst of the Vietnam war, The Wednesday Wars covers a range of heavy topics all through the lens of a 7th grade boy, humorous Holling Hoodhood. It's brilliant. No sex, no drugs. Just a great kid and a teacher he will never ever forget. Laugh out loud funny. Schmidt is very VERY clever and one of my favorite Young Adult authors. He incorporates several plots of Shakespeare's plays into the main character's everyday life. There were so many great scenes and thoughts in this book. I seriously would be rolling on the floor laughing one minute and then clutching a tissue blubbering the next. It was all so moving. So many scenes of forgiveness, understanding and kindness.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Girl Who Wrote in SilkThe Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story tells of Seattle's 1880's Chinese Exclusion Act, something of which I, along with most Americans, was unaware until now. The story begins with some action right off the bat as we meet Mei Lien, one of the two young, brave women separated by a century but woven together by a single, intricate piece of embroidery. The stories of these two women is interspersed throughout the book but is never overwhelming. I predicted the ending a bit too early in the book but found myself reading "just another chapter" to see how it got there....and I was treated with some interesting twists along the way.... however I felt the mystery and connected events were all tied all up too neatly in the end. I can say that this book has interesting, likable characters, accurate (and startling) historical facts, a bit of adventure, a bit of romance without being smutty (THANK YOU!!!) and a mystery. The story does go between the past and the present, but it is skillfully handled and very easy to follow.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African ChildhoodBorn a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Daily Show has taken on some added credibility as I read Trevor Noah's absolutely remarkable story. He tells it with much humor. It is personal, absorbing, and intimate with discussions of the realities of race and apartheid, then and now. For the society Trevor was born into, he was privileged, and this book is a paean to that privilege: his mother. I like this man, and I like his mother even more.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Being PerfectBeing Perfect by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this little book, really an essay with photographs. It full of wisdom.
"Trying to be perfect may be inevitable for people who are smart and ambitious and interested in the world and its good opinion . . .What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."
"What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."
Some quotables:
"Eventually being perfect became like carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day. And Oh, how I wanted to lay that burden down."

"Perfection is static, even boring. Your true unvarnished self is what is wanted."

"...being a good parent is not generational, it is deeply personal, and it all comes down to this: If you can bring to your children the self that you truly are, as opposed to some amalgam of manners and mannerisms, expectations and fears that you have acquired as a carapace along the way, you will be able to teach them by example not to be terrorized by the narrow and parsimonious expectations of the world, a world that often likes to color within the lines when a spray of paint, a scribble of crayon would be much more satisfying." (less)
"In this little gem of a book (more of an essay-plus-photo-book), Anna Quindlen describes, from personal experience, the ways that the burden of the backpack of perfectionism leads to "curvature of the spirit." In brief:

1) She warns that "being perfect" robs a person of her courage to "be yourself" and thereby robs a person of the courage to achieve "the hard work of life in the world, to acknowledge within yourself the introvert, the clown, the artist, the homebody, the goofball, the thinker. Look inside. That way lies dancing to the melodies spun out by your own heart" (page 19).

2) She warns that "being perfect" robs a person of harmony with other people, since "pursuing perfection makes you unforgiving of the faults of others" (page 40).

3) She warns that "being perfect" robs a person of the ability to endure loss and disappointments. Because enduring loss requires a person to summon one's inner resources--the "center of yourself," the "core to sustain you." But if you've spent a lifetime "being perfect" (i.e., bending oneself to meet other people's expectations) then "there will be a black hole where that [personal] core ought to be" (pages 46-47).

Quindlen's book can be read in an hour or two; but it's one of those books that a person will want to re-read every now and again--to reflect and meditate upon whether one is indeed being True to Oneself. (less)"

It comes down to doing your best. Whatever that looks like in any given moment, in any situation. And if you make a mistake, trying to learn from it. Because mistakes are human.


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BlessingsBlessings by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pulitzer Prize–winning ANNA QUINDLEN is such a wonderful writer that she is listed as one of my favorites. Her prose is just lovely. Washington Post Book World said, “Quindlen knows that all the things we ever will be can be found in some forgotten fragment of family.” I concur. She really captures both place and characters. BLESSINGS is a powerful novel of personal change, redemption, and love. The growth in her immaculately drawn characters is well-developed and believable. I cared so deeply about them and their circumstances that despite the well thought out and realistic resolutions to their problems I did not want the book to end. I want a sequel, with the same characters, yet I know any of this gifted author's characters in her future writings will be equally loved by her readers.

This would make an excellent book club read and discussion. It would also make a great movie. I "read" the audio version, expertly narrated by JOAN ALLEN, it was a delight. I enjoyed it so much I've requested the hard bound version from my library.
Did I mention I love how QUINDLEN writes?!

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Short Guide to a Happy LifeA Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just reread this excellent fast read (less than 30 minutes) by one of my favorite authors. It was originally a commencement address. Very uplifting call to reality & what is most important.

Here is a brief review of the book's major points by Goodreads reader, Amit https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4629312-amit:
"1. Show up. Listen. Try to laugh.
2. You cannot be really good at your work if your work is all you are.
3. Get a life, a real life. Not a manic pursuit of the next promotion.
4. Turn off your cell phone. Keep still. Be present.
5. Get a life in which you are generous.
6. All of us want to do well, but if we do not do good too then doing well will never be enough.
7. Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God gives us. It is so easy to exist rather than to live… Unless you know a clock is ticking.
8. We live in more luxury today than ever before. The things we have today our ancestors thought existed for just the wealthy. And yet, somehow, we are rarely grateful for all this wealth.
9. The hardest thing of all is to learn to love the journey, not the destination.
10. This is not a dress rehearsal. Today is the only guarantee you get.
11. Think of life as a terminal illness.
12. School never ends. The classroom is everywhere.
13. Always stay ready to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Remember ... Gratitude is the best Attitude (taken from comments from Serene) So if you have time to read this book review, I’d venture that you also have time to read this book."

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Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle #1)Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was clever, charming, funny, magical, strange, and frustrating. While I liked the characters and the setting, I never felt supremely attached to any of them. They were a bit two dimensional, and the plot twists at the end came from nowhere and were extremely convenient. My adult self found it a bit slow but it focuses on the right things for children: interpersonal relationships, the main character's family and friends, the adventure quest it proposes. I would have loved it as a child, so I highly recommend it to young readers.

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Every Last OneEvery Last One by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Breathtaking and beautiful," is the description given by the publisher. I can't think of a better description. "Ultimately, in the hands of Anna Quindlen’s mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the the things we fear most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, to live a life we never dreamed we’d have to live but must be brave enough to try." Read it. It may make you cry, but you will love it.

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LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall it was an enjoyable read and it delivered an insightful and important message. But the prose is consistently rudimentary, the plot frustratingly linear. It was a disappointment after reading Eleanor and Park, which I gave 5 stars, but much better than Fangirl which I only gave 2 stars. Too many "F words" for my taste.

I listened to the audiobook which is outstandingly narrated by Rebecca Lowman, but I'm pretty sure if I had read it instead I'd have been bored to death.

Favorite quote:
“Nobody's lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It's something you make happen - because you love each other.”
Great relationships *are* hard work.

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