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
"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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Friday, September 30, 2016

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a decently crafted, fast paced sequel to Cinder, of the Lunar Chronicles Saga. It is a combination sci-fi, dystopian, fairytale themed series with adventure, humor, mystery, innocent romance, and creatively drawn characters. I enjoyed the new character, Scarlet, and was intrigued by her search for her grandmother. I would like to have read more about Cinder ....she is included only in the form of building background for this book and setting up the next in the series, which at this time consists of at least 6 books. I may or may not read the rest of them but highly recommend the series to young adults.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Night GardenerThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a well written scary tale about two orphaned siblings, Molly and Kip, who end up becoming involved with a strange family in an eerie house. The plot is intriguing, comparable to Irving and Poe, with plenty of suspense. The atmosphere of impending doom builds from page one to the final showdown. Completely appropriate for middle school, it is sure to entertain young adults and mature readers as well. Audio version narration is exceptional.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

One True ThingOne True Thing by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars because Quindlen is a wordsmith. This is about a daughter who gives up brilliant career to care for her dying mother, only to be accused of her death. It is a thought and emotion provoking story with a great twist at the end. There is a time, hopefully, in all daughter's lives when they begin to see their mother as a real person. As the protagonist discovers more about who her mother is, she discovers more about herself. Quindlen explores what we think we know about ourselves and those closest to us.
I feel the same as goodreads reviewer, ☮Karen, who said, "I just love Anna Quindlen. She understands life, she understands death, grieving, and our complex human emotions. And her writing is perfection; beautiful enough to bring me to tears. Quindlen had me contemplating how I view my own family stories. Are our relationships really how we imagine them, or just a 'vast web of misunderstandings, a tinted and touched up family portrait, an accurate representation of fact that leaves out only the essential truth'?”

“I wondered why I hadn't loved that day more, why I hadn't savored every bit of it...why I hadn't known how good it was to live so normally, so everyday. But you only know that, I suppose, after it's not normal and every day any longer.”

“All of life like a series of tableaux, and in the living we missed so much, hid so much, left so much undone and unsaid.”

“For so long I'd thought about myself as a girl who'd walked away from her mother's life that it would be a long time before I would start to think about the other part of the bargain, how easily she'd let me go.”

and my FAVORITE quote:
“You make concessions when you're married a long time that you don't believe you'll ever make when you're beginning. You say to yourself when you're young, oh, I wouldn't tolerate this or that or the other thing, . . . But time goes by and you've slept together a thousand nights and smelled like spit-up when babies are sick and seen your body droop and get soft. And some nights you say to yourself, it's not enough, I won't put up with another minute. And then the next morning you wake up and the kitchen smells like coffee and the children have their hair all brushed and the birds are eating out of the feeder and you look at your husband and he's not the person you used to think he was but he's your life. The house and the children and so much more of what you do is built around him and your life, too, your history. If you take him out it's like cutting his face out of all the pictures, there's a big hole and it's ugly. It would ruin everything. It's more than love, it's more important than love...

It's hard. And it's hard to understand unless you're in it. . . You can be hard, and you can be judgmental, and with those two things alone you can make a mess of your life the likes of which you won't believe. It's so much easier...the being happy. It's so much easier, to learn to love what you have instead of yearning always for what you're missing, or what you imagine you're missing. It's so much more peaceful.”

Warning: movie with Meryl Streep is very good, but does not do the book justice. Don't delay reading this because you saw the movie already.

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