Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster BoyLizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved everything about this book and have added Gary D. Smith to my favorite authors list. This is coming-of-age historical fiction at is best, with gorgeous lyrical writing and heart-wrenching emotional reactions. The various themes and conflicts are delicately and deftly presented and handled. Schmidt not only has a remarkable way with words, but his characters almost seem to leap from his book because they are so real. A compelling and powerful read, it will stay with me long after I closed the cover. This book is beautiful, and just when I thought I had it completely figured out, it surprised me.

Based on a real place and real people. The author just gave a name to some of the people and created a character based on vague details of a person. Newberry Honor Award. There are Biblical references and allegories throughout that make this book a good one to discuss.
Young-adult, historical-fiction. If I were an elementary teacher I would read it to my class.

favorite quote:
“Books can ignite fires in your mind, because they carry ideas for kindling, and art for matches.”

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Friday, March 20, 2015

The City of Ember (Book of Ember, #1)The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Creative premise: an underground city, two children determined to save that city, and a journey of no return. I liked it better than The Giver. I liked it enough that I will read the sequel.
Intriguing, fast paced, action packed. It's the rare novel that will engage children while maintaining its literary integrity and imparting something worthwhile. The City of Ember is a great introduction to a darker genre than many children will have read by 4th Grade, but not so frightening that it would discourage them from exploring more well-developed dystopian novels as they get older. In terms of books that get kids interested in reading without rotting their brains, I'd give this one a big thumbs up.

quotes:
“The trouble with anger is, it gets hold of you. And then you aren't the master of yourself anymore. Anger is. And when anger is the boss, you get unintended consequences.”

“People find a way through just about anything.”

“The main thing to do is pay attention. Pay close attention to everything, notice what no one else notices. Then you'll know what no one else knows, and that's always useful.”

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My Losing Season: A MemoirMy Losing Season: A Memoir by Pat Conroy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you *love* basketball you will love this recounting of Conroy's senior season as a member of the Citadel basketball team. A touching meditation on loss and pain, Conroy's diction in this work is masterful; If, as I, you are merely a Conroy fan, you will enjoy learning more of who and what shaped this writer. In writing about basketball, Conroy finds a vessel to chew, interpret, and shape so much of his past, and out of it life's meaning.

“There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss.”

“I had declared in public my desire to be a writer ... I wanted to develop a curiosity that was oceanic and insatiable as well as a desire to learn and use every word in the English language that didn't sound pretentious or ditzy.”

“Good coaching is good teaching and nothing else.”

“An author must gorge himself on ten thousand images to select the magical one that can define a piece of the world in a way one has never considered before.”

“The words “I love you” could contain all the bloodthirsty despair of the abattoir, all the hopelessness of the most isolated, frozen gulag, all the lurid sadness of death row.”

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Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a rich, emotional tale of a young thirteen year old boy and the tragedies that befell his family and his community in the summer of 1961. The story, in many ways, is not compelling nor is it particularly memorable. What is so striking is the way the story is told, with tight, well-edited prose, subtle imagery, and symbolism.

Krueger has done an amazing job of separating what are really two narrators: the boy, and the current older, presumably wiser adult. He tells the story with tight, well-edited prose, subtle imagery and symbolism.

It is a story about family. And it is a story about believing in God and the wonderful grace that comes from giving your heart to God.

quotes:
“Fishing, Danny boy, is purely a state of mind. Some men, when they are fishing, are after fish. Me, I'm after things you could never set a barbed hook in.”

“The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.”

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”

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Flight BehaviorFlight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At its heart about climate change and giving flight to monarch butterflies, this book is a multifaceted metaphor, pulling focus to the delicate balance of 'life' on both a basic and philosophical scale. I will never forget the experience, as almost always with a Barbara Kingsolver novel, of the resplendent language and the need to stop mid-paragraph in awe and a certain degree of wonder. Her writing is lyrical with vivid imagery and humor rolling along with every paragraph, as evidenced by the following great quotes from Fight Behavior:

“Honk if you love Jesus, text while driving if you want to meet up.”

“Do you know what?” Dovey asked abruptly. “I’ve had it with Facebook. We should invent Buttbook. It’s more honest. You’d have Buttbook Enemies. You would Butt people to inform them you did not wish to be their friends.” “You could do worse,” Dellarobia proposed. “You could Poop them.

“Will you explain to me why people encourage delusional behaviour in children, and medicate it in adults?”

“Mistakes wreck your life. But they make what you have. It's kind of all one. … no good to complain about your flock, because it's the put-together of all your past choices.”

Ovid, the scientist, tells Dellarobia: "Science doesn't tell us what we should do. It only tells us what is."

Dellarobia thinks about her dog, Roy, "...as he hurried to put his small yellow tags on all of the yard's most notable points. The dog version of Post-its."

"Whoever was in charge of weather had put a recall on blue and nailed up this mess of dirty white sky like a lousy drywall job."

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The Museum of Extraordinary ThingsThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again with elegant prose Hoffman has created a magical, spell binding story. This mystery, set against the backdrop of New York in the early 1900’s and is rich with historical facts. It isa tale filled with hope, wonder, romance, a respect for those who are different, deep thoughts to ponder, and the beauty of humanity outshining and overcoming deep, disturbing darkness. A truly beautiful story.

Favorite quotes:
"If we had no hurt and no sin to speak of, we'd be angels, and angels can't love the way men and women do.”

“The truth frightens people because it isn’t stable. It shifts every day. If you’d prefer to remain in the dark, I would understand.”

“It's not finding what's lost, it's understanding what you've found.”“the past was what we carried with us, threaded to the future, and we decided whether to keep it close or let it go. Fate was both what we were given and what we made for ourselves.”

“... people can surprise you in so many ways, both with cruelty and with kindness.”“... we saw the edges of one another's souls.”

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

China DollsChina Dolls by Lisa See
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was well researched and the time period was interesting, but the story itself fell flat for me. I never felt particularly invested in any of the three main shallow and superficial characters. In fact, I had a difficult time differentiating their voices.
Worst of all is the writing. . . no depth of emotion, no descriptions, just flat sentences. And many actions didn't make sense when considering the characters; many parts felt rushed and cobbled together in order to move the story forward, instead of being true to the characters' previous actions.
I enjoyed her other books but this one is a flop. I would not recommend this book to others.
The audio version is especially bad. . . an overdramatic narrator whose voice was irritating and who kept mixing up the different characters' verbal inflections and tones.

If you did/do read book be sure to go to her blog:
http://www.lisasee.com/insidechinadolls/ (sorry I can't get link to go to exact page, but url is correct...when you get to page click on the Quicklink in the black bottom, right side: "Step Inside the World of China Dolls")
She has posted several 1934-1946 ChopSuey Circuit photos,interviews & dance videos. IT is EXCELLENT.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Definitely for book lovers, this quirky story about bibliophiles is cute at times and profound at others. I was impressed with the development of characters, for whom I cared deeply, with all their respective faults. They were skillfully presented in such a tight, coherent package. There is some lovely dialogue where the author jumps from these characters' points of view within the same scene and she does it brilliantly and effortlessly. From the publisher, "...unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.”

Hilarious. Honest. It is the kind of book you should not read in bed beside your sleeping husband. He didn't appreciate my snorts of laughter. Also gave a little peak inside the book publishing world and genres that are overused, slightly abused, and great one liners to say to a police officer, "You're a genre." If they are not well read, they won't get it. I did. I snorted a laugh. My poor husband. Hand it to your book group and listen to them swoon.





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A Drowned Maiden's HairA Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a charming melodrama with an orphan, an old manor, spiritualists, maiden aunties ranging from sweetly ineffectual to cloyingly evil, a secret, and a hefty dose of Victorian bathing costumes and brisk sea air. This YA-middle school book manages to tackle some big questions about integrity, spirituality, and the need to belong. Audio version well done.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Children ActThe Children Act by Ian McEwan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ian McEwan's writing is measured, magical, and insightful. He has the ability to touch some truly tender human places while strolling by with his narrative, moving on to where the story will inevitably go. Judge Fiona Maye is a wonderful character, the driven female baby boomer who seems to engage in life from the distance of her work, always calculating the degree of her engagement, escaping her life by measuring and judging the dramas of others, until finally, drama erupts in her own living room in the form of a husband who longs for lost passion. And then there's the young character from her courtroom who wavers across the border between his world and hers, and entangles her in his own troubled reality. I was fascinated every step of the way, following the track of Fiona's thoughts and actions through her work and her personal life and the inevitable consequences that develop.
McEwan evokes a rich narrative atmosphere with an economy of prose that is amazing. The novel felt expansive though it was very short and the characters were richly three dimensional. The climax of this book takes place during a piano concert, where as the music is building, the drama of the story is also building. This was truly one of the most beautiful literary devices I have ever witnessed.
The audio version is superbly narrated by British actress, Lindsay Duncan.

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