Thursday, April 30, 2015

Best of the Bunch: April 2015

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in April.

Of the 7 books I read this month, none earned a 5-star review from me, or even 4.5 stars. It was kind of a disappointing month! Three of the books earned a 4-star review:

These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

I wasn't thrilled with any of them, but the best of the bunch was...

I found this a little slow to get into, but I stuck with it and I see why so many people have recommended this book. It's a great story about a woman in the Old West of the United States. Through her diary, we see her grow up and experience the kinds of hardships and joys that would have been typical for someone in her time and place. The characters are well-written and the story is ever-changing and intriguing. Sarah is a likeable but three-dimensional character whose faults are outweighed by her goodness and strength. I was a little put off by the romanticization of a character who kept kissing Sarah without her permission and of the anti-Indian sentiments. But it was still a good read, and I'd recommend it.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Top Ten Books That Feature Characters Who Have Disabilities

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

I'm still busy KonMari-ing, which has made blogging and reading a lower priority for the moment. But I'm back this week to share some great books that feature characters who have physical or intellectual disabilities.

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Marie-Laure's father doesn't believe that her blindness should limit where she can go and what she can do, so he builds her a miniature model of their town so she can learn her way around. When he's taken away during World War II, Marie-Laure has the courage not only to survive but also to do her part for France in the war.

2. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Tin Win is blind and Mi Mi cannot use her legs, but once they find each other, they are unstoppable. The plot construction isn't the best, but I loved the writing so much I would still recommend the book.

3. The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym)
Detective Cormoran Strike lost a leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, which we're reminded of approximately a hundred times in each book. Still, I appreciate that Rowling doesn't shy away from the realistic descriptions of what running after suspects does to Strike's stump in his prosthetic, and the books are great mysteries.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Cancer hits each character in this book in a different way: For main character Hazel, it hinders her breathing, while Gus lost a leg and Isaac loses his second eye in the course of the book. They navigate these challenges in a realistic way that manages to neither inspire pity nor serve as inspiration porn.

5. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Charlie is an intellectually challenged man who has the opportunity to take part in an experiment to increase his IQ. As his intelligence accelerates, he finds that being smart isn't the most important thing in life and may actually leave him worse off.

6. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
The parents and circus owners in this book took matters into their own hands when it came to creating the "freaks" for their sideshow, by conceiving and birthing them themselves after taking various combinations of chemicals. But Arty, whose flipper-like appendages require him to get around in a wheelchair, is no object of pity, particularly after he becomes the leader of a cult of people who get parts of their body amputated in hopes of becoming more like him.

7. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
When a doctor delivers his own twins and sees that the girl has Down's Syndrome, he hands her off to the nurse and tells his wife the baby died. We see not only the repercussions this "death" has on his own family, but also how the nurse raises the girl as her own daughter in this character-driven novel.

8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
This book follows the story of two migrant workers, one of whom is a large, intellectually challenged man who doesn't know his own strength, something that eventually gets him into trouble.

9. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
My favorite character in this book of a minister who takes his family to live in the Congo is Adah, who was born with a condition (hemiplegia) that makes one side of her body weaker than the other, so she has to drag one leg as she walks. She's the most clever and least irritating of the sisters in the family, who all struggle in their own way to adapt to their new life in Africa.

10. Rules by Cynthia Lord
Although Catherine loves her autistic brother and tries to help him navigate the world, he's also an embarrassment to her because of his lack of understanding of social rules. Then she meets Jason, a paraplegic boy her own age who communicates by pointing at cards. As she gets to know him better, she fears that she'll be judged for being friends with him, especially by Kristi, the cool girl who's moved in next door. This is a good middle-grade novel for discussing how society views people with disabilities.

What are some of your favorite books that feature characters with disabilities?

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

The first read on my list has been absorbing my time lately, so I've been reading a little less than usual. Totally worth it, though!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo: My favorite book of March. This is a practical guide to getting your living space in order and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. We've tackled clothes, books, and paper so far and it's been a wonderful feeling to be left with only what we want or need.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: A sweet children's book about a girl who's new to town and the dog who helps her make friends, land a job, and reconnect with her father. It touches briefly on some heavier topics like alcoholism, death, and mentally challenged individuals, but primarily it's a light-hearted read about overcoming prejudices and finding your community.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: This was a fast and engrossing read about a young boy with so many craniofacial anomalies that he attracts a lot of stares and few friends. We get to see both his perspective and those of the people around him, and Palacio doesn't shy away from uncomfortable truths in prodding her middle-grade readers to grow in empathy.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: I was disappointed in this, particularly as a fan of Lockhart. It's hard to explain why without spoiling the plot twist, but I was left with too many questions.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: This was a fun read with action and mystery livening up an overdone plot (rigidly scheduled, socially awkward dude gets shaken out of his rut by a crazy, spontaneous, fun-loving Manic Pixie Dream Girl). I wish the characters had been more three-dimensional and the resolution less rushed.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers: This would probably be enjoyable for a child who likes fantasy, but for me it can't hold a candle to the movie. The stories are fun and silly, but it's lacking the overarching story and character development that make the movie a classic.

These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner: I found this slow to get into, but I ended up liking it a lot. It's a glimpse into life in the American frontier through the diary entries of a woman growing up there. I just wish it hadn't romanticized Captain Elliot's constantly kissing Sarah without her consent.

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang: A graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion and some of its associated moral ambiguities. This was my first graphic novel and I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about the format, but I liked the story it told.

Saints by Gene Luen Yang: The companion book to Boxers, this was far more confusing and did not have a clear message. Its main redeeming quality was that at the very end we find out what actually happened to the main character of Boxers.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden: This is a sweet children's story about friendship and the price of fame, among other things. The writing is beautiful and there would be plenty to discuss with a child about the various characters' decisions throughout the book.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Top Ten Inspiring Quotations from Books

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

I disappeared there for a while, I know... I've been busy implementing the strategies from my favorite March read. It's been amazingly awesome and freeing to cull my belongings down to only the things I actually want to own and use — which shouldn't be a radical concept, but somehow is. I no longer need to come up with reasons to get rid of things, only to decide what I want to keep and let go of the rest. I'm through three of the five categories and have the largest and hardest ones left, but I feel ready for them. So awesome!

Anyway, today we are sharing our top ten inspiring quotations from books. I currently have 1,440 favorited quotations in Goodreads, but what I found going through them is that I tend to save quotations because they are true — that is, they succinctly capture in words some facet of life. These quotations, though, are inspiring and challenge me to think or act differently. And yes, some of them are from books I didn't particularly like, but there can still be a good line or two in a bad book!

Top ten inspiring quotations:

1. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

2. "J'aurais dû être plus gentille—I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that." Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

3. "Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?" Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

4. "If you come to a river and find a boat at the edge, you will use that boat and it will serve you well, but once across the river, do you put the boat on your shoulders and carry it with you on the rest of your journey?" Christopher Moore, Lamb

5. "$1,000,000 in the bank isn't the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows." Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek

6. "I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter." Bob Goff, Love Does

7. "Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me." Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

8. "You can't spend the rest of your life tiptoeing around to try and avert disaster. It won't work. You'll just end up missing the life you have." Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper's Daughter

9. "Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don't just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles." Tina Fey, Bossypants

10. "You can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now." Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

What are some of your favorite book quotations?

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