Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look

Brush of the GodsBrush of the Gods by Lenore Look
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why learn calligraphy when you can paint for the gods? Wu Daozi (who lived during the Tang Dynasty from 689-759)is supposed to stick to learning his characters, but instead he ends up drawing worms and animals all sorts of beautiful things. Eventually magic happens--his paintings come alive! Even the emperor of China is impressed and commissions him to paint a large mural on the Great War. It took years. And, they say, instead of dying, Wu Daozi walked into his mural and disappeared.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alex Award Winner! Gorgeous writing about a dysfunctional family living in the Midwest. The entire family is sad--no one really knows each other. The father is Chinese and tries so hard to become a "real" American that he teaches a class on cowboy culture. His wife is blond-haired and blue-eyed, but lives with tons of regrets because she never went to medical school--she got pregnant instead. The two of them raise their children in a horrible way--everything is about appearances and nothing positive happens. Lydia, the oldest daughter, ends up dead, and the grief doesn't even seem real.

I read this book in one day--so sweetly and slowly written, but so, so, sad. I wanted to reach into the family and rescue the kids.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Big Tiny: a Built-It Myself Memoir by Dee Williams

The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself MemoirThe Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it because I'm turning 40 this year? That's my thinking....

For some reason, I'm getting obsessed with tiny houses. I've always been slightly that way--there's a reason why I live in a home that's small by some people's standards. I don't like hoarding and I hate clutter--I get a thrill with every load I donate to Goodwill. So maybe the tiny house movement is a natural extension? I can't move to a tiny house yet--I know that. But the philosophy behind it is something I hope to apply for to my own life now. I have too much stuff that I don't need. And clutter in my house is clutter in my soul. Begone, stuff, begone!

Dee Williams' memoir is about what inspired her to build her own tiny house (that I will never do!). She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure at a young age, and the glimpse of the future was something that enabled her to get happy--fast. And so she simplified. And designed. And built. And relied on her good friends to help her and guide her and support her. It's a feel-good story about a woman's decision to minimize her footprint. I won't go as far as her---um, I love real toilets and showers, but I appreciate her willingness to take a chance.

I also watched the documentary Tiny: a Story about Living Small today and I highly recommend it! So many examples of cute houses and the people who live in them.

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Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker

Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a NationBoundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker

I gave it 40 pages and had to stop because other books were calling me. I love Sally Walker (she's an awesome booktalker and Illinois author), but I just can't read this unless I'm doing a report on the Mason-Dixon line. It would be a good addition to school nonfiction shelves and really gets into STEM topics, too.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Performed by Elizabeth Evans.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Celaena is a trained assassin (why do I love books about female killing machines?) and she can win her freedom if she survives a competition to become the evil king's champion. She figures anything is better than the past year she has spent in the horrible death prison. And so she trains and competes and uses her wits and skills to fight her way to the top. Along the way, the Crown Prince falls for her, as well as the Captain of the Guard. Whoo-whoo, Celaena--you go, girl!

Sometimes I really, really need books like this. Next up? The sequel Crown of Midnight.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Awww, man, this book made me cry. Twice. And that doesn't happen to this tough old librarian. Ever. Once, maybe. But twice? Never.

Theodore Finch is the ultimate bad boy--always in trouble at school, hot (of course), but brillant.

Violet Markey is the perfect popular girl, until her older sister dies in a car crash. She quits all her clubs and sports to focus on her own depression.

The two meet at the top of the school's bell tower--both are there to contemplate jumping. And then comes the love. Their love story is DEEP and oh, so good. Not cheesy. But I want to climb into Theo's star closet to escape for a few days myself.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Annhilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Short little read that is a lesson in building suspense. Some women (no names given, just referred to by their titles) are taken to Area X to explore and report on what they find. We don't know much, and have to rely on the observations of The Biologist as she explores with the group. She has many flashbacks though (too many for me) and we find out that her husband was involved in an earlier expedition to Area X and came back mentally guarded and absent. After finishing this little book, there are still many questions that I assume will be answered in Book 2 and 3 of the series.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Jule Berry. Read by Jayne Entwistle.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow PlaceThe Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2015 Odyssey Award Honor Book!

Listen to all the British accents in this thing, and chuckle while you listen to see how the young ladies at the academy are going to keep their headmistress's death a secret. Funny and dry, and, really, geared more toward high school readers. Some middle schoolers wouldn't catch everything.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Trouble is a Friend of MineTrouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviewed from Advanced Reading Copy. Due to be published August 2015.

This is like The Spellman Files for teens--Zoe, the main character, is quirky and drawn into investigations that she doesn't know much about. Zoe is caught in the middle of a custody battle between her mom and dad, and then an odd guy named Philip shows up at her house. He's weird, wears a suit all the time, acts brilliant, and wants Zoe's help investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl from the town.

The coincidences are unbelievable and the teens get them into a world of trouble, but at least luck is on their side. Good thing since the police, drug runners, and gun-holding crazies are involved, too.

It's a quick, quirky read and laugh-out-loud funny.

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