Tag Archives: library

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 576 pages

The Book Thief is narrated by Death. It’s set in Germany, opening in 1939. Yes, that’s World War II. Liesel Meminger, at age 9, is taken (by her mother) to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family. On the journey, she steals her first book, even though she can’t yet read. She’s haunted by nightmares of her younger brother’s death.

Among other awards, The Book Thief was a Printz Honor Book in 2007.

I knew I was missing out by having not yet read this book. I started reading it in 2008, but it was during the read-a-thon, in the middle of the night, and I just wasn’t capable of reading a book narrated by Death in the middle of the night and still appreciating it. Alas, it’s taken me nearly two years to get back to it, but at least I finally have.

I found the voice of this book to be wholly unique. While most of the material wasn’t new to me (although a bit of the perspective I hadn’t read before), this was *not* just another Holocaust book. The writing is superb, achingly beautiful. (I feel like I use that phrase way too much …) I also found it quite interesting how most things are fully disclosed before they actually happen — the narrator “spoils” himself.

The characters, the bookish elements, the writing — all excellent. A gorgeous book with a heinous setting. I say setting because war is not really what the book is about. It’s a backdrop, sure, and hardly a page goes by without mention of it, but the book is about Liesel, about words.

My only complaint (and it’s a small one): The prologue doesn’t really fit the book. After I’d read the prologue, I was sort of dreading this book. But once I got past that, the story sucked me in and the pages flew by.

Although this book was first published in just 2006, I’d call it a classic. This is a book that will endure. If you haven’t read it yet, why not? Sure, it’s not exactly short, but it’s also a young adult book, so the pages fly by (well, the fact that it’s a great story helps that, too). You have no excuse. Read it.

I definitely want to read more of Zusak’s work — I’m particularly intrigued by his I Am the Messenger.

About the author
Markus Zusak lives in Sydney, Australia. Read an interview with Zusak at the Random House website.

Other reviews
Filling My Patch of Sky
Maw Books
So Many Books
At Home with Books
In the Shadow of Mt. TBR
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
A Chair, a Fireplace & and Tea Cozy
My Two Blessings
The Book Lady’s Blog

Still want more reviews? Check out the Book Blogs Search Engine.

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I checked this book out from the library. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

My impetus for finally picking this book up was the Social Justice Challenge; the January theme has been religious freedom. It’s certainly not a stretch to see how this book fits that theme.


Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang

Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang translated by Bao Pu, Renee Chiang, and Adi Ignatius (Simon & Schuster, May 19, 2009), 336 pages

Zhao Ziyang was China’s premier during the Tiananmen Square protests. He acted to prevent the massacre and was forcibly removed from power — and lived the rest of his life under house arrest — because of his actions. He was also instrumental in choreographing and instituting economic reform in the years leading up to what he calls the July Fourth incident. Zhao grew to believe that continued economic reforms and success required political reforms and further openness from the government, in addition to a free press.

In these secret journals, which he recorded around 2000, he not only recounts these events and his economic and political strategies and actions, he also addresses misconceptions and misinformation and accepts responsibility for his own mistakes. The journals were uncovered after Zhao’s death in 2005.

I haven’t read a book that had the word bourgeois in it so many times in a very long time, certainly not since college. I was struck by the huge challenge attempting reforms and instituting a free market would be where the other leaders don’t speak freely to each other.

I was glad for an excuse to learn more about this period of China’s history. I don’t remember the Tiananmen Square massacre (I was still a child), although I’ve heard them referenced probably ever since they first happened.

For a book about economics and politics, I really enjoyed this book. The writing is not overly academic (I’m guessing the conversational tone is because the book is translated from oral journals.) but rather quite approachable. My love for all things China may have smoothed my path through the book, though.

I would have loved to read more about the (notably absent from this book) cultural and religious elements of the story. I would also have loved to read about leading up to and during/after the Beijing Olympics.

I read this book as part of a collaborative effort on the part of many bloggers to collective read and review all 50 of the books Newsweek listed as Books of our Times. The list as a whole was daunting, so we split it up! Great idea, Amy! All 50 books were claimed pretty quickly, and many of the titles have more than one person reviewing them.

The epilogue argues that the China portrayed in this book is today’s China. Whether that’s the case or not, this book is certainly relevant to us, today. China is growing so quickly, in so many sectors. We must pay attention.

See other reviews of books from the Newsweek list.

Other reviews
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I checked this book out from the library.

Female fact of life

“I detected instantly that she didn’t like me. It’s a fact of life that a girl can tell in a flash if another girl likes her. Feely says that there is a broken telephone connection between men and women, and we can never know which of us rang off. With a boy you can never know whether he’s smitten or gagging, but with a girl you can tell in the first three seconds. Between girls there is a silent and unending flow of invisible signals, like the high-frequency wireless messages between the shore and the ships at sea, and this secret flow of dots and dashes was signaling that Mary detested me.”

—From The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, page 85

The Associate by John Grisham

the associateThe Associate by John Grisham (Doubleday, January 27, 2009), 384 pages

Kyle McAvoy, in his last year of law school at Yale, is confronted by men dressed in matching trench coats and sporting badges as he walks out of the gym. Starting at a diner and culminating in a nondescript late-night hotel room, McAvoy is confronted with a video from his past, evidence of a time he’d much rather forget. To keep it under wraps, McAvoy has no choice. From then on, he’s not merely a student; his life is not his own.

The Associate entails a huge New York City law firm, aerospace technology, the tension between the daily grind and doing something you love, surveillance and counter-surveillance, espionage, the FBI — it’s like Alias without the hot chick, the international settings, the romance, and the everything-tied-with-a-bow endings.

As far as I know, I’ve read all of Grisham’s books. I’ve enjoyed all of them, too. I wouldn’t call them high literature, but then, I don’t strive to read lit-ra-chure to the exclusion of all other books. As I recall, this book is cleaner than some of Grisham’s earlier works; not much language, and our protagonist only occasionally indulges in an alcoholic beverage.

I enjoyed reading The Associate. It’s a fast, fun story.

Grisham’s website.

Other reviews:
Shhh I’m Reading
Michele One L
Joyfully Retired
Books I Done Read
So Many Books, So Little Time
Thoughts of Joy

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

sweetness at the bottom of the pieSweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Novel by Alan Bradley (Delacorte Press, April 28, 2009), 384 pages

Flavia de Luce is our 11-year-old protagonist. (She reminds me some of Nancy Drew, although I’m not entirely sure if that’s just because she’s a young amateur sleuth.) She’s certainly precocious. Flavia is a chemist, the youngest of three daughters in the de Luce family. It’s the summer of 1950, we meet our cast of characters at the family estate of Buckshaw, in rural England. She discovers a stranger dead in the cucumber patch and takes solving the death on her own shoulders. Her mother died when Flavia was young. Her father is somewhat distant because of his war experience. Her two older sisters keep themselves occupied, one with any reflective surface and the other with a near infinite stack of books.

At times, Flavia is musing over chemical properties of a particular poison or antidote like a professional (or at least like an adult — at points I had to remind myself that she is not an adult), and at others she’s clearly a typical clueless-about-life tween. She makes good use of the public library in nearby Bishop’s Lacey and gets everywhere she needs to go on her bike, which she’s named Gladys.

Throughout the book, conversations on stamp collecting, classical music, and literature persist.

I’m intrigued by the young protagonist in a book written for adults. I’m guessing the main reason this isn’t labeled as a YA book is that the protagonist is too young. While not quite laugh-out-loud funny, it is an amusing read.

It’s a great book. I look forward to the rest of the series (the next installment — Tied Up with Strings — is due in 2010). I placed it alongside my favorite reads of the year, and found that I can’t place it at the top of that list but also that I can’t articulate why not.

Sweetness won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award in 2007.

Alan Bradley lives in British Columbia, Canada; he took early retirement in 1994 to write.

Other reviews:
Lesa’s Book Critiques
Arch Thinking
Medieval Bookworm
Thoughts of Joy
Tower of Books
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
A Bookworm’s World
On My Bookshelf
Both Eyes Book Blog
The Indextrious Reader
Shelf Love
Lost in Books
Bibliophile by the Sea
Stainless Steel Droppings

Did I miss yours? Leave me a link and I’ll add your review here.

A Literary Road Trip of Nebraska

literary road tripWay back in mid-August I signed on for the Literary Road Trip, hosted by GalleySmith. What is a Literary Road Trip, you ask? Well, “The Literary Road Trip is a project in which bloggers are volunteering to showcase local authors. This showcase can be anything you want to make of it — book reviews, author interviews, giveaways — as long as you’re working with an author local to you.”

Having moved to Nebraska in late July, I’m naturally excited about showcasing Nebraska authors, in part as a way for me to learn more about this state I’ve moved to. Disclosure: I’m not exactly new to Nebraska. I was born here, and over the course of my lifetime, I’ve lived in Nebraska for about five years total, spread out over three different locales and three different sojourns. I do have some roots in the state. Still, I didn’t live in Nebraska during my school years, so I don’t exactly have the local history down pat.

My early, tentative list of Nebraska authors is:
Willa Cather
Mari Sandoz
Bess Streeter Aldrich
Ted Kooser
Ladette Randolph
Timothy Schaffert

This is me putting the call out. Do you know of other Nebraska authors? (Are you a Nebraska author? Contact me, please!) Of the Nebraska authors I know of, what work(s) should I start with?

I’d also be interested in hearing about books set in Nebraska, particularly those in which the setting has a real presence.

I do plan to check out my local library.

In addition to book reviews and author interviews/guest posts, I also hope to include posts about touring the Nebraska homes of some of these authors — Cather’s home in Red Cloud isn’t too far from me, for example.

Ideas? Suggestions? Comments?

Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins

Coral MoonCoral Moon by Brandilyn Collins, Book 2 in the Kanner Lake Series (Zondervan, 2007), 336 pages

My review of Book 1, Violet Dawn.

A malevolence is hovering over Kanner Lake, Idaho, and reporter Leslie Brymes is the first to see hard evidence of it — the battered body of a dear friend was placed in her unmistakable car. Paige is back, along with Bailey and the police chief, and this time we get to know a few of the other characters that were peripheral in Violet Dawn. Is the murderer really a ghost?

This book held my Interest because of its spiritual element.

I liked Leslie a lot more in this book than in Violet Dawn. I found her more believable as well.

All around, a quick read of a thriller.

I found this book head and shoulders above Violet Dawn. A good read.

Books in the Kanner Lake series:
1. Violet Dawn
2. Coral Moon
3. Crimson Eve
4. Amber Morn

I’ve also reviewed Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins.

The author’s website, Collins’s blog, Forensics & Faith and twitter page.

Other reviews:
A Peek at My Bookshelf
Tree Swing Reading (this post also has reviews for the other three books in the series)
My Two Blessings

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

a passion most pureA Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman (The Daughters of Boston, Book 1) (Revell, 2008), 480 pages

Book 3, A Passion Denied, came out a couple months ago.

I read the second book in this series, A Passion Redeemed, in April [A Passion Redeemed at Amazon]. I don’t usually read a series out of order, but I did this time. While I stated in my review of Book 2 that it was OK to read the second book without reading the first book, I need to amend that now. Yes, it’s OK to start with Book 2. But don’t start with Book 2 if you ever hope or plan to go back and read Book 1. Because much of the enjoyment of Book 1 is taken away by knowing things from Book 2. The story lines are more intertwined than I’d thought, from my reading of Book 2. So, like all series, I recommend starting with Book 1.

A Passion Most Pure opens in Boston, in 1916. Faith, the oldest daughter of Patrick and Marcy O’Connor, 18, is trying to ignore her own feelings for the rogue her 16-year-old sister Charity is sneaking around with. Partly because her sister’s claimed him, but also because this guy is no good. And then there’s the question of whether to tell her parents, who have expressly forbidden Charity seeing this Collin.

Things just get more messy from there, especially as it becomes clear that the United States will not avoid entering the war.

While in broad strokes, Book 1 could be called Faith’s story, and Book 2 could be called Charity’s story, Book 1 (A Passion Most Pure) is really much more than Faith’s story. Book 1 introduces the reader to the O’Connor clan, both those in Boston and those in Ireland. In Book 1, we get a good sense of who each character is. Lessman accomplishes this without the book feeling like a first-in-a-series, in that it’s so busy introducing characters that it action suffers, though, which is good.

This book has a lot of twists and turns. Sometimes it felt like too many. Toward the end, I noticed the author telling what happened and how the characters felt, rather than showing.

I didn’t love this book. Perhaps it’s (partly) because I read the second book prior to reading this book. I did love, though, the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor. This is a strong, vibrant, beautiful marriage relationship, and too many love stories end at the wedding.

These are not good candidates for back-to-back reads. I recommend letting each book breathe before venturing into the next volume of the story.

Lessman’s website.

Other reviews:
Booking Mama
My Friend Amy

Did I miss yours? Leave a link to your review and I’ll add it here.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.