Monday, May 24, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is a great book. I've taken awhile to write up this review because there is just so much to talk about. It was recommended highly to my by many friends, and now I recommend it to the rest of you!
It is told from a very unique perspective, Death. During the first part, the style was kind of bugging me, but after I got in about 50 pages or so, I was really hooked. I also hated the violence, especially when it was directed at poor Liesel.

The Book Thief takes place during World War II, so of course it is filled with sadness. And like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, it shows the horrors of war no matter which side you are on. It was very interesting to read about the less obvious ways the character's lives were affected by war, ways you don't usually think of. Thankfully, like Man's Search for Meaning, or Life is Beautiful, it shows the triumph of the human spirit, and the power of kindness. SO that is good!

I loved Liesel and her relationships with Papa, Rudy and Max. The characters are great in this story. Very original and well developed. While you feel terribly for all of them, none of them are pitiful. They have these small victories that make them heroes. For example, one day after finding a coin and buying one piece of candy to share (they count their sucks), the book says, "The day had been a great one, and Nazi Germany was a wondrous place." And you actually feel that way.

I love books that focus on the power of books. Liesel is at least 10 before she really learns to read, and then it becomes central to her life. I always love that. She underlines the words she doesn't know then paints them on the walls of the basement to practice. So great.

I enjoyed Death's narration more than I thought I would at first. He often foreshadows by saying, "the next time I saw him..." or talks to the reader directly about the significance of a moment, like "he put his arm around her, best-buddy style, and they walked on....You can love Rudy for that, if you like." And again, that's exactly how you are feeling.

One of my favorite parts in the book is when Liesel is reading aloud in a crowded bomb shelter and, "A voice played the notes inside her. This, it said, is your accordion." Her Papa was an accordion player, and it had brought comfort to many people through out the story. This was such a magical moment when she realizes the gift she has to share and bring comfort to others.
I really liked this book. I've mentioned it tons of times, but I enjoy how novels written for a young adult audience can touch on difficult topics, but still protect you from horrific details or imagery. This book made me cry, and did find its way into my dreams, but I wasn't haunted by nightmares.

What did you love about it?

Friday, May 7, 2010

The May Queen edited by Andrea N. Richesin

subtitle: Women on Life, Love, Work, and Pulling it all Together in Your 30'sAttention: This is in no way a self-help or motivational book (COLBY!)
What this book is, is an interesting collection of essays by women about their 30's. Many of them center on moments of enlightenment or change. Many are about motherhood and marriage. But the editor did a fabulous job of getting a variety of writers. She explains that there was "no single image of womanhood that we are striving for." The subject, writing style, life style,
each is refreshingly different. And I think because of that I felt like I was gaining all sorts of different insight and ideas. And you know what? It was motivational for me. I didn't feel unaccomplished, or like I've put my life on hold for the last 11 years since I started my career as a mother, not at all. But it did get my mind going. I love that all these women have lived different lives, but the point is we all have something to say.

I kind of felt like I was reading a literary magazine. The stories are all short and worked great when I only had a few minutes to read here and there. I'm kind of sad that I've run out of them!

Three more things I liked:

1) Each chapter started with a quote. I'm a fan of that.
2) Most of the essays had digressions and ramblings. I'm also a fan of those.
3) At the back of the book is a photo and short bio of each of the women. I flipped back to see the women over and over. I loved that part.

Here are a few quotes from the various authors:

"I could tell her that, in a way, the pressure's off, and that there's a new set of challenges ahead." Jennifer Weiner

"They are friends who have stuck around since I was five and friends who I was smart enough to spot when I was older." Sara Woster

"Thank G-- all those men were just not that into me. They did me a bigger favor than I could have ever known." Veronica Chambers

"I was able to muster the courage to take a step toward my deepest dream while still staying light enough on my feet to follow the path when it took a most unexpected turn." Tanya Shaffer

"No matter what the journey you chose, if you hang on, it will ultimately lead you to discovering your true nature." Samina Ali

"I ran through a roster of all the men I knew. And I realized there wasn't one whose face I wanted to see staring back at me for the rest of my life--except my husband's." Heather Chaplin

"I cried through the mask as John held his dangling body up for me to behold...And from then on, everything up to that point in my life was utterly insignificant." Erin Cressida Wilson

"Twenty years of writing was only practice to do that thing that everyone I went to school with did right away..." Erin Cressida Wilson

"For me, at least, going to the margins was something I had to do as a younger feminist, but to stay there would just be admitting I couldn't handle the rest of the world." Jennifer Baumgardner

I loved this last quote because I think it rings true of any extreme views, including religion. What good is it to set yourself apart if you can't participate in the world? I was thinking of working together for good, sharing opinons, evening influencing people. You can't do that if you ostracize yourself.

A few of my favorite essays:

Wide Awake by Marisa de los Santos (the reason I found this book)
She explains the feeling of getting up early with your toddler to keep him from waking up the baby, then goes into how she arrived at the decision to have kids. As with everything she writes, it's her words and phrases that get me everytime.

A Hungry Balance by Julianna Baggott
She writes about balancing, or not balancing, being a mother and a writer. How she knew she must have a family and write, if she gave up one she would resent the other. I loved how she didn't tell people she was a writer, but instead told them she was a stay-at-home mom, knowing the sterotype that would occur. I loved this essay.

I'm the One by Erin Ergenbright
She writes about bad relationships, and one particular break-up. She writes about coming out of it and finding herself.

A Random Sampling Age Thirty to Forty by Ayun Halliday
This was creatively done in lists. Lists of things that she did or didn't do in different decades of her life, goals she had, things that didn't happen to her, things that affected her. I enjoyed reading these.

To All the Men I've Loved Before by Amanda Eyre Ward
She writes a series of letters addressed to the men she has loved, like old boyfriends dating back to childhood. They are funny, interesting, and seemed honest. I loved this idea, and think it would be fun to write up my own.

This collection might be one of those things you can only like if you relate to the time of life. I really liked reading them, and reflecting on them. I recently turned 35, and have been reflecting on that quite a bit myself.

I'd love to hear which ones you liked if you pick this up!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland

I loved this guide. It had a ton of tips that applied to me, and tons that did not.

My 10-year-old read it as much as I did. I found it very helpful both before and during our Disney vacation.

I checked it out from my library and kept it until it was determined "lost" and I was "charged," but I live in a nice library district and they don't really charge you as long as you return it.

And consider this mini-review an explanation for my blogging absense. Fun family trip, fun out of town guests, not much reading time.

But the children's book blocking my library card was found last night. My husband, my hero. Now I'm back in business.