More Than Stolen Books

Markus Zusak‘s The Book Thief is another book that qualifies for the Irresistible Review Challenge. I found this book on The Hidden Side of the Leaf blog and a number of others. Only one more book to go for this challenge.

I want to start off by saying, this was not a book I instantly loved. I had trouble getting into the story for the first 80 pages are so because of the disjointed and disruptive narrator. I now understand the reason for the interruptions, given the narrator’s identity, but I still was not overly thrilled with it, particularly when major plot points, like which characters will die, are given away before the story comes up several chapters later.

***Spoiler Alert***

Anna and I discussed how given the fact that the narrator is death and we all know that we are going to die someday, it makes sense that Death would tell the reader beforehand what he knows, even though as humans we have no idea when we are going to die…just that we are. Though this explanation eases my irritation, I still think the narration could have been done differently.

The story begins with a young girl’s train ride to Molching. Her brother dies on the train ride and at his funeral, her thievery begins. She steals a gravedigger’s manual. This starts her journey of words and reading. Her mother leaves her with foster parents and never returns, despite all of Leisel’s hopes. However, she grows to love her foster family in the midst of the Nazi’s rise to power. While she is mostly sheltered from the atrocities surrounding her, and joins the Youth Hitler Group, she still remains naive in a way. She believes that humans are genuinely good, even though she and her friend, Rudy Steiner, steal apples and other items from friends, neighbors, and farmers.

She grows up as the war grows stronger and the German armies begin to trudge into Russia and Jews are marched through the streets to concentration camps. It is not until Max Vandenburg arrives on her foster parents’ doorstep. The Jew changes her life. While her Papa taught her to read, Vandenburg teaches her to dream, and the mayor’s wife teachers her to reach for the stars in spite of the sadness that enters her life.

***End Spoiler Alert***

There is a great deal going on in this book, and I would recommend it to young and adult readers. It’s a good work of fiction that takes a look at the German side of the equation present during the Holocaust. The Germans who feared their own government, disagreed with the tactics used, but also agreed that their livelihoods would improve if the Jews were gone. But it also is a story of how these individuals dig into themselves to find the best reaction they can to their given situations. Their humanity in the face of adversity is sometimes troubling, and sometimes admirable. While the book thief, Liesel, is stealing books and words, she is also stealing some of the Fuhrers’ thunder…his ability to use words to spur hate and death.

Anyone who also has reviewed this, please send me the link.

Also Reviewed By:

Austenland, the Theme Park for the Rich

Shannon Hale’s Austenland examines the twentieth century woman’s obsession with Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy, and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Jane Hayes, a very typical first name for a Jane Austenesque novel, is a thirty-something career woman in New York, whose mother is concerned that she has given up on love because of an unhealthy obsession with Mr. Darcy. An impromptu meeting with Jane’s Great Aunt Carolyn changes the course of this woman’s life when she is bequeathed a non-refundable trip to Austenland in England, which traditionally caters to the fantasies of the wealthy, trophy wives of powerful businessmen.

I saw this book on Eclectic Closet and added it to my list of Jane Austen spin-off reads. It also helps fulfill my Irresistable Review Challenge. I have only 2 more books to read to finish off this challenge.

***Spoiler Alert***

Jane is hesitant to take up the task of severing her ties with her Mr. Darcy fantasies in Austenland, but ultimately decides to go and reclaim her “real” self and her ability to have a relationship without worrying about how it would end before it even began.

She is a bit of a crazy character who numbers her boyfriends even if she only spent as little as a few weeks with them. She arrives at Austenland to be lectured by Mrs. Wattlesbrook about her finances and how she is not their typical client and that if she breaks the rules, she will be kicked out. Jane is uncomfortable in Regency clothes and manners from the start. The false manners and pretense grate on her nerves, which is when she begins to seek out some normalcy in Austenland and turns to the gardener, Martin. How cliche in my opinion, but for this book it worked. I was still rooting for Mr. Nobley…aka Mr. Darcy.

Through a series of bungling moments, Jane gets trapped up with Martin and untangled from him. She then falls into the trappings of Austenland and Mr. Nobley. By the time her vacation ends, Jane has grown and changed…become a stronger woman.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I like this book because it is entertaining. Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice are my favorite part of classic literature. I like how Shannon Hale builds up Jane as a lost, romantic career woman who struggles to find her perfect man. I like how skeptical the character is throughout the Austenland experience and how she struggles with herself to stay focused on the act and immersing herself in the role she is expected to play. I also enjoyed how this character learned that she should not have given up her dreams and her artistic outlet of painting, despite her move to graphic design on a computer. Hale does a great job showing the reader how Jane evolves. The final scenes are spectacular and kept me enthralled until its conclusion.

Also Reviewed By:
It’s All About Books (SUEY)
Book Escape
The Written Word
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore

Intricately Braided Family Quilt

Helen Frost’s The Braid takes the reader on a simple family journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the strange land of Canada’s Cape Breton in the Mid-1800s, while at the same time allowing us to follow the delicate yarn that stretches across the sea back to Scotland and Mingulay where the rest of the family remains. This book served three purposes for me: first, my Word Nerd partner, Jaimi, was inspired by this book to start her own writing; second, it fulfills the Irresistible Review challenge because I saw the book on two separate blogging sites ages ago—Here and Here; thirdly, it was very entertaining.

It was such an easy read, it only took me two short 15-minute Metro rides. I also didn’t even notice the intricacy of the book, its narrative poems, and its praise poems. Frost’s explanation of how the poems are interwoven together surprised me, perhaps because I was not looking for it or because it was so well done that I was not jarred out of the narrative by its style.

***Spoiler Alert***

Jeannie and Sarah are close sisters, who are separated by the Atlantic Ocean when Sarah makes a rash decision to hide away while the rest of the family boards a boat for Canada. Sarah stays behind in Scotland with her grandmother, while Jeannie boards the boat with her other sisters, brother, and parents.

Jeannie must step up to the plate in the New World and help provide for her family by begging strangers for food and shelter. She finds strength within herself. Sarah meanwhile succumbs to her emotional weakness, but turns out to be a positive for her. Jeannie, on the other hand, then transitions from an “adult” back to her childlike self.

***End Spoiler Alert***

This is another Young Adult novel that I would never have read without the advice of some great book bloggers and my Word Nerd partner. Helen Frost is a very creative author and this book is a simple story told in a unique way. I would love to recommend this to anyone who likes Young Adult novels and to those who just want a breath of fresh air.

Anyone else who has reviewed this or other books I have reviewed in the past couple months, please feel free to drop me your link. I will add it to my posts.

Haunted Is Not the Word That Comes to Mind…

Chris Palahniuk’s Haunted is a novel of short stories and poems. Let’s start off with the positive. This is the first set of short stories in a novel format that actually are cohesive. The poems paired up with each character are narrative in nature, but I noticed that the character of Mrs. Clark has the most short stories in the novel, which to me signifies she is the main focus of the book. However, she isn’t the main point of the book, which I can only describe as disgusting. I hit total utility with this book, which I read as part of the Irresistible Review Challenge. This book was reviewed by Anna at Diary of an Eccentric.

I want to caution anyone picking this book up that if you don’t have a strong stomach, do not attempt to read this. And I know what you are thinking: “It can’t be that bad.” My answer to that is: “It is and worse.”

The 17 members of the writer’s retreat get on a bus and head for an abandoned theater, which I can now only call the theater of horror. I won’t go into all the details of each character’s past, but I will tell you that their pasts pale in comparison to how they behave to themselves and their companions while on this retreat. Mr. Whittier, whom they deem the devil of their little show, is the catalyst, but whether he is worse or better than the rest of the cast, I am not really sure. I can tell you that he is very devious.

My one issue with this book, other than each story being more horrific than the last, is the ending story. The one-upping by the characters is not carried through, and I wonder if that was done on purpose or because the author himself ran out of things to do to these people in their stories and pasts. I also would like to comment that not all of these characters are haunted by their past lives or behaviors, but by themselves–their essences or their inability to change themselves. They are haunted by the incalculable lengths they will stoop to become the center of their “show.” They are haunted by their own lack of humanity and their inability to “save” themselves even when their salvation is before them. They remain focused and unchanged.

I guess that brings me to my second pet peeve with the book is that none of the characters evolve. Mrs. Clark, in particular, who is the most haunted by her past and her daughter, Cassandra, does not change. This disturbs me given that she insists she came on the retreat to discover what happened to her daughter and what her daughter saw in the nightmare box. She seeks answers that she doesn’t receive and then proceeds to fall into the same trap consuming the others at the writer’s retreat.

I recommend readers interested in this premise to be careful because the book makes you want to close your eyes and put the book back on the shelf. But curiosity draws your hand back to the shelf to reopen the book to find out what happens to these characters in spite of their faults. I guess in a way they got their wish and became famous.

Also Reviewed By:

Books & Other Thoughs

Blind Submission

Debra Ginsberg’s Blind Submission is another book I found through the book blogging world, and it qualifies for the Irresistible Review Challenge. I read the review of this book at Book Escape. While this book was deemed a mystery, I found it less mysterious than I originally expected. Whether that is because I am overly analytical, I don’t know. I did figure out the ending among the first mentions of the mystery manuscript, Blind Submission, but I was eager to see how the mystery unfolded.

***Spoiler Alert***

Angel Robinson is introduced as a book store manager of Blue Moon Books, but her book store is going out of business. Her boyfriend and writer, Malcolm, pushes her to apply to the famed Lucy Fiamma Literary Agency, one of the only literary agencies on the West Coast. Angel half-heartedly applies and goes to the interview, which she aces. Angel is beside herself that she interviewed successfully, but when she gets to the office, she feels a bit nervous about her ability to perform the tasks before. Angel quickly comes to realize that her boss is hard-nosed and a bit bipolar. She tells her to complete tasks one way and then complains when they are not completed the other way.

Eventually, Angel gets a handle on her job and grows a bit more confident in her position at the firm. She rustles the feathers of her co-workers. One of whom is named Kelly, but Lucy refuses to call her Kelly–Lucy calls her Nora and expects everyone to do the same. Nora-Kelly is an anorexic beauty, with little brains, while the other co-worker, Anna, is lazy and eager to please. Angel seems to be the only one excelling at her job. Meanwhile, the money man, Craig, takes the reins of the office in his hands to ensure the agency runs smoothly and the workers stay in line.

Meanwhile, Angel sells a major book, which Lucy takes credit for….eventually things spiral out of control at the agency and in Angel’s life. She breaks up with her boyfriend, becomes paranoid, and spends many sleepless nights reading over a manuscript that eerily mirrors her life.

However, in the process she finds love and direction to her life. The mystery of the Blind Submission manuscript unravels quickly toward the end of the book.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I’m glad I found this book at Book Escape. It was a worthwhile read, and I hope to see more from this author. I recommend that other pick it up and try it out.

Look forward to an upcoming book review later this week. And as always, fellow book bloggers, remember that I will add your links to my review posts if you review the same book.

Also, Please feel free to enter my Blogiversary contest.

And like a good blogger, I am posting information about a giveaway on The Written Word. Feel free to enter the giveaway and spread the word about her contest.

Another Giveaway at Maw Books for all the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer. Check it out, numerous ways to enter.

Check out this Giveaway at Booking Mamma for The Wednesday Sisters.

Another Blogoversary or Blogiversary at Diary of an Eccentric, check out Anna’s contest; It’s for knitters, yarn lovers, and bookaholics.

Blind Submission Also Reviewed By:
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore

If You Were a Talking Baboon

Cornelius Medvei’s Mr. Thundermug is an imaginative short novel chronicling the life of Mr. Thundermug, a baboon who inexplicably learns how to speak English. This is another of the books I am reading as part of the Irresistible Review Challenge.

I originally found the review for this book at Diary of an Eccentric, which is listed as book 38, I believe, in the recap. What a great look at the life of a Baboon as a human, or should I say ape in a human world.

***Spoiler Alert***

Mr. Thundermug, his wife, and his two children, Angus and Trudy, are all given names by Mr. Thundermug. The baboon soon realizes that he is the only one in the family able to speak and understand English when it is spoken. Through a series of run-ins with the Council on Housing, Thundermug soon comes to realize that he is governed by two contrary standards–that of human law and natural law.

His grasp of speech amazes many, while others ignore the baboon who speaks their language as if he were a figment of their imagination. I wonder if this book is another look at discrimination, but at the same time I wonder if there is another meaning altogether. Perhaps as humans we are not as superior to animals as we would like to suggest or believe. Perhaps they are wiser than we are.

***End Spoiler Alert***

It’s interesting to see a study of animal conditions from another perspective, rather than the human entering the world of the gorilla, for instance. The baboon enters the world of humanity and what he learns is striking.

Polysyllabic Spree

Nick Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree is an interesting look at what one man buys and reads in a given month. The commentary about his choices and his reads are fantastically amusing. It’s good to see that us readers and writers are not alone in our efforts to catalogue our finds and keep a running tally of our progress.

It was intriguing to learn how he chose his books in a given month and how one choice led to the others.

One thing I think I took issue with was Hornby’s contention that he has not felt like part of a music concert or show in a long time, like he can become part of the action in a book. I find that I don’t have this problem. I get into music in much the same way that I do books. I’m not sure what is different about my make-up compared to Hornby’s, but I am certainly not in the mainstream.

I’m a bit younger, so maybe that plays into it. I’m not sure, but I can tell you this. When I do make it to a concert (when I have some money) I am right there, in the crowd, with the crowd, in the moment of the song, and in the moment with the singer. Then again, maybe it isn’t just me, maybe it is the singer’s themselves or bands that create that feeling for me and others at the concert. I’m not sure. My favorite concerts are those with Godsmack. They always put on a crowd-involved show. I always leave feeling completely satisfied and pumped….ready for more…there is no total utility there for me. Maybe that has something to do with talking to the lead singer long ago before they were famous and I had no idea who he was…just an interesting guy to talk to between sets at a local concert venue for local bands.

Regardless, if you are feeling lonely in your list-making, just pick up Hornby’s book, and you’ll see there are a lot more of us out there than you thought.

This is just one of the books I have picked up and read because of another blogger’s review, so it qualifies for the Irresistible Review Challenge! One down, seven more to go between now and Labor Day!

The inspiring review can be found:
Things Mean a Lot

Other Reviews are here:
Books ‘N Border Collies