Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I'm on my "must-read-more-classics" kick and I started listening to this on the CraftLit podcast. As good as the audio was, I did what I normally do, got impatient, pulled the book from my shelves and finished it. Yes, I listened to the book when it has been sitting on my shelves for years. Don't judge me.

A big cup of coffee and the early morning today had me finishing the book. Thankfully, it was too early for the dog and she left me in peace while she slept.

So why did I get impatient and go grab the book? Because this turned out to be a really fantastic book. Yes, classics are classics for a reason BUT some are rather dull and just not my cup of tea. This one, however, had all the drama and horribleness that one might find in a high school with a bunch of teenage girls. And it was set in the late 1800's so really, people haven't changed all that much.

We are learning about "fashionable" New York from Newland Archer's POV in this novel, as he is bred as one of the wealthy and high society young men out to rule New York. Thankfully, he's somewhat not quite the guy you think he is going to be. He's engaged to May Welland and when her cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska, comes to town after leaving her husband, things start getting dicey....fashionably.

Ellen is unusual, having lived abroad, she isn't of the normal New York elite (although her family is) and she has the tendency to want to be with artists, writers and others of a "peculiar sort". Newland, I think in spite of himself, is attracted to her. And thus we begin a tale of lost loves and high society drama.

I did like Newland because he proclaims that woman should have the rights as men, to be free and make their own decisions. Despite being stuck with his upbringing and the rules of society, he does think outside of those norms. Acting on that is a whole other story.

Listening to the elite discuss other elites, discuss Ellen and other strange people, reminded me so much of high school. A lot of the things said irritated me however, Wharton handled the book brilliantly. While she was of high society in her past, she is able to accurately described how the elite lived as well as being able to poke the necessary barbs at them.

The writing may be daunting for some, at first glance, but I urge you to keep going and just enjoy the ride. This is an excellent classic to put under your belt.

Monday, October 28, 2013

We must catch up!

I have failed to keep up with my reviews of books. I've been in a knitting frenzy so the book reading has taken a bit of a backseat. It's the holidays, after all!

Here's a brief synopsis of what I've read:

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
The 2nd Percy Jackson which I read because I want to see the movie. Plus I knew it would be a quick read.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Audio book recommended by Books on the Nightstand. It was ok. I think I expected more of an apocalyptic sort of tale, since the Earth's gravity is slowing, but it wasn't. Still an ok story.

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton
I love this series. I love that it's still set in the 80's and they have no internet, cell phones or helpful computers. I really did enjoy this one.

Getting ready to start Joyland by Stephen King and working on The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (through the CraftLit podcast).

Last Saturday, I went to Beef and Boards, a dinner theater place in Indianapolis, to see Les Miserables. The food, as always, was excellent and the production was simply amazing. The singing was overwhelmingly stellar. I have the book on my kindle and will be tackling that now.

Les Mis is at Beef and Boards until November 24th.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Once again, Books on the Nightstand recommended an amazing book! This one is Marra's debut novel and I'm just jealous. It's so beautifully written, so uniquely constructed, that it feels like an old soul wrote this. I can't wait to read more of his work. The BotN review said you clutch the book to your chest when you are done. I forgot about that, but I really did hug this book when I finished. It's that good.

We are in Chechnya and, while technically, we focus on a few characters, the lives of the characters are rich enough to pull others into their orbit and we learn about them as well. Eight year old Havaa manages to escape to the woods while Russian soldiers abduct her dad (it's called disappearing and is frightfully common). She teams up with family friend, Akhmed, who is a pretty poor doctor but a wonderful artist. He squirrels her away to a hospital to stay in hiding with a doctor named Sonja.

While the present day story that encompasses the above characters takes place within a week, we move back and forth between past and present for Natasha, Sonja's missing sister. For Khassan and Ramzan, neighbors of Akhmed who turn out to have a heavy hand in his fate.  For Dokka, Havaa's father. Each chapter has a timeline at the top so you won't get lost in the past :)

The book is beautiful and heartbreaking and inspiring. I did not know the extent of the war in Russia and what it did to the people who were left behind. It's devastating and you want the characters to triumph.

Marra lists many books in the back that give more info on the war and Chechnya. I see extra reading on the horizon.

More info on Chechnya

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

I've had this book on my iPod for ages. I don't have a clear reason why I kept skipping over it to listen to other books. I finally decided to give it a go since, for a week, I had a longer commute than normal.

I couldn't stop listening to this story....

It's just a basic story, set in the art world of NY, which Martin knows a great deal about. We mostly revolve around Lacey Yeager and her conquests of everything from men to the art world. She is not someone I would want to know personally and through the book we discover more about her that would make the reader happy when setbacks happen to her.

The book is "written" by her friend, who is an art writer, and details Lacey's rise from the 90's through today through the art world, beginning at Sotheby's. We never get clear details on some "mishaps" in the beginning but they are revealed later. There's no mystery, no murder, no anything really. Just an intriguing story that reels you in and educates you a bit about the art world.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I read this on vacation as well and though I didn't review my other vacation reads, I did want to do a small review about this one.

I was terribly excited to download this to my kindle and spent my evenings on my balcony in Florida, overlooking the beach, reading. It's a very short book but it's such a wonderful story, so beautifully written that it packed the needed punch.

While it was told from the point of view of a child, this is not a YA book. We never find out the narrator's name (but we do find that names are quite powerful indeed) we do meet Lettie and her family.

There is magic of some sort in the air around the Hempstock's farm but I truly do not want to give away anything because I had such a good time discovering everything in this world.

Please do read this one.

Vacation reads

I read 2 books as beach reads this year and started a 3rd. The first 2 I left behind at the hotel and hope other beach goers enjoyed them as much as I did. :)

I'm not particularly going to review either since vacation was several weeks ago but since they were decent reads, I do want to recommend them.

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

From Goodreads:
Jasper Fforde has done it again in this genre-bending blend of crime fiction, fantasy, and top-drawer literary entertainment. After two rollicking New York Times bestselling adventures through Western literature, resourceful BookWorld literary detective Thursday Next definitely needs some downtime. And what better place for a respite than in the hidden depths of the Well of Lost Plots, where all unpublished books reside? But peace and quiet remain elusive for Thursday, who soon discovers that the Well is a veritable linguistic free-for-all, where grammasites run rampant, plot devices are hawked on the black market, and lousy books—like the one she has taken up residence in—are scrapped for salvage. To make matters worse, a murderer is stalking the personnel of Jurisfiction and it’s up to Thursday to save the day. A brilliant feat of literary showmanship filled with wit, fantasy, and effervescent originality, this Ffordian tour de force will appeal to fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse. Thursday’s zany investigations continue with Something Rotten. Look for the five other bestselling Thursday Next novels, including One of Our Thursdays is Missing and Jasper Fforde’s latest bestseller, The Woman Who Died A Lot. Visit jasperfforde.com for a ffull window into the Ffordian world!

The Society by Michael Palmer

From Goodreads:
At the headquarters of Boston's Eastern Quality Health, the wealthy and powerful CEO is brutally murdered. She's not the first to die --- nor the last. A serial killer is on the loose and the victims have one thing in common: all are high-profile executives in the managed care industry.

Dr. Will Grant is outraged by a system that cares more about money than about patients --- and he intends to do something about it. But his determination has attracted a dangerous zealot who will stop at nothing to make Will his ally. On the case is rookie detective Patty Moriarity. To save her faltering career --- and countless lives --- she will have to risk trusting Will, knowing he may be the killer she's hunting

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz

Sixth in my beloved but somewhat annoying series by Koontz.

I adored the first one, didn't care for the second, loved the 3rd, etc. from there on out. There were several pieces to the sixth book that I really enjoyed, a change from the formula.

Odd Thomas is a special fry cook, currently unemployed. He's stowing away in a house on the water with Annamaria, the ever-pregnant mysterious woman from the last book, and with Tim who is also from the last book but is such a bit player here, I forgot who he was.

Odd goes in to town for staples, jeans and socks, but because this is a Koontz book, he never gets his jeans...kind of.

Odd has a talent for seeing lingering spirits of the dead and being drawn towards things. In this case, he is drawn towards an 18-wheeler and, for his efforts, nearly gets shot in the crotch. Um.... it's really going to be a bumpy ride.

Alfred Hitchcock is his spirit companion and Boo the spirit dog is still around as well. Children are going missing and Odd is the only one who can save them, with the help of spry Mrs. Fischer.

The book speaks in riddles, so will my review. This is a good one, not great, and with such an ending that I have to believe the next Odd book is nigh.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown

I think I read this at the wrong time.

I had just finished A Discovery of Witches when I got this from the library. I have enjoyed all of Brown's work so I didn't stop to think that the exhaustive detail from ADOW would have worn me out so that I didn't enjoy Brown's exhaustive detail nearly as much. Overload.

Langdon wakes in a hospital with a head wound and amnesia AND someone trying to kill him. Oh and he's in Florence Italy, when the last he remembered he was in Boston. A pretty young doctor, Sienna Brooks, helps him through this very Dante infused mystery. As I said, I was not into the amount of detail, although I'm sure it was all interesting, but I persisted because I knew that Brown would turn this world on it's head.

And he did.

I refuse to give anything away but I was pretty satisfied with the weird twist and the ambiguous ending.

I need a much simpler book to rest my brain now.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This didn't turn out like I thought it was going to be.

I suppose I was expecting more.... plot and less romance between a vampire and witch. I choose not to read up on anything about this book before I tackled the 24+ hours of it from Audible.com. So with the positives, I really enjoyed the narrator, she was quite good.

I was ok going into this book because the (sub)plot of the bewitched manuscript and Diana Bishop being threatened for it. But enter Matthew Clairmont, vampire scientist/doctor. I was still alright with that for a bit. I was pretty much fine when the plot became the subplot and the romance got the spotlight (I do not read romance, nor do I want to).

I started cringing though because of Diana. She was a petulant child. I felt that most of what came out of her mouth (with some literal foot stomping) just sounded like a whiny brat. I cringe harder when Matthew kept calling her brave and a lioness. I wanted to slap the crap out of her.

This is the part that I have trouble with, the whiny adult falling in love with a "big strong man" who constantly picks her up and carries her. UGH.

I did like a lot of the other characters, however, and might read the rest of the trilogy for them. Miriam, for example, speaks like I do. Blunt, to the point, deal with it. Marcus, Matthew's son, could have a grand role to play in the next book as well as Sara and Em, Diana's aunt and her partner. Loved them, loved the ghosts in the Bishop house and Sophie and Nathaniel. So how did I end up hating Diana SO much?

Ah well...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini's 3rd book and I'm an official fan. I guess I thought the first two could be flukes (no I didn't, they were wonderful).

I wasn't entirely sure where this one was going. We started out with a fable, then went into the journey of little Pari and her big brother, Abdullah. They are with their father, walking to Kabul from their little village to meet with their uncle Nabi. It's not like I would give anything away by saying more, but I would, because I want you to take the same journey and weave through the story like I did.

Hosseini gives us an amazing story that, with the one act that happens in Kabul, pulls in so many other people in it's wake. I was astounded at the book's end and wistful that I could write like this someday. We're taken from Kabul to the US to France to Greece and all the stories are connected over a span of many decades.

Just beautiful.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

I heard about this in a roundabout way. Books on the Nightstand (again!) did a podcast on what was on their nightstands to read. Another book by John Boyne was mentioned but this one was also referenced. The library had this one so there I had it.

I read this fairly quick as it's pretty small (200+ pages) and .... speechless. I never saw the movie and I went into this book cold, no looking up plot or reviews or anything.

It's set in Holocaust time and our young protagonist is Bruno. He's 8 and his dad is in the German military and high ranking. Bruno is horribly upset when they have to move because The Fury promoted his dad. It took me a second with the wording because Bruno IS just a child. They move to Out-with and, outside Bruno's new bedroom window, is a fence with a lot of people behind it.

While exploring, Bruno comes upon a little boy, about his age, wearing striped pajamas on the other side of the fence.

At first, it was a touching story, and then it just punched me in the heart. Kudos, Boyne.

Silken Prey by John Sandford

Funny story with this book. I've been trying to budget and pay off some debt so I grabbed this one from the library. It was a nice night out so I grabbed some wine, my book, and my dog and went outside. Long story short.....red wine spilled all over the book. It cost me $33 to replace at the library but the book is mine to keep, wine and all. (Apparently me going in and showing the book and offering to pay right then was unheard of.....everyone behind the desk kinda gaped at me).


This is one of the better Preys. Lucas Davenport seems to have a bit of the old magic back. He's called in by the Governor to quietly investigate a politician who has been accused of appreciating child pornography, but the Governor doesn't believe this is true. Lucas agrees and goes head first into dirty dirty politics. Yowza.....but politics is ugly.

Taryn Grant is Porter Smalls' opponent and losing but when Smalls is framed with the porn, she starts gaining points in the districts. She is quite the woman....and I don't mean that in a good way.

I'm thrilled that Kidd showed up in this one, as did that Fuckin' Flowers. I'm not disappointed at the ending because I can see this leading elsewhere (at least I hope so).

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I was doing so well, listening to Jane Eyre through Just The Books, since I started late, I had hours of audio to listen to on my commute. Then..... I caught up. Then.... I had to wait for each chapter to come out each week.

I broke.

I went to my kindle and got the free version and dug in.

Each year, I make a point to really tackle a classic. This year is Bronte, this sisters. And I, admittedly grudgingly, set in to listening to Jane Eyre. I am amazed at how much I loved this story. It's a classic, to be sure, but it's incredibly modern in the characterization of Jane. I adored her and how independence and outspokeness. That must have been quite the stir back in the day....

Basic plot line below, spoilers!

Jane's parents die while she is very young and she is sent to listen with an aunt and uncle. The uncle passes away as well and the aunt, and cousins, want nothing to do with Jane. She is sent to a school for poor orphans, basically, and being Jane, does very well. She moves from there to Thornfield to be a governess for a Mr. Rochester's young not-really-his girl.

Love ensues but whoops, there's a lunatic in the attic....Jane moves on to Morton.

Good fortune finally arrives at Jane's doorstep but she never forgot her love, Mr. Rochester. She heads back to Thornfield only to find ruins, in more than one place.

Ah, what a delicious story. Jane is a wonderful character and, for the time period, incredibly original and strong willed. I'm very happy I read this one.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gulp by Mary Roach

I can't say enough about how much I love Mary Roach and her books. I love weird little facts and she obviously does too. Each book has given me enough to thoroughly creep out and disgust my friends. Gulp is the icing on the cake.

Adventures on the alimentary canal is the subtitle and Roach takes us from mouth to anus on a journey through our food tube. In the beginning, we eat. We learn about saliva, how we chew. Then we head to the stomach (why doesn't the stomach eat itself? It does. We basically have a new stomach every 3 days), to the intestines and out the chute.

Something might be wrong with me in that I read this book even while eating dinner. To quote the book, I've become "numb to the ick factor". I've had Ulcerative Colitis and had a lot of my diseased and pre-cancerous gut removed. I have an ileostomy. Poop and the ins and outs (no pun intended) of the gut just doesn't faze me at all.

I was really happy with the light that was shown on IBD and ostomies. Even if it was brief, it's a much better light than we normally get. Amazingly enough, it was interesting reading about fecal transplants (ick factor!) and how transplanting the healthy bacteria of a gut into a gut ravaged by UC or Crohns could actually save the colon.... well, it brought a tear to my eye!

I can't recommend Mary Roach and her books enough!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

I forgot where I heard about this one....so sorry for no links to it. However, I spotted it at my library and remembered the name from some past "I need to read this" state.

This is a really great first novel about a young teenage June Elbus. Awkward, the weird girl, horribly shy.... she is only herself around her Uncle Finn. It starts off fairly quickly, letting us know that Finn is dying and painting a final portrait of June and her big sister, Greta. We learn quickly, too, that in 1987, Finn is one of the victims of AIDS. Very misunderstood and ousted in that decade, he is clearly the Prince Charming in June's life though. After his death, little pieces of people start floating to the top and June starts putting them all together.

Things start to make sense, no matter how hurtful they were.

Brunt portrays the sister relationship in a very real way. Being a little sister myself, this was very much a realistic portrayal of the problems sisters go through. Everything in this story is about relationships interacting, mending and resolving. The hope of June, the faith of June in her Uncle Finn, helps everyone move past the past and get on with the present.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wonder by RJ Palacio

2013 is starting to really be the year of great reads. Wonder was recommended by a blog by NRG Joan of Dark. Since I was hemming and hawing about what to read next, I just checked my library for all the books she recommended and Wonder popped up as an e-book.

What a wonderful book! I wish I did have the time to sit and read it in one sitting but it didn't work out that way. I actually loved this so much that I chose not to go to Half Price Books during a lunch with a friend, just so I could keep reading this. So I sat in my car, eating Indian food from a food truck and read. Perfect. Lunch.

Wonder is about a family, The Pullmans, but it revolves around the little boy, August. He was born with severe facial deformities and was homeschooled his entire life. This book covers his first year in a mainstream school as a fifth-grader. Despite the many, many surgeries he has had, he is still very much different from everyone else.

The book has sections for the kids. August is first, then we hear from his older sister, Olivia, his friends, her friends, etc. All the kids have a point of view about August and the Pullman family.

Obviously, school is very rough. It's never easy being different from the other kids (oh, this brought back bad memories of school) but August is a champ.

Wonder really did my heart good. I got teary but I was mostly very proud of August and his friends and family. HIGHLY recommend.

American Grown by Michelle Obama

I picked this up from the library knowing it wasn't anything but some fun reading. I'm trying really hard to gear up for gardening this year and figured a book about the White House garden would spur me in the right direction.

Obama is a charming writer. Her enthusiasm for what she is writing about comes through. She is very clearly happy about the garden and what it is teaching everyone who comes and volunteers to tend it. They invite hordes of schoolchildren to help out and celebrities come as well.

Since getting involved in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) I've been really desiring fresh food. I've not been successful with growing but this book did give some pretty good tips on gardening. Got to say too....the fact that they also keep bees at the White House for honey makes me so happy! That's another thing on my list of hobbies I'm researching.

This is not a political book, just a fun overview of the White House garden and the Let's Move project.

Just a Thought: Jane Eyre

So I started listening to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte on the CraftLit podcast. I've since switched over to her Just the Books podcast, not because I don't like crafty, because I do, but I was to eager to get to the book part.

I'm continuously blown away by how good some of these classic novels are and how, by being forced to read them in a dry classroom environment, so many people shy away from them. I LOVE reading and even I shy away from classics.

This story, so far, is just enthralling and so incredibly well written. Listening as I am, it's going to take me a while to get through the book, as chapters are doled out through the podcast. I'm ok with that because of the commentary from Heather Ordover of the podcast. She's a teacher and points out so many nuances that I think I would have missed otherwise. It's like sitting and chatting with a smart friend :)

Another way to grab this book without waiting on a podcast is through Librivox. TONS of books are free for the taking here and so very worth the perusal.

Ok, that's it for this for now. I've just passed chapter 11 and am getting ready to dive into 12.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In Session by MJ Rose

I do believe this was a free download from Audible.com and the downloads/proceed went to charity. I figured it was a worth a shot to try new characters and authors. Besides, it was only 1:45 hours long.

I wasn't all that thrilled. The main character, Dr. Morgan Snow, is a sex therapist and she did pretty much what I can stand in books...over analyzed everything and everybody.

As a somewhat pleasant side effect though, I did get interested in the other characters from other authors (Steve Berry, Lee Child, etc) so I might look up some of their work.

This was a cool premise: MJ Rose worked with the other authors to incorporate their characters in to her characters world. Cool premise, but her character just was annoying.

Ah well....

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tenth of December by George Saunders

I've not heard of Saunders nor read anything else of his before. This is my first time dipping my toes into his world.

Once again, I heard about this from Books on the Nightstand, and I decided I needed to rediscover my love of short stories. Thankfully, I just got a credit from Audible and went ahead and downloaded this book. After reading an article, on January 3rd, that this was the best book of the year already, I was doubly intrigued.

I have to say my one regret was listening to it rather than reading and savoring it. The author read the book but I felt he went to fast, although I understand why. The stories almost all called for some intensity, some rushed feeling. I wanted to read it instead simply because of the WTF moments. The "What did he just say??" moments. Saunders slips in these moments without blinking an eye, like they are the most natural things ever, and it takes a second, when listening, to realize what just happened.

Because hiring people to have wire strung through their brains and hanging as lawn ornaments is PERFECTLY logical and mundane.

What? Yes.

I don't recall all the names of the stories (another problem with listening to the audiobook) but I did enjoy them all and was pretty engrossed in each one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I asked a friend, if I wanted to try Preston and Child, where should I start? He promptly handed me Relic. I'm actually surprised to learn, looking at Goodreads, that this was a Pendergast novel. I guess I'm surprised because, while Pendergast was a good character, I didn't think he would spin off into more. I was wrong, I guess!

I will have to say I enjoyed this one and will look for more books by Preston and Child. I'm a science-y type of gal and I found myself skipping some of the more science/plant/stuff to get to the meat of the book.

The Museum of Natural History in NY has become home to a beast of sorts that is fantastically killing museum staff. Fantastic as in GORY. Without giving to much away, the killings and beast are linked to an expedition many years past, whereas a "curse" was brought back to the museum.

In a weird way, everything made sense and seemed probable, which I liked, up until the Epilogue.  I really wish I hadn't of read that and just left it where it stood. For some reason, it annoyed me to have the magical stuff thrown in at the end.

Ah well.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey

There are 5 Wool books and this little Omnibus puts them all in one collection. I heard about this from the CraftStash podcast and since it included knitting I'd thought I'd give it a try. WAIT!!! STOP!! It's not a knitting book! Come back.....

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside. (Goodreads)

This is a bizarre apocalyptic collection about people who live in underground silos because the outside world is toxic now. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in this silo and it's basically functioning world in there, complete with castes and people in their places. Mechanical in the down deep (over 130 levels below ground) and Law up top (first floor). The silo is so large there are "hotels" on several floors because it simply cannot be traveled in a day.

We start off with the current Sheriff, Holston, climbing to his death (really, this is the first sentence of the collection). We learn that he lost his wife 3 years prior and he's decided to punish himself with the capital punishment the Silo mets out. A cleaning.

From there we spiral down into a world that is just bizarre and frightening. The people in the silo learn things that they were never supposed to know -Truth spreads like a virus - and uprises are organized.

If you like sci-fi, apocalyptic works, I highly recommend Wool. Get the collection. If you don't, you'll instantly regret it when the first book leaves you hanging.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bite Me by Christopher Moore

As an audiobook, this was well done enough to annoy the hell out of me. The reader did the idiotic Goth girl voice so well, I wanted to slap my iPod.

This is a love story. In a way. It's #3 in the series of Tommy and Jody, vampires from San Francisco. I haven't read a Moore book yet that hasn't made me crack up laughing and, once I got past the Goth girl voice, this wasn't any different.

Tommy posted an ad on Craigslist for a minion and Abby Normal, Goth girl and vampire-wannabe shows up for the job. This book is told mostly through diary/blog entries from Abby, but throws in other perspectives of other characters as well.

All of the characters are really pretty good although I especially love the Emperor of San Francisco and his men, Lazarus and Bummer. The Emperor is a homeless man who takes on the duty of protecting his city against the vampires. His men are dogs and Moore always translates dog speak for us - and it's hilarious.

Vampire kitties, old ones coming to San Fran, little sword-wielding Japanese men, fake Rasta men....This book has everything you need to satisfy your funny bone.

(and it's a better love story than Twilight!)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It's possible that this book got to me because I'm highly emotional right now, but I doubt that. I think it got to me because it's an amazing book.

The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany and follows a little girl named Liesel Meminger as she goes about stealing books. That is the plot at its simplest.

It's so much more than that though. The Book Thief is narrated by Death. At first, it was slow reading for me because I just wasn't sure I was ok with Death telling me a story. But, Death turns out to be quite empathetic and a wonderful storyteller. Of course he is. He's seen it all, humans at their best and at their worst.

Liesel is sent to live with a foster family, The Hubermanns. She had just lost her brother and had just stolen her first book. She's unable to read but the book had a strange pull on her so she took it. Once her new Papa found out, he decided to teach her to read. Papa clearly became her favorite although Mama was rough, she clearly loved Liesel as well.

This book and the books Liesel stole have one thing in common. Words. Words have the power to help and heal and the same power to destroy and control. This is obvious with the rise of Hitler, who used the words to his advantage and managed to create a horrific time in history. It's also obvious with Liesel, who, although she stole books, she used those words to heal. She healed herself, Max, her parents, the mayor's wife.

Zusak's writing style is magnificent. It did take me a bit to read this simply because I couldn't stop going back and re-reading sections. In Zusak's world, words are physical. They "are hurled over the shoulder", "ascend the staircase", "are punched into the air".

I admit my eyes kept leaking at the time of the air raids, when Mama becomes more than the character she began as. She becomes Liesel's mother, her arms engulf Liesel out of fear, her "pride is crayoned on her face" as she describes how Liesel helped everyone in the air raid shelter by reading to them.

My eyes full on exploded water when Death stepped in to do his job. The passages were beautifully written and heartrending.

This is the book that got my reading mojo back. I've been wholly uninterested in reading lately and just picked it up off my bookcase because it was there. Now I want more.