Friday, February 4, 2011


So, because I'm a bibliophile--bookworm of the most severe sort--I discovered that my blog just isn't complete without some book reviews. I haven't been reading nearly as much as I used to when I worked for the library, but I'm making a comeback--it's one of the benefits of having a husband in the book-selling business.   So here are some delightful (this time) recent reads . . .

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A coworker had recommended this book over a year ago, and I never bothered picking it up. What a simplistic moron I was. Maybe I would have been more inclined had I seen this cover (isn't it stunning?!), rather than the one featuring an ominous set of dominoes.
The story is loosely based off of true and plausible events of WWII, but is researched and written so well that I often forgot I was reading fiction. It tells the story of Liesel, an  illiterate foster child growing up in Nazi Germany whose accordion-playing foster father teaches her to read after she awakens from horrible nightmares re-living her brother's death. Liesel's love for words drive her to book thievery--one of the most memorable being at a Nazi book burning--as she grapples with her realizations of the Fuhrer, the Holocaust, and the price of war. The characters and descriptions of every day life, emotions, and reactions to a darkening Germany feel remarkably real. My favorite part of the book? The narration/narrator (to tell you who it is would only spoil it).
When critics described this work as "life-changing" they were right on target.  Zusak is an artist of the highest degree. His narration style is very unique, being more inclined to prose than the most fiction with some of the most fantastic, endearing metaphors and figurative language I have ever encountered.  In his author interview, he said he likes "the idea of every page in a book having a gem in it" and he accomplishes exactly that. His characters are practically flesh and blood in their portrayal--I really grew to love all of them. Even though the subject matter is dark, the book itself is filled with several beautiful and hysterical moments. Near the end of the book, I actually cried--I'm sort of a  emotionless rock when it comes to emotional reading or film, so any tears at all is a HUGE big deal and means that the story is beyond moving.  It's an absolutely phenomenal book, stunning in its words, characters, and portrayal of one of the darkest times in history. This is totally going on my favorite list, and I will be hunting down every one of Zusak's books. The man's made a believer out of me.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Am I behind on the times or what? This book came out in like 2003 and the movie in 2007, and I'm just NOW getting to it? Silly me. As a portrayal of everyday life, and the political turmoil Afghanistan, The Kite Runner was stunning. Character development was almost tangible--Amir as a grown man at the end of the book is so drastically different as the little boy at the beginning but still the same human being. I love good character development, especially for the better. I love how the portrayal and understanding of Baba changes and deepends as Amir grows. I think Baba was really my favorite character. It's a very hard story to summarize--basically, Amir recounts his childhood with his friend and Hazaran servant, Hassan, and a devastating tragedy that affects Amir forever, haunting him as his country finds its monarchy overthrown and invaded by Russians, then further into his adult life in America. My only beef with this book? From that one event on, life just gets bad. There is so very, very little relief--it is just one tragedy after another after another after another after another after another. Well-written, fascinating, and emotional, but I just couldn't come to grip with all the "badness." I know that the real world is full of horrible things and that war-torn countries are devastating, but MY GOODNESS. It was like "Oh you think that's bad? Well how about this? Still not bad enough? Well guess what--it just gets worse . . . and worse . . . " Light at the end of the tunnel? Yes. Definitely worth reading? Totally. On my favorites list? Maybe it needs a reread before I answer that.

World War Z by Max Brooks

This is actually what's in my hands now as an on-going read (I'm a little more than halfway through). I find I'm growing to love it even more as I continue reading. It's set up as a series of interviews about the recent Zombie Wars in the "postwar" world. This was a little difficult for me, at first, partially because I expected it to be a zany comedy and it's not--it's a fiction nonfiction record of the Zombie Wars. Secondly, I had a harder time getting into it in the middle because it feels like it's missing key parts of a novel like an identifiable protagonist and an obvious plot. I realize now that that is part of the fun. Brooks does a brilliant job making you feel like there really was a global zombie invasion, that the world is slowly recovering from the slaughter. It's well thought out--I mean, seriously, this guy sat down and planned out what we would lose, what government and military initial reaction would be, the "Great Panic" once the public figured it all out, what a refugee camp would be like, the psychological, economical, political, and lifestyle effects. There are even records of different pharmaceutical attempts/scams. Every itty bitty detail is recorded in first person narration as Brooks "interviews" key political, scientific, and military players alongside civilians from all over the globe. Once I was able to appreciate this bit of genius, the book got much better, as it can be a little slow between harrowing zombie-encounter testimonies (the political discussions were not my favorite, but, I realize, a very necessary part of the book).  World War Z is not just another silly, frightening zombie tale. It's really a brilliantly disguised commentary on modern society. There's a fabulous moment where a body guard tells the story of the celebrities being filmed as they hide out in their fortified pad so the general public can observe their reactions to the zombie invasion while they party. Brooks also explores the government changes necessary in a complete collapse, the technical "necessities"--like laptops and DVDs--people drag with them into the frozen tundra waiting for the masses of walking corpses to freeze. The man has spent WAY too much time pondering this scenario, but it makes for a fascinating, thought-provoking read.
Is World War Z now one of my favorites? I'll have to finish it, but I recommend this to any zombie fan and anyone interested in a wacky form of commentary on the modern man.
The good news is that I will now know exactly what to do when the zombies really do show up. Thumbs up, Mr. Brooks. Thumbs up.


  1. Ahh! I love love LOVE the Book Thief!!!!!
    Such an incredible book. And I agree, the narrator is my favorite!

  2. LOVED The Book Thief and Kite Runner. Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns is a good read as well.

  3. I love that you're book clubbing now too!!! I've read everything except for WWZ - will DEFINITELY have to check it out.

    And I'm with Melissa. A Thousand Splendid Suns is beautiful and heartbreaking. A Must. For sure.

  4. I downloaded the Book Thief to listen to today...I tried, I really did...for the first 45 minutes...I didn't get it, and there was too much cussing...when the wife said her husband could lick her a....I was all done...sorry girlie I tried...


Good morning, Starshine! The Earth says, "Hello!"