Sunday, June 20, 2010

My heart was stolen by The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Through the sometimes scary nights of my childhood a book kept me company and helped me fend off bad dreams.  I was grateful to my friends Caddie Woodlawn and Jupiter Jones and the words that brought me comfort and sleep. My troubles were nothing compared to those of Liesel Meminger and her books take on a whole new importance in "The Book Thief by Markus Zusak."

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak uses unorthodox writing, characters and perspective to bring to life (or should I say death) the story of a young girl growing up in Germany during WWII.  There is much, much to this tale:

While Death may be the narrator and he collects souls along the way this is a story about living.
This is a story about getting through anyway you can.  Momma Rosa curses at a hard world while Pappa bows and lets life flow over him and he plays the accordion.  Liesel uses her books and words to help keep the nightmares at bay and Max wipes away the ugly to create something new and loving.
This is a story about acceptance but also about fighting when you can't do anything else.
This story is about love and hate.
This is the story of the power of words to heal, to love, to hate and to destroy.

This is not an easy book to read on several levels. In fact the first 20 pages are so strange in style I almost put the book down.  The writing style is very challenging.  Death goes on tangents and in the middle of a thought or description a big bold block of words tells you what he is thinking or wondering about something else.  It was really distracting.  I never did get completely used to it and sometimes I tried skipping the interjections to only go back and read them because I felt I should.  The subject matter is hard and depressing.  I am not really a fan of tragedy.  My life tends to be dramatic enough without the addition of fictional crises that end badly.
This book is sold as a young adult novel for 9th grade and above but don't let that fool you.  This is an adult novel.  Once into the story I was held by the tension and pace of this girl's will to make sense of the senseless.  I turned the pages quickly to find out what they were going to do with Max. I frowned with anger as they marched the Jews through the street to their deaths and no one spoke up.  I smiled and cried when Liesel gets her book back in the end.
There is much to this story and it feels relevant to our times with fears of terrorists and economic collapse always close.  People really just want to get by and usually do even in the worst of times and sometimes a good book can make all the difference in the world.
Read this book.

Other books by Markus Zusak:

Getting The Girl

Fighting Ruben Wolfe

Wilde Hunde


 Der Joker

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

C.J.'s Fate by Kay Hooper and Spellbound by Nora Roberts... The past is sometimes best left there

I am annoyed.  I really hate when publishers, authors, whoever re-release novels or short stories without informing the customers.  Why?  Have you run out of authors or product ideas that you must cheat by treating an old book like a new one?
Kay Hooper and Nora Roberts have a wonderful body of work.  I know they have new works on the horizon. They don't need to rehash or republish old books.  Not to mention these books aren't good stories.

C.J.'s Fate is over worked to the point of nausea.  If she used the word "wryly" once she used it 100 times.  Even for 1984 the use of "Indian" to refer to the hero is weird and inappropriate.  The heroine CJ is a research librarian for God Sake!  She would be educated enough to not use this terminology. Then there is the whole premise of her grabbing a strange man and yanking him into her hotel room in front of her life long friends and they let her!  How about no.  He was conveniently a good guy.  They conveniently were instantly attracted to each other.  There was a cabin conveniently available during a blizzard.  She is conveniently wealthy at the end and he is conveniently in touch enough with his feminine side to be ok with it.  I thought I might need an insulin shot to offset the sickening sweetness of this story.  I didn't look at the copyright of the book when I bought it and I wish I had.  I read so much I don't remember most of the fluff books that go through my life.  I wasn't 10 pages into the story when I knew this was an early work.  It just didn't have the polish and power of the Bishop series.  It was satisfying to know I was right.

Nora Roberts, shame on you!  You put out several new titles every year and I read every darn one of them.  There was no reason for Spellbound to be released at all let alone as a stand alone novel.  Why not let us know that it had already been in print once already?  Evidently this was originally part of an anthology in 2005.  I purchased this for my Nook.  Thank God I only spent $2.00 at Barnes and Noble because once you get past the the teaser, forward and publishing pages it is only 70 pages long.  A boring dumb 70 pages at that.  It wasn't as much a short story as it was an incomplete story.  I felt like this was a test story to see if you  would like writing paranormal. I am glad you did because I loved the Sign of Seven and Circle Trilogies.

Is it the economy?  Is it just cheaper to release old books with new covers to get another dollar from your readers?  It isn't the re-releasing of the book I have trouble with.  You can re-publish as many books as you want but in the name of truth and fairness print it on the cover that it isn't original.