Monday, April 29, 2019

The Book Thief Review


It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a singe object, partially hidden in the snow. It is the Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. 

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down. 

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time. 

This book was an assigned reading for my English class, so needless to say, I had pretty low expectations when starting The Book Thief. Also, I don't typically enjoy historical fiction. However, this was a very pleasant surprise, and an undeniably five-star read.

It was almost immediately that I fell in love with Liesel. I have a soft spot for characters whose authors have tortured them, and yet still manage to march forward. That, paired with her stubborn determination, and I have a new favorite. Well, actually second favorite. Like the narrator, Death, I will always adore Rudy Stiener the most.

I think that I have a thing for ornery characters. Like Liesel, Rudy has a hard time conforming to the harsh laws of Nazi Germany, and frequently steals things with her to blow off steam. They even join a band of boys and sneak on to farms to pilfer apples and potatoes. Rudy has been building his reputation as a trouble maker since he was a mere child, and ran around painted charcoal black in emulation of Jesse Owens.

Also, can I just say OTP?? I was seriously shipping these guys so hard.

Another couple that I loved was Hans and Rosa. Although Rosa was definitely the more abrasive of the two, I admired her determination to survive in their adverse conditions.

That being said, I think all readers will love Hans Hubermann. He was one of the kindest characters I'd read about, and loved every scene he was in. From when he sat with Liesel after her nightmares, to when he took in a Jew as a favor he'd promised over twenty years in the past.

Hans also struggled with a lot of internal conflict, which added just another layer of depth to the already moving story. Surrounded by the Nazis, Hans was part of the 10% of people who did not support them, as he'd had his life saved by a Jew in the past. He struggles throughout the story on what to teach Liesel, and with the relationships among his own family, as some of them were active members of the Nazis.

In addition, I thought that personifying Death, and having him as a narrator put a twist on the story that was not only unique, but fit the setting so well. In a time period swamped with suppression and death, who better to tell the tale than Death himself?

I felt that Zusak did an excellent job of portraying an accurate Nazi Germany. I'm well aware that had The Book Thief not ended the way it did, it would not have been as powerful of a book, because it would have been an unrealistic conclusion for the story setting. But still . . . I don't think I'll be able to think about that ending without tearing up. I read a few of the chapters of part ten while I was at school and I spent the entire time telling myself "don't cry, don't cry, don't cry." Let me tell you man, it got pretty close.

If you ever want to read a raw representation about what life during the Holocaust was like--read this book. It not only emphasizes the struggles of the minorities at the time, but of everyone else, as their peers were slowly brainwashed.

You can find Zusak's website here, and you can read a free excerpt of The Book Thief here.

Happy reading!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Book Review: Ten, by Gretchen McNeil


Don't spread the word!

Three-day weekend. House party. 

White Rock House on Henry Island. 

You do NOT want to miss it. 

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives--three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, which involve their school's most eligible bachelor, T.J. Fletcher, and look forward to three glorious days of boys, bonding, and fun-filled luxury. 

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly, people are dying, and with a storm raging outside, the teens are cut off from the rest of the world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn't scheduled to return for three days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on one another, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Image result for ten book

Age range: 13+

Pages: 304

Genre: Young Adult Horror

I typically don't read too many horror books, but I really enjoyed some of this author's other works. That being said, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

To explain it the best I can, this book is what would happen if a chick flick and a murder mystery had a book baby. Tons of romance, and also tons of gore. And while I totally shipped the romance that was going on, it seemed a little misplaced to me. Like, there's a manic running around and killing your friends off one by one, but sure, kiss in the rain. Not like there's more important things to be doing . . .

But, I totally loved the main character, Meg. She's awkward, and sweet and antisocial, and a writer. So, basically me. I gave this book to my mom to read after I finished it, and when she read then line: "Party equals fun. Woo hoo. Yay. Party," she went "Kara, this is totally you." What can I say? I'm a happy introvert.

via Giphy

All of the characters had their own voice in the story. There wasn't much room for any character development with them though, because, well, a lot of them were dead before the end of the book. Most of the character dialogue was okay, but some of the cheesier lovey-dovey lines were just that: cheesy. Like, aged-blue-cheese-crumble cheesy.

What I really liked about this novel was how every scene accomplished something. Whether it was building Meg's character arc, or sprinkling in a clue to the culprit, all of the chapters were essential to the plot. Tying in with her scenes, I thought she did a great job with her pacing. Although the story only took place over three days, the plot didn't seem rushed. The emotional journeys that Meg went through throughout the book made it seem that the story was longer than just one weekend.

The killings were all very strategic, and I appreciated the unpredictability of the plot-line. The only thing about the plot that I really disliked was the final reveal at the end of the book. Had this been the first Gretchen McNeil book that I'd ever read, I probably would have liked it. Buuut, this is the second book that I've read of hers, and the reveal at the end was completely the same as the one in #murdertrending.

If you think you'd enjoy Ten, you can read a free preview here, and you can find Gretchen McNeil's website here.

Happy reading!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Top Five Fictional Pranksters (aka The Fictional Loves of My Life)

Happy April Fools day! Although I'm not really doing anything this year, my brother and I used to be adamant about torturing our parents on this day. One of my proudest moments as a kid was when I filled balloons with water and stuck them in my parents' sinks so they'd have to pop them to get them out. (Watch out guys, I'm a rebel 😎)

It's safe to say that I will never fit the mold of a prankster or a rebel. But oddly enough, they tend to be my favorite characters. So--without further ado, here are some of the top fictional pranksters. 

5. Fred and George Weasley

Okay--so, minor confession: I never finished the Harry Potter series.

I know, I know--you can yell at me now. I started them back in 7th grade, and read up until the 3rd book. And then I just . . . stopped. *hides from angry mob* Although, I've read enough to know that Fred and George are some of the ultimate pranksters.

4. Josh Wasserstein 

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"The head called me into her office, because she wanted to make sure that we 'get off to the right start' this year. But she didn't give me detention. Not yet."

Josh appears in both Anna and the French Kiss, and Isla and the Happily Ever After, and he's kind of super awesome. I love all of Stephanie Perkins' love interests in her books and Josh is no exception. An uber-talented artist, and a frequenter of detention, Josh Wasserstein has captured the hearts of many a reader with his mischief making. (Even if it irritates his father, and every professor to ever teach him.)

3. Leo Valdez

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"I try not to think. It interferes with being nuts." 

A regular presence in Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus and Trials of Apollo series, Leo Valdez is a fan favorite. He's the son of Hephaestus, and regularly uses his mechanic skills to pull the ultimate pranks.

2. Clara Shin

Image result for the way you make me feel book
"Aren't you sick of detention by now?"

"Nope, I never get enough." 

Gotta love my girl Clara! She practically lives for her pranks, and works to make each one more elaborate than the last, even going as far as to douse herself in fake blood after being voted prom queen. (And then sets the stage on fire accidentally. But we won't talk about that. 😂)

1. Keefe Sencen

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"So is it strange coming here and not being the one on trial? . . . Because I'd be happy to help you break a few laws if you're feeling left out."

Are you really surprised? Probably not. Keefe Sencen is my favorite prankster, and one of my favorite characters in general. Now, if I could just find out what happened during his legendary prank, The Great Gulon Indecent. 😂

So, how do you celebrate April Fools (if at all)?

Review of The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, by Jenn Bennett

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci's...