Review: “The Book Thief,” Markus Zuzak

Rating:  4/5

Markus Zuzak’s The Book Thief is the story of a young German girl, Leisel Meminger, and her foster family living in Nazi Germany during World War II.

My absolute favorite part of this book is the narration; the narrator is Death, which sounds kitschy and overly dramatic, but believe me:  it isn’t.  It is understated and darkly funny and beautiful.   It is an interesting take on an omniscient narrator who actually has a name – and is familiar to boot.  The narration is actually in first-person, but it reads more like third person because the narrator isn’t actively involved in many of the events.

That being said, this is a story that takes place in Nazi Germany during World War II; we all know roughly what is going to happen. Maybe for that reason (or maybe not?), it took at least half of the book for me to feel invested in the events, rather than just the narration and character development. The first parts of the novel read like a fish-out-of-water story, as Liesel meets her foster family and settles into a new town, new school, and new friends.  Once that happens, and she starts to come into her own as a character, it becomes easier to focus on the events, rather than the characters themselves.

The character development (as it intertwines with the narration) is where The Book Thief shines.  Although Leisel isn’t the narrator, we see each of the characters through her eyes.  It seems at first as though the characters are stagnant, and to be fair their natures do not change much.  However, we see Liesel’s development through each of the characters surrounding her; as she grows and develops, the personification of the other characters changes slightly.  The characters are molded by the events in their lives, but their characterization in the novel itself is molded by Liesel’s changing perception of them.

There is a film adaptation of The Book Thief out now, which I have not seen.  I will definitely check it out once it comes to Amazon or Netflix; I’ve heard that it’s very good both on its own merit and as an adaptation.

Quick Second Thoughts: “Shadow of Night,” Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy)

Shadow of Night is the second book in Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, after A Discovery of Witches.  I read it for the first time last spring or summer, and I wasn’t terribly impressed.  I reread it over the last week or so, though, and I found that my impression of it had completely changed.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a drastic change based on a rereading in the past – usually if I like a book, I’ll like it more on rereading – if I don’t like it, I won’t reread it (maybe that’s why!).  It’s not so much that I didn’t like Shadow of Night the first time through as it just didn’t make me excited about the final book of the series.

I reread both A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night within the past month, and I enjoyed both far more than I did on the initial reading.  They both have such long character lists (and there are so many new characters introduced in Shadow of Night), that I think the books were easier to enjoy when I had a basic understanding of the character lists.  More than that, though, I was able to treat them as individuals – the first time through the series, I expect all the books to be like the first book.  When I didn’t have that expectation, I enjoyed them both much more because I didn’t compare them to one another.

I will do a full review of the entire series later this year.  The Book of Life, the third book in the trilogy, will be out on 15 July 2014, so I’ll be reading it as soon as I can get my hands on it;  I am much more excited now, and I’m so glad that I reread the first two books!

2014 Resolutions

I’m about a week late (and has it really been six months since I’ve posted anything?), but I wanted to share my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014:

1.  Read 50 books:  Yes, I’m going to set the same goal.  I honestly don’t know for sure if I made it last year, but I suspect I did not.  Most of the books I read were re-reads, though, and I want to get away from that.  I will allow myself 12 re-reads within those 50 this year, so I have one a month.  I will start this just as soon as I can manage, since I am currently re-reading (and about 2/3 of the way through) Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness.

2.  Keep the blog updated:  This goes hand-in-hand with #1, but I don’t only post about books.

3.  Make it to the gym 6x per week: 3 days of strength training and 3 days of cardio.

4.  Cut down on processed foods:  Again, this is an “as soon as I can manage” because I have so many processed foods in the house currently and I hate throwing food away – but I’m going to try not to buy any more.

5.  Be more patient:  Just generally be a happier person, I guess.  I have a temper and get anxious, so I’m going to try and keep those in check.

6.  The vanity ones:  keep my nails polished, wash my face and use moisturizer every night, and try to vary my jewellery.