Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Book Thief review by Heidi

The Book Thief The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

rating: 5 of 5 stars
It makes sense to me that Death would not want to get involved in the lives of humans. He must do his job, be dispassionate. He explains quite carefully how he finds distractions in the colors, distraction from the ones he leaves behind, the survivors. So why does he choose to tell a story of a girl in Nazi Germany, a book thief?

Death first sees her when her little brother dies. Her mother is leaving her in the care of others, foster parents. Since this is Nazi Germany, I immediately wondered what would become of her. The girl finds her way with these new parents, with her new school, and you learn she can't read. Her foster father begins to teach her, with her first stolen book, "The Grave Digger's Handbook." Perhaps the title is what caught the attention of Death. Is it her innocent spirit that gets his attention? Is it her knack to find color in the world?

Even while a war rages and Nazi political-correctedness hovers over the lives of Liesel and her friends and family like stink over garbage, kids still go to school, compete in games, and find amusements to relieve their boredom. They also have secrets.

The language of the book is beautiful and compelling, and the reader, Allan Corduner, does do it justice. Listening had its pluses and made the storytelling compelling...but it's not so easy to backtrack if you think you missed an important bit. Indeed there's at least one drawing in the book that I didn't see while listening. I look forward to reading the book as well, which I will do for my book group in April '09. I listened to it quite a while ago but am quite behind with my book remembrances.

View on my blog here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Abundance of Katherines

Green, John. 2006. An Abundance of Katherines.

An Abundance of Katherines is about nothing and everything all at the same time. If it has a message at all, the message is that you write your own message, tell your own story. Our hero is recent high school graduate, Colin Singleton. And Singleton's problem is that he's single. He's got a long history of being the dumpee (as opposed to being the dumper). He's been dumped nineteen times--so he says--all by girls named Katherine. We first meet Colin after his nineteenth break-up.

Hassan is the best friend a half-Jewish boy could ever hope to have. (Did I mention he was Muslim?) He is Colin's sidekick. And their relationship--this friendship--is quite the motivating force behind the narrative. Two individuals who on their own might be a wee bit odd, but together they make a great team. A hilarious team. Colin is stuck within himself. As a person. He defines himself as the boy who's doomed to fall in love with Katherines and get dumped. That and he defines himself as a child prodigy (high I.Q) who's bound to grow up and NOT be a genuius, NOT matter. He defines himself as a failure. He hasn't found true love. He hasn't made a difference in the world. Half the time he doesn't even know if it's possible for his life to matter when it all comes down to it. He's stuck focusing on himself. All the time. Worrying about his future. Worrying about who's going to dump him next. Worrying if he's ever NOT going to be dumped.

Fortunately, Hassan wants Colin to get it. To learn that life is for living. So the two embark on a road trip. A road trip that soon takes an unexpected turn to an out-of-the-way town of Gutshot. There he meets Lindsay. A girl who while not a Katherine may just be the best thing that ever happened to him. Maybe. But first, he has to stop and ponder the meaning of the universe and write this unbelievably complex theorem on why his love life is so ridiculously awful.

First sentence: The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews