“The Book Thief”—A Book Review

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a remarkable tale. Set in Germany during the Holocaust, this story is narrated by Death. Yes, I’m talking about the Grim Reaper himself. You can only imagine the things he has witnessed.

 

“It’s probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler’s reign, no person was able to serve the Fuhrer as loyally as me. “

“I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling amount the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.”

 

At the beginning of the story, Death meets a little girl named Liesel. She is on her way to live with a foster family outside of Munich, because her mother can no longer adequately care for her. Death becomes enraptured by this little girl, and (even though he shouldn’t) he begins to follow her.

Liesel is a child growing up in the midst of a world war. Times are tough, money and food are scant. What initially draws Death to Liesel is her book thievery. Liesel was very poorly educated upon arriving in Munich, and her foster father, known to the girl as “papa”, takes the time out every night when Liesel awakens from her usual plaguing nightmares, to read to her and teach her to read and write properly.

As you can guess, throughout the book the war progresses, as do the hardships Liesel must come to bare. Liesel is forced to join Hitler Youth, and be a “good little German girl.” But what happens if you don’t agree with what Hitler says?

The answer is: You keep quiet about it.

Many of the characters in this story completely disagree with Hitler’s message and agenda, but they say nothing out of fear. Because to reveal anything other than complete compliance is basically suicide. You would be publically shamed and taken away from your family. Submission was the key to survival.

At one point, Liesel’s foster family ends up harboring a Jew, because of a long ago promise and a debt to be paid. This is an extremely dangerous act of courage. If the family is caught with a Jew in their basement, the outcome isn’t even imaginable.

“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day. That was the business of hiding a Jew.”

The one thing that Liesel has found to keep her going is reading. It is through books that she learns to build self confidence, imagination, and find an escape from the horrible times. But the thing is, in 1940s Germany, books aren’t easy to come by. Most everyone has lost their job and rations are limited, making things like books nearly impossible to acquire.  

The solution? To steal them. Now, Liesel doesn’t go on some rampant stealing spree, taking everything she can get her hands on. In fact, the acts of stealing are far and few between. She only takes a book after she has read one in its entirety.

“As Liesel would discover, a good thief requires many things. Stealth. Nerve. Speed. More important than any of those things, however, was one final requirement. Luck.”

As the story continues, you are not only shown Liesel’s life, but Death describes to you the pitfalls of his job. For during a war, deaths are plentiful.

“They say that war is death’s best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thing, incessantly: “Get it done, get it done.” So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss however, does not thank you. He asks for more.” 

Through the eyes of the narrator, you will see that the war was not only difficult for the humans that had to endure it, but for Death as well. Witnessing firsthand the destruction Hitler caused, Death so desperately wanted a new hope—a hope that humans had a purpose and were capable of something other than causing another’s demise.

“Prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.”

It is through following Liesel that his faith in human kind is constantly restored.

“That’s the sort of thing I’ll never know, or comprehend—what humans are capable of.”

 

I have to tell you, while reading this novel, all I could think was, “As much crap as I have to deal with and suffer through in my life, at least I didn’t have to live through that.” The way the life of a Jew was painted was truly heartbreaking, for they were made to feel like they didn’t even deserve to be alive. Their lives weren’t worth the jeopardy they put the people hiding them in. Many often had the mindset of, “Why do I deserve to be the one who got away?”

To be made to feel like you are so insignificant of a specimen that you aren’t even worth trying to save is a thought that nearly brings me to my knees. And you can barely even call the conditions they endured “living.”  And all of this brought on from the thoughts and words on one horrible human being.

I give this tale four out of five stars. This definitely isn’t a read that can be rushed through. It’s a long narrative, but it definitely makes you think.

“In Honor”—A Book Review

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In Honor by Jessi Kirby is more than just a story about grief. It’s a story about how to find and except yourself after you lose a love one, and how to being rebuilding your life.

Honor’s brother, Finn (a marine), was killed in action in Afghanistan. Aside from the aunt that raised them from children, he was the only family she had left. Ever since their parents died, Finn was always there to protect honor and with him gone, she can’t seem to make since of her life without him there to guide her.

After they find out Finn has been killed, the last letter he wrote to Honor arrives in the mail. When she opens it, she discovers concert tickets for the last show their favorite singer will ever perform. Trying to find a way to honor her brother, Honor decides to take his ancient “classic” Impala on a road trip from their hometown in Texas out to California, with an unexpected travel companion for company.

Traveling several miles through the desert in an old car, Honor and her brother’s best friend argue, sit through mounting awkward silence, and even exchange unforeseen sexual glances.

Not only does Honor have to figure out how to navigate this world without Finn, but she has to find a way to forgive herself and others for not being exactly who she thought they were. Sometimes learning that the world isn’t strictly black and white can be a tough pill to swallow.

I give this coming-of-age novel three out of five stars.

 

“He always told me to look strong, even if I didn’t feel it, because sometimes that’s all you can do.”

“The 5th Wave”—A Book Review

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All I can say about The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is “wow.”

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Let me start off by saying that I am totally not into aliens and planetary takeovers, etc, but even though this is exactly what this book is about, at the same time, it’s totally not. It’s about humanity and survival.

An alien mother ship looms in the sky, the power has gone out, tsunamis and plagues have hit, the majority of the human population is dead. Only a few remain, and here are the rules:

“The first rule: Trust no one. Which leads to the second rule: The only way to stay alive as long as possible is to stay alone as long as possible.”

Cassie’s mother and father are both dead, and her little brother, Sammy, was taken away by “soldiers.” Cassie made a promise to Sammy when the soldiers took all of the kids away on a yellow school bus…that she would find him and come back for him.

Cassie is alone in the world, fighting to keep her promise despite the fact that she doesn’t even know if Sammy is still alive. For all she knows, she is the last human being on Earth, amongst many who “appear” to be human.

“Using the ratio of infected to clean here at the base, we estimate that one out of every three surviving human beings on Earth is one of them.”

“If the enemy looks just like you, how do you fight him?”

This story takes you to the heart of the only thing that really matters in this f*cked up world—love. After all, love is what makes us human, separates us from “The Others.” Fans of Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds are sure to absolutely love this pulse pounding, harrowing tale.

I give this book five out of five stars!

 

 

“I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but I felt that, when it came to God, there was a broken promise in there somewhere.”