The Bookworm's Library

A room without books is like a body without a soul -- Marcus Tullius Cicero

The Book Thief by: Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief Book Cover The Book Thief

Historical Fiction
Knopf Books
March, 2006

It's just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids - as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Wow!  This is one of my favorite books because it is so well written.  This is a story of beauty, horror, resilience and everything that is both good and bad about the human condition.  It is really one of the best fictional stories I have read about the World War II era.  Not to over-propagandize this one, it really does belong on a must read before you die list.  It is also one of those that — like Schindler’s List — you really don’t want to read, but know you have to.

One thing that sets it apart as a really unique story is through the narration.  Told through a third person narrative of the voice of death, it really gives insight into the troubling events, both large and small, that made up the horrors of World War II.  As strange as it may sound, the voice of death brings depth, insight and wisdom regarding humanity.  The weaknesses, strengths valiant nature and depraved character of men are all portrayed as aspects of individuals — and more significantly they exist in all people.

Another thing that I really loved about this book is Zusak’s use of color.  The red, black and white of the Nazi flag become central to the entire story.  These colors create the setting, the action and all the drama of the backdrop to a powerful story.  Each of these colors start with one interpretation and evolve into many different perceptions throughout the entire story.  They change and impact the story in subtle, graphic and powerful ways — giving both depth and reality to Zusak’s writing.

Each of the characters live and breath, making a powerful narrative.  These characters are drawn so as to make it easy for the reader to engage and step into the reality of this time and place.  The characters each portray the various ideologies, beliefs and characteristics that ultimately came together to cause the occurrence of the Second World War.  Liesel is particularly powerful, in that she is an orphan of communist parents, who has been placed in an adoptive family, where she first comes to know the power of relationships and love.  She evolves into a very sympathetic character who brings the rest of the supporting characters into a powerful foundation for the book.

Most who are familiar with the Nazi era, know of the reputation and role that books played in this troubling time in history.  This is the reason that books play a central role of the story.  Liesel’s passion for books, from the first one she steals to the last one she rescues, are all powerful commentary on the events that happened in Nazi Germany.  From the Handbook for Burials to the book rescued from the Mayor’s troubled wife — they each help her to form strong relationships with a vast array of characters, all of whom are both victims and heros in the the evolving story.

This book is really a must read.  It is elegant, well written and very much worth the time and effort.  It is a book that changes lives and beliefs — while challenging perceptions that we each hold of the human experience.

Words of Silk by: Sandra Brown

Words of Silk Book Cover Words of Silk

Grand Central Publishing
April, 2005

Laney McLeod's life changes the minute she gets stuck in an elevator in Manhattan-and relies on handsome stranger Deke Sargent to help her fight her claustrophobia. When the power comes back on, Deke and Laney find themselves in a passionate embrace that leads to a night of love. Shocked at her indiscretion, Laney disappears the next morning. Months later, she receives an even greater shock: Deke shows up in her life with an astounding announcement. Unable to forget the chemistry between them, but afraid that she's just another notch on this wealthy playboy's bedpost, Laney is about to discover an even deeper that she must face or forever lose the one man she can't resist

Like all readers, I have my go to shelf — filled with books that are life long favorites.  These are the books that I turn to when I am looking for comfort, companionship and simply a little time away from the madness of my world — into somewhere that appeals much more at that time and place.  Usually, this shelf is a last resort for a nightmare day, catastrophic event or life altering moment that I am struggling to deal with.

This is one of my chosen favorites primarily because there is nothing but escapist chick lit within these covers.  But, for all of that, I really enjoy the idealized story of boy meets girl; girl runs; boy chases and steam rolls his way into her life —  permanently.  This is one about the mythological, frequently scoffed at love at first sight, idealization of the love story that simply gives me a moment to imagine my life as I still like to dream it can be.

Both Laney and Deke are the personification of perfect characters, in that everything they do and say is easily anticipated and without let down.  They create a great, modern rendition of the Cinderella story.  Brown keeps the Cinderella story alive, while still adding the trappings of modern ideologies.  There isn’t a lot of depth in this book — but for the idealized summer beach read, this one is a great go to.

If the truth be told, I love Cinderella stories. They remind me that somewhere in this world — even if it is only in my mind — someone still believes in the perfect romantic happy ending. This book certainly fits that bill and sits on the same mental shelf as Pretty Woman. Completely escapist, completely indulgence and completely romantic fantasy at its finest. Brown does a great job of the short and sweet.

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