Set in Germany during the late 1930s and early 1940s, The Book Thief is partly a story about Nazis, a little about the Holocaust, and a lot about huma...moreSet in Germany during the late 1930s and early 1940s, The Book Thief is partly a story about Nazis, a little about the Holocaust, and a lot about human relationships and the shape of a human soul.
I almost didn't give this book a proper chance. I had trouble getting through the prologue because I thought the narrator's presence was too strong. I thought it seemed gimmicky to have Death narrate the story so much. But then I got into the first part and I fell in love with the characters and the heartache and the pain.
The Book Thief isn't the type of book that I felt compelled to rush through to see what happened next. I didn't read it quickly. Instead, this was the type of book that I read a chunk and then had to put it down so I could process what I read.
Zusak has written a very painful book in a very beautiful way. One that will tug at your heart and maybe step on it a few times by the end. The characters are so multifaceted and real that even though I knew what was going to happen to them, how they would die (because Death is kind enough to give some fair warning) it is still so upsetting.(less)
I'm sort of a sucker for a good period piece and for a strong female character and this book started out with both. It faltered, it wasn't perfect, bu...moreI'm sort of a sucker for a good period piece and for a strong female character and this book started out with both. It faltered, it wasn't perfect, but overall this book was strong enough that I enjoyed having read it.
Camille does not lead a typical life for a young woman living in London in the 1800s. She dresses in trousers as a boy and spends her nights hunting werewolves with her guardian (which makes the cover a little confusing since she so rarely wears dresses). That is how she meets Nathaniel Strider, the newest victim of a werewolf bite, who Dr. Bennett and Camille have one month to study and find a cure for before he transforms.
Where this book falters for me is when it gets caught up in the romance. The language becomes unbearable (Strider actually affectionately calls her a "sopping kitten" at one point); Camille herself becomes unbearable (she finds her bottom lip quivering in his presence and she also becomes a lovesick fool). But, I enjoyed the science in this book, I enjoyed that werewolves are still monsters and not romantic creatures. I also enjoyed some of the twists (although I definitely guessed the cure well before Dr. Bennett and Camille did).
Slight sort of spoiler that doesn't ruin any plot: My absolute favorite part of this book, that showed wit and actually made me laugh out loud, is when Nathaniel and Camille kiss in public and when they notice everyone staring at them, he says "I suppose I should have waited to kiss you when you weren't dress in trousers."
Spoiler The ending ties up a little too neatly a little too quickly (Oh, surprise, we're heading to Transylvania and we've surprisingly worked out a way for Strider to come too! Hope that one-month courtship is long lasting and not just a fling born of desperation and danger!)(less)
This book was recommended to me by a friend of a friend, so I was a little hesitant because I didn't know what sort of things she liked to read. Norma...moreThis book was recommended to me by a friend of a friend, so I was a little hesitant because I didn't know what sort of things she liked to read. Normally, I'm a fantasy/sci-fi gal. That being said, this book was possibly my favorite book of the year.
When Daniel finds the rare book by Julian Carax he probably never would have imagined he would become get drawn into a decades old mystery and come face-to-face with a man who wants nothing more than to destroy everything Carax has written. Daniel finds himself obsessed with learning about who Julian was and why someone has burned almost all but a few copies of the author's books.
There are so many twists in this book and Zafon does a wonderful job of pulling in the readers so that we, too, want to understand the mystery of Julian and the girl he loves Penelope. Fairly quickly we learn that Penelope and Julian did not get their happily ever after and it's unraveling what happened to them that makes this book so engrossing. And it's not just the story of the past that is intriguing, because Daniel is having some interesting adventures of his own: his sidekick has clearly run into trouble in the past and may not be who he say he is, there is a man who is not-so-subtly threatening Daniel to leave it alone, and also he's falling in love with his best friend's sister and it's mirroring Julian's own story.
I absolutely loved this book and I recommend it to anyone who is at all interested in intriguing plot.(less)
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair follows a young girl as she is forced to leave home in order to escape a death sentence for the conviction of being a wit...moreThe Betrayal of Maggie Blair follows a young girl as she is forced to leave home in order to escape a death sentence for the conviction of being a witch. I was read this book free through NetGalley.
The titular character was one I enjoyed because she was a fighter, although not in the literal way that say Katsa of Graceling was a fighter. Rather she didn't give up in the face of overwhelming odds and she proved her strength in a rather realistic way.
I greatly enjoyed Maggie's journey, the places she went, the way she faced trials and even how she dealt with the people, which were realistically different. She met some people who immediately took a liking to her, some who merely tolerated her and others who only wanted to get the better of her. (view spoiler)[ Although, really Annie had to show back up again? I think Annie was given way to much credit in that just about everything that happens to Maggie happens because Annie's a miserable human being, from being accused of being a witch to Uncle Blair being taken. Ugh, I really disliked that Annie was the "baddie." The way she got her comeuppance off the page and we heard about it as an "oh yeah, this is what happened to her" moment. (hide spoiler)] And I really liked Maggie as a main character.
That being said I knocked off two stars for things that bothered me throughout the novel. One was because I felt disconnected at parts of the novel. It have been because Laird tended to skip forward and summarize a few days or months in a sentence. It was a little jarring because then I became aware of the fact that we were skipping chunks of time. Maggie's emotions didn't come through well. I was told she was scared or sad, but I didn't feel them with her. I wasn't upset by a death in this book as I was in The Book Thief (which had me bawling like a baby at parts). I just felt like too much was told to us, rather than shown or letting us experience it as well.
The other was for something that although I understood why it was necessary, just was not up my alley: the religion. This book is heavily religious, not in that Laird is trying to preach to us, but that the characters, because of the time they live in and because of the conflict, are constantly preaching or praying or quoting/reading from the Bible. Given that some of the main characters are preachers, yes I get it. But after a while it was annoying and trying my patience to the point that I was skimming those passages to avoid it.
I had no problems with the actual conflict between religions. I get that. That's a fact of everyday life today and it definitely was huge at that time period. It just felt like I could have done without some of the Bible quoting.
If religion is something you want to avoid, then this book is probably not for you. But this is a good story if you can overlook the religion. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm now moving on to The Magician's Ward, but I finished the first book and wanted to write a review while it was still fresh in my mind.
Mairelon the...moreI'm now moving on to The Magician's Ward, but I finished the first book and wanted to write a review while it was still fresh in my mind.
Mairelon the Magician: This book was a fun read, complete with a mystery, double crossings, a search and more than one pistol. I thoroughly enjoyed following the storyline and trying to figure out what exactly everyone was up to.
This is the second book this year I've read where the main female character spends the majority of her time dressed as a boy. In Camille the title character does slip into dresses on occasion and changes from a strong character to one who fell ridiculously in love with a boy after knowing him a week. On the other hand, Kim in Mairelon the Magician never changes out of her boys' attire and is often mistaken for a boy (something she encourages by never willingly letting people know she's actually a girl). I liked that about Kim because it showed how guarded she is. At the same time I couldn't help but wonder how so many people could mistake an almost 17-year-old girl as a boy after spending a significant amount of time in her company.
This book had so many characters and the way they all came together was done wonderfully and, incredibly enough, humorously. Watching the characters, of all different walks of life and stations, was engaging because of how they clashed.
As much as I enjoyed the ride while reading the book, there were times when it unfortunately lagged. For instances, I didn't like the recaps. Wrede had a tendency to follow a scene with Mairelon bringing attention to a whole bunch of unanswered questions. As the reader I knew what the questions were, and I didn't need things repeated and slowed down. Also, the finale, as humorous as it was at parts, was dragged out for far too long with far too many explanations that needed going over.
Update (3/2/11): I just finished the second book, The Magician's Ward, and I enjoyed it so much that it more than made up for any issues I had with the first book. It was great to see the various ways the characters changed but still stayed enough like themselves.
The Magician's Ward is a finely woven web of mysteries and characters. Every new character, whether or not they were involved with the main mystery, had an overall purpose in the story and even better they weren't two dimensional. The unlikable society women weren't all that bad (even if Letitia is a snobby, gold-digging brat) and they could have been horrible caricatures simply created to make Kim hate them and those like them.
Kim was amazing. She went through a huge transformation and yet was still recognizable as that girl who dressed as a boy and lived on the streets. I very much enjoyed the inner conflict she has wondering who exactly she is. She spent so much time pretending to be a boy for her safety and now she's pretending to be a society girl it's what is expected as Mairelon's ward. Either way, she's clearly playing at being someone else. I can't help but wonder when she's going to have the chance to find out who she really is.
The cast of characters in this book was amazing. From Mairelon's mother, who was quirky but still very much conscious of societal expectations, and Renee D'Auber, who is just as cool as she was in the last book, to the various toffs Kim has to deal with and even Mairelon's aunt. I'm always a sucker for when you spend almost the whole book thinking about a character one way and then they decide to do something awesome that makes you reevaluate them.
And allow me to say that this is how I like my romance done. Subtle. Simmering. Natural. I would like to thank Patricia Wrede for creating a romance that I believed, enjoyed reading about and actually rooted for. Too often romances are so unrealistic and I get a headache from rolling my eyes in disgust (and this is coming from a girl marrying her high school sweetheart), but here I loved every moment where I could see the characters realizing their feelings for one another.
This book was so highly entertaining. I definitely preferred The Magician's Ward to Mairelon the Magician, but overall they complimented one another beautifully.(less)
This book starts out very slow and it isn't until halfway through that the plot picks up. But at that point it's very fast paced. However I was still...moreThis book starts out very slow and it isn't until halfway through that the plot picks up. But at that point it's very fast paced. However I was still interested in the first half because I found it very interesting to read another the way people lives, the constant fear they faced while living in the Soviet Union in the '50s.(less)
While an incredibly well-written book with a great mystery and an even better of ensemble characters, there is one thing to know going into it: there...moreWhile an incredibly well-written book with a great mystery and an even better of ensemble characters, there is one thing to know going into it: there is mention of torture. The hangman's job is to also torture people to get them to confess, and while those scenes aren't terribly graphic, they did make my stomach turn a little (although I might just be a total weakling when it comes to that stuff).
When children begin turning up dead with a witch's mark tattooed into their skin the town's midwife is thrown into the keep and labeled a witch. The townspeople are convinced she is doing it, but the hangman, who is responsible for torturing a confession out of the midwife, believes she is innocent. Now he has a week to prove who is really behind the murder of these children and the only help he has is his daughter and Simon, the physician.
I don't think there was a single character I disliked. Even the court clerk, who you're supposed to hate because he clearly doesn't care about the truth, just what is simplest and easiest, I didn't mind because at least I understood why he did the things he did. There was a reason to his indifference.
My biggest complaint about this book is the drawing out of the mystery. A character would unearth something that explains or helps them come to an understanding, but the reader isn't told what that is at that moment. Or every time there looks to be a breakthrough, something would throw a wrench into everything. I didn't mind it the first few times this happened, but this plot device was used to often that I eventually became tired of the teasing.
The other thing is that I don't know why the book is named The Hangman's Daughter. Magdalena is undoubtedly smart and does help, but she's almost nonexistent for the first half of the book. And even when she joins up, her father and Simon are still more of the main character's than her. It's like renaming the Harry Potter books Ron Weasley and the Sorceror's Stone, where Harry's still the main character and he goes off and does things without Ron or solves something and then has to explain them to Ron later.
But overall this book was very engaging and I found myself at work trying to read it on my phone so I could find out what happened next.(less)
What I enjoyed most about Across the Nightingale Floor was how the pieces were all set for the story to go a specific way and yet when the time comes,...moreWhat I enjoyed most about Across the Nightingale Floor was how the pieces were all set for the story to go a specific way and yet when the time comes, nothing goes as planned, which may seem like an odd thing to like about a book, but I thought it was nice here. (view spoiler)[I sort of liked that we were expecting Takeo to be the one to kill Iida and there was so much build up with the nightingale floor and after all of that Kaede gets to him first because he's a drunken perv. (hide spoiler)]
My biggest complaint about this book was the insta-love that takes place between Takeo and Kaede, which was a huge disappointment and a little creepy at one point: (view spoiler)[the part where they do it right after Kaede killed Iida and his dead body is still in the room. What? That's not romantic at ALL. Plus, Takeo actually mentions at one point that the more frail she looks the more he desires here (hide spoiler)]. The insta-love was even more disappointing because Kaede had the potential to be a really interesting character. I could see how she was growing, but she never really gets a chance to be as good as she could have and I sort of blame the insta-love for that.["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book was an absolute gem. Somehow Hobson managed to take witchcraft, steampunk, the old West and various fictional religions and create a wonderf...moreThis book was an absolute gem. Somehow Hobson managed to take witchcraft, steampunk, the old West and various fictional religions and create a wonderful adventure with two well-crafted but flawed characters.
Emily Edwards is just the time of plucky heroine I like. She’s a little crass, she can be improper and, best of all, she doesn’t become someone else when she finds love. And the thing I enjoyed was that as Emily fell in love with Dreadnought (coolest name ever), so did I. He was insufferable and incredibly obnoxious in the beginning. He was the guy who couldn’t help but correct you and rub your nose in the fact that he is smarter and richer than you. And falling in love with Dreadnought (for both the reader and Emily) is gradual, it creeps up on us and it’s utterly perfect.
The use of magic in this book was amazing. I liked how brutal and dangerous it could be. It brought a sort of realism to the story. And the villainous Caul was so very scary for me because he became less sane as the book goes on.
As a historical novel, I loved the little things Hobson put into the Native Star that helped me remember where they were in time. She mentions people (like President Ulysses S. Grant) and places (Central Park is being constructed in New York City) and it all served to help me really feel like I was back in time.
I really enjoyed the ride and can’t wait to read the next one. (The only reason it took me a week to read was because I was simultaneously reading A Song of Ice and Fire and those books are hard to put down!) (less)
If I could give this book 3.5 stars I would. I enjoyed it, but there is so very much to cover. There is no denying that Eleanor le Despenser led a ver...moreIf I could give this book 3.5 stars I would. I enjoyed it, but there is so very much to cover. There is no denying that Eleanor le Despenser led a very interesting life and that the times she lived in were tumultuous. However, I often found myself losing interest with the vast amounts of information that had to be imparted. A chapter could cover as little as a few months or as much as a year or two. There were sections of military campaigns, recaps of meetings and summaries of various other ongoings in the country at the time and these things slowed down the narrative for me.
All in all I enjoyed it was a fun and informative read. I didn’t know about some of Edward’s supposed homosexual tendencies, or really much else about his reign. I didn’t really care greatly for the majority of characters in this gigantic cast, but certain ones I truly liked (most of them were the children of characters introduced early on). And I was split on my feelings of Eleanor. She was, as Queen Isabella put it, “a fool” for about half the book. And constantly churning out babies. Although she had her interesting moments, (view spoiler)[particularly when she and the children were holed up in the Tower before and after Hugh's death (do we need spoiler alerts for history?) (hide spoiler)].
I didn’t love this book partly because while I enjoyed parts of it, others really failed to keep my interest.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)