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 careful...moreIt 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 minuses...it 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.
It's rare for me to read a book twice, but I'd forgotten I really did read this before. Sadly, my brain is getting more like a sieve and there were ma...moreIt's rare for me to read a book twice, but I'd forgotten I really did read this before. Sadly, my brain is getting more like a sieve and there were many parts I did not remember so I just kept reading. Do not let my leaky brain be a sign of the book's merit, because it is a good book for teens, a bi-girl coming of age story. A prestigious summer school for gifted kids provides the backdrop for all that teen drama. I look forward to reading the sequel. I don't know how this woman does it...works full time as a librarian (and she's a great librarian), writes teen novels, writes zine comics, and keeps a blog.(less)
One of my daily email reads is Unshelved, a comic strip about a strip mall library. (I swear they have informants for story lines from my library.) Ev...moreOne of my daily email reads is Unshelved, a comic strip about a strip mall library. (I swear they have informants for story lines from my library.) Every Sunday they have a book review, and this is where I heard about this book. These Sunday strips are really quite good as 'book talks'. The sardonic character Dewey gets a chance to reveal why he's a librarian.
Spy kid adventures, secret underground passages, girl power. The mysterious Kiki Strike, is she a good girl, or bad girl? She seems to have no weaknesses, many secrets, and brings out the best in brainy girls of a certain type. They are the Irregulars. Bonus, the narrator lists bits of knowledge throughout the book (girls like lists) that are useful to have, such as how to trail someone, how to disguise yourself, and what to do in an emergency or if attacked. Her list of things to see in NYC make me wonder if they really do exist. Plague victims buried in Washington park? Stone Street, with buildings from 1835? Underground passages in Chinatown?(less)
Rosie talks about believing things happen for a reason, and how sometimes she just knows things. Other times, not as deep, but profound, she has sping...moreRosie talks about believing things happen for a reason, and how sometimes she just knows things. Other times, not as deep, but profound, she has spingles. Spine tingles. When she recognizes those significant times, she feels compelled to follow up. In Find Me she tells of an obsessive quest to help a young woman. She recognizes a certain narcissism in wanting to be a superhero, sometimes to the detriment of her own family.
All the while reading this, I found myself thinking, but of course you're a bodhisattva! I found myself composing the short emails to her blog, thinking if it was meant to be, she would find me among the thousands of other messages. How I would tell her a bodhisattva is an enlightened codependent. She says several times in the book that she is not easy to love, with this obsessive superhero complex. I have to wonder though, if that has changed, or really, what her love Kelli would say to that.
Rosie transforms some deep scars regarding her mother's death through her obsessive superheroish love. On The View her best friend from the age of 3 said that what people might not know about Rosie is how generous Rosie is. When cohost Joy said, "The world does know," Jackie said, "No, you don't." Rosie shushed her. She doesn't want the world to know what a tremendous superhero giver she is. Another bodhisattva clue, I would say. She sees the selfishness in her love, but she keeps turning it over for the benefit of the world. She doesn't want the accolades for giving, she doesn't do it to feed her narcissist self.(less)
Yang Erche Namu (Treasure Princess) cried a lot when she was a child. In a land where shamanism mixes with Buddhism, her mother was instructed to name...moreYang Erche Namu (Treasure Princess) cried a lot when she was a child. In a land where shamanism mixes with Buddhism, her mother was instructed to name her child by going to a certain place and having the first person that came along name the baby. That person was Lama Gatusa. When she had her name, the baby would stop crying. She didn't, exactly, but she did go far. She became a popular singer in China, and eventually found her way to the US. I especially liked the time she spent with her uncle on the mountain, herding animals, like Heidi with her grandfather. The wild vistas shaped her to be slightly different than her peers, even in her unusual Moso culture.
Someone sometime recommended this book to me as an example of society that practiced non-monogamy. Whereas polyamory today is usually different for different folks, this ancient form has some very prescribed rules. It is in a place so remote, nestled between China and Tibet, the anthropologists are still working on defining the cultural groups. There are many distinct cultures in this area, something I did not know.
Women run the households, with their brothers and uncles sleeping across the hall. Lovers visit the women in their "flower rooms". When communists swept through they wanted the people to live in monogamous marriages (why was that, if they were not religious I wondered). The people tried it, but went back to their old ways. However, Yang Erche Namu resisted accepting a lover in her flower room. She instinctively knew that if she let love happen, she wouldn't leave her small village. Through her singing, she did, eventually winning her way into a prestigious school of music. (less)
The Colbert schtick works better on TV, so I skimmed through for the nifty photos, diagrams, stickers, and other things that won't translate to voice....moreThe Colbert schtick works better on TV, so I skimmed through for the nifty photos, diagrams, stickers, and other things that won't translate to voice. Otherwise, I plan to listen to it.(less)
I've never been to Burning Man, nor am I likely to go. Flipping through this book gave me a glimpse of the creativity and images found there. There's...moreI've never been to Burning Man, nor am I likely to go. Flipping through this book gave me a glimpse of the creativity and images found there. There's a bit of reading too, you can get an overview of the history, some background about the giant artwork. I seriously thought about sending it to my nephews, themselves artists and tinkerers but not yet unbound by Wisconsin.(less)
I skimmed through this, curious after a mom recommended it to other moms on an email list I frequent. It looks like a good parenting method, a way to...moreI skimmed through this, curious after a mom recommended it to other moms on an email list I frequent. It looks like a good parenting method, a way to give consistent consequences without emotional baggage. To stop bad behaviors, you count each one, to three. No talking, no escalating.(less)
Best read over time, pick it up, read, put it down, mull over a poem...a sample....
Homcoming by Wendell Berry
One faith is bondage. Two are free. In the...moreBest read over time, pick it up, read, put it down, mull over a poem...a sample....
Homcoming by Wendell Berry
One faith is bondage. Two are free. In the trust of old love, cultivation shows a dark and graceful wilderness at its heart. Wild in that wilderness, we roam the distance of our faith; safe beyond the bounds of what we know. O love, open. Show me my country. Take me home.(less)
Guests gather around the fire on Christmas eve and tell ghost stories. One, Douglas, was not so impressed as the others. He says, "But it's not the fi...moreGuests gather around the fire on Christmas eve and tell ghost stories. One, Douglas, was not so impressed as the others. He says, "But it's not the first occurence of its charming kind that I know to have been concerned with a child. If the child gives the effect of another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children--?"
"We say, of course," somebody exclaimed, "that two children give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them."
Thus in the first page you find out why this title. The narrator claims he must send for the pages about the two children, written by his sister's governess, and dead for twenty years. He claims she was "awfully clever and nice." The story was of her first experience as a governess, and her encounter with ghosts having a strange connection to her two charges.
James referred to Bluebeard as the inspiration of the story.
Debates continue to this day as to whether there were ghosts, or the woman was mad, this due to the fine craft of Henry James. I lean toward the madness angle, but I'm not sure. It's worth reading again, it could depend on the reader's state of mind at the time.
I'm still wondering about the significance of the tale-telling at Christmas time.
Basically the middle of a long book that makes up the trilogy of His Dark Materials. Lyra meets Will. Will meets the Subtle Knife. They travel between...moreBasically the middle of a long book that makes up the trilogy of His Dark Materials. Lyra meets Will. Will meets the Subtle Knife. They travel between worlds. Lyra's mother sometimes seems good, sometimes seems bad. If one reads the first, this one is essential.(less)
I was attracted to this book because it is written by a Korean American about a Korean immigrant girl. We get the girl's view from the time just befor...moreI was attracted to this book because it is written by a Korean American about a Korean immigrant girl. We get the girl's view from the time just before she emigrates to the US at four years old until she prepares for college. I think these kids who must straddle two worlds are fascinating. They translate for their parents, and are often quite smart due to the brain power cultivated through bilingual dexterity. Her first person view is maintained throughout the book quite well, consequently what is not said is just as significant as what is said. Her four year old voice, quite poetic, and the author handled her growing awareness of her troubled home skillfully. The writing is spare and direct, and for some reason kept me a little removed from those emotional aspects. Perhaps that was an aspect of the character, a girl escaping inwardly from the drama of a raging alcoholic. A quick read, but not as compelling as I thought it might be. (less)
I save my audio books for walking. We've had some windy rainy weather here in the Pacific Northwest, and while it wasn't quite so bad here in Portland...moreI save my audio books for walking. We've had some windy rainy weather here in the Pacific Northwest, and while it wasn't quite so bad here in Portland, in other parts of the state tens of thousands of people were without power for for several days, and floods made rivers out of streets and basements. I liked this book, but it wasn't quite compelling enough for me to brave the rainy sidewalks or finally join the old-school gym a block away. I imagine it might be more compelling for the readers of intended age.
The reader is talented, takes on different voices for the different characters. As narrator, he addresses the reader, or in this case, listener, directly. This mouse, Despereaux, prefers to read books in the library rather than eat them, like other mice. He also gets unusual ideas for a mouse from a book he loves that begins, "Once upon a time..." Since he lives in a king's castle, he doesn't have to go far to find a princess, and a quest just like a knight. (less)
I liked the world created in the first book, the Grey intersection between the regular world and the world of magic and spirits and beastly creatures,...moreI liked the world created in the first book, the Grey intersection between the regular world and the world of magic and spirits and beastly creatures, but I thought the style could get better. I decided to check out the second to see if the author improves. Not really. She relies on our previous introduction to the Grey to give us a fairly standard poltergeist mystery. I think I'll catch up on Anita Blake instead.(less)
I love a good fairy tale, and this was one was based on one I do not remember encountering before, Maid Maleen. A princess is locked up in a tower for...moreI love a good fairy tale, and this was one was based on one I do not remember encountering before, Maid Maleen. A princess is locked up in a tower for seven years because she won't marry the king that her father chose for her. She says she loves another. At least she has her maid. The author encountered the tale while seeking inspiration for another book, and found herself asking questions about the maid. "What did she do to deserve such punishment? How did she feel about being locked away?" Ms. Hale was frustrated, so she wrote the story herself, about the maid. We also get to find out why the princess was so adamant about refusing to marry that other king. As the title reveals, they don't spend seven years in the tower in this tale. An interesting side note, while the author made this all about the maid, there are other similar fairy tales that really do have the maid taking center stage.(less)
This was suggested for our library book groups by the County Health Department. If a book group chose to read this, the department would contribute th...moreThis was suggested for our library book groups by the County Health Department. If a book group chose to read this, the department would contribute the books, and send a pandemic health department expert to the group. We chose this for our November read.
Jessica, our pandemic expert, was excited about this opportunity to work with the library, and the greater visibility the department could gain by partnering with the library. She'd heard the author on NPR, and started planning from there.
We readers enjoyed the background history we learned, not only about the flu epidemic, but about the unions, the Wobblies, feminists, and their influence in the Pacific Northwest. As a group, we felt the characters and plot failed to live up to the subject. (It's unusual for us all to share the same opinion, to be fair our numbers were small just before the Thanksgiving holiday.) I tend to enjoy a plot that is driven by interesting characters. This seemed more to us like the author had a plot in mind, and created characters to fill those roles...not so believable to us. One person summed it up, that it seemed to be written with the movie in mind. She already knew the actors: Tommy Lee Jones for the town's leader, Jude Law for Graham, the stiff-upper-lipped young man just trying to protect his family. I was a little annoyed at the implication that an attempt to create a utopia was doomed due to human nature. Another felt the book started out well, but then got too simplistic.
One of the first things Jessica told us is that this story is a good illustration that quarantines don't work. I'd been wondering about the effectiveness of the masks. Wouldn't a sick person contaminating the outside of a healthy person's mask still manage to spread the disease? Just so. It would be more effective to have sick people wear the masks. The 1918 flu epidemic was what they would call a "category 5" flu. The world hasn't seen such a flu since. There were some global pandemics in the 50s and 60s, but not like this. Recently it was discovered that this flu did indeed come from a bird. (They got samples from bodies frozen in the permafrost.)
The bird flu existing now is difficult to pass from person to person, but a few cases have. As to whether there will be a bird flu that is easily passed...it's a crap shoot. Jessica told us plans would trigger if "anywhere in the world a confirmed cluster of a new flu" has a certain "fatality ratio." Plans can't include a vaccine really, because we can't predict the strain of a pandemic. Part of the problem in 1918, the US government so controlled the media that communities couldn't learn needed details about what worked in other communities.
We learned that in our county, the "community mitigation strategies" for a category 5 pandemic come from the best practices that cities and towns took in 1918. Portland happened to utilize these, and didn't fare quite so badly.
These practices are: multiple social distancing strategies; cancelling school classes for up to 3 months; urging businesses to stagger shifts so less people are working at one time; if an individual is sick, urging families to stay home voluntarily.
Challenges faced in a pandemic? Jessica said, "The closing of the schools: teens get antsy." [spoiler alert..that's not too far off for the failure of the quarantine in the book.] Also, the global nature of businesses. If the health department seeks cooperation in the closing of the local mall, they may have to call owners in China. Jessica was clear that our county doesn't have the authority to enforce martial law, nor did it seem she wished for it. She emphasized that within the department they work towards consensus. Her overall message seemed to be that best practices involved cooperation, not authoritarianism. (less)
Each of these books has a pattern. The natural talent of the child-mage experiences a growth spurt through accident or instinctive need, and then the...moreEach of these books has a pattern. The natural talent of the child-mage experiences a growth spurt through accident or instinctive need, and then the child-mage must learn to nurture and channel that newly-found ability to save the day, with the help of the complete circle. Daja's talent experiences this growth spurt when she gets it mixed up with Briar's green magic, and she grows a metal tree.
This magic metal tree is so valuable the traders that want it must barter directly with her, even though they have done their trader version of ex-communicating her as bad luck. It's a great lesson in creating a place in the world on your own terms. Tamora Pierce is great for that for girls.(less)
Tris is the first to see magic with the help of a spell by her teacher, but the other children soon pick it up from her. This happens between the four...moreTris is the first to see magic with the help of a spell by her teacher, but the other children soon pick it up from her. This happens between the four of them: they are indelibly linked through their magic. Tris must learn to guide her weather magic so they can all defeat the pirates. (less)
I like the way this series relies on all four characters to save the day with their special magic, but each book in the quartet especially needs one o...moreI like the way this series relies on all four characters to save the day with their special magic, but each book in the quartet especially needs one of the children to rally her magic. In this the first, Sandry's natural ability to weave both relationships and magic is the key to a good ending. (less)
Briar's magic comes from plants, and by this the 4th book, how he draws upon it is well established. Now he can read, and must learn to channel his ma...moreBriar's magic comes from plants, and by this the 4th book, how he draws upon it is well established. Now he can read, and must learn to channel his magic more methodically. How is a plague dealt with in a world with magic? Magic helps provide a few extra layers of protection and remedies.(less)