The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A young girl, Liesel, in Nazi Germany, with stolen books as her prized possessions. Her foster family, secretly, illegally sheltering a Jew. Life, Death, and the power of words meet in The Book Thief, a novel by author Markus Zusak.

I picked up a copy of the film based on this book, but I didn’t want to watch it without reading the original story first. So I read it.

I stopped reading for a while, toward the middle of it. Stopped, sighed, and wept after reading about Liesel reading one of her books, one she didn’t steal. I guess the rest of my weeping during a number of other scenes was just more of a deep, inward groan.

There were also parts that made me smile, and times when I had to pause and shake my head at some of the brilliant turns of phrase that fill this novel: ironic, ominous, and beautiful turns by turns.

Having already caught snatches of praise in the wind about this book, I did my best not to hear too much more before I read it, since a book’s wide acclaim doesn’t guarantee that I’ll personally love it. And, honestly, it’d be one thing for an author to use tragic themes from World War II and the Holocaust and to merely write a grim, sad novel, as grimness and sadness alone aren’t enough to make a novel resonate with me.

But to tell a raw, nuanced, layered, crushing, bittersweet, and haunting story that affirms life even in the midst of death… That’s something else. That resonates.

A singular work, this is.

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Note to my blog readers: along with depictions of wartime violence, this book contains a moderate amount of profanity.

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Shortly after I finished the novel, I did indeed watch the film.

 

Racing Manhattan by Terence Blacker

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers for an honest review.

Racing Manhattan by Terence Blacker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Jay isn’t much like the other teenagers around her, but she’s uniquely good with ponies. Even as a Thoroughbred, Manhattan has never made a positive mark as a racehorse. The pairing of these two misfits will be a fight involving more than a racetrack in Racing Manhattan, a novel by author Terence Blacker.

Well. Even with the “cheering” language in this book’s official blurb, don’t mistake this for a “cheerful” tale. Despite being a story of a young lover of ponies, horses, and riding, it isn’t the stuff that light and delightfully corny family horse flicks are made of.

Much of it is more melancholy than that, grittier, displaying family tragedy and dysfunction; sexism, bullying, and blackmail; and the seedy side of horse racing. The heroine, outcast that she may be, isn’t a timid or “wallowing in woe-is-me” sort, but she’s full of rage and determination. And yet, she isn’t a snarky jerk, she isn’t totally beyond intimidation, and she doesn’t forget how to smile.

Speaking of jerks, though, some of the characters did tire me a little. There’s a stretch when it seems that just about everyone Jay encounters is sarcastic, condescending, dismissive, or what have you, and an abundance of people being “mean” to the protagonist can get as irksome as an abundance of people being too friendly. But it all starts to balance out in due time, without being cheesy about it.

So, no, it’s not a cheerful story, but it is relatable and inspiring, with a moving and rather brilliant style. Definitely glad I picked this young adult novel up.
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Note to my blog readers: this novel contains one instance of language I wouldn’t use.

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I used the book cover from the previous edition of Racing Manhattan because I feel it’s a better fit for the story. But if you pick up a copy of the US edition to release in May 2018, it’ll have the cover below.

 

Rose of the Night: A Beauty and the Beast Prequel by Hope Ann

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book, for which I’ve given an honest review.

Rose of the Night: A Beauty and the Beast Prequel by Hope Ann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

I would be Tauscher’s worst enemy before the end. The Oath would be spoken. The price would be paid. My thoughts jolted and my throat tightened. I shook the feeling off.
I was the Oathkeeper.

Adrian takes a huge risk to win over his beloved Chriselda, but his action plunges his entire land into a strange night. By the mercy of the King, Adrian embarks on a harrowing mission with the hope of the curse lifting one day in Rose of the Night: A Beauty and the Beast Prequel by author Hope Ann.

Well! I came across this prequel while I was on a search to figure out what had happened to the Legends of Light series. I’d enjoyed the first book of the series, Rose of Prophecy, and I went back to look for it, but it’s been replaced with a new, rewritten version: Rose of the Oath. And before that comes this prequel. So, here we are!

More than anything, this tale has whet my appetite to see what the following book, a Beauty and the Beast retelling, has in store. Most of the read here was pretty slow for me, but the weaving of the Christian allegory has me intrigued.

On to the new Book One, hopefully sooner than later.

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Rose of the Night is the prequel to the Legends of Light series.

 

The Banana Split Affair by Cynthia Blair

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Banana Split Affair by Cynthia Blair

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Susan Pratt is shy, studious, and a plain dresser while her teenaged twin, Christine, is outgoing, trendy, and popular at school, especially with boys. Each sister believes her twin has the better life, so they decide to secretly switch identities for two weeks. Christine bets they can pull it off, Susan bets they can’t, and the stakes of this bet is a banana split in The Banana Split Affair, a novel by author Cynthia Blair.

I absolutely ate up this book back when I was a preteen–loved it enough to remember it into my adulthood and to want to read it again. I finally took another jaunt with this book more than twenty years later, and I still love it.

Sure, it’s corny, with all the italics and exclamation points you could ever want. It leans toward the simplistic and stating the obvious at times, and, yeah, there’s some super-fast falling in like-love in the story.

But it’s fun. And rather touching. Sooz and Chris not only get an eye-opening taste of what it’s really like to walk in each other’s shoes, but each girl learns more about herself in the process.

I didn’t realize back then that this is the first of thirteen books or so about the Pratt twins. (Nah, the copy I first read didn’t have a #1 printed on the front cover.) So now I may have to check out some other books in this series.