The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Its been almost 2 months since I’ve read this book, and I am still so incredibly blown away by The Book Thief. Words really can’t describe how amazing this book is, but I’m going to do my very best to try.

The Book Thief is about a young girl named Liesel who is sent to live with a foster family in Germany in 1939. With the help of her foster father, Hans, she discovers a passion for reading, a passion that really drives the rest of the novel. But the most unique aspect of this book is the fact that Death narrates it.

The narrator of Death is the most creative idea that I think I’ve ever come across. Zusak gives him a unique voice, one that is haunting and full of impact. I know there is a movie coming out soon, and I’m curious to see how they will – or if they will – carry that over.

Liesel is the perfect protagonist. She is naïve, but smart; timid, but courageous. She has her flaws, but they make her strengths all the more admirable. Her interactions with other characters were entertaining to read about – particularly Hans, Max, and Rudy. Rudy is by far my favorite character, and he and Liesel make an unstoppable team. Their unspoken love for each other is the perfect shining light in a time of war and fear.

Most of all, I loved the writing. Zusak’s style is so poetic and beautiful and haunting. I had my highlighter out, marking stand-out quotes as I read (There were a lot…). His use of foreshadowing is spot-on – my favorite part of the book.

But as it is a story of World War II, The Book Thief is extremely sad. In fact, I was so heartbroken after finishing it, I entered a three week long reading slump. But despite the tragedy within, The Book Thief will remain high on my list of favorite books for a long, long time.

photo: https://readforthefunofit.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/84102-bookthief_cover.jpg

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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After a month long reading slump, I needed a good book that was relatively short, entertaining, and engaging. I thought Speak would be the perfect book, especially after all of the amazing reviews surrounding it.

I had really high expectations for this book, and I think that was my problem. It’s not that I didn’t like Speak, because I did. I really did. I just didn’t understand all of the hype surrounding it.Speak tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a freshman who had a traumatic experience at a party over the summer, but refuses to talk about it. She spends nearly her entire freshman year silent, ostracized, and alone.

Personally, I thought the story was a bit dragged out. Even though it’s already a short novel, I think it could have been compacted even more, maybe into a short story or a novella. I just got a little – ok, a lot bored while reading.

Finally, I just wanted more. The story line with David Petrakis – my favorite character – could have gone further. I wanted more of Mr. Freeman, the art teacher. And I wanted a lot more with Melinda’s parents.

That being said, I still liked the book. I liked Melinda’s growth as a character and seeing her finally being able to interact with others. And best of all, I loved that it managed to get me out of that annoying reading slump!

 

photo:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/0/04/Speak_1st_Edition_Cover.jpg/200px-Speak_1st_Edition_Cover.jpg

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

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Let’s face it: most of the books we read for school are dull, boring, and completely monotonous – at least to our young, teenage minds. From the Odyssey to The Old Man and the Sea, I’ve had my fair share of books that I particularly did not care for. 

The Things They Carried was not one of them.

I was drawn in from the very first chapter. The struggles and the weight of everything the soldiers are carrying is illustrated very clearly by O’Brien. And the way the book was written was unusual, but fascinating. The main character of TTC is, well, Tim O’Brien. But it’s not Tim O’Brien the author; it’s Tim O’Brien the character. It’s a novel written in the form of a memoir.

So the recurring theme throughout the book is what is true and what isn’t true, and whether it really matters if it is true or not. You never really get a clear sense about what really happened during O’Brien’s time in Vietnam, but you get a plain picture of what happens to every soldier: their pains, worries, endeavors. But the fact that O’Brien included anecdotes made it so much more believable and relatable.

Finally, O’Brien’s character was so relatable, that you could feel every emotion running through his head. My favorite chapter was when O’Brien was wrestling with the options of fleeing the draft or joining the army. His inner conflict was illustrated perfectly, and his conclusion was so brutally honest and frank that it made my heart wrench.

It’s apparent why TTC is regarded as one of the greatest war novels of all time; no war story will ever pull you in or make you really feel as much as Things They Carried.

photo: http://cyoung819.edublogs.org/files/2012/02/9780547391175-2ic2z4t.jpg

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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I wanted to read Thirteen Reasons Why for a few, well, reasons. 1: The plot intrigued me. A girl who took her own life sends tapes to several people after she died, explaining how they contributed to her death? Sign me up. 2: Selena Gomez is going to be in the movie. I like Selena Gomez. Rumors are circulating that Logan Lerman is going to be Clay. I love me some Logan. 3: Suicide strikes a certain personal chord with me. A few years ago, a friend of mine took his own life. I was hoping that in reading this book, maybe I could get some insight on his reasoning. 

Frankly, Thirteen Reasons Why did not live up to my extremely high expectations. I liked it all right, but not as much as I thought it would. However, it was haunting and chilling and tense in all the right moments. You feel yourself wanting to yell at Hannah to not kill herself. You feel yourself cringe for every person who was sent a tape at the thought of them listening to Hannah’s voice come out of the blue.

But one thing you did not do: understand why Hannah Baker committed suicide.

This was the biggest downer for me. Maybe if I hadn’t been personally affected by suicide, I would feel a different reaction. But I just couldn’t grasp her logic and reasoning. Yes, she had a rough time in high school, but don’t we all? We’re all called names and ostracized, but not everyone feels those deep, depressed thoughts.

But I guess the point is that we’ll never know. And that’s because I think it’s different for everyone. But I think the reason Hannah made those tapes wasn’t for the others to hear her story, but for Hannah to hear her own story; to let her listen to all the bad events in her life and come up with a solution.

Sorry for going off on a tangent here. Back to the actual book.

Not a huge fan of the characters. Clay was pretty boring, with no character development. Now that I think about it, not one character displayed any sign of growth – even Hannah. The only reason I really pitied Clay was because I kept imagining myself in his position: what if I unknowingly played a part in someone’s death?

What have we ever done that has affected someone else to a drastic degree?

photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/b/b2/ThirteenReasonsWhy.jpg/200px-ThirteenReasonsWhy.jpg

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

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I had put off reading Insurgent for awhile because, frankly, I wasn’t as enthralled by Divergent as I thought I would be. Don’t get me wrong – it was pretty good, especially the ending; however, for some reason, I just wasn’t yearning to begin the sequel quite yet. Add in hours of schoolwork and a ton of other books on my to-read list, I just couldn’t find the time. 

But alas, I did read it. Did I enjoy it? Well….

Insurgent picks up right where we left off. And because I don’t want to spoil anything, I’m not going to specify “where we left off” is. But I liked how Roth launched us straight into the story. And the story kept rolling from there. I thought it was paced fairly well. There were a few sections about three quarters of the way through that took me awhile to get through, but all in all, I was not bored.

As for the characters, I was not too impressed by the character development. I felt Tris and Tobias never really grew, and eventually their relationship began to annoy me. Was he mad at her? Did she feel betrayed by him? Were they even still in love? I had absolutely no idea. Both of the characters (especially Tobias) vacillated so much during the novel that it was difficult to keep up.

I liked getting to know more about each faction. It made me wonder even more as to what faction I would be in. Maybe Erudite (but not the evil ones); definitely not Dauntless; I’m not selfless enough to be Abnegation. Honestly, I think Candor sounds like the best faction: no lies, no insidious remarks, no deceitful plots. What do you think you would be/like to be?

I would have liked to find out more about the history of the land of factions, but (as the ending suggests) we will find out in the next book. Would I have liked to learn more about the background earlier? Absolutely. Will I be furious if my questions are never answered? For sure. Because I find it increasingly difficult to read a book set in a dystopian world that could “potentially” happen, that I do not find realistic at all.

Here’s hoping my wishes will be granted in fall of 2013.

p.s. Remember to leave in the comments what faction you think you would be in!

photo: http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1325667729l/11735983.jpg

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

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*MILD SPOILERS AHEAD*

Oh Rick Riordan, how you kill me with your cliffhangers. Really? Another one? Are you telling me I have to wait a whole ‘nother year for the next book? Sigh. 

The Mark of Athena picks up right where we left off, with Argo II about to land in New Rome, and of course, with Percy and Annabeth about to be reunited. Together, along with Jason, Piper, Leo, Hazel, and Frank, they must sail/fly to real Rome to defeat a set of twin giants and rescue Nico di Angelo.

That’s the basic plot, but there are SEVERAL subplots; in fact, there were so many that they began to confuse me. To be honest, the only subplots I ever care about concern Percabeth, but I’m being biased. There really are quite a lot of side stories, but all of them managed to keep me engage; furthermore, they were all vital in terms of character development.

Ah the characters. Have I mentioned that I love Percabeth? As individuals in this book, I thought they were fantastic. I loved seeing how much Percy has grown since those first days as a clueless demigod traveling across the country in The Lightning Thief. He’s smarter, braver, and a little bit darker, which I thought fit the tone of the book really well. And Annabeth really came into her own in MoA. She’s always been my favorite character, but she really shows her bravery and wisdom in this book. Her stamina and cool-under-pressure persona is very admirable. Now the two characters together – hands down my favorite literary couple. Ever. Sure, the reunion scene was a little bit of a letdown. But the stable scene, tossing of the knife into the ocean, and just every little smile and holding of hands warmed my heart. And that ending – well, it basically rocked my world in terms of Percabeth. I was crying. Literally crying.

As far as the other new characters, I’m a huge fan of Leo. He reminds me a lot of a younger Percy, but almost funnier and a lot more clueless. As for his relationship with Hazel, I thought I was Team Leo, but their backstory with Sammy – that just weirded me out a little. So, I am now Team Frank. Besides, Frank is adorable. As for Jason and Piper, I could take them or leave them. Piper is just a little too obsessive over Jason, and Jason is just not as cool as Percy… The one character who I really liked and wanted more of was Reyna. She seemed fierce and strong, and she really cares about her legion and her friends. Her scene with Annabeth at Fort Sumter was awesome and I hope there are more like it in the books to come.

Mark of Athena did not disappoint. If you have not read it yet, I suggest you start ASAP. It gets a little slow at parts, but that ending is just… wow. That’s all I can say. I’m speechless. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to be able to wait another 365 days for House of Hades to come out…

photo: http://bookboxdaily.scholastic.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/06/Mark-of-Athena-Cover.jpg

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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On Monday night, I had the most incredible experience, like, ever: I met Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and screenwriter and director of the movie adaptation. He was at my local Barnes and Noble for a Q&A session, so I attended. Let me just say, he was one of the nicest guys I have ever met. The moment he sat down at the front of the room I immediately wanted to become friends with him. He read a letter from Perks, answered questions, and signed our copies. All of that and he gave me advice on my writing! (!!!!!) 

For those of you who have not read and/or seen the trailer, Perks is told from the perspective of a fifteen year-old boy named Charlie. In the wake of his best friend’s suicide, he begins writing letters to a friend about the trials of high school and life in general. Two seniors, Patrick and Sam, take Charlie under their wing and provide him with so many opportunities to learn and to grow.

Even though I found it a little difficult to relate to Charlie, I loved him. He’s just so adorable and sensitive and fragile. How could you not love him? Although I have to admit, sometimes he cried just a bit too much. I especially loved his relationship with Bill, his English teacher. Bill is one of the first people to really appreciate Charlie’s talents and intelligence. Every time Bill gave Charlie a new book to read, it made my heart swell to see someone care about Charlie that way.

Sam and Patrick: what is there to say? I loved them both. I loved their relationship, their relationship with others, their antics. In short, they kinda were amazing. And from the trailers, I can tell that Emma Watson and particularly Ezra Miller rocked their roles.

It took me awhile to really immerse myself into the story, but once I did, I found it difficult to put down. The epistolary format made it easier to read. It also provided a wonderful insight into Charlie’s mind. Chbosky is an extremely talented writer. I only hope that he continues to write even more books.

Perks is one of those books where at first, you may not have really enjoyed, but after a while, you begin to fully appreciate its beauty. The story and characters stay with you, so much that pretty soon I’ll have to reread it again. And again and again. But first, I’m going to watch the movie. Saturday afternoon. 2:15 pm. Can not wait.

photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/69/Perksofbeingwallflower1.jpg

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

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What a beautiful book! Saving June tells the story of a Harper Scott, whose older sister, June, took her own life. Her estranged parents want to split up the ashes for themselves, but Harper and her best friend, Laney, decide to take matters into their own hands. They embark on a long road trip to California, a place where June had always wanted to go, and dump the ashes into the sea. A mysterious boy from June’s past, Jake Tolan, accompanies them on their whirlwind adventure. 

I really really enjoyed this book. It was funny, poignant, sad, and thought-provoking. My favorite character was definitely Laney. She was funny, outgoing, a little bit crazy, but was so loyal and kind to Harper. While I liked Harper, I thought her character was a bit all over the place. One minute she was smiling and laughing, and the next she was yelling at Jake. I guess I should give her a break since her sister had just died… but Jake was pretty much the same way. I never knew what he was going to say or how he was going to react. I also thought that the whole mystery surrounding how he fit into June’s life was very anti-climatic.

The story had me really engrossed. I didn’t want to put the book down, even when I was up at midnight knowing that I had to wake up early the next morning. I kept wanting to know what misadventure Harper, Laney, and Jake would have next. I would laugh out loud at the stops they would make, especially Fridgehenge. Then, I would be on the verge of tears when Harper would have a flashback to her sister’s death. There was a little bit of everything in Saving June, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

But my favorite part of the book was how Harrington incorporated music into the story. Jake works at a record store and has the most amazing collection of albums. He plays all different kinds of music during the voyage, each song really striking a chord with Harper and even the reader. Harrington really did an excellent job selecting the right songs and music for the right moment.

Saving June was really a great read. Engrossing, touching, amusing – I was never bored. I will guarantee that after reading this, you will be itching to look up all the music Jake played and listening to it yourself.

photo: http://images.borders.com.au/images/bau/4eb94a21/4eb94a21-9d43-41a8-8f74-e2a4f2bba47d/0/0/plain/saving-june.jpg