Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“Usually we walk around constantly believing ourselves. "I'm okay" we say. "I'm alright". But sometimes the truth arrives on you and you can't get it off. That's when you realize that sometimes it isn't even an answer--it's a question. Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced.” 

The Book Thief is one of those books that has sat on my shelf for years, I kept meaning to pick it up and read it but I always found a reason not to (the reason always being another book). Everyone I know who had read it absolutely loved it and I suppose a part of me didn't want to be let down and another bigger part of me really dislikes reading books about wars, I've read a few of them and while I did enjoy them the subject matter always saddens me and so I have always tried to avoid it.

Not knowing much about the book accept it was set in Germany during World War Two, I was pleasantly surprised. The book thief is narrated by death and tells the story of a young girl named Liesel who he becomes fascinated with, Liesel is adopted by the Hubermanns after her mother can no longer look after her. The beginning of the book follows death's first meeting with Liesel after her brother has died in her arms on the way to her foster home and  he watches her steal her first book, The Gravediggers Handbook'. This book is the start of Liesel's life on Himmel street with the Hubermanns, its the book that she learns to read from and the book that creates the connection between her and her stepfather Hans. This book tells the story of one family, their lives during a horrific time, it tells the pain and horror seen during WWII and shows us how even during the darkest times people continue living.

Liesel was a wonderful character, her love affair with books fascinated me, from a girl who couldn't read a single word to someone who is starving for more words. She is fierce and gentle, she is brave and a coward, Leisel is a girl trying to find her self in a world where nothing makes sense. Leisel is real, she is you and she is me.

"She was the book thief without the words.

Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.” 

Death narrates the book throughout and beware he does give a lot of spoilers away. At first it was hard to get used to and I know a lot of people may give up because of this but please don't, once I got used to it I started to really like hearing from Death. He sees humanity in such a wonderful way, we are glorious and yet we are so ugly.

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.” 

This book will stay with you long after you finish reading it, it will inspire and leave you awed and yes it will make you cry.  No matter how much Death tries and prepare you for the ending, it will leave you feeling profoundly sad and at the same time shows how people can continue to live on after suffering such profound tragedy. Liesel is a character that will stay with me for a long time.

My rating: 4

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there's no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.

I remember when this book first came out, I saw the book in work and read the synopsis and I thought it sounded okay but I just wasn't tempted enough to pay for it in hardback and boy was I wrong. The daughter of smoke and bone lives up to its hype and more. From start to finish I was completely transfixed, this book has it all, amazing best friends, hot guys, heart ache inducing forbidden love, paranormal creatures (that are seriously freaky but so cool at the same time) and a lot of angst, seriously this story is brimming with angst but that's one of the reasons its so captivating.

In my opinion Laini Taylor has crafted a beautiful and endearing masterpiece with her story of Karou, this book will emotionally drain you and in the end will leave you speechless, from start to finish Taylor takes you on a journey with Karou, discovering her life and who she really is. It's majestic and its magical.

Karou is a seventeen year old art student in Peru, she had bright blue hair, hangs out in a wonderfully gothic cafe with her best friend and tries her best to avoid her ex-boyfriend who can't take the hint. At first glance Karou appears to be a normal seventeen year old, but alas she is hiding a secret, for Karou has no normal family, she has been bought up by the Chimera, specifically those who grant wishes and she must frequently run errands for them collecting teeth from all over the world. Karou has spent her life in between worlds and she feels like she doesn't fit in either, until one day when she runs into beautiful Akiva and everything she knows shatters.

As you've probably already guessed I adored this book, in particularly the wonderful mix of characters, Karou is feisty and funny and makes mistakes in her life. She regretted loosing her virginity to her ex-boyfriend after he turned out to be nothing but a nightmare, she is inquisitive and is both fearless and vulnerable. Karou appears lost in the world, not knowing who she is or where she belongs.

And Akiva, Madrigal Brimstone, Kaz, Issa, I could go on, every character in this book has a purpose, they are wonderful and charming and I can't wait to learn more about their back stories.

I think one of my favourite aspects of this book was Taylors writing, its is beautiful, emotional and poetic and completely swept me away. It is a wonderful mix of fantasy and seraphim/chimaera  mythology and whirlwind romance. I've read a lot of Angel and forbidden love stories in the past but this one by far surpassed them all. The mystery and suspense throughout this book is crafted amazingly, I never would have guessed the true reason behind Brimstone needing all those teeth or who Karou really is and for that Taylor I thank you, I loved being able to be surprised by a book as that very rarely happens.

This is a must read book, Taylor has created a world that will stretch the limits of your imagination she paints a picture with her words. This story left me speechless and stayed with me long after I had finished reading.

“Wishes are false. Hope is true. Hope makes its own magic.” 

 My rating: 5

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Looking For Alaska by John Green

“Thomas Edison's last words were 'It's very beautiful over there'. I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful.”

Can I just say I was never a big fan of contemporary fiction before I read John Green but he has lead me to reassess my reading habits and try more books outside of my comfort zone. Anyway on to the review.

Looking for Alaska tells the story of Miles Halter or 'pudge' as he becomes known. Miles is a friendless high-school student who loves learning famous historical peoples last words. He begs his parents to send him to a boarding school in Alabama were he sees it as his chance to start again and break out of his shell. 

Miles goes to boarding school looking for his 'great perhaps', he wants a life of adventure and honestly I think he is trying to find something to live for and boy does he find it. Alaska Young is Miles idea of perfection from the moment he meets her, she is outgoing, reckless and doesn't care what anyone thinks, the type of person Miles wants to be. Looking for Alaska is spilt into two parts, the first counts down the days to a big event and the second counts the days afterwards. Miles was always looking for the 'Great Perhaps' but I don't think he ever thought it would turn out quite like this.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is how John Green deals with depression, I know some may not agree with me but I think  Green shows how people dealing with depression are not as easy to spot as some may think, they don't mop around and lie in bed all day, some walk out the house with a smile on their face and you wouldn't ever know anything was wrong. Both Miles and Alaska show how depression can affect different people, Miles is an introvert, back home he had no friends and spent most of his time alone but he is determined to overcome this and forces himself to be someone new whereas Alaska is an extrovert, she masks her vulnerability by being loud and exuberant until its too late and before anyone can help.

Once again Green shows how he is a master with his words and his characters, even though I'm a little older than they are I found myself being able to relate to them and for those few short hours I was able to become Miles and see the world from his eyes, a scared teenager just trying to find himself. Green always has a way of creating relatable characters and once again I was able to see parts of myself in them, Alaska the care-free, book loving girl, who finds herself a little bit lost at times and Miles the shy, caring, sweet boy who is looking for something better, trying to find some meaning to his life.

Green's characters are flawed but they are honest and realistic, they deal with situations in a way any teenager might. Overall I thought that Miles found his 'Great Perhaps' he found it in his courage to move to boarding school, in his love (or infatuation) for Alaska and in dealing with the 'after'. At the end of this book Miles has questioned everything about himself but in the process of doing this he has managed to find himself and perhaps now he is ready for another adventure. I don't believe the 'Great Perhaps' is a destination rather a journey Miles takes to find himself. 

Looking for Alaska is a story about finding yourself and loosing yourself, its about love and longing, pain and suffering and not being afraid of searching for your own 'Great Perhaps'. 

My rating: 4.5