Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: The Book Thief


Star Rating 5/5
The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak

Words have power. They both build and destroy. They show love. They breed hatred. Words bring about change. Liesel begins to learn this early in life when mother sends her and her brother to a foster home because her father is associated with the word “communist.” However, it takes her years to more fully recognize and understand their meaning and potential. Growing up outside Munich starting in 1939, Liesel learns more about words from her foster parents, particularly from her foster father Hans and a little black book she snatched out of the snow. As Hans teaches Leisel how to write and read, words bind them together. Books and words continue to shape Liesel’s life even as she deals with circumstances beyond her control. She matures as she weathers hardships and finds opportunities for growth.

Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is a beautifully written book. As the novel follows Liesel’s life, the reader begins to see with Liesel how words connect us with each other and how they can change relationships and lives. Liesel’s story, which is already profound and extraordinary, takes on greater and deeper meanings through its narration by Death. Death frequently interrupts Liesel’s story to highlight words and conversations and to share important facts. These facts are often about important events and various characters’ past experience that allow the reader to more fully understand the attitudes and actions of the characters as well as the impact or magnitude of words and circumstances. Death’s commentary and Liesel’s story create a more complete illustration of the way lives intersect and how the past affects the present for both good and ill.

Book Review: These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine


Star Rating 5/5
These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine
By Nancy E. Turner

Raised on a horse ranch with her three brothers in the rough Arizona Territories, Sarah Agnes Prine knows how to work. She learned to shoot a rifle before she could manage to hold it on her own, and she can break a horse that’s never been ridden. She may have calloused hands, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. When her family sets out to Texas, Sarah starts to keep a diary. Her story is full of the hardships, excitement, and horror of frontier living as they are raided by Indians, struggle through bad weather conditions and unknown terrain, are threatened by bandits and murderers, and suffer through sickness and sudden loss. As she weathers all the challenges and heartache that come her way, Sarah grows into a remarkable woman.

These is my Words tells the story of the growth and development of a young frontier woman. The diary format allows the reader to establish an intimate relationship with Sarah. Through each entry, the reader can enjoy attempting to understand the mind and heart of this complicated and realistic heroine. Sarah is well-written and bound to captivate, frustrate, and charm readers. Full of spunk and fire, she desires to be a genteel lady but can not seem to manage it. She struggles as she questions the nature of love; her role in her home and in business; and her own abilities, aspirations, and character. Sarah proves to be a strong role model as she pushes herself to be independent and self-sufficient while still loving and lifting those around her. She kept me reading and will stay with me even now that the book is over.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review: Scarlet


Star Rating 4/5

Scarlet

By A.C. Gaughen

Will Scarlet’s a thief—the best in the Hood’s gang. Robin, John, and Much all know it. All the townspeople in Nottingham benefit from it. But Scarlet’s full of secrets. The boys know that he’s actually a she, but she keeps most other things to herself. She avoids sharing any part of her past with any of them, including her real name. Instead she goes by the nickname Robin gave her when he found her—Scarlet or Scar because of her red-ribboned knives and scarred cheek. Unfortunately, Scarlet’s past continues to haunt her or, in reality, hunt her. Her thieving in Sherwood Forest has led to the hiring of thief taker Guy Gisbourne. Scarlet wants to run—Gisbourne gave her that scar, after all—but she can’t leave the boys now. Perhaps she can lie low, help the boys get enough money to cover the townspeople’s taxes, and get lost without attracting Gisbourne’s attention. Scarlet doesn’t hold much hope, but she’s got to help Robin. She owes it to him.

A creative twist on the Robin Hood legends, Scarlet gives young women a heroine worthy of the respect and love of the beloved people’s hero. Scarlet struggles with guilt and grief and with questions of honor, justice, and loyalty. She is troubled by a past she can not change; one she was at first too innocent to realize and later too powerless to alter. She desperately wishes she could change the decisions she made that led to consequences to which she was oblivious and na├»ve. Though she tries, Scarlet can’t escape her past or live life in seclusion. While Scarlet’s circumstances are extraordinary, her emotions and desires resonant with ordinary life. She, like each of us, must reconcile herself with her choices and the choices of others. She must move on even when she does not know what will happen next. With these struggles she helps bridge the distance between reality and legend, human frailty and ideal.