Books-to-Movies: Hit or Miss?

Trisha at eclectic / eccentric has a really fun post, Adaptations Lists and Giveaways, where she’s listed 5 books that she wishes were movies, and 5 books that she wishes never were.  I have to agree with her on Eragon, one of the worst travesties done to a book EVER, but not on a few of the others.  I enjoyed reading hers so much, I wanted to play to :-)  So here’s my 5 and 5.

FIVE books that I’d trade a body part to be movies:

  1. Nation by Terry Pratchett ~ It was fantastic, funny, had a great message, and it just lent itself to visualization.  AND it’d have gorgeous South Pacific scenery that would be breath-taking on a big screen.  I think that’d be worth a spleen, at least… I mean, what does that thing do, anyway?
  2. The Stephanie Plum Novels by Janet Evanovich ~ I’d trade a kidney for a TV series of this.  Grandma Mazur, in my living room, every week.  Oh, that would almost make up for the end of LOST!
  3. Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng ~ It’d be worth a lung lobe just to watch a gummy Miss Adderstone use her false teeth like castanets.  And I think they could do a lot of fun stuff visually with the hypnotism.  Oh, any movie can be improved by throwing a pug dog in the story :-)
  4. Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham ~ Goblins.  SNOT. and it’s all underground.  It’d be a good cult classic.  Ok, so I LOVE movies like A Gnome Named Gnorm… and am apparently alone in that given it’s 4 out of 10 stars rating, Super Mario Bros, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, and I think this one could be a cool movie.
  5. Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper ~  Okay, I’d trade a cornea for this one.  El Mochito, the Daredevil, the blind Wonder Cat who defends his mom from the burglar, and whose heart is so big that he enraptures everyone who ever meets him… well, except for Lawrence.  He was too smitten with Vashti.  It’d be way better than that Marley & Me movie, and BEST OF ALL, the cat would still be alive at the end.  Gawd, I hated the end of Marley.  I don’t want to think about my pets dying.  I know it’ll happen, but don’t put it in my “feel-good” movie.  Marley & Me was like being a manic/depressive for 110 minutes… and I still gave it 5 stars at Netflix. 

There should be a special place in HELL for the people who made thes FIVE books into movies:

  1. The Inheritance Cycle (or the movie Eragon) by Christopher Paolini, obviously.  A place in Hell where they’re forced to sit in front of a movie screen and endure inane details of a random person’s life, but NEVER get anything good or inspiring or accurate.  Every good part was cut from the books and then they watered down the surface story, left even more out, and called it a movie.  First off, ERAGON is the name of ONE book, and yet they made the whole book series in this one movie.  Nasuada is one of my favorite characters, and she’s an important character, but she’s no where in the movie.  What about Eragon’s training with the Elves?  and where’s Solombum, the were-cat?  Grr… horrible rendering.
  2. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards ~ That movie sucked so bad, I actually dropped my rating on the book after watching it.  The book was complex and had depth, but the movie was just weak.  Whoever made THAT drivel should be stripped of their sense of smell, have their taste buds seared off, be stricken color-blind and then spend eternity seated at a table loaded with all their favorite foods.
  3. Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King ~ You know, the sad thing about this one is, SK himself approved the script.  The book itself has 2 novella stories to it, one centered around playing Hearts at college, and the second where the guy’s an alien hiding out and other aliens come looking for him.   But the movie has NONE of the Hearts to it, and what’s left of the Atlantis part is stripped of all the magic that made me love it.  In the end, it’s just another lousy Stephen King book-to-movie.
  4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini ~ Honestly, it’s not the movie makers fault that it was a bad book-to-movie.  There was NO WAY for them to translate all that goes on inside the narrator’s head, the nuances of the people, and the sense of fear/doom/loss/inadequacy that made up this book.  It wasn’t JUST about him not standing up for his friend and allowing him to be hurt, but it’s about how that one moment was the still point that his whole life and identity grew out of.  I think it’s fair to give the movie people a pardon on this one.
  5. The Hours by Michael Cunningham ~ Okay, I’ve never read the book, so I can’t say whether they did a bad job of making the movie, but here is what I can say:  After watching that movie, I would NEVER read the book.  What’s more, I don’t want to go near a Virgina Woolfe book because of it.  It gave me the impression that her books are very depressing and I’d want to kill myself after reading it.  I might’ve read one of her books before that, I think I even have Mrs. Dalloway somewhere, but every time I think about her books, I think about drowning myself in the bathtub and it’s all because of that movie.

A couple books being made into movies that I’m reserving space on my WORST movie adaptations EVER mental list are:

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry ~ right now, it’s set to come out 2011, but that’ll probably get pushed back.  It’s suppose to be done by the director who did the last few Harry Potter movies, so they’ve had to wait for those to wrap up. I just can’t see how this book could work as a movie for the same reasons The Kite Runner was a miss.  There’s so much going on mentally, how can they show that on the screen?
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy ~ Viggo Mortensen as the man… big, big plus.  It could really be another Mad Max or Blade Runner and be a raging success, but it could just as easily tank hard.  It’s another one of those mental books, though the scenery could be amazing.  They HAVE to have the cellar scene in it, though, or it’ll be a deal breaker.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ~ The book was perfection.  A movie will screw it up.  There’s NO WAY it can be done.

Oh, and by the way… Don’t forget to Trisha’s having a contest for this:

Giveaway:

If you make a post about this topic and leave a link in the comments section, I will 1) add you to the list below and 2) enter you into a giveaway for one of the following books:

1.  It’s Easy Being Green by Crissy Trask
2.  No Touch Monkey by Ayun Halliday
3.  Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
4.  The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The contest closes at midnight January 17.

So what books do you think would be a hit or were a miss?

TSS ~ I’m Planning a Realignment

The Sunday Salon.com

This is the last Sunday Salon of 2009, and it’s got me thinking about how things has gone this year, as well as what I want to do next year.  For one thing, in looking back at all the books I’ve read this year (76 as of right now), it seems like it’s been a LOOOONG year, lol.  AND I started the year late, finishing my first book, Bedlam, Bath and Beyond by J.D. Warren on February 10.  I also took a detour into the land of Azeroth, discovering the world of MMORPG (the acronym for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game”) when I decided to check out what all the WoW fuss was.  And while I still enjoy playing, I’ve gotten over it as such an obsessive distraction.  Recently, a friend of mine tried to get me into another game like World of Warcraft (or WoW is like it, since it was first) called Guild Wars, but I didn’t really dig it.  I also gave Warhammer a try, and was unimpressed by it, as well.  Books just beat any other medium of escape!

This past year I’ve read a variety of genres from sci-fi like Freedom’s Landing, Dune and Dune Messiah (not yet reviewed) to classics such as Silas Marner, Emma, and Northanger Abbey (not yet reviewed).  I’ve read horror, like Heart-Shaped Box, children’s books, like The Tutu Ballet, and serial books like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6 of the Harry Potter series), Marked (Book 1 of The House of Night series), and Brisingr (Book 3 of The Inheritance Cycle).  I’ve read books that have been made into movies, sometimes for the better, like Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, and Confessions of a Shopoholic.  I didn’t limit myself to fiction, either, and read The World Without Us, The Stettheimer Dollhouse, and  An Inconvenient Book (not yet reviewed) and read poetry and plays like Dr. Faustus and Custard and Company, too.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read this year and it’s hard to pick favorites.  But I shall try!  The following are my stars of 2009 (in no particular order):

1.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ~ My all-time favorite book, I fell in love with the story and Zusak’s writing style.  I hope to give his other books a read as well someday.  After finishing this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I couldn’t start another book for awhile.  I still find myself thinking about the beauty of the writing, the characters, and I want to reread it sometime soon.

2.  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury ~ First off, I love dystopic books, it’s probably my favorite genre.  My definition of dystopia is:  Someone’s Utopia is another’s HELL.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this book lately, as I look at pictures I’ve taken of my 16-year-old this year.  In every one she’s got her mp3 player going in her ears.  At one point in time this year, all four of us were sitting in the same room, all of us listening to our own little soundtracks of our own lives.  We were all in huggable difference, and yet we were in different universes.  All I could think about were the seashells that Montag’s wife wore in her ears.  It was a disturbing and surreal moment.

3.  Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen ~ This book was vivid and well-researched, and it made me feel the magic of going to a circus as a child for the first time.  It had intrigue, romance, and the Great Depression.  The moving back and forth from the present Jacob Jankowski (who was 92, or 93, or 94.. he couldn’t even remember anymore) to the young Jacob who walked away from his vet finals after the death of his parents, becoming the vet for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

4.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen ~ I recently finished this one, but in my rush to reach my goal of 75 books I’ve put off writing a review.  Hopefully I’ll get to it this coming week, but it’ll probably not happened until after the kids get back to school in the new year.  Northanger Abbey is my FAVORITE Austen book.  It’s witty and fun and Austen uses it as a great vehicle for arguing the criticisms of her day.  Reading this book was like watching myself as a teen.  I was soOOo Catherine Morland!  Dreamy, romantic who read way too many books and had no grasp of how the real world worked.

5.  Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper ~ Probably the book with the longest full title I’ve read:  Homer’s Odyssey:  A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat.  This is my pimping-book for the year, meaning it’s the book I’ve been telling EVERYONE I see to read.  In addition to mad reco’s, I gave away copies as Christmas presents.  It’s such an inspirational and heart-warming story that I just can’t stop talking about it.  I know I’ll reread this one again and again :-)

So, what are my plans for the New Year?  Well… I don’t really want to say I’ve made RESOLUTIONS because they never really work.  I’ve been thinking in terms of REALIGNMENTS.  I’ve gotten a bit lazy or distracted about things and have gone a bit off mark from where I wanted to go at the beginning of this year.  So, here’s what I’m wanting to do as we begin 2010:

1.  Um… I really need to do some house cleaning.  Bad.  I keep waiting for Miss Niecy to show up, lol, but I don’t think she’s coming.  Honestly, with all my online game-playing (WoW and facebook games being the main offenders) in the last few months, the laundry has piled up as have the dishes, and it’s starting to look like we have a dirt floor in the kitchen.  So, that’s first on my list of what I need to get done.

2.  I need to get back to cooking dinners.  Again, I’ve been lazy about not wanting to stop playing the games, and Domino’s has become #1 on my speed dial.  My kids are probably the only ones in the world that have said “Please, no more pizza!  I’m sick of pizza!”  And no,  frozen dinners don’t count as “cooking more”… lol.

3.  Get back to blogging regularly.  I’ve been bad about writing meme posts (which I enjoy) and writing reviews (which is sometimes a bit of work, but I also enjoy), mostly because *cough* it’d require me to get off the game and write them.  Yeah… like I said, I’ve been bad about the games here lately.

4.  Try to take things in balance.  I have a bad habit of going “all one thing at the expense of everything else”.  When I’m reading, that’s all I’m doing.  That’s how I’ve managed to read almost 20 books in a little over a month.  It’s pretty much all I’ve done.  When I was playing WoW, that was all I did, too.  All day, every day… sometimes for more than 24 hours straight.  I just don’t seem to know how to do moderation.

5.  Get through all my ARC-alanche pile.  Period.  Some of them have been on this pile for almost 2 years now.  I still have Stealing Athena, The Aviary Gate, Zoe’s Tale, and The Good Thief on it.  SOME are now available in AUDIOBOOK FORM.  I really need to focus on getting these books done.  I have FIVE LibraryThing Early Reader books to read, including Any Given Doomsday which I received back in February. 

So, how about you?  Any resolutions?  What do you hope to do in the year to come?

Mags and I love watching Style Network’s Clean House (the ones with Niecy Nash… not the other lady) and we love to veg in my bed together and watch marathons of the show.  Miss Niecy is lovely and hilarious, and after a few shows we can’t help but walk around doing Miss Niecy impressions… lol.  But, of course, it’s never as good as the original ;-) 

Viral Video Wednesday ~ Mash-ups

Well, after a couple weeks hiatus while setting up the new computer and importing bookmarks (all my VVW ones, especially), Viral Video Wednesday is back on.  And this week’s topic, per Maggie’s request, is:  Mash-ups.  A mash-up is when you take scenes from one move and add scenes or the audio from another movie to and make it one video as if they’d been from the same show.

So, here are my vids:

First up, in honor of his opening today, I thought a Harry Potter mash-up would be perfect.  It might not entirely qualify as a mash-up… it’s more of a parody, actually… but it takes characters from 3 movies and puts them together.

And here’s another Harry Potter mash-up, this time with Pride and Prejudice.  Does this count toward my Everything Austen Challenge?

What if Harry knew that he was just a fictional character?  That he was merely a figment of J. K. Rowling’s imagination and that all his suffering was merely a device to propel a story along?  Harry Potter, Stranger that Fiction…

Now, I hadn’t realized until I watched the following mash-up that Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter were in both Sweeny Todd and Harry Potter, which of course makes this next vid worth sitting through someone camming their TV.

And finally, this is similar to one of the first mash-up type video I saw (the one I wanted had been removed, poo!), and has yummy Ioan Gruffudd in it.  It tells the story of the Founding Four of Hogwarts :-)

There are thousands of mash-ups out there, if you search a movie title (usually a more popular one) and the word “mashup,” you’ll find plenty to choose from.

Now it’s your turn… What are some of your favorite mash-ups?

Next week’s VVW:  Commercials

Viral Video Wednesday and 19th Wife Winner!

Happy hump day everyone :-)  First thing’s first:  As promised, today’s the day I announced the winner of The 19th Wife giveaway.  Despite her misgivings at being the first entrant, because Mr. Random Number doesn’t like the number 1, rhapsodyinbooks is our winner!  Congrats to ya!  If you’ll send me your address, I’ll be happy to forward it to David Ebershoff so he can get that in the mail to ya ;-)

And now on for Viral Video Wednesday :-)

This week’s topic is DINOSAURS.  You can post any vid that deals in any way, shape or form with Dinosaurs, whether they be extinct reptiles or crotchety old men, or even obsolete technology.  And you know me, mine will be weird and wacky or funny.  So, on with the vids!

 

This first video is one of our absolute favorite at our house.  To give you a glimpse of our family dynamics, I’ll just tell you that, after the first time we watched it, we identified who each of them were.  The T-rex in here is Sam (my oldest, who is 16), then the middle character is Maggie (my youngest, age 10), and the non-dinosaur character is  Gwen (who is 15 today, Happy Birthday to her!). 

Maggie, btw, is physically incapable of belching… seriously, you can imagine the colic as a baby… so all gas is converted to the outboard motor, if ya knowwhaddamean.  She is proud of the fact she can fart on command, and actually takes the stance this little dino does… which is why that is her character.

And now, the real reason dinosaurs are extinct!

One of the first video game-to-movies was Super Mario Brothers.  We have the VHS of it, and watch it on a regular basis.  It’s one of our favorite movies, especially since John Leguizamo is in it and the Princess is played by Samantha  Mathis (my oldest daughter’s name is Sam, remember?).  I love the song Walk the Dinosaur originally by Was (Not Was), which was used in the movie. 

Here’s the music video from the Super Mario Brothers movie, with scenes from the movie and performed by George Clinton and the Goombas.

While watching the Walk the Dinosaur video, Sam came home from summer school and started going on about the movie, which always leads back to the best scene in the movie:  Mario and Luigi’s escape from the elevator-full of goombas. 

Dancing and music are primal, and Luigi takes advantage of that fact in this next vid clip:(the song, btw, is Somewhere My Love)

And one of my favorite TV from when I was a teen was The Dinosaurs. The Sinclairs was your typical 80′s family… 60,000,080s BC, that is.  The dad, Earl, worked for the Wesayso Corporation pushing down trees, while Fran, his wife, stayed home and took care of the baby.  Robbie and Charlene, the Sinclair teens, went to school and had typical teen concerns and attitudes.  It was a wonderfully fun show that ran from 1991 to 1994 (not long enough, IMHO)… Next stop for me is Netflix.  I’ve gotta put this one in my queue!

By request, Maggie wants next week’s VVW topic to be:  Mash-ups!  For those of you who don’t know, mash-ups are videos made with parts of two or more movies and are made to seem like one show.  Like Harry Potter video with South Park audio track, or like Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?‘s recent post of Buffy vs. Edward (which is what made Mags ask me to do mash-ups next week.)

So now it’s your turn… Share your favorite Dinosaur vids!

They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March


Title:  They Plotted Revenge Against America

Author:  Abe F. March

Paperback:  254 pages

Date Published:  February 3, 2009

Publisher:  All Things That Matter Press

ISBN:  9780982272220

“Pandemics happen,”  U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt had said.  There have been ten in the past 300 years, and “we’re overdue and under prepared” for the next one.  Would America be ready for a flu pandemic at least as deadly as the one in 1918 that killed roughly 50 million people worldwide, including 500,000 in the USA?  David and his scientists didn’t think so.  The scientists working with David were scientists for hire and worked underground.  Knowing the strong arm of the Mossad, they were trusted to keep any work they did secret and confided only to the originator.  They were now assigned to work on a deadly virus…. people had become more vulnerable today than in 1918 because many more now lived in cities that are dependent on food brought in for outside.  In a disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane, help can come from outside the region, but with a pandemic, there is no outside.

… Bird and fish virus were the ideal candidates for David and his scientists.  The initial target would be the northeastern part of the United States.  The forests and waterways would be used to begin the infestation of both fish and birds whose virus would be transmitted to millions of Americans.

-They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March, pages 30-31

They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March is glimpse into the minds and motivations of a group of would-be terrorists.  Christian, Jew and Muslim, they are bonded in their desire to punish Israel’s biggest supporter in the hope of removing the teeth of the Israeli bite.  The plan is simple:  Go to the US, blend in, observe fish and wildlife in the Northeast and poultry farming in the South, then release viruses that will transmute into a deadly flu, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. 

However, it is much easier to maintain their hatred for the US and desire revenge for their families deaths while living in the Middle-East.  Once in America, the teams meet and get to know the people who live in the places they are planning to infect; they begin to have second thoughts and feel guilty, seeing their new friends as their potential victims and not enemies.  Things become even more complicated when one of them is detained and interrogated, another falls under the suspicion of a community member, and David, the leader, becomes romantically involved with Samantha, the team liaison.

While this book has moments that seem preachy/teachy about the evil, white-devil America and her meddling in Mid-eastern affairs, it is an intriguing read.  As I read this book, Obama-Netanyahu met and “agreed to disagree” about Israeli-Palestinian settlement and peace, and the Swine Flu scare had schools closing in random locations across the US, which added some tension to my reading.  I couldn’t help but look at H1N1 with a suspicious eye and think that that might be the work of terrorists… interesting how a deadly, potentially-pandemic-capable virus broke out in a popular vacation spot around the time of US Spring Break.

While I don’t believe the author is anti-American, infact March served in the US Air Force from 1957-1961, They Plotted Revenge Against Americamight be viewed as excusing, even condoning, terrorism against the US by more Conservative, right-wing, politically impassioned people.  In much the same way as some Christians jumped on Harry Potter with both feet, proclaiming it “of the devil,” this book might not be received by those who are strong supporters of Israel and believe in US involvement in the Mid-East.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March, and it will stick with me for a while.  I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

If you’d like to read other reviews of this book, I reccommend the following:

The Book Tiger

Malcom’s Round Table

TSS ~ I’d Sell My Soul for a House Elf!

The Sunday Salon.com

Yay!!! Spring Break is here and two of my three lovelies have flown away to daddy’s for the week.  I still have Gwen, but without Maggie to fight with she’s rather tame.  She’s made plans to have sleep-over parties with her friends this week, too, so it’s going to quiet this week.

Our library will be having several movie events this week, including Twilight, which never did show at our theater.  I’ll have to take Gwen to it and do some other special things with her since she so rarely has me to herself.  She’s the middle child, so she’s often waiting on the side for her turn.  She always enjoys vacation times when the other two are gone.

I finished reading The Book Thief on Tuesday, but my brain has yet to put it down.  My mind wanders back to it often, even while reading one of the five books I’m currently working on. It’s now my favorite book, and I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t read it yet to do so.  It’s a beautifully written and haunting tale. :-)

I’ve finally gotten around to picking up the sixth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and am almost halfway through it.  It’s fun and okay, but somewhere along the way I’ve lost the wonder for the series I once had.  It’s the same book over and over again.  Harry knows some deep dark truth and no one believes him.   Even his best friends think he’s off his nuttter.  Then a horrible thing happens that proves Harry was right all along.  Sorries are said, forgiveness given, and everyone leaves Hogwarts with smiles and looking forward to next year…. when they’ll repeat the cycle all over again.  Add to all that pimples and crushes and love potions, and you get the gist of HP and the HBP.   Meh.   The Goblet of Fire has been my favorite so far.

I stopped into the Catholic thrift store here in town to check out their books and left with Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus.  It’s okay, and the thought occurred to me while reading it, “Would Marlowe have been more widely known if Shakespeare’s plays were never wrote down?”  It’s an interesting thought, and makes me wonder about authors today.

What modern authors would be read more but for the mega-star writers like Patterson, Clancy, Grisham, King, and more?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Title:  The Book Thief

Author:  Markus Zusak

Paperback:  354 pages

Publisher:  Transworld Publishers (div of Random House)

Publish Date:  2005

ISBN:  9780552773898

Miscellaneous: Don’t forget to check out this review’s companion post. It includes info on The Book Thief‘s future as a movie, and several quotes from the book I wasn’t able to work into this review.

On June 23, 1942, there was a group of French Jews in a German prison, on Polish soil.  The first person I took was close to the door, his mind racing, then reduced to pacing, then slowing down, slowing down…

Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born.  I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks.  I listened to their last, gasping cries.  Their French words.  I watched their love-visions and freed them from their fear.

I took them all away, and if ever there was a time I needed distraction, this was it.  In complete desolation, I looked at the world above.  I watched the sky as it turned from silver to grey to the colour of rain.  Even the clouds tried to look the other way.

Sometimes, I imagined how everything appeared above those clouds, knowing without question that the sun was blond, and the endless atmosphere was a giant blue eye.

They were French, they were Jews, and they were you.

-The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, page 358

I finished The Book Thief  by Markus Zasuk on Tuesday, but have not been able to stop thinking about it since.  Normally, I sit down and write the review as soon as I finish a book, then pick up the next book and move on.  However, when I read the last words of The Book Thief :

A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR:  I am haunted by humans.

I found myself not wanting to let the book go.  I told myself I wanted to wait to review it so it could sink in and ruminate.  I had already posted it on BookMooch figuring, like most books, I wouldn’t want to reread it, and it was mooched up right away, but now I don’t want to give it up.  I have put off starting Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because I don’t want to put anything else in there ever again.  All of this is utterly baffling to me because I have never had an attachment or a reaction to any book like this.

The book itself, plot-wise and such, is easy to sum up.  It is the story of Liesel Meminger, the book thief, who comes to live the Hubermann’s at age nine as their foster daughter.  On the way to Molching, where the Hubermann’s live, Liesel’s younger brother dies and is buried in a cemetery at the next stop.  It is in this place she “steals” her first book, The Gravedigger’s Handbook, after it falls out of the pocket of the apprentice gravedigger.  As the novel progresses, Liesel makes friends with other children on Himmel (a word that means “heaven”) Street, the Hubermann’s take in and hide a Jew, and Liesel discovers the awe-inspiring private library of the mayor’s wife, from which she liberates a book now and then.  All this is told by the book’s narrator, Death.

Summarizing the book is simple.  Explaining and conveying how it effected me, the reader, is anything but.  First of all, Zusak writes with a poetic beauty that captures the way children take in the world around them.  He often crosses the communication of the five senses:

At times, in that basement, she woke up tasting the sound of the accordion in her hears.  She could feel the sweet burn of champagne on her tongue. -p. 365

One line I remember but was unable to find said something like “The smell of the sound of my footsteps,”   and there are so many more lines like these in the book.

Another concept Zusak descriptively conveys is the power of words.</p>

Once, words had rendered Liesel useless, but now, when she sat on the floor, with the mayor’s wife at her husband’s desk, she felt an innate sense of power.  It happened every time she deciphered a new word or pieced together a sentence. -p. 154

She couldn’t tell exactly where the words came from.  What mattered was that they reached her.  They arrived and kneeled next to the bed. -p. 246

After a miscarriaged pause, the mayor’s wife edged forward and picked up the book.  She was battered and beaten up, and not from smiling this time.  Liesel could see it on her face.  Blood leaked from her nose and licked at her lips.  Her eyes had blackened.  Cuts had opened up and a series of wounds were rising to the surface of her skin.  All from words.  From Liesel’s words. -p. 273

Yes, the Fuhrer decided that he would rule the world with words. “I will never fire a gun,” he said.  “I will not have to…”  His first plan of attack was to plant the words in as many areas of his homeland as possible…  He watched them grow, until eventually, great forests of words had risen throughout Germany.  It was a nation of Farmed thoughts. -p. 451

Frighteningly, it was exactly through the power of words and a healthy dose of charisma that Hitler was able to accomplish all the evil that was done in his name.  He himself didn’t do the physical work, that would have required him to be in several places at once making that impossible, but through the words of his speeches and policies others took up his cause.  Even more frightening is that his words are still used and followed to this day by some.

Also, through the use of Death, the ultimate impartial onlooker, as narrator Zusak is able to make epiphanic observations about human beings:

In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer – proof again of the contradictory human being.  So much good, so much evil.  Just add water. -p. 171

I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men.  They are not.  They’re running at me. -p. 182

Death also points out that, beginning with houses of cards and sandcastles, humans “watch everything that was so carefully planned collapse and… smile at the beauty of destruction.”  And he states a couple of times that the human child is much cannier than the adult.

By far, however, the most important observation Death makes, the concept that sets the tenor of the entire book is this:

AN OBSERVATION
A pair of train guards.
A pair of gravediggers.
When it came down to it, one
of them called the shots. The
other did what he was told.The
question is, what if the

other is a lot more than one?
-p. 30

What happens when there are a lot more people who simply do as there told, without question?  What happens to a society when a madman can rule through eloquent speeches, expressing ideals of hatred, and inspiring others to carry out morally reprehensible acts of violence and wickedness?

The Book Thief by Markus Zasuk is haunting and breath-taking, poetically beautiful and filled with truth.  Death often expresses sardonic, almost bitter, statements of irony, all the while telling the reader he is impartial.  He points out both the evil and the good of humans, expresses both disappointment and admiration of the species among whom he walks and collects.  It is a Homeric work that is full of joy and sorrow, anger and forgiveness, love and loss.  It is the story of a handful of people in Nazi Germany during 1939-1945; adults, children, Catholic, Nazi, and Jew, the “free” (was anyone truly free then?) and the hidden, the epitome of the “master race” and the persecuted and annihilated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you’ll take a look to the right, you’ll notice I’ve added a new widget in the sidebar labelled “Mt. TBR Hall of Fame.”  This is my Top 10 favorite books of all-time.  This, honestly, is an imprecise feat, as I know I’ll think of a book that I liked better but forgot, or I’ll read a book that will replace a book on here, and that is okay because I can always edit it.  When I added the widget, I was in the middle of reading The Book Thief, but it had already impressed me enough to be listed in 6th place… and I hadn’t even finished it yet.  And after finishing it and digesting it and writing this review, it has moved up to first place.

Obviously, as The Book Thief by Markus Zasuk is now my all-time favorite book, I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It should be included in school curriculum alongside The Diary of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel’s NightThe Book Thief has both historicity and literary eloquence, and will undoubtedly become a classic.

 hated it!didn't like itIt was okayLiked it.Loved it!

Again, don’t forget to check out this review’s companion post.

Friday Fill-In –

1. Said the night wind to the little lamb, “How far to the nearest 7-Eleven?”
2. The first Noel, the angel did say, was a sweet, little pastel calico that my middle daughter still misses terribly (we found the kitty at our town’s Christmas parade and named her “Noel”).
3. Pigeons fly and poo, Over the hills and everywhere.
4. It came upon the midnight clear, from the murky depths to challenge Santa’s hold as Lord of the Chimney and Master of the Sleigh.
5. A six inch incision and rib spread will, Let your heart be light.
6. And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing on the tv shows “In the Heat of the Night” and “All in the Family” (the actor’s name is Carol O’Connor).
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to finishing and reviewing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, tomorrow my plans include finishing and reviewing as many of the rest of the Narnia books as possible and Sunday, I want to have all the Narnias done, my Sunday Salon posted, and start in on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!

TSS – Habits, Addictions, and I’m Back!!

The Sunday Salon.com

Alright, alright… So I’ve been away for a couple weeks months, and the few posts in between seem to get the same comments, “I was wondering where you’ve been! I thought you died!” lol… Not quite, but I found a virtual world called Second Life and found it rather addictive. Think: Everything the real world has to offer, and then add flying, teleporting… being a werewolf or vampire… or a middle-age princess or knight in King Arthur’s court… and you can see why it’s so addictive.

I’m very much a creature of habit, BUT… my habits are so-SO-SO easily disrupted. My grandma’s death and funeral brought my mom up from Texas for a week long visit, which knocked me out of my reading habit. I decided to try Second Life because my best friend and her fiance (now husband…Yay!) were ALWAYS talking about it. So, on a whim, I created an avatar, signed on and was instantly caught up… so much so that I’ve been planning to buy a second computer and giving this one to the kids because I wouldn’t get off even for them to take their hour computer time (3 hours… I couldn’t even take 3 hours away!).

And in the process of living in Second Life (a common expression on it is “My first life is getting in the way of my Second Life!), I met a guy. Now, if you knew me, you’d know what a LAUGH this is. I’ve always been adamant AGAINST online relationships… and here I am, in a relationship began online. Yeah… be careful what you say because you may end up eating your words… lol. BUT, it’s mostly good. Both of us have had some really bad luck in past relationships, so there’s a lot of fear and insecurities to get past, and I vacillate several times a day between ending it NOW to avoid the heartache that MAY happen and going headlong into it, hoping for the best. HOPE.. *gack!*… never been a good friend of mine.

So, boyfriend lives about 2 1/2 hours from me and came to visit for the first time last weekend. Two and a half days of goo-goo eyes and my kids (who love him already, and likewise… a good chunk of my fears and insecurities eliminated right there) chanting “KISS! KISS! KISS!” then going, “EwwWWWwwwwWWww!” when we did, and my habit of Second Life was broke. I’ve been on for maybe, MAYBE, 8 hours in the last week.

And what filled the Second Life spot? Back to the books :-D and reviewing (-: and blogging the memes \o/ (yay!). I had the commitment of a November 25th blog stop for Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones, and I had only read a chapter or so before his visit, so I had to cook through it to make the deadline. And while it was an excellently written and researched book, it wasn’t exactly my cuppa. However, it really reminded me of my serious LOVE of reading, and how I’ve always said that as long as you have a book there’s no hell you can’t escape. Hey, if I lost the internet or if Second Life was shut down for some reason, where would I escape to? But books are always there, always accessible, and provide a second life in the world within.

And one of the fun things with my boyfriend is that he’s an avid reader. I’ve introduced him to The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, my number one Best New Author book and definitely on my top 5 reads for this year, as well as getting him into the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer.

He had read the first two books, Twilight and New Moon, and had just started reading the third, Eclipse, when he came down Friday. One reason for coming Friday was so we could go together to see the movie Twilight (I should review the movie, but I’ll have to watch it again… lol.. I was a bit, erm.. distracted the first time ;-) ). So when I finished Two Brothers, I picked up Breaking Dawn so I could keep ahead of him. Problem is, he’s reading them by audio book, which is faster than I can read. I HAVE to beat him, lol, so I picked up the audio book to read along. Hehehehe…. So I’m in chapter 16 and he’s in chapter 7, and if I read while he sleeps I should be able to beat him ;-) .

And now I’m so excited to be back into the books… of course, now I’m getting the “Where are you? Are you dead?” messages from my SL friends, but Boyfriend can let them know ;-)

So what’s next on my TBR right away pile? Well, after Breaking Dawn’s 700+ pages, I think I’ll read Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr. It’s a nice thin book, and I saw the movie when it came out… hadn’t realized it was a book until a few days later. Then maybe Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling… the movie will be out soon, so I want to get it read before then. Then… maybe Yiddish Policemen’s Unionby Michael Chabon (never read anything by him) and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, or vice versa. Also, I’ve been slowly working through Emma by Jane Austen, so I’ll get back to my Jane-a-thon, too.  AND… I’m ashamed to say, but somewhere in the last couple months I missed a blog tour stop.  I was suppose to be on Elizabeth McCracken’s An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.  I couldn’t find the date I was suppose to post… if I would have looked at the letter in the book I would’ve seen it was for September 30th.  I think I didn’t start looking for the date until after my House and Home review was posted, so I owe that review quickly.  As well as owing a review of Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland for LibraryThing’s ER group.  AND all the other ARC books I compulively requested… which is a LOT :-\ .

My reading goal was 75 books by December 31st, and I’m at 54 books… which means I’ve got less than five weeks to read 21 books. Hmm… don’t know if I can do that now, that’ll be more than 5 books a week, but I’ll do my best to get as close as possible.

So check back often, because the reviews are going to be flying up here quickly.

Oh…

and I’M BACK!!! :-D

Book Club Classics -Classics Meme!

In order to promote her new site, LitGuides.com (a site dedicated to helping teachers/students navigate classic lit), Kristen over at Book Club Classics has started her first meme – and S. Krishna has tagged me for it! The questions are below, and I’m tagging: Katleen, unfinishedperson, meghan, Mrs. Hall, and Traci.

  1. What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school (and why)?
  2. What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?
  3. Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?
  4. Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?
  5. **Bonus** Why do you think certain books become classics?

What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school (and why)?

The best classic I was “forced” to read was The Pearl by John Steinbeck. I was in 7th grade, and this book was my introduction to critical reading. It was the first time I was taught I could think for myself, not just espouse my parents’ ideas. When I started teaching my daughter to read the same way, The Pearl was our first book. The school’s no longer seem to be teaching logic and reason, only sheep-think.

What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?

Oh gawd! That would be Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I seriously do not think most teenager have the patience for this largely philosophical book. It bored me to tears, and most likely went over my head. I should try to reread it, but I’m just not that masochistic!

Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?

To be honest, and I’m sure this will offend a few people, The Bible. My reason for saying this is, in our Western society, so much of our collective conscious comes from this classic. Shakespeare took from Solomon’s writings, the moralities many books are built around are Judeo-Christian ethics, and most social structures stem from it. We would not be the society we are without The Bible.

Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?

I really don’t know of any that should be put to rest. Maybe some should be saved for older ages, but a classic is a classic because it is always relevant.  Even Harry Potter is relevent for all ages (though I don’t think I’d count it as a classic yet.  We’ll have to see how it goes).

Why do you think certain books become classics?

As I said above, a classic is always relevant. It’s not restricted to it’s own time or place, but speaks to everyone, everywhere, at any time. It reveals something of humor nature, whether it’s arrogance and assumption as in Pride and Prejudice, or the desire to be important and matter as in Vanity Fair, or the evils of the pursuit of power and control as in Animal Farm and 1984. Sometimes they warn us not to give up our power because of fear as in The Giver and Fahrenheit 451, and some mock society to reveal it’s failings as we read in Candide and Le Tartuffe. They challenge us to think and act, and broaden our views of the world around us.

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