To Kill a Mockingbird

tkamTitle: To Kill A Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

Summary: ‘They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ Scout and her brother Jem can understand that idea of sin, but in the small American town where they live, evil comes in many shapes and they have to learn to recognize it, and understand how people behave. Their father’s unpopularity when he fights for a Negro in trouble reveals other mockingbirds.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: Apparently i had high expectations of this book. I hadn’t even realised i did until i started reading and it just… wasn’t as good as i had assumed it would be. It’s pretty much ~the~ classic, which i guess i, personally, should have been more wary about. I usually instinctively adopt mistrust of overly-popular books (and film and TV and etc), assuming them to never be as good as the masses claim them to be. But To Kill a Mockingbird tricked me somehow. I guess my weak spot for classics blindsided me.

Most simply, i didn’t really like the writing style. It was overly descriptive and hugely specific, mostly noticeably with regards to location and layout of the town. I was too busy trying to figure out where the Radley house was and how and why Scout and Jem need to walk past it that the effect them being so scared of the house should have had on me was lost. I much prefer when descriptions are more vague and i’m allowed to picture it in my own way. I like being made to feel, not forced to picture.

The story meandered and there was pretty much no plot. I liked the characters well enough, and i’ve always said the characters can make or break a book for me. Well, apparently, a lack of a plot can also be a breaking point. Summer, school, summer, school, summer… with nothing to string them together. Nothing to follow, other than Scout’s wandering thoughts. It was only when the trial started, about two-thirds of the way into the book, that things started to get interesting enough for me to really want to keep reading. And really, the trial just made me angry. Angry about how hateful and blind people are. I already know the world is full of injustice, i see it every day all around me. Some people might need that spelled out to them in a work of fiction, but i read fiction as an escape, not to remind me of the world i’m trying to escape from.

And the characters. I liked them, mostly, but they seemed very divided into “good” and “bad” with only very few coming near to blurring the lines between the two. I also found Scout herself to uncharacteristicly miss the point sometimes. The book is told from Scout’s point of view, and she spans the ages of six to eight, but it’s established on the first page, and referenced throughout the book, that she is writing this later in life; she’s older and has more perspective. And i think the distinction became blurred on that. Sometimes she offered insight, either in the childish way she would have understood it at the time, or in hindsight. But there were several occasions where it seemed Scout just didn’t get what was going on, though it wasn’t a stretch to think she would, based on other times she’d been so astute. These moments left me with something akin to a lack of respect for her. The character i liked most, i think, was Jem, because he seemed to grow and develop over the course of the book, where all the other characters, though slotted perfectly into their assigned spots, were very two-dimensional and flat. They played a role, rather than a full character.

This review is heavily on the negative side, but i did enjoy the book. I looked forward to picking it up to read. It just wasn’t as good as i’d hoped. And it is definitely one of those books that i see as having so much potential, so much good, but that could just so easily be so much better.

This is the tenth book i’ve read from my Classics Club list.

This knocks one square off my Bookish Bingo: Pulitzer Prize winner.

Florence and Giles

florence-and-gilesTitle: Florence and Giles

Author: John Harding

Summary: 1891. In a crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence and her younger brother Giles are neglected by their guardian uncle. Banned from reading, Florence devours books in secret, and twists words and phrases into a language uniquely her own.

After the violent death of the children’s first governess, a second arrives. Florence becomes convinced she is vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against a powerful enemy, with no adult to turn for help, Florence will need all her intelligence and ingenuity to save Giles and preserve her private world. This is her chilling tale…

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: There was a lot i liked about this book, but there was also a lot that i think could be improved. On the whole, i don’t like having that kind of feeling about a book; i like to either really like it, really hate it, or just think it was okay. To see so much good and so much potential in a book just leaves me wanting.

Let’s start with the good. I adored Florence–from start to finish. She’s strong, smart and independent; i can’t not love her. She teaches herself how to read, she spends hours each day sneaking to the library to read. She creates a herself a little den in the library in the winter to keep warm while she reads, she reads and loves Shakespeare and Poe. She messes with the English language, making nouns and adjectives into verbs (which are hit and miss; some are brilliant, others are awkward). She effortlessly manipulates the adults around her, while never taking that ability for granted.

I loved the setting: A old country mansion. Two young children alone save for the adults hired to tend to the house. Visits from the young boy from the next mansion over. And i loved the setting up of a mystery: A mysterious uncle whom no one has ever met. A father and two mothers whose lives nor deaths anyone will speak of. A photo album with the faces of one woman cut out. The sudden death of one governess followed by the swift appointing of a suspicious second.

Where the book then started to fail was towards the end, with the rather lacking unravelling of this mystery. Quite early on i thought i had it pegged. I thought i knew who this suspicious new governess was and what her motives were. In the end, i can’t be sure whether i was right or wrong–the clues surrounding it are never truly addressed. Instead there is a different twist to the end of the book. A twist which i loved, but that came with it’s own problems. All the foreshadowing in the book pointed in one direction, while the drama at the end focused on something entirely different. Neither the mystery nor the twist satisfied me enough because of this.

I really would have liked to see a better pay off for the clues scattered throughout the first half of the book, as well as more build up and foreshadowing towards the twist that is revealed at the end. The fact that i can see exactly how easily this book could have been better, stronger, more shocking… it pains me more than everything i enjoyed about it.

To end on a fond note, though, one of my favourite Florence-isms:

As I princessed in the tower, he knight-in-shining-armoured up the drive.

This knocks three squares off my Bookish Bingo: A retelling (it’s a reworking of The Turn of the Screw), main character under 16 and a strong sibling relationship.

The Hourglass Factory

hourglassTitle: The Hourglass Factory

Author: Lucy Ribchester

Summary: Meet Ebony Diamond: trapeze artist, tiger-tamer, suffragette. Where there is trouble, she is never far away. But now she’s the one in trouble, and she’d up to her neck in it.

Enter Frankie George: tomboy, cub reporter, chippy upstart. She’s determined to make her name on the London Evening Gazette, if only someone will give her a chance. The Ebony disappears during a performance at the London Coliseum, and Frankie jumps at the chance to find out what happened.

How did Ebony vanish, who was she afraid of, and what goes on behind the doors of the mysterious Hourglass Factory? From the newsrooms of Fleet Street to the suffragette headquarters, Frankie enters a world of society columnists, corset fetishists and circus freaks on the trail of a murderous villain with a plot more deadly than anyone could have imagined…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 2.5/5

Review: I bought this book on a whim after i saw in in a shop. The cover caught my eye, it had females leads, it included suffragettes… it seemed interesting. It seems like it will be the last time i buy a book on a whim.

This has taken me over a month to read, it was so hard going. The worst of it is, though, that there is nothing i can point to to say ‘this was bad’, but at the same time, not much i can point to to say ‘this was good’. It wasn’t so exciting or engrossing that i wanted to pick it up to keep reading, but it wasn’t so bad that i just wanted to give up altogether. I wanted to have read it, i just didn’t want to read it. And in some ways, that’s worse than just disliking a book enough to not finish it.

It had a great concept, a great premise. The era it was set in and the suffragettes… except the plot was so (so, very, very) slow to get going that instead of being interesting in the book itself, i was more inclined to research more details about the suffragette movement. In fact i have a copy of The Militant Suffragettes on my bedside table to read in the near future now i’ve (finally) finished this book!

I liked the characters, at least, the characters i was supposed to like. And i disliked the characters i was supposed to dislike. It was all very easy–too easy. What i would have liked is more. There are hints and trickles to these characters, but nothing more. Inspector Primrose and his wife particularly gained my affections and interest, and i wanted to know more about them. Instead they seemed like bit-part characters filling the role of stars. The same can be said for all the characters. I liked Frankie, but we’re only ever given hints of her feelings. Does she regret her childhood sweetheart married someone else? Does she feel for the women she gets to know over the course of the book, or is she only interested in making it in a man’s world? Milly and Ebony seemed too far away to reach… too attractive to be very deep. Liam seemed smart and highly under-appreciated, and i would have liked him and Frankie to stop arguing and acknowledge the value of each other at some point.

The plot meandered, with the characters fumbling from one clue to the next, not really figuring anything out until it was put right in front of their noses. And never actually finding the missing Ebony–instead she finds them. The end culminates in action-packed fashion, but mostly i didn’t care, unfortunately.

There was just so much to like about this book… but it was so lacklustre and mediocre. I’m annoyed with it for not being what i had hoped it would be.

The Alchemist’s Revenge

17848164Title: The Alchemist’s Revenge

Author: Peter Cakebread

Summary: In a 17th century that didn’t quite happen, a nation is torn apart by civil war.

When an embittered mercenary agrees to escort a grieving widow to visit her husband’s grave, little does he realise the dangers they will face. This is the story of their struggle through a country divided. As they journey through tainted lands, ravaged by alchemical magic and giant clockwork war machines, they are reunited with old friends and stalked by sinister foes. The reluctant heroes band together in this tale of loss and despair, of redemption and friendship, and ultimately, of retribution and revenge!

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: There was a lot about this book that i really enjoyed. Magic, alchemy, clockwork contraptions, adventure, well-rounded characters. And in that regard, it was a wonderful read.

The setting is a country divided, with one side favouring the crown with its magic, while the other is behind parliament and its clockwork machines. The protagonist, William, is on no-one’s side but his own, and i really got behind that. He’d seen war before and has since decided he wants no part in it; let them fight it out without him. I liked him.

The alchemist of the title, Belinda, on the whole, i didn’t like. She is a rather self-righteous and self-important. She looks down on everyone, even those she stops to help or who decide to help her. I would not have gone to the lengths William did for her.

Along their journey we meet Ralph, William’s brother, who was perhaps my favourite character. He was so light-hearted and cheerful, but was obviously also loyal and had strong emotions. Helga i loved as a character. A strong woman, manipulative enough to get her own way. If i met a person like her in reality, i would hate them.

Where the books falls down for me is plot. For the first half, it lacks one. William agrees to accompany Belinda to the place her husband died during battle, and they go. Despite being sure something else must be going on, that something else needed to happen, nothing does until the characters find out what happened to Belinda’s husband and, as the title suggests, she seeks revenge. While i enjoyed reading, with so little plot until halfway through the book, there was nothing to drive my reading.

The plot also starts to drag towards the end. When one of their party is suddenly in danger, and the need to act quickly is clearly identified, the story then drags on for pages and chapters about a piece of machinery that will aid their rescue attempt. Now, the machinery was interesting, but in terms of the story, only drew things out and had me feeling impatient.

While i loved a lot of what this book contained, i couldn’t help thinking to myself how what i was reading could be improved. It’s a lovely world, with some great characters, and it has the potential to be so much more than it is.

I read it more from the point of view of an editor–because i really think this book needs one.

I Capture the Castle

!!d71vRgEWM~$(KGrHqYOKm8Ew9Bs7C7-BMR82FFvZQ~~_35Title: I Capture the Castle

Author: Dodie Smith

Summary: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ is the first line of a novel about love, sibling rivalry and a bohemian existence in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. Cassandra Mortmain’s journal records her fadingly glamorous stepmother, Topaz, her beautiful, wistful older sister, Rose and the man to whom all three of them owe their isolation and poverty: Father.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: I didn’t know too much about this book before i read it. I can’t even remember how it ended up on my to-read list. I just knew it was about a family that lived in a run down old castle, and that sounded fun.

I love the writing. As the book is the journal of Cassandra, it was impossible to love the writing without loving her too. She’s smart and observant, and i just loved her voice. She is so kind and sees the good in everyone, i admire that because i certainly can’t do it myself!

Cassandra also makes some stunningly beautiful and meaningful comments, almost too casually. She says she wishes she could write poetry, but to me she already does.

What the book lacks is an interesting plot. I loved this family, i loved how close they were despite their troubles and poor financial situation. I love how they all pulled together to do what they could. I loved the mystery surrounding the father and the will he/won’t he, can he/can’t he regarding his writing career.

What i did not like was the love stories. He loves her, but she loves him, but he loves her sister, but she loves her brother… bah. Early on in the book Cassandra and Rose briefly discuss books, Rose favouring Jane Austen and Cassandra liking Charlotte Brontë. I wondered then what i’d let myself in for. Books whose focus is on the main female characters falling in love and being swept of her feet and… not my thing. Not my thing at all.

The writing, narrative voice and lots of the characters were truly wonderful. I just didn’t like what they were used for.

This is the second book i’ve read from my Classics Club list.

Expo 58

expo-58Title: Expo 58.

Author: Jonathan Coe.

Summary: Sinister spies, an Englishman abroad, and a pub called Britannia. Welcome to the centre of the world. Welcome to Belgium. Welcome to Expo 58.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I enjoyed this book. It was easy to read and on a few occasions made me laugh quite thoroughly. Though i am still puzzled as to how someone could have a “moon-shaped” face… Was it full, half, crescent or new moon?

An Englishman, Thomas, with a wife and baby gets shipped off the Belgium for Expo 58 to supervise the British pavilion’s British pub. While away he gets caught up in pseudo-romances and shady international spying.

Thomas… He comes across as quite weak-willed and unsure of himself. One minute he thinks he loves his wife and child, the next he finds his domestic life a bore. Part of him wants a whirlwind romance with the Belgian hostess, Anneke, while he also doesn’t really care about her at all. Really, Thomas doesn’t know what he wants. I think his wife figured that out a long time ago, and just exasperatedly puts up with him.

Mr Radford and My Wayne are by far the most entertaining characters in this book. Mysterious government agents of some kind, they make an amusing double act. They intimidate, reassure and manipulate people whilst finishing each other’s sentences.

The romance angle in the story only interested me for so long; Thomas’ clear unwillingness to even think about what he really wanted became a bore. His obliviousness to the international spies and covert operations going on around him where what kept me truly entertained.

He eventually discovered that something was going on, but couldn’t grasp what, and was then given a tall-tale of an explanation. Thomas is quite strategically roped into the games, but not quite in the way he thinks he is.

Seeing the whole thing unfold from Thomas’ point of view is interesting. Realising how close to the centre of the whole operation he is, but how completely unknowing he’s been. It’s quite obvious to the reader that what Thomas believes is happening is not actually what is going on, but when the truth (or what we can only assume is the truth—Mr Radford and Mr Wayne have never truly been forthcoming) is finally revealed, it was under his nose all along.

The best scene in the book, for me, was the meeting to discuss the British pavilion before the Expo began. A room full of grown men arguing about how (in)appropriate it is to talk openly about faeces. And a man adamantly defending the idea of an exhibition celebrating the British invention of the flushing toilet, followed by the funniest lines in the entire book:

“Might I remind you that at the entrance to this pavilion, which you propose to deface with this obscene display, visitors will find a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen?”
Gardener leaned forward. “And might I remind you, Sir John, that even Her Majesty – even Her Majesty…”

I was rather unimpressed with the ending, which seemed rather pointless and ended the whole thing on a bit of a downer. Enlightening us as to how Thomas lived out his unexciting life, and then enlightening Thomas to the missed opportunity of a life he could have had—a life he never fully considered taking.

I did like the details of the Britannia pub that was opened in Dover, and how it evolved, along with Britain, over the years. Ending up a far cry from what the representatives of Britain were attempting with the original Britannia pub at Expo 58.

Overall, a light-hearted and entertaining read. Not quite the ‘Ealing comedy meets Hitchcockian thriller’ the blurb promises, but amusing and thrilling in its own way nonetheless.

Carter Beats The Devil

1774323Title: Carter Beats The Devil.

Author: Glen David Gold.

Summary: On August 2nd 1923, at the dawn of the Jazz Age in San Francisco, the master magician Charles Carter walks on to the stage of the Curran Theatre for the most daring performance of his life. Its climax involves a battle with the devil himself, and this evening President Warren G Harding is taking park. Two hours later President Harding will be dead.

Charles Carter, dubbed Carter the Great by none other than the supreme showman Harry Houdini, was born into privilege but became a magician out of need: only when dazzaling an audience with his illusions can he defeat his fear of loneliness. But with every step into the twentieth century the stakes are growing higher, as technology and the cinema challenge the allure of magic and Carter’s stunts become increasingly audacious. Until the night the president dies, and Carter finds himself pursued not only by a Secret Service agent but by a host of others desperate for the terrible secret they believe Harding confided in him.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: Apparently this book “seamlessly blends reality and fiction,” but i wouldn’t know, because i had no idea who Charles Carter and Warren Harding were before i picked the book up. Therefore this review is from an ‘it’s all fiction’ point of view.

Best thing about this book: Charles Carter. He was the thing i consistently loved throughout the book. He’s funny and sweet and just the perfect amount of conceited for it to come across as charming. He’s light-hearted, but sensitive. He’s realistic (as a character, obviously i have no idea what the real Charles Carter was like). He also falls for independent and fascinating women, who i also loved, so he gets kudos for that.

Every other character in the book i was see-sawing on. My feelings could go up and down; i really liked them one minute and really didn’t like them the next. But what i appreciated was that i always felt something towards them. What i hate most is characters that leave me ambivalent or lukewarm. I would enjoy a book full of characters i hated more than a book full of characters i didn’t really care about at all. And i had an opinion on every character in Carter Beats The Devil.

The mystery of whether Carter murdered the president or not was the one plot line i was least interested in, and with good reason, as it turned out my instant suspicions on it were correct; for me it wasn’t a mystery at all. Far more interesting was Carter’s life, his illusions and his scrapes with the Secret Services and an old rival.

I had heard that the second half of the book was disappointing, after what the first half had set in motion. I did not find this at all (thankfully). If anything, the second half was better than the first, filled with unrelenting suspense, danger and entertainment.

The only thing that was a let down for me, was the last 20 pages. They were just superfluous. I found every word boring and pointless. The only thing they contained that was of any value was the answer to the Harding murder mystery, but this was no surprise to me. It could have ended on a more exciting, high and hopeful note, but instead Gold drags it out outlining the exact happily ever after, plus a couple of meaningless addendums. If i ever re-read this book, i’ll know to stop reading a few chapters early.

The Spire

15807020Title: The Spire.

Author: William Golding.

Summary: The vision that drives Dean Jocelin to construct an immense new spire above his cathedral tests the limits of all who surround him. The foundationless stone pillars shriek and the earth beneath them heaves under the structure’s weight as the Dean’s will weighs down his collapsing faith.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I almost gave up on this book within in the first two chapters, but i’m glad i didn’t. It was a bit too much like a soap opera for my liking, with nothing to string the chapters together except Jocelin’s very slow descent into madness, and the drama (bullying, rivalries, affairs and family) between the characters.

Essentially the story is about Jocelin. The spire—Jocelin’s folly, as it is known throughout—is something Jocelin believes he was destined to build. It is also not-so-subtly symbolic of Jocelin’s manhood and his increasing physical attraction to Goody, a female character who soon starts up an affair with Roger, the master builder. Roger then (it is alluded to) murders Goody’s husband before she herself dies giving birth to Roger’s child (see what i mean about a soap opera?).

All that was entertaining enough, but Jocelin was the focus. He sees all this drama going on around him, within his church and around the building of the spire, but he pays no mind to it. All he cares about is that his spire is built.

Throughout the book i entertained myself with theories regarding Jocelin, never taking any of them too seriously. They included possession, mental illness and a brain tumour. Mental illness was spot on, and a brain tumour turned out to be tuberculosis, but i was in the ball park. In his obsessive behaviour towards the spire, and his determination to ignore everything else (the lives of the people around him, his own feelings and even his own illness), made me view Jocelin as quite one dimensional. That may be unfair, but it is how he viewed his limited world, so it is how i chose to view him.

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see the spire fall. I was hoping Jocelin would be crushed under it; his folly truly accomplished. But i can live with the idea that Jocelin didn’t get to see it fall. By the end he had begun to regret his actions, and acknowledge the pain he had brought to so many people. He accepts his attraction to Goody, and begins to doubt his faith because of it:

“And what is heaven to me unless I go in holding him by one hand and her by the other?”

I enjoyed this book. Golding has such a way with words that can make almost any line, taken out of context, into an interesting quote. My favourite from this book being:

“I am here; and here is nowhere in particular.”

But my favourite part of this book, the part that had me smiling each and every time Jocelin referenced it, was Father Anonymous:

“Father Adam!”
But the little man said nothing, did nothing. He stood still holding the letter, and there was not even a change of expression in his face; and this might be, thought Jocelin, because he has no face at all. He is the same all round like the top of a clothespeg. He spoke, laughing down at the baldness with its fringe of nondescript hair.
“I ask your pardon, Father Adam. One forgets you are there so easily!” And then, laughing aloud in joy and love— “I shall call you Father Anonymous!”

The Night Circus

The Night Circus UKTitle: The Night Circus.

Author: Erin Morgenstern.

Summary: In 1886, a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Rêves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire.
Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who who call themselves the rêveurs—the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship between two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter’s daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer’s apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy mastersm they find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love…

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: I found this book randomly on amazon about a year ago. I just thought it sounded like the perfect book to get lost it. A magical circus full of extraordinary things, beautifully told. I added it to my wishlist, and got if for my birthday. It sat on myself for many months, because it is a hardback copy, and with so many paperbacks to read, i always put it off. Now i have finally got around to reading it.

I am not usually a fan of too much or overly detailed description. I can find it dull, dragging the story along with insignificant details about how many buttons are on someone’s very specifically tailored coat or the exact layout and style of a room of no importance that half a page of story takes place in. I find it unnecessary. With The Night Circus, the vivid and in-depth descriptions are the whole point of the book. They were not insignificant or pointless, they created the entire atmosphere of the book. The plots were weaved between the world created, rather than elbowing useless details of a world into an intricate plot. And it worked. It could see it, i could feel it, i could smell it.

The plot itself was interesting enough, but only alongside the vividly created world in which it was set. A world where anyone can learn ‘magic’, but so few chose to even acknowledge the possibility of it. The world focused on is, as the title states, The Night Circus. Where ‘magic’ is flaunted and used to create incredible interactive spectacles. Within the circus a game is being played between two illusionists, except they don’t know the rules. The circus itself is the venue for their game, the attractions they create their most important pieces, while the inhabitants and guests are the pawns.

Weaved through the main plot, there are others that slowly cross paths until they all join up at the end. There is Bailey, stuck on his father’s farm waiting for the circus to return. There is Poppet and Widget, born on the circus’ opening night with stage abilities they need help to understand. As well as numerous lives of people involved with and affected by the circus, in positive and negative ways. Nothing can be taken or read in isolation, all these stories impact on each other. Small lines in an intricate drawing with incredible detail.

Without the world detailed in such rich description and specifics, the plots would be much more mundane and less thrilling. Even the characters would seem lackluster without the backdrop of the interesting, enthralling and mysterious Circus of Dreams. It really is a story to get lost in.

The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief.

Author: Markus Zusak.

Summary: Here is a small fact: You are going to die.
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
Some important information: This novel is narrated by Death.
It’s a small story, about: a girl • an accordionist • some fanatical Germans • a Jewish fist fighter • and quite a lot of thievery.
Another thing you should know: Death will visit The Book Thief three times.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: “Some important information: This novel is narrated by Death.” This line was the one that grabbed me, and made me want to read this book. And really, for me, the fact that the narrator is Death is what makes the book. He has the unique advantage of knowing what’s going on in far more depth and breadth than the characters could know. The fact that wherever he is, wherever he goes, he always sees humans in their last moments gives him an unparalleled point of view. As Death himself puts it:

“I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

Death is a step apart from the lives of the people this book is about, but in another way he is closer to each of them than they are to each other. This unique vantage offers an incredibly told story.

Also, Death is a tease. He outright states at various points what will and will not happen; who will and will not die. Then he admits he’s getting ahead of himself and slows right down. It’s infuriating, infectious and makes the book almost impossible to put down. You might know what’s coming, but you’re desperate to see how they get there.

“Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”

The story itself is about The Book Thief, Liesel. She steals books to read, escape and, perhaps most importantly, regain some semblance of control in her life, which is constantly changing around her. During her adolescent years in which the story is set, we see her make friends and loyalties, enemies and vendettas. We see her share secrets with the Jew hiding in her basement and strike up an acquaintance with a woman who has swastikas on her slippers. We see her ups and her downs, and those of the people around her. And then we see it all ripped away.

The characters are wonderful. They are true, and flawed and, each in their own way, perfect. I am so used to simply loving or hating characters completely, that it was really nice to like and dislike something about them all. They frustrated me, they delighted me. They disgusted me, they made me proud. Their motivations were clear and honest, if sometimes questionable. Fictional though they may be, i was made to care about them. I mourned each and every single one.

The amount of times this book ripped my heart out, stomped on it a little and then gently picked it up and carefully placed it back into my chest is unbelievable. Yes, i cried. (And if you don’t cry at books filled with words, characters and situations that are constructed to toy with your emotions, then please don’t read this book—it will be wasted on you.) I cried, but i also smiled and laughed and gasped and winced. And it was all worth it. I can’t say this book has a happy ending, but it certainly doesn’t have a hopeless one.

“I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there.”