Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge Check-in #2

With the continuing frigid weather this week, there wasn't much too do but hunker down under a blanket with a stack of books. So, the weather sucked, but the reading helped to warm me up a bit.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, AKA the book thief.  Death first encounters Liesel when her younger brother dies while they are on the way to live with foster parents.  Liesel steals her first book, The Gravedigger's Handbook, at her brother's funeral (even though she can't read).  Her foster father, Hans, uses the book to teach Liesel to read.

The Book Thief is set during the Holocaust, so Death is definitely feeling overworked.  Liesel steals more books and forms close relationships with the people around her, especially Hans, her foster father, Max, a Jew hiding in her basement, and Rudy, a blond boy who admires Jesse Owens.  Not every German in the book is a Nazi and Zusak brings out the beauty and the horror of humanity in its many forms.

Death jumps around and interrupts himself, which makes the beginning of the book quite confusing.  However, this book is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking and a must-read for older teens and adults.

One of the best books I've read this year.


Rereading for the 2014 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge. I don't know what else I can add, except that I love this book more every time I read it. And events near the end still make me cry. Every. Single. Time. 

One of many favorite quotes from this book:

“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do - the best ones. The ones who rise up and say "I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come." Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.”

 I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

An aimless young man foils a bank robbery and subsequently receives "messages" on playing cards that he is compelled to deliver.  He first receives an ace of diamonds with three addresses on it. He visits the three homes and observes the people in them until he understands what each needs. Some tasks are pretty easy and/or straightforward, and others are downright scary. As he impacts the lives of others, he finds himself more in touch with his own hopes and dreams--and finally, fully alive.  Sophisticated YA literature.


Currently rereading for the 2014 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge. I liked it even better than the first time I read it. I think knowing how it was all going to end let me focus more on the beauty of the words and the themes, rather than being so driven to understand the mystery of the cards and what they mean. 

Favorite quotes:

"Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.” 

"It's not a big thing, but I guess it's true--big things are often just small things that are noticed.”

Crap Kingdom by D.C. Pierson

Tom Parking is a completely ordinary teenaged drama geek with the kind of boring life that makes him sure that nothing great will ever happen to him.  He's crushing on Lindsay, but she doesn't seem to know he's alive. When a stranger named Gark takes him to an alternate universe and calls Tom "The Chosen One," Tom thinks his time has come. Finally, something great is about to happen. But then he arrives in the kingdom with no name and finds that everything is made out of garbage from Earth. Plus, the king hates him on sight and assigns him to work in the Rat-Snottery. After very little thought, Tom turns down the gig.  However, he soon finds out that his best friend, Kyle, has taken his place as Chosen One.  Suddenly, Crap Kingdom is more appealing and Tom wants to recapture his lost opportunity.  Conflict and silliness ensue.

I am a huge fan of satire and fantasy, so I thought I'd love this book. While there were moments of genuine hilarity, the plot fell flat for me. Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! by Terry Brooks is kind of similar and I liked it better. 

 Dodger by Terry Pratchett

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I've never read anything by Terry Pratchett.  I keep meaning to read the Discworld series, but there are just so many. And I tend to be obsessive about series--I can't read just one of the books. This stand-alone romp through Victorian England was an enjoyable introduction without all of the commitment.

One stormy night, Dodger rescues a young woman who is being beaten in the street. Determined to keep her safe, Dodger sets out to solve the mystery of who she is and why powerful people want her dead. I love the way Pratchett intertwines fantasy and historical fiction, with Dodger encountering people like Sweeney Todd and Charles Dickens. 

My favorite line:

“Money makes people rich; it is a fallacy to think it makes them better, or even that it makes them worse. People are what they do, and what they leave behind.”

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Finishing School, book one.

Sophronia has no interest in becoming a proper lady.  She'd much rather climb things and fiddle with machines. When she is shipped off to finishing school, she is sure she is going to hate every minute of it. But at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, the learning goes beyond etiquette.  But only the best students will master the fine art of espionage and be truly "finished."

I'm not generally a fan of Steampunk, but I did find this world interesting. As the first in a series, there was more of a focus on world building than plot, but it was a fun, quick read with quite a lot of humor.

My favorite quote:

“Really, Sophronia, it makes me most uncomfortable how you manage to sort everything out every time I faint.” 

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