Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’m frugal with my five-star ratings, but any book that can make me cry deserves all the stars.

When I first read The Book Thief at sixteen, I didn’t see what the fuss was all about.  It was good, but not great.  I liked the writing, the story, and enjoyed the characters well enough, but it didn’t make an impression.

This time around, the book absolutely wrecked me.

I picked it up for one of my summer grad school classes and it was love from page one.  I opted for the audiobook and soaked in every minute of my daily commute.  Zusak’s writing is incredible.  The characters are well-formed, with realistic development and motivations. The book’s themes about the power of words and the inconsistency of humanity are so well-implemented, I can’t get them out of my head.  It’s taken me a month to sit and write out this review because there’s just so much to think about.

Reading The Book Thief as an adult was also a very personal experience.  I’ve recently experienced several deaths and this book helped me grieve.  I finished the same day I learned one of my favorite library patrons had died and the last fifteen minutes of the audiobook had me sobbing uncontrollably on my way home from work.  I was a total traffic hazard.  For someone who doesn’t cry often, this kind reaction is noteworthy.  I haven’t connected with a story on this a visceral level like this in a long time.

Overall, this is the kind of book that you can’t look away from.  It’s the kind of story that haunts you for years after reading and keeps bringing you back for more.  It’s the kind of story that worms its way into your being.  It sounds strange, but I feel a more complete person after reading this book.

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Reading Recap: May 2018

Yay, another reading recap!

My main goal this month was to get through all the required books in the syllabus for my Young Adult lit class before term starts.  I’m happy to say that I succeeded with three days to spare!  Required novels dominated my pleasure reading this month.  Eight of the following books were for class.  There were some really great titles and I’m really looking forward to discussing Maus, Brown Girl Dreaming, and the book on the Romanovs with my classmates.

As for the books I picked up purely for fun… I was unimpressed with the newest Court of Thorns and Roses installment, but enjoyed being back in that world.  Naturally, rereading Cinder for my class launched another reread of the entire Lunar Chronicles series, which has been delightful.  For my morning cup-of-tea Christian nonfiction, both titles I finished this month were excellent.

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Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 11
  • Number of pages read: 2,949
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 2
  • Number of rereads: 2
  • Longest book: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • Shortest book: Maus by Art Spiegleman
  • Highest ratings:
    • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (4.75 stars)
    • Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating: Black Butler Vol. 1 by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

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Poetry Talk: Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello

A couple of months ago, my friend Tinu approached me about helping review and publicize her debut poetry collection.  I hadn’t heard from her since college and, while I was swamped with grad school work at the time, couldn’t say no.  What’s the point of having being involved in the online bookish community if you can’t use your platform to support the creative endeavors of your friends?

It’s been a long time coming, but a short break between grad school semesters has given me the chance to sit down with the collection and pull together some thoughts.  This is by no means a comprehensive review, but I hope you get a sense for what the poems are about.  I had so much fun digging into them.

I hope you enjoy my scattered thoughts!

You can buy your own copy of Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Be sure to add it to your reading list on Goodreads.

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Thoughts on Kindness

Kindness, I’m learning, is a powerful thing.

Working in a public library, people from all walks of life come through my door.  I love this because it gives me the opportunity to interact with people who are very different from me.  One of the joys of being a small town librarian is the ability to really build relationships with my patrons.  They aren’t just faces checking out books.  I call them by name, remember what books they like, and get to be part of their routines.

You find the most generous people in small towns.  My patrons, in particular, have shown great kindness to me over the past two years.  They know I have a long commute and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been offered a place to stay on winter nights when driving conditions are hazardous.  A year ago, a family who knew I love cats surprised me by bringing in their litter of kittens.  Having a kitten party in the library was pretty much a dream come true and I glowed the rest of the day.  Recently, one of my regulars attempted to recruit my help in tapping maple trees and boiling syrup.  He’s a prankster and, when I said no, gave me a hard time.  A week later, though, he gave me a jar of homemade syrup anyway.

These relationships are one of the things I love most about my job.

One of my goals, and something I work very hard at, is to treat each person who walks in the door with dignity and respect.  I want people to feel seen and known when they visit the library–they aren’t just another faceless consumer.  I want people to feel like they matter.

This is no easy task and, so often, I fail to live up to it.  When people show you incredible kindness, it is easy to be kind in return.  When people are friendly, responsible, capable, and don’t argue when you tell them they have late fines, it is easy to show them love.

But people are hard.  They’re messy, complicated, and difficult.

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Reading Recap: April 2018

Oh, April, thank goodness you are a thing of the past.

This month, I had my first true reading slump in years, which was frustrating.  A two-week bout of anxiety, a death in the family, and a misguided jump onto the hype-train that was Ready Player One took all the wind out of my sails.  I spent two weeks on a book that should have taken two days and I didn’t even like it.  What a huge waste!

When it only took three days to make it through the 600 page beast that is Obsidio, I knew I was back to normal.  After that, I cruised through the rest of the month.

Halfway through April, I received the syllabus for my summer class, Library Services for Young Adults.  My goal is to have all the required books finished by the time the semester starts.  (Yes, I am a crazy person.  Embrace it.)  I’ve already covered nearly half of the list and definitely think I can finish by the end of May.

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This post is part of my 2018 Reading Challenge.

Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 13
  • Number of pages read: 4, 098
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 3
  • Number of rereads: 4
  • Longest book: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • Shortest book: The Separate Rose by Pablo Neruda
  • Highest ratings:
    • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5 stars)
    • Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (4.5 stars)
    • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating:
    • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (1.5 stars)

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Reading Recap: March 2018

Another month has come and gone, and I’ve been busy reading!  Because, really, what else do I have to do with my time?  Actually, I’m quite thrilled because my massive pile of library books that I’ve been chipping away at since January is now reduced to ZERO!  Which is a good feeling!

I was on a roll early in the month, but slowed down near the end due to being out of town.  This month features a ridiculous amount of YA (what else is new?), some new releases, some rereads, some hyped books, and some that had me less than thrilled.

My thoughts on the following books are all spoiler-free.  If you want to talk about any of the titles, feel free to leave a comment!

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Reading Recap: February 2018

It’s time for another reading recap!  Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted.

February was an underwhelming reading month for me.  I read a lot of books I enjoyed, but only a few that fully sucked me in and captured my imagination.  My highest rating was a reread and the majority of my ratings were in the 3-4 range.  The whole month, I felt overwhelmed by a massive pile of library holds that I felt obligated to read right away.  I did read a few books that I own that have been sitting on my shelf for a long time, so that felt good.

Time to plunge into the books!  My thoughts are all spoiler-free.  If you want to talk about any of the titles, feel free do drop by the comments!

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Reading Recap: January 2018

It’s time for my first reading recap of the year!

As part of a project to better track my reading habits, at the end of each month, I’m sharing some statistics from what books I covered. Being a graduate student on top of working full time, I really don’t have the mental capacity to review each book I read.  So this is a way to share what I’m reading.  These posts will also be handy summaries that I can use later for personal purposes.

I do share some brief thoughts about each book and I do my best to phrase things in a way that don’t have spoilers.  These aren’t reviews, just scattered thoughts that I put in my notebook to help me remember my impression of the book.  If you have any questions or want to talk further about anything you see on this list, I’d be happy to do that with you in the comments!  Or, feel free to add me on Goodreads!

If you want more information about each book, follow the links embedded in the titles.  That will bring you to the book’s Goodreads page.

So here we go!

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New Year, New Semester: A Brief Update

A New Years post at the end of January?  Amelia, shouldn’t you have posted this weeks ago?  Yes, yes I should have.  However, life, school, and laziness has kept me away from my blog.  Better late than never, right?

My second semester of graduate school is underway and I’m sitting here wondering, WHERE did my winter break go?!  And why didn’t I do any writing during my time off?!

Since I’ve been hard-core neglecting my blog, here’s a brief recap of things in Amelia land:

  • I finished my first semester of grad school just before the holidays and managed straight A’s!
  • The holidays were a busy, but wonderful time with family
  • I applied and interviewed for a librarian position within my current system that is much closer to where I live, but didn’t get it.  When the choice is between you and a former library director with 30 years of experience, there’s not much of a choice.  But, since breaking the bad news to me, my supervisor has asked me to be on a number of new committees, which is exciting!
  • I read a ridiculous amount of books
  • I spent a wonderful weekend at a friend’s cabin in northern Wisconsin

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Farewell, 2017

We’ve hit the season when everyone reflects on what has occurred during the past year and dreams of the year to come.  I am no exception.

What strikes me, though, is time’s beautiful ability to slip elegantly from one minute to one day to one year.  Tomorrow may be a new year, but take away the countdowns, the parties, the reflection, it is simply a new day.  Just as today was a new day.  I love that.

It is difficult to pinpoint the significance of 2017.  Before, each year had deep meaning, filled with momentous occasions and deep soul searching.  2015 was the year I finished college, filled with questions and striving.  2016 was the year I trekked across Europe and stumbled into my life’s work.

But 2017?  I suppose it is an extension of all the years before, as if all the momentous occasions, questions, journeys, and stumbles were leading to what I am doing now: living day by day, moment by moment.

This year, I continued life in the small town library where I work.  I experienced my first Summer Reading Program, started a Lego Club, and continued building relationships with my patrons.

This year, I applied, was accepted, and began graduate school online through the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  Grad school is not easy, but it’s taught me to make time for self-care and that sanity is more important than grades.  This attitude helped me get through my first semester with my sanity and GPA in tact.  Already, pursing my Masters in Library and Information Science has helped improve my skills and understanding of my work.  While I frequently whine and complain about the stress of my studies, I am deeply thankful for this opportunity.

This year, I continued living with my parents.  All year, I have bounced back and forth.  Should I move closer to work?  Do I want to live in that community?  Is it worth it to continue driving an hour to work and back each day?  I’m still struggling with these questions.  While I like living with my parents, I’m ready to be on my own.  But I have absolutely no desire to live in the community where I work and cannot afford to both pay rent and continue commuting.  This is something I’ll continue to wrestle with as the new year comes.

This year, I made new friends and continued walking with old ones.  From road trip buddies to coffee shop chats monthly letters, I am extremely blessed in the friendship department and am so, so thankful.

This year, my faith journey brought me somewhere between the desert and the river valley.  I’m attending church again and am encouraged by friendships, but still feel like I’m walking alone.  In college, my faith journey was wild, frantic, and I pursued the path with relentless passion.  My faith has changed dramatically since then.  I’ve evened out.  I’ve simultaneously rejected the fundamentalism of my upbringing while holding firmly to my spiritual beliefs and heritage.  I’m calmer now.  I continue to study, but I hold my faith with open hands.  I long to be a person of high character, quietly bettering the world around me, letting my actions speak louder than my words.  2017 was a step in that direction.

This year, I spent each day with Wendell Berry.  As part of my devotions each morning, I ended by reading one of his Sabbath poems.  Of all my routines, this was my favorite.  Morning by morning, his words brought me into still forests, quiet fields, and sunlit meadows.  I reached the end of the book in October and went right back to the beginning.

This year, I continued my never ending love affair with the written word.  Thanks to audiobooks during my long commute and a deepening passion for YA, I blew past my previous reading records, making it through 212 books in a mere 12 months.  For more about my reading year, check out my previous post.

I suppose, in light of all these things, 2017 was a pretty good year.  (Minus the dumpster fires of national politics and natural disasters, of course.)  I grew, I worked, I learned.  What more can one ask for?

Tonight, when the clock strikes twelve, we will slip elegantly into a 2018.  Where will this year take us?  What decisions will I make?  What people will I meet?  What places will I go?  What words will I be writing one year from now?  I haven’t the slightest clue, and that is a very exciting thing.

Whoever you are, wherever you may be, I wish you a very happy New Year!