Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

First Lines of this book:

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

Once upon a time, I was rereading Harry Potter during the lunch period of my internship. I decided that it was time to stop putting off that stupid bulletin board I was supposed to be making and I turned to the computer only to notice a pile of books stacked haphazardly on my desk. On top, The Lovely Bones. Of course I’d heard of the book and I know the movie had just come out. I opened it to the first page, and ended up reading 80 pages without stopping. (And no, I didn’t do the bulletin board…don’t judge me). This book was one word: captivating.

This book follows the story of Susie Salmon, beginning with her murder. She has to adjust to her new home in heaven as she watches her family adjust to their new life of coping with a missing and dead daughter. Over the course of the novel, she watches her sister grow into a hardened woman, her mother lose herself in despair, and her father vowing revenge on the neighbor he knows killed his little girl.

The first chapter of this book is horrific. Truly horrific. We have all been dulled down by the murders that are constantly swimming across our television screens on CSI and all of those other shows, but there is something special about this death, something more brutal. Maybe it’s the fact that the only body part they could find of Susie’s was her elbow… yeah, freaking ridiculous. Don’t be alarmed by that though, the graphic part doesn’t last long and it’s worth bearing through to the end.

We all think of life after death and we have all seen different views of it. The view of the afterlife in this book is one of the most beautiful that I have ever encountered. This is the heaven I want. In this heaven, if you want something and will it there, it will appear. You live the life you wanted to live and live among people whose heavens collide with yours. It’s beautiful and simple.

“Hours before I died, my mother hung on the refrigerator a picture that Buckley had drawn. In the drawing a thick blue line separated the air and ground. In the days that followed I watched my family walk back and forth past that drawing and I became convinced that that thick blue line was a real place- an Inbetween, where heaven’s horizon met Earth’s. I wanted to go there into the cornflower blue of Crayola, the royal, the turquoise, the sky.”

I’ve read a lot of books about how people who are left alive cope with the death of a loved one. Sebold changes it up a bit and allows us to see how the dead cope with their death and the feeling of leaving their world behind. It was truly a remarkable point of view and one that I have never experienced. It made me feel even more connected and sympathetic towards the family that was left behind, even when they did things that made me mad.

As the book progressed, the family Susie has left behind continues to disintegrate. Not to give too much away but, I hate what the mom does to her family. In my opinion, it was an easy way out for both the character and the author. This isn’t the first book I read where the wife has reacted like this and I’m sick of the woman running away. It didn’t seem to fit the character of Abigail Salmon to leave her family.

Other than that, there was only one other thing that I disliked. Spoilers here! Do not read ahead if you don’t want a small part of this book ruined.

Ok, so the whole, Susie takes over Ruth’s body thing? What. The. Hell? I was super confused at first. As I kept reading, it bothered me a little less…. But then they had sex. Well, Ray had sex with Ruth’s body but Susie’s soul…. No bueno. It seemed a bit too far fetched. The ghost part of the book was so beautiful until the whole body takeover thing.

Spoilers over

And also, the rapist/murderer in this book is probably the most terrifying human being ever invented. He’s the classic creepy gross neighbor guy from the seventies with gross comb over hair and huge glasses. And his name is George Harvey, that’s just creepy.

But, I can promise you this, if you can stick out the first few chapters of this book, you will love the end. It ends beautifully and gives you hope for the life after death and it gives hope to people who have been left behind. For most people, they have all lost someone close enough to them to feel left behind. This book makes that loss a bit more bearable I feel, and it puts a new spin on things.

“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections – sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent – that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life.”

This is an excellent read. Please read it, especially if you have seen the movie. From what I hear, the movie is quite different. Read the book!

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

Like I said, I’ve been in a very Holocaust mood lately. Bear with me, the stage is over.

Jerry Spinelli has long been one of my favorite authors. He has a way of relating to and capturing his readers’ attention while very softly showing them the often hidden meaning of his books. This book is no exception.

Milkweed is about a very young boy in Warsaw around the beginnings of World War II who has no identity and no past. When an older boy catches up to him after he has stolen some bread, he gives his name as Stopthief. Uri, the older boy takes him back to a sort of base camp where other young boys steal food to support each other. Naming the boy Misha, he gives him a fake past to cover his Gypsy identity. Misha is surrounded my conflicting paths, though, because he longs to be a Jew like his friends, but would die for a pair of his own shiny Jackboots, in other words, become a Nazi.

This book is pretty short and very easy to read and even though it’s a novel for pretty young kids, it was captivating and no less brutal of a Holocaust book. Spinelli truly has a gift with words and he paints beautiful pictures, even of war-torn Warsaw. During the book, you feel as if you are growing up and learning with Misha. You see everything through his eyes and begin to see things in new ways.

The most beautiful part of the novel takes place pretty early on in the work. It’s a discussion between the boys and Misha about the existence of angels.

Some of us played hide-and-seek among the tombstones. I was It, and when I went seeking I came upon a tombstone such as I had never seen before. Rising up from a great block of stone was a man with wings. He was looking at the sky, as if he might fly off at any moment. I couldn’t take my eyes away.

“Who is he?” I said.

“It’s an angel,” said Ferdi.

“What’s an angel?” I said.

Grim-faced Enos said, “There are no angels.”

“I believe,” said Olek. He scratched the stump of his missing arm. “There are angels. You just can’t see them.”

Enos snorted. He ground out his cigarette on the foot of the stone angel. “Where were they when you got pushed to the tracks and the train ran over your arm?” He grabbed the empty sleeve of Olek’s missing arm and flapped it in his face. “Where were your angels then? Why didn’t they roll you off the tracks? Why didn’t they stop the train?” He pointed at a boy called Big Henryk. His shoes were bank coin bags. “Look at him. Why don’t the angels give him shoes? Or brains to want them? And him”-jabbing his finger at Jon, who was thin and gray and never spoke- “look at him. He’s dying and he doesn’t even know it!” Enos was shouting now. “What are your angels doing for him? He spit on the stone angel.

This book makes you think and rethink. Misha is coning from a place of complete innocence to a world that has been destroyed by people daily. He has to learn the difference between bad and good people which is a painful lesson for everyone. Spinelli is able to make a book that is fully gray have a halo of hope around it. It’s the innocence shown by Misha that makes the book so enthralling and touching.

The book didn’t have any real giant climax or epic point but instead has moments of beautiful thoughtfulness that make you stop and think about what you have just read. The discussion of the angels, the milkweed plant, all things of vital importance and beauty. Because Spinelli chooses to make the book so subtle with its meaning, it’s a Holocaust book that is easier to read, there isn’t anything really horrific. This shows the beauty in the world even during the ugliness of the Holocaust. A beautiful slice of life story and definitely a book that is worth checking out!

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

First, I have to warn you, this is going to be a very gushy blog. This book recently (okay, about half an hour ago) just surpassed my favorite book to become my new favorite book of all time. Reasons for which will be explained.

Second, if you haven’t read this book, stop reading this blog immediately and go get a copy of this book and READ IT NOW! I’ll wait…



Got your copy? Read it? Good.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted and I’m sorry for that. I allowed myself a little time off and I’m sorry that I milked it a little bit. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of not writing, but it’s no bueno! It’s easier to fall back into the pattern. While I took the time off from writing, I also stopped reading; bad choice.

When the time came for me to read again, I chose an old favorite, The Book Thief. I’ve read the book twice before and loved it. Now, as weird as this sounds, I was in the mood for a Holocaust book. Maybe it was because in the class I intern with at Fairfield Junior High, the 8th graders were learning about the Holocaust. But I think (and this will sound weird) it was destiny that I chose to read this book now.

This book is about a girl named Liesel Meminger. In 1939, her mother and brother are traveling with her to her new foster parent’s home. But her brother dies on the train ride there and in Nazi Germany, there is no time for stopping for long. They bury him and during the burial, Liesel picks up a book out of the snow, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Thus begins a “love affair with books and words.” Through the book, Liesel clings to her books as she enters her new family, deals with her neighbor Rudy who is always looking for a kiss, and when her family chooses to hide a Jew in their basement. Oh, and did I mention that the narrator of this book is Death? Yeah, amazing. Kudos to Mr. Zusak, most brilliant idea ever.

This book if 550 pages and on each page is a line that burns into your memory. While I was reading this book, I had a conversation with my mom about the importance of the first lines of books. Those first few words have so much power of your perception of the rest of the book. Here are the first few lines of this book:

“First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.”

In an interview about this book, Zusak says that he struggled with letting Death narrate the book because for a while, Death was too evil. But in this final edition, Death is tired. The Second World War is bearing down on him just as it is on the rest of the world.

In this book, Death explains how he sees the colors of the human soul. This is one of those books that cannot just be read once to fully appreciate it. Each time I read it, something new stuck out to me and this time it was the colors. Recently at my school, my theater class did a play called The Yellow Boat and color played a giant role in the show. So obviously, I was paying close attention to color in this story. It’s importance cannot be missed.

Zusak is a masterful writer. The description he uses in this book is haunting and illuminating, captivating and enthralling. It’s pretty much every word you can think of and then some; it’s perfect. He bathes you in metaphor and color and this isn’t an overbearing bath, this is a perfect temperature bath with the right amount of bubbles and the perfect amount of water. He sees things down to the best and last detail. If something is yellow, it isn’t plain yellow or even sunny yellow, it’s the color of lemons. It’s details like that that make this book stick in your mind.

“As the crowd arrived in full, things, of course, had changed. The horizon was beginning to charcoal. What was left of the blackness above was nothing now but a scribble, and disappearing fast.

The man, in comparison, was the color of bone. Skeleton-colored skin. A ruffled uniform. His eyes were cold and brown- like coffee stains- and the last scrawl from above formed what, to me, appeared an odd, yet familiar, shape. A signature.”


Take a second. Let that seep into your skin. His description is what makes this book so real, the characters so tangible. I know each and every character. I can see them perfectly and I love them dearly as if they were my own family.

Literally, I cannot even type about this book enough or fast enough or anything of the sort. I have too many thoughts about this book. And for now, I’m starting to cry again which is making typing unnecessarily hard. Just please trust me on this, DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK. I recommend this book above any other book I have ever read or will read. No book has ever touched me more or stayed with me longer.

Just reread this blog. It's super sporadic but that's about all I can calmly say about this book. Just read it.

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!