Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Includes minor spoilers (or almost-spoilers).


"It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

"Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist--books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement."


An unforgettable experience. Unique in so many ways. It's been a while since I've read a book that I did not want to put down, that I set aside whole afternoons to devour.

*** Newsflash ***

This book will earn 5 of 5 magic wands.

No surprise there, given my preamble. At LegendFire, we writers discuss books. What else does one do at a writing forum? Over the past few years the title The Book Thief kept cropping up. I was like, yeah, but I've never heard of Markus Zusak, and because I'm one of those scaredy-cats who rarely ventures out of her comfort zone, I didn't bother looking for the book.

Until this autumn.

*** A Lesson Learned ***

Reach out, take a chance,
pull the book off the shelf,
experience something new
and extraordinary.

I finally told myself, "Self, you have got to expand your horizons. Go to the bookstore and pick out several books by authors you've never read before." Zusak was the first author I reached for. When I read the first couple of pages and discovered who our narrator was going to be for the long haul, I rolled my eyes. "How gimmicky," I said. Yes, I said it aloud. My fear was that the book was going to be cheesy, an author trying too hard to tell an old story in a new way, and I wondered if I would be able to stick with it.

*** A gimmick ***

Death himself is the narrator.

I'm always ecstatic when my fears are proved to be unfounded. It was Zusak's startling, poetic writing style (I learned new ways to use verbs, for one) and the glimpses of our young book thief that kept me reading for the next few pages. And soon even the narrator won me over. Death is troubled by humanity. How can humans be so beautiful and so horrendous, so good to one another and so cruel? How can they keep getting up when their wounds are so deep? He is tired of war; he is tired of plucking souls from bombed-out basements and battlefields. But every once in a while he crosses paths with a human who gives him hope. One such person is the book thief. Their paths cross too many times during the early years of World War II, and every time, the book thief is able to distract Death from his tiresome and disheartening duty.

Eventually, it becomes clear that Death's struggle to understand humanity, his desperate and jaded search for some redeeming qualities are as much a part of the story as the book thief's struggle to learn how to read, her discovery of the detrimental power of words, the saving power of words, and her friendship with the Jew hiding in her basement.


I could go on and on about what makes this book memorable, but short and sweet is best these days. If you can stand a heartbreaking story, grab a copy, grab the box of tissues, and settle in for a remarkable journey.

Obviously, others thought the same. The movie version was released this year. I suppose I shall add it to my to-watch list. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson among the cast? Yep, I'm sold.


5 of 5 magic wands, as was foreshadowed...

*** An apology ***
For stealing Death's narrative inserts for this review
and reviewing a book that is several years old.
Comfort zones cause one to miss out.

Next up, something new:
The Valley of Amazement
by Amy Tan. Stay tuned...

Monday, December 16, 2013

SPARKS by RS McCoy: A Book Release Blast

"Everyone in the world has a spark, a light inside that guides them, keeps them alive.”

Myxini School for Children specializes in training young men and women who have powerful sparks. Strikers are taught to manipulate fire. Trackers learn to find animals in the most formidable terrains. Handlers are instructed in communication with large predators. But forty years have passed since the last time they had a Readera student with the ability to read minds.

When Lark Davies enrolls at Myxini, he knows there aren’t many like him, but he doesn’t realize just how rare his abilities really are. He thinks nothing of being asked to keep his spark a secret; after all, he can barely control it. Thoughts and emotions flood unbidden into his mind until he can scarcely walk or hold a conversation. But just when he needs it most, his ability fails him.

Lark meets Khea, a small frightened girl who mysteriously insights his protective nature. He has no explanation for the curious strength of their relationship, and it doesn’t help that she is one of the few people in the world whose thoughts can’t be read. As he struggles to get to the root of their unique bond, Lark begins to unravel more power than even his mentor expected, but in the process makes himself a target to political leaders eager to take control.

Wearing only my loose brown pants, I crawled into the most comfortable bed I had ever known and sank into the soft down pillows. I had just started to drift off when I heard a knock at the door. I’m going to kill Avis.

“What do you—” I started until I realized it wasn’t Avis. It was a stunning blonde with blue eyes. Khea.

“I’m sorry to wake you. I justI had to see you.” Her arms moved to wrap around my waist and hold me tight as I questioned if I was really sleeping or not.

“Uh, do you want to come in?” We both knew the rules about being in someone else’s
room after hours, so I pulled her in and sat down on the edge of the bed, still a little surprised she was there.

In the dim light her hair looked a little darker, but her face was still sweet and there was no denying that the last two years had done her well. Who would have thought such a beautiful young woman would come from that skinny little girl in Lagodon?

“How’d you know I was back?” I asked her, trying to appear less tired or shocked than I was.

“A friend told me.”

“I didn’t think you—” Cared? It wasn’t the right word, but I was beyond amazed that she was interested in my whereabouts. I hadn’t seen her since that night at the Moonwater and it had changed everything for me since then. But for her, I wasn’t aware that she had been affected in any way.

“Ride with me tomorrow?”

“Uh, yea, of course.” It was a struggle to cover how little I wanted to wait. I would have given anything to have her stay.

A wide smile erupted across her sweet lips as she said, “meet me at the lake at noon.” With a lingering kiss on my cheek, she walked back through the door and disappeared into the dark stone corridor.

What just happened?

I hadn’t seen her in person in years, and we were hardly close before that. And now she arrived in my room in the middle of the night and kissed me on the cheek. Was it a kiss like a friend would give another? Or more? I couldn’t make any sense of it, but there was only thing I was sure of. I would be at the lake at noon if it was the last thing I did.

Praise for Sparks:

                "...fantastic characters..."
                                       "...imaginative and creative..."
                                                                    "...simply could not put it down..."

About the Author:

RS McCoy didn’t ever plan on being a writer. With a career teaching high school science, writing is the last thing she expected. But life never goes the way you think it will. 

While battling cancer, she picked up her laptop and let the words flow out. One year later, her first published fantasy novel has been released on Amazon and her second novel is in the works. 

She is a wife, mother of one with another on the way, a scientist, baker, gardener, and life-long science fiction and fantasy addict.

Connect with RS McCoy