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review 2014-01-31 04:15
Review: The Book Thief
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Initial Thoughts:

I’ve been big on the young adult genre lately.  Appropriately, The Book Thief is a book in the young adult target.  I’ve also been more drawn towards fantasy, science fiction, adventures, hidden worlds… with a side dish of romance.


The Book Thief isn’t a book I would normally take on nowadays.  This book seems to be a “made for deep analysis” type of book.  I’m of the “I’m tired of deep thinking” type, because I’d rather read something and simply express whether or not I liked it and why.  High school already took us through the analysis of books, dissecting and manipulating phrases, scenes, characters, etc… just to determine whether or not we really know what an author is truly trying to present.  


In the end, you're not even sure whether or not the author truly had deep meaning messages behind his or her writings.


That’s not for me anymore.


My BFF, however is interested in this book and was determined to choose it as part of our “Mini Book Club” selection.  I’m sure it fascinates her because she likes inspiration pieces and the like.  There’s no doubting that it fascinates me as well; the entire premise is interesting.


Those were my initial thoughts before reading The Book Thief.  For some, stubborn reason, I always feel the need to read these types of books as if I’m going to be graded on a college level essay.  It’s a point of pride that I don’t like sounding stupid doing one of few things I truly love to do: discussing books.  However, I know it can’t be helped.  Everyone takes something different away from a book and I'll admit that my take-aways aren't always well-informed or researched.


But these following thoughts came to me as I neared the ending of the book.


Who cares if I can’t analyze every symbolic detail presented in The Book Thief?  This book was enjoyable and memorable, all in itself.  It’s unique and entertaining, conveying a monotonously dank, dark mood that just hangs there without even trying.  It's a book about a tragic moment in history, told from a perspective different from what I'm familiar with.  It's a powerful book that details a simple fact in life that despite there being a bigger picture unfolding all around the world, life for the common everyday person still has to just keep moving forward.  Life goes on.


This is a story wherein a little girl goes through her own life with global events being the last thing on her mind; yet at the same time, the effects of those global events (Hitler's rise, the war, etc...) still sting on a personal level.


Most importantly, I DID enjoy reading this book very much.  In a simply put fashion, as I’d already mentioned.  I just really, really liked this book and the story of the book thief.


Now if only I could start off reading all of my books with this mindset; because, frankly, who cares what anyone else thinks?  My opinion is my opinion.  Right?

What I liked:

The writing style and format was different from what I’m used to (aside from the fact that the majority of YA fiction tends to be written in first person, a fact that irks me just a little bit).


This thought came to me at some point during my reading: The format reminds me of a graphic novel, told in words rather than pictures, but where the pictures are still rather vivid even without the illustrations.  In fact, it reminded me of Japanese manga, for some reason (though I’m not certain what that reason is).


The story is told in an almost third person omniscient view where Death is the narrator, but most of the story rarely comes around to Death referring to himself too often.  And so it seems to present itself more in third person with a “tale telling” air about it.  I don’t know if any of that makes any sense, but to me, it gave off a rather whimsical feel… in spite of the dark, melancholic background of the story’s setting.


The writing conveyed vivid detail, as I already mentioned.  Even while seemingly detached from the book’s story and characters, you can still feel what the characters feel and see what the characters see.  The descriptions were excellent.


The “FEELS”....  Yea, they were there alright.

What I’m unsure of:

Everything about this book gives me serious conflicting feelings despite the feels.  The reason being: It’s just hard to put into words the strange feelings going through my mind when I’m reading this book.  I’m conflicted in that, I know this is a depressing setting, a depressing story, a depressing time frame…  There’s tragedy, tension, danger and so many other things going on.  I mean, this is a time of war and depression (for the lack of a better descriptor).  But I’m not as caught up in all the emotions my mind is telling me I should be feeling.


I am concerned with Liesel's everyday dealings and how, even though there's a war going on and people dying, Liesel's life seems fairly normal for a young child growing up.  I am concerned with Liesel's growth through her learning to read and write, becoming attached to the written word, as well as through her interactions with her foster parents and the Jewish man hidden in their basement.  I am also concerned with Liesel's interactions with her friends and the people around her.  I am concerned with how Liesel manages to slowly survive through her nightmares and the misery that left her orphaned.


This book truly is quite character driven.


There are small details and random scenes that manage to make me really feel what I believe I should be feeling.  Those moments are so strangely random and fleeting.


There’s a detachment from the story and the characters that gives me a feeling of “watching a story unfold as a story” rather than “living out the story with the story”... if that makes any sense.  I know that this book should be triggering some sort of melancholic feeling in me, but I don’t necessarily feel it until there’s mention of the death of a precious, main character you’ve gotten to know.  There is no element of surprise in this book (which works well for the way it's written), and so you know there's more death coming and it gives you a sense of dread.  But then the scene changes so abruptly, the subject moves on, and you’re stuck not quite able to gather what emotions were supposed to be there in the first place.

Final Thoughts:

So there it is.  This is why I have so many conflicted feelings about this book.  Yet at the same time, I’m truly in love with the way it was written, the dark, twisted humor, the melancholic atmosphere… and even the scattering of characters who grow on you, even if not entirely in an emotionally attached way.


I’ve written so many notes and copied down so many quotes from the book.  There were a lot of moments that touched on a rather beautiful image.  There were heartwarming moments that made you smile and finally feel like you're living the story.  And I will admit, there was actually a moment in which my stone, cold heart clenched at the sadness and I shed a few tears.  


In the end, I’m sure that there are no proper words to describe my true feelings for this book.


I liked it.  It may not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it certainly comes close to being wonderful.  So I really really liked it.  It’s as simple as that.





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review 2014-01-28 16:16
Review: The Distance Between Us
The Distance Between Us - Kasie West

There are a lot of things I liked about this book that outweighs the things that didn't seem to add up concerning the ending of it.  And so, on a scale of the multi-use five star ratings, I decided to give it my personal four star rating of "I really liked this book, but it's still missing something".


Mainly I loved the simple, breezy, cute loveliness of The Distance Between Us and it's straight-forward love story between two young teenagers.  Teenage romances are often so riddled with dramatic angst and unnecessary problems that a cute little love story like the one between Caymen and Xander kind of gives a nice refreshing spin.


While the ending (and a lot of the technical details) left a lot to be desired, I'm willing to let my inner teenage hopeless romantic overlook these quibbles because of how much Ioved Caymen and Xander.  But it wasn't just the main couple that drove the story for me, it was a lot of those little moments of character interactions (yep, there it is, one of my favorite factors of a story) that made this book so enjoyable up until the ending.  Sure, the conclusion seemed a little too "picture perfect", but at the end of the day, I'm really not all too concerned with it.


Caymen is just an everyday girl with her own worries about the present and the future, but with a mean streak of dry sarcasm to get her through the days.  Xander is the ultimate Prince Charming of a Perfect Boyfriend who is able to return the sarcasm as it is dished to him.  The only thing keeping me from falling completely in love with this boy is probably his lack of weaknesses or serious flaws... which is strange considering how I've always been irritated with the whole "broken life" past history for the usual young adult romance main male characters that require the main female character to swoop in and start the healing process (all while getting him to fall in love with her).


Don't get me wrong, I loved Xander and his more than "perfect boyfriend" behavior.  He just doesn't quite hold a place in my heart like others have.  Caymen, on the other hand, I might have a crush on her...


What we end up with is a totally cute romance that I had worried would be riddled with lots of angsty misunderstandings given the premise: Caymen's mother being anti-rich people and Caymen's own pre-judgements about the rich because the father left mother and daughter when Caymen was conceived.  And to be honest, against all good judgement of a good storyline's progression, I'm sure I could stand to continue reading about only all the cute moments between Caymen and Xander from the ending of this book going forward.


With The Distance Between Us, I may officially add Kasie West to my list of "authors to follow like a crazy fangirl".  Her penchant for humor and character creation is pretty much an ode to my own stupid, dry humor that no one ever understands.


Final conclusion:


Simple love story, great humorous moments, lovely heart-warming moments... it all works really well for me.





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text 2014-01-28 13:58
First Impression: Chapter 1
The Unbound - Victoria Schwab

Since it's been a while since I read the first book in this series, it might take a while to recall details from the series itself.  However, those details seem to be easily remembered such as the name of the building Mac lives in (the Coranado), the specifics of her job as a Keeper, what she calls her grandfather (Da), and other things.


One chapter probably isn't enough to go off of for how well the story is going so far, but I'm a little concerned that I'm not hooked immediately since I loved The Archived and had been hooked from the beginning.  So far, the tone seems really monotonous and the details seem like rehashed boring (there's a lot of info-dumping to recap from the first book).  Maybe my expectations are too high... or maybe I'm just too tired from a long night at work and got too eager to start reading this book too quickly.


Then again, recapping from the first book isn't a bad start and maybe after getting the recaps over with, we'll be able to officially get into the 2nd book's excitement.


So no matter, I'm hoping that the story starts rolling fairly soon.


For one, I'm looking forward to seeing Wesley again since he was one of the delights from the first book.  I'm also looking forward to this new mystery as well as what seems to be a new source of personal conflict testing MacKenzie's emotional stability as well as her sanity.


In the meantime, I wonder if I should tone down my hype a little bit.  :P


Also, I think this book is eligible for the 2014 Series Challenge I'm participating in hosted at Read. Sleep. Repeat., so I'm going to add it to that list.

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review 2014-01-27 13:57
Not a Review: Sukitte iinayo (Say "I Love You") - Volumes 1 to 4
Say " I love you" - Kanae Hazuki
好きっていいなよ。 2 (デザートコミックス) - 葉月 かなえ
Sukitte iinayo (Say I Love You) Vol.3 [In Japanese] - Kanae Hazuki
Suki-tte Ii na yo, Volume 4 - Kanae Hazuki

I haven't exactly been actively reading lately, even though I'm almost done with both The Book Thief and The Distance Between Us.  But since it feels like I'm so behind on my Reading Challenges, and because I've been back in my anime groove lately I decided to pick up some manga as well.  Of course, I'm kind of conflicted as to whether to count each volume as one entity of a book, or the entire series as one book.


Since, most of the time, manga volumes are published as separate books, I'll choose the former.  (And it also helps me use them as sort of "cheat" books to catch up on my Reading Challenges.  I'll make up for them later with a higher number of books read as well as longer novels in the 500+ pages range... maybe.)




Being a long time manga/anime fan, it's not hard for me to fall right back into the whole ordeal given the right anime or manga.


Sukitte iinayo isn't the best of manga story lines out there, but it's a cute, refreshing love story in the typically stereotypical and sometimes frustrating shoujo manga world where the girls are always cute, weak, bumbling idiots and the dude is Mr. Perfect Prince Charming.  Indeed, this manga is a breath of fresh air.


I saw the anime first and got curious about the manga and so I started reading it, quickly blowing through the first 4 volumes.


And while I DO say that it's a refreshing new take on the "Cinderella meets Prince Charming" base trope (with a female lead whose got a heck care attitude about the world around her), it's still not very outstanding as a romance.  Nonetheless, it's cute and I've enjoyed what I've read so far and will continue to read the rest of what's been released.


Tachibana Mei isn't your typical female character, but then again, given some time, she slowly transforms into one.  Kurosawa Yamato is, of course THE typical shoujo manga male (not surprising there), but he's not a bad guy either (also, not surprising).  As a couple, they work out pretty well, and it's refreshing to see the couple get together right off the bat rather than going through truckloads of misunderstandings, missed timings for confessions... the like... just to get them to admit they like each other.


Of course, that only means we get lots and lots of obstacles in the form of other peers trying hard to break up the relationship.  Which is sad, because shoujo manga is so often full of vindictive people to the extreme.


Was high school always like this?  I'm so far removed from teenaged years that I'm not even sure anymore.  (Granted, I was always the invisible loner who could care less about other students and their drama...)


This manga series is still ongoing, having just finished up with Volume 11.  The anime itself only goes as far as Volume 7, so I'm interested to see where the story goes after the anime's ending.


I will admit that I never thought I'd get back into anime and manga again, but the phase sure is lasting long right now.

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text 2014-01-14 14:07
More Reading Challenges!

So here's a list of all the Reading Challenges I've accepted this year.  Just for fun and nothing too extreme.  I just figured that having some Reading Challenges would help me expand upon the amount of reading I already do.




Related Posts:

January and February Progress

March Progress

April Progress


New Challenges Added:

1st in a Series Challenge  --  See My Shelf

2014 Romantic Suspense Challenge  --  See My Shelf

I Love Library Books 2014 Challenge  --  See My Shelf




Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge

BookLikes 2014 Reading Challenge

- Both of these challenges allow you to decided upon how many books you would like to read by the end of the year.  This year, my goal is 100 books (yes, again).  But my personal side goal is to try to go beyond that number if possible.


Goal: 100 books -- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 7/27/2014

Updated Goal: 120 books -- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 8/25/2014

Progress:  126/120


My List: (for the challenges listed above)

1.  Sukitte iinayo, Volume 1 by Hazuki Kanae  -  Review, Volumes 1 to 4

2.  Sukitte iinayo, Volume 2 by Hazuki Kanae

3.  Sukitte iinayo, Volume 3 by Hazuki Kanae

4.  Sukitte iinayo, Volume 4 by Hazuki Kanae

5.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  -  Review 

6.  The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - Review

7.  The Unbound (The Archived, book 2) by Victoria Schwab - Review

8.  Split Second (Pivot Point, book 2) by Kasie West - Review

9.  The Giver by Lois Lowry - Review

10.  Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram - Review

See full list on my book shelf under 2014 Reading Challenge.





100 Books in a Year hosted by Book Chick City

- Since I'm already going to try to read 100 books this year, I may as well participate in another similar challenge, right?



Progress:  108/100

My List: 

1.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  -  Review 

2.  The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - Review

3.  The Unbound (The Archived, book 2) by Victoria Schwab - Review

4.  Split Second (Pivot Point, book 2) by Kasie West - Review

5.  The Giver by Lois Lowry - Review

6.  Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram - Review

7.  The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima - Review

8.  This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith - Review

9.  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

10.  Poison Study (Study, book 1) by Maria V. Snyder - Review

See full list on my book shelf under 2014 100 Books in a Year Challenge.




2014 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

2014 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge hosted by The Book Vixen

- One of my goals this year is to go further beyond my 100 book reading challenge.  I managed 101 books last year (and then some that I probably forgot to log), and so this year, I'm going for an "outdo myself" anyway.  But I'm still going to be a bit realistic, the level I'm choosing will probably just be the simplest one:


Getting my heart rate up -- Read 1 - 5 more books

Out of breath -- Read 6 - 10 more books

Breaking a sweat -- Read 11 - 15 more books

I'm on fire! -- Read 16+ more books



Goal:  Read 1 to 5 more books (102 to 106) -- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 9/1/2014


Updated Goal: Read 16+ more books

(Last year's total: 101  -- Means I need to read at least 118 books)

Progress:  108/118 


My List: 

1.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  -  Review 

2.  The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - Review

3.  The Unbound (The Archived, book 2) by Victoria Schwab - Review

4.  Split Second (Pivot Point, book 2) by Kasie West - Review

5.  The Giver by Lois Lowry - Review

6.  Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram - Review

7.  The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima - Review

8.  This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith - Review

9.  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

10.  Poison Study (Study, book 1) by Maria V. Snyder - Review

See full list on my book shelf under 2014 Outdo Yourself Challenge.







2014 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader

- Choose 12 books that have been stewing on my To Be Read pile and get them read within the year?  Challenge Accepted!  Here's a link to my official blog post to see the list of books I've chosen as part of this challenge.


Goal:  See official blog post from linky above.

Progress:  6/12

See also: 2014 TBR Pile Challenge (RBR) on my book shelf




2014 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by The Bookish Team

- This is another TBR Pile Challenge, but a bit more lax than the above mentioned one hosted by Roof Beam Reader.  There's no list or number of books that NEED to be read by the end of the year, but there's a level scale dependent on how many books you finish for this challenge.  This one looks to be right up my alley!


1-10 - A Firm Handshake
11-20 - A Friendly Hug
21-30 - First Kiss
31-40 - Sweet Summer Fling
41-50 - Could this be love?
50+ - Married With Children


Goal:  Sweet Summer Fling (31 to 40 books) --  COMPLETED May 5, 2014

Next Goal:  Married With Children (50+ books) -- COMPLETED June 2, 2014

Progress:  101/50


My List:  (Must be books published in 2013 or earlier)

1.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  -  Review 

2.  The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - Review

3.  The Giver by Lois Lowry - Review

4.  Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram - Review

5.  The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima - Review

6.  This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith - Review

7.  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

8.  Poison Study (Study, book 1) by Maria V. Snyder - Review

9.  Magic Study (Study, book 2) by Maria V. Snyder - Review

10.  Fire Study (Study, book 3) by Maria V. Snyder - Review

See full list on my bookshelf under 2014 TBR Pile Challenge (Bookish)






2014 Series Challenge hosted by Read. Sleep. Repeat.

- THIS!  This Reading Challenge is perfect for all of those series that I still need to finish (Divergent, etc...), or those series in which I've already read Book #1 (Partials, Lunar Chronicles, so on and so forth), as well as all the series I'm following like a maniacal fangirl that conclude this year (The Grisha...), and am truly wanting to simply finish said series!  I am SO participating in this one!  Besides, I already have a list of series I'm reading and need to finish, and series I'm wanting to start reading that finish this year.  I have an excel spreadsheet for that too.


And OMG!  Badges!


Bronze Badge:  1 - 3 Series

Silver Badge:  4 - 6 Series

Gold Badge:  7 - 11 Series

Platinum Badge:  12 or more Series


Goal:  Gold Badge (7 to 11 series)

I'm going to be realistic here and not go for the Platinum even though I've already listed at least 20 different series I could finish this year (Keyword: "could").  But since there are definitely at least 5 series I already had plans to finish, I'm going to challenge myself to finish at least two more.


See: 2014 Series Challenge for official listings and updates on this challenge. 


Progress:  21 series completed/caught up with for 2014.

See 2014 Series Challenge on my bookshelf for a list of books completed for this challenge.





As of right now, these are the only Reading Challenges that I've decided to participate in.  I should probably just stick to these since you never know what the new year has in store for you until it happens.  For all I know, I may not even get around to reading enough books to finish my 100 book challenge... which would make me sad, but life happens, right?




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