Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Book Look Review "The Book Thief"

“The Book Thief”

As a toddler my mother discovered that I loved to be read to. I enjoyed any book – picture book, poetry for children, literally anything. She also quickly (and selfishly I think!) found that she could read to me from her own adult book since it was the sound of the words that I loved, not the story. I would rest my little head on her arm and listen to James Michener, Pearl S. Buck and other authors writing above my comprehension level. I may be regressing by reading young adult fiction like “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, but I don’t think so. In fact, due to the language in this novel I would be cautious giving it to a young reader. My mother tells me that she edited any swearing while reading to me as a child, and you may want to do a young reader the same service.

This is the haunting tale of little Liesel left in the care of Hans and Rosa Hubermann in 1939 in the city of Molching, near Munich. “It’s just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . .” according to the narrator – who is Death.

Death is a patient and overworked gatherer of souls. As he observes humans he comments on their perplexing actions and describes events with an odd combination of detachment and compassion. He is an unusual choice to tell a story but his perspective is oddly compelling.
The complicated moral questions of stealing food to survive starvation of the body and stealing books to survive starvation of the soul, breaking the law to hide a Jew and joining the Nazi Party to protect your family emerge as questions for the reader. The first book that Death observes Liesel stealing is the Grave-Diggers handbook that falls out of the pocket of the grave digger who dug her little brother’s grave. The second book is snatched from a smoldering Nazi book burning pyre. And so her book thieving begins.

Zusak has created a poignant novel of love, hope and despair. There are so many poetic phrases but I’ll share a few examples: “His tie is a pendulum, long dead in its clock.” Her teeth “elbow each other for room.” These descriptions form instant pictures for us with just a few well chosen words.
As an adult I still love the sound of a book and this is an extraordinarily crafted one. Read it aloud, edit the language, and enjoy some of the best prose written.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Rainy Easter Egg Hunt All the Kids

Despite "intermittent" showers we had our annual Easter Egg Hunt the Saturday before Easter. ALL the kids lined up youngest to oldest. Baby Gabe age 17 months old was first, followed by Eli,Haydon,Dawson,Conner and... Dallan, age (over 25 lets just say) was last. They dashed out between rain showers and hunted their eggs hidden by the big kids (teens). A week later I only found 2 that they had missed so they were good egg hunters!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Secrets" A Not-so-Steamy Romance Novel

I think I know why Harlequin has increased sales in a recession. Their books are dirt cheap. And their books are cheap dirt. Just my opinion.

Book Look Review
I tried to like this book on CD, but it was such a soap opera! I read about Harlequin publishing company having an increase in romance book sales of 32% because of the terrible economy. I felt obligated to give it a try – for research purposes. Actually, listening to the book did make me laugh but I don’t think that’s what the author Jude Deveraux had in mind. Oh it was clean, with no swearing and no sex, but no story either. Seriously, after producing 50 million best-selling copies, I expected something better from such a popular author. I kept wondering when I would hear the reader snicker as she recited incredibly ridiculous lines. For example, the beautiful heroine was described as a “real woman” – with a big top, a big bottom, and a 24 inch waist in between. Just to give you a little example.

The cast of main characters included the above mentioned womanly woman Cassandra (the raised-by-wealthy-controlling-mother nanny in love with the widower dad), Jeff (the wealthy, handsome secretive dad), Skyler (the wealthy, skinny conniving girlfriend), and Althea Fairmont (the wealthy old film star neighbor). There were a lot of wealthy people in this book which tended to give me the impression that money and love are tied together in this fantasy world. Oh wait, that is the point of escaping by reading a romance novel.

These rich and attractive people are trying to solve a very confusing murder inserted into the love story to give it some direction. Any direction is better than down being the theory here. Of course Jeff is secretive because he is actually a CIA agent which solves a lot of problems for the story. Nanny Cassie has a talent for discovering random facts and items which takes care of missing puzzle pieces. Together these two are a real bundle of sleuthing talent. I was particularly impressed with their ability to solve the predicament of a poor pregnant teenager and a rich childless neighbor. Money once again solves all problems for love.

No really, in case I am not clear enough, let me tell you what I think. This was a terrible book. While stuck sitting in my car last Friday night during rush hour I had to turn off the CD player. I just couldn’t take the frustration of a traffic jam combined with the irritation of listening to this book! For the sake of research, I turned it back on and endured to the predictable ending where the nanny and the widower declare their love, solve the confusing mystery and plan to live happily and sappily together.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rhino Virus

Dear Debbie:
FYI LADY! You WILL BUY ME … because I will be so cute holding the little's books up against my rhino horn on the bookshelf … I will be patiently waiting for you …
Sent to me by Alyssa today. So blog readers please vote. How cute is this Rhino? Should it be seen holding children's books on a book shelf? I am hesitating, Alyssa is entreating...

Friday, April 10, 2009


Watching LDS Conference on TV last weekend with Dawson and Haydon brought back memories of trying to keep 4 children entertained and listening at least a little. Alyssa sent some cute pages for the boys to color and write on to keep them quiet and Dawson was very diligent (of course) and Haydon not quite as interested until the treat bowls came out.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Book Look Review "Gilead"

Sometimes you read a novel that is a masterpiece. This is the kind of book I really enjoy with a profound message sketched lightly in effortless prose. I read with a renewed love for the irreplaceable experience of language used beautifully. Marilynne Robinson uses no extra lines or wasted paint to distract us from her subject, but selects words from her palette to create an unforgettable artistic experience.

In the foreground of this pastoral painting stand a small family in plain clothing we remember from fifty years past. A seven year old boy is posed awkwardly between his young mother and much older father. The pale child is obviously cherished by these oddly mismatched parents. His mother is like a small brown bird captured for a moment but eager to retreat to the background. The gray haired, gray skinned aging father has the serious upright carriage of a preacher. He is the Reverend John Ames and the thoughtful narrator of this family tale. The child gazes up at his father, a bit bewildered as if he can’t quite understand this central figure.

A prodigal son figure sits nearby gazing down a winding road toward the town of Gilead, Iowa on the horizon. This returning man, Jack Boughton, creates a feeling of tension lurking behind the family. We wonder why he has intruded on this family portrait and if his intensions are good or evil. He surrounds himself with small children splashing about in a stream while he keeps the town in his view.

Men with long black shadows from the Ames family past fill the background scene. One angry man is twisted to confront others in Civil War uniforms. A father and son appear to be at war with each other but time has softened and faded their expressions and we are not quite able to make them out. They seem to be seeking something - is there balm in Gilead?

As we close the book and walk away, we are compelled to turn back for one last glimpse, a final thoughtful gaze before leaving. We forget we are gazing at a work of art and believe we are looking through a window at a real town, a real family. This to me is the mark of a great novel. And as with all experiences with a masterpiece it has lifted us out of our ordinary experiences and left us with something extraordinary.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Are We Allowed to Babysit?!

We are probably ruining Dawson and Haydon. Babysitting this weekend so Mike and Tyfani could go to Moab for their 10th anniversary proved we were terrible caretakers. We don't get them to bed on time. Due to the fact that we allow them to watch a movie, have 3 bedtime stories, listen to a grandma tale and have drinks of water... they don't get to sleep until almost 10 pm. Also, for supper we take them to McDonald's for chicken nuggets (hey they do get apple slices) and for breakfast they can have scrambled eggs and french toast. They can play Wii for hours. They can lay in our bed with us and watch a movie. I'm telling you, we are ruining these children and we should not be allowed to keep them for an entire weekend.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Book Look Review "April Fool Dead"

“April Fool Dead”

I want to do my part to help the economy. My stimulus package is simple. It involves a library book and chocolate. If you are really in a financial crisis you could skip the chocolate but I wouldn’t suggest it. Times are tough and we are looking for ways to cut back on our expenses and shop for deals on the necessities. The first item in my stimulus package - love that new term by the way and have been using it whenever appropriate, is to get free books from the library instead of buying them. The second part, the save on necessities part, is to then cancel your cable TV and movies by mail subscription. You will save big bucks in just one year. Enough to buy chocolate for 30 cents a bar at the Nestle (Stouffers to us locals) outlet store here in Springville. You will be helping our local economy by keeping a large local employer in business and our local doctors in business treating us for the chocolate consumption side effects. Economic crisis solved for Springville by reading and eating chocolate!

As you can see by the title, this week’s book is a light read appropriate for escaping the economic bad news we read every day. Carolyn Hart is an author who only wants us all to be happy. She writes mysteries so unbelievable with characters so implausible that we are surprised we like them so much. In “April Fool Dead” – which I chose shamelessly for the title this month, Hart sticks to her whodunit formula. It is part of the Death on Demand Mystery series featuring Annie and Max Darling who live on an island in South Carolina. Islands of course being the perfect setting for mysteries since the author can control the movements of the characters.

Annie decides to bring a special guest mystery author to talk at her bookstore on the island. She offers a free book to whoever can solve the riddles on a flyer she has distributed all over the island. However, someone else uses the promotion to promote their own agenda and it is causing lots of problems for the Darlings and their neighbors. Things really heat up when they discover that they are searching for a murderer, not just a prankster.

This book is like a chocolate bar. You know what’s in it from the wrapper, but you just can’t resist it. It won’t do you any good – but you don’t care. Sometimes you just need to have a little fun while saving the economy by reading a library book and eating NestlĂ©’s