Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to read some stellar books. Two books in particular have jumped to my all-time favorite list: THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak and THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins.
Before I talk about them, first I must explain how I review books in general. In my mind, books have three main components—concept, language, and characters. If I wanted to be really nerdy, I could rate each component and average the three scores for an overall rating… but I don’t, thank goodness. However, I do usually notice that one component rises above the others. Some authors produce an original concept, a fabulous plot that leaves us awed and hooked. Some authors can make characters so real, they make us laugh, cry, or both. Still others are gifted with language, with a writing style that flows and drips words of beauty. The best authors can do all three. But I’m not picky enough to demand all three when I read a book. As long as one of the components is five-star (and as long as the other two components aren’t horrendous), I’ll be happy with the book as a whole. But you can guess my even greater happiness when I find books that excel in all three areas. Such as…
1. THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. Imagine a story taking place in Nazi Germany. A deep subject, but not exactly original, right? Then imagine that same story told from the point of view of Death. Now the concept rating has jumped to five-star. Death was more than a little busy during the Holocaust, so you’d have to be a unique person to impress Death at that time. But that’s exactly what happens when Death notices a young girl named Liesel, a girl later dubbed as the Book Thief. She steals her first book before she can even read. The man who adopts who teaches her to read… which ignites a chain reaction of events. Liesel is fascinating, and her family and friends are as real as characters can be. Even though the concept and characters are wonderful, the language is my favorite part of this book. Zusak uses metaphors like they’re facts, smoothly attributing actions to inanimate objects. I listened to the audiobook, which was like honey in my ears . I’ll have to get the book and see how perfect the words look on paper. Even though Death hints at what will happen… it didn’t make the ending any less emotional. I was bawling; and just to be clear, I am not a sap. Books and movies don’t make me cry unless they absolutely overwhelm me. Obviously, a book about the Holocaust is not going to be happy. But in the middle of the book, I did find myself laughing at the antics of Liesel and Rudy. A story to make me laugh and cry, and the words themselves enough to leave me boneless as a jellyfish. Overall rating: five stars, although I’m tempted to go off the scale and give it six.
2. THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. Vicki and Vannah gave me this book for Christmas, and I’ve been meaning to read it since then. This week I finally got around to it… and then wondered why I’d waited so long to read it. The concept is five-star: in the future, America is half-destroyed, and what remains is now called Panem. Twelve districts are ruled by the Capitol; as punishment for their past rebellion, the districts are forced every year to send one boy and one girl (chosen randomly by lottery) to the Capitol. The 24 contestants compete in an annual televised event called “The Hunger Games.” It’s basically the reality TV version of the Gladiator games. The kids are forced to kill each other until only one is left; the lone survivor wins riches and recognition for his or her district. When her sister is chosen by lottery, 16-year-old Katniss volunteers to go in her place. What follows is 50% action, 50% love story, 100% heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat adventure (no statistics involved; I just made that up). The characters—five-star. Katniss narrates the whole story in first-person, present tense, and she is fierce. And vulnerable. And one of my favorite heroines ever. And then of course, she has Gale, and Peeta… *happy sigh for angsty love* The language… this one is tricky. You see, I read it so fast, flipping the pages until two AM just to see how it ended. I didn’t stop to savor the writing style or the words. But I’ll assume the language is at least four-star, just for being clear and concise. I’ll know more the next time I read it—and there will definitely be a next time. I can’t stop thinking about this story, and I’m wondering how on earth I’ll survive until the sequel comes out in September! Overall rating: easily five stars. If you haven’t already, stop reading this blog and go read THE HUNGER GAMES! Or THE BOOK THIEF! And let me know what you think!
Personal update: this has been one of those crazy preparation weeks, in which you try to fit in as much as possible before your life gets turned upside down. Reading, emailing, researching, and so on. If I clean my house really well this weekend, I wonder how long I could go without cleaning it again? Hmm, probably only a few days. A real shame. I wish I could put the house on energy-saving mode and thus coast through six weeks of novel-writing… but a girl can only dream.
So my weekly accomplishment—surviving. How about you guys?? Any news or achievements to share?? I’d love to hear it! Have a great weekend, everyone! If you like Valentine’s Day, then have a mushy one. If you don’t like it, then try your best to ignore it. 🙂
P.S. Happy birthday to Vannah and Vicki!! See you at the party! 🙂