Monday, December 31, 2012

On Endings and Winnings

Happy last-day-of-the-year! I mean, New Year's Eve.
(For your amusement: yes, it took me several minutes to come up with the right name for today, despite the calander that hangs right beside my desk. I kept thinking it was Christmas Eve, for whatever reason.)

I wanted to post a book review today of the entire Inheritance series, because in a perfect world I would have managed to finish all four of this heavy series. (By heavy, I mean pagewise -- 600+ for each book, with the possible exception of the first, Eragon.)

Instead, I am about 100 pages into the last book. I have been reading this series for nigh on three weeks: and yes, I just used nigh. I am feeling somewhat ready to put down this series and pick up a new one.

On the other hand, it's been so long... jumping into another world feels weird when you're so immersed in the current one. That's one of the reasons I can't read two books at once -- trying to maintain two worlds simultaneously feels impossible. Putting down one book, after commiting yourself to it, is like the end of the year -- "the ending of an era, and the turning of a page" (Tim Mcgraw, "My Next Thirty Years"; yea, I just quoted a country song).

But this is not what I really wanted to talk about. The ending of a book, of a world, is universally recognized as emotionally traumatic (with the exception of those people who think readers are weird). For some reason, I feel like talking about battles and winning and/or losing.

As I read the first three books of Paolini's books -- not to pick on Paolini, or Eragon for that matter -- that the good guys seem to win every battle. In a war, you don't win every battle -- you win some, you lose, but you don't win all.

I wonder if this is a common trait in fantasy, and I when I look back at the (vast) amount of fantasy I've read, I kind of think this is common. I can't think of any particular book or series, I just can't help wonder if this is one of those things like having a king, or having dragons be fierce/evil, or having some quest for the Magical ____ [fill in the blank] to save the entire kingdom.

Again, I don't mean to pick on Paolini. His is probably not the first. But you have to lose occasionally. (And more than you lost a lot of soldiers, but you pulled through in the end. I mean an actual lose, as in you were forced to retreat while the other side cheers in relief and victory.)

I don't know who made it alright to pull this off, but there's only so far I'll suspend questions. With the Inheritance series, I'm willing to overlook this question and keep reading because of all the other stuff going on -- namely, magic and elves and quick-learn-everything! -- and because I've commited myself to the series and gosh-darn-it, I will finish reading it.

Anyways. My point is, you win some, you lose some. But you don't win all. I don't knwo why some things are fantasy traits, but if I ever end up writing a book involving war (which seems likely), I will have to find a way to balance the battles more evenly. Winning is cool, but I like losing almost more so than winning -- losing teaches you a lesson.

I think my little rant is over now, or at least I've exhausted my short attention span on this blog post. What do you think of this? Do you like winning or losing more?

And again, have a blessed New Year's Eve! :)

[EDIT: As of today (Sunday the 6th), I have made it through more of Inheritance, the last book -- they do lose a major battle. And I can think of a couple of skirmishes they lost that I didn't consider too important in the scheme of things (as compared with the whole "defeat Galbatorix" thing -- for example, the Ra'zac and Brom in the first book).

Also, I now think of a few more examples -- namely, Lord of the Rings and Sparta. Man, freakin' Sparta was outnumbered and defeated the Persians anyways *grumble grumble* But that's a real-world thing. Pardon my history geekiness. It might also be a movie, but I don't watch movies often and couldn't tell you for certain.

I now kind of think LoTR started this screw-reality thing, but that might just be because I want to beat Tolkien over the head with the Fellowship of the Ring, for making Frodo leave Sam like that.]

Friday, December 28, 2012

Follow Friday #29

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read! (Gah! It's been a hectic week. This is a short port.)

Q: What book do you think everyone should read? If you could gift the entire population with one book?

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. I'd say Harry Potter, but that's probably a broken record by now.

Artemis Fowl is technically a children's/MG book, but I think it would appeal to adults -- kidnapping, fairy police forces, magic, and trolls. And Artemis Fowl himself is a genius, so he doesn't really sound too childlike. But it's fun and easy enough for kids to read, and action-y and genius-y enough for adults.

It's like my favorite book. And if this gift encourages a ton of people to buy the other 7 books in the series as well... then that's a plus.

How about you? What did you choose? I wanted to post some pictures from my vacation today, but I don't have time! Have to finish reading my book today, so I can start the last book of that series tomorrow. Anyways, have a blessed weekend! :) I'll see if I can scrounge some pictures on monday, when I get back home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On a Quick Update

Hi! I'm at the beach, on vacation. Yes, it's the middle of the winter, but who cares?

Hope y'all had a merry Christmas! This is one of the spaciest times of year for me -- no thoughts, no ideas, just random fluff in my brain. So, no proper post today.

I'll try to be back on Friday. I'm currently part of the way through Brisingr, which is the third book of the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini (you know, remember my post on Eragon, over there in the archives?). I've been listening Owl City instead of revising my novel. You know, the usual.

I'll continue my history Wednesdays next week. This week, as I said, my brain is kinda mush and fluff. Sorry.

If I get a chance, I might take a couple pics of the beach and post them on Friday. Have a happy vacation week, y'all! (Or a blessed day if you're not on vacation!) Here are some friendly quotes for your inspiration.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Follow Friday #28

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: What have you learned from book blogging that you didn't know before about the publishing industry?

Umm... I learned what ARC stood for. I learned what an author interview/cover reveal/book tour looks like.

I learn more about the publishing industry through my internet trawls, stuff like agents, querying... stuff I kind of have to know if I'm going to get my book published one day. Book blogging, in and of itself, teaches me the reader's perspective, things like promoting a good book; I normally go out and search for the writer's stuff myself.

That make any sense? I hope so.

P.S. I'm going on vacation to the beach next week (starting tomorrow, and going till next Saturday). I don't know if I'll post on Monday -- vacationly stuffs to do, you know -- but I'll probably post Wednesday and Friday.

Have a blessed Friday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On History Stuffs #2

So, every Wednesday, I'm going to post random little spots of history, for your use as the beginnings of research or just for fun (because trivia IS fun). This week's topic:

The French Revolution "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"

What it Was:
  • began in 1789
  • overthrew the Bourbon monarchy
  • created a republic
  • ended with Napoleon's rise and the creation of his empire

  • changes in ideology (the Enlightenment)
  • social changes (population growth --> not enough food)
  • First Estate and Second Estate were the clergy/nobles, who were small social class: most of the people were the Third Estate, or the day laborers.
  • Sharp economic slump, that King Louis XVI tried to fix with unpopular tax reforms

The Rev:
  • Third Estate formed a new assembly (National Assembly), made of non-noble property owners
  • They wrote Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen --> advocated freedom of thought/equality for all
  • They formed a strong parliament
  • Stormed the Bastille (a prison), where they didn't free many but started the rev
  • Eventually captured the king and queen -- Queen Marie Antoinette organized an escape for the royal family, but failed.

The Reign of Terror:
  • Led by Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety
  • excessive use of the guillotine (including on King Louis)
  • try to replace the church/religion with nationalism and Enlightenment reason
  • Robespierre himself is eventually beheaded by the guillotine

The Final Phase:
  • Napoleon Bonaparte takes charge, becomes emperor
  • reduced parliament, limited freedome of expression
  • powerful police system, universities to train bureaucrats, male equality, religious freedom
  • Aggressive expansionism, gaining territory for France all through Europe
  • Eventually stopped by Russia --> it was winter, in Russia... his soldiers could not survive.
  • Congress of Vienna (1815) --> France not punished as long as European balance of power is restored.
  • Revolutionary ideas spread across Europe inspiring other revolutions and demanding changes (and to other parts of the world, i.e. Latin America)

Now, this scrapes the bare minimum of the French Rev. This is all I gleaned from my notes, since I'm in a bit of a rush. There's a TON more stuff about this particular topic, and it's quite fascinating. I recommend at least googling it.

This is one of my favorite topics, actually. I don't know why, it's just all the... blood, and spirit, and how everyone really believed that killing the King and Queen would solve an economic/social crisis. I mean, America did something similar, in declaring their rights as equal to their "superiors", Britain, but America always struck me as less bloody, perhaps because it was a formal war.

I didn't really put how all this affected other places, but it did. It seriously screwed up Europe: part of the Congress of Vienna was going back and rearranging the borders of all the countries again, because France took so much. And it disturbed American politics, as well, and as I said, inspired a bunch of other revolutions in Europe. But this post is more on the Rev itself, on France in this time period. If you want more specifics, Google it.

Again, I have a historyteachers Youtube video. It'll give you a bit more specifics.

[I used my history notes from AP World History last year on this post. And a spot of info from a notebook I kept in elementary school, which I didn't remember until I flipped through it. Weird. Anyways, citing my sources and all that.]

What do you think of the French Revolution? Have a blessed day!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

One boy... One dragon... A world of adventure.
When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.
Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fletchling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.
Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

~Print copy, 497 pages (not including glossary)
Published: 2003 by Alfred A. Knopf (New York)

Yea, I've mentioned several times on this blog (alright, many times) how much I love Eragon. So, since I got Inheritance (the last of the series) and I'm rereading the first three books in order to properly read the last, here is my explanation of why I love it so much.

Mainly, four reasons:

1. It's epic fantasy. I mean... dude. EPIC. FANTASY. Dragons and magic and kings, oh my!

2. It's all very dramatic. It's his destiny to take up the revered position of Dragon Rider, so he can defeat the evil king! Yay! I love that sort of stuff. None of that sappy intimate romance junk. That whole adventure-to-overthrow-the-forces-of-evil just catches my spark like nothin' else.

3. This is some good writing. None of that modern day voice to it, that makes it sound kinda whiny and teenage-girlish, but it's not medieval-thou's-and-thee's stuff, either. It walks a fine line between the two, and might I say, some of it's almost poetic. Not to mention the creation of not just one other language but multiple languages over the series: the ancient language, the dwarf language, the Elven language, even a little Urgal speak. Mostly the ancient language appears in this first book, but there are a handful of words from these other languages as well.

4. Which brings me to the worldbuilding. Language and culture play a major role in this, but the plot doesn't take a backseat to the building: they weave together real nicely. There is a map, and you can understand without trying too hard where everything is and what sort of route they're travelling. It doesn't suffer from same-itis, where the cities are all the same, the castles are all the same, etc.; each city or town, from Carvahall (Eragon's home) to Gilead to Teirm, all have their uniqueness.

So, yea. Good writing/story elements + epic fantasy = five stars. Seriously. I would recommend everyone read this book (unless you hate reading, in which case I suggest you not follow my reading/writing blog).

There are plenty of other reasons, but my stomach hurts and my head's fuzzy so I'm going to leave it off here. Have a blessed day!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Follow Friday #27

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee!

Q: What is the last book that made you cry? Tell us about the scene...

Oh, gosh. Umm.... it's been awhile. I don't cry very often.

I cried a little at the end of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (a memoir), over summer. It took place in a hospital, but I kind of don't want to spoil the ending for someone who hasn't read it. (I feel weird saying that about a memoir, since it's not my usual fiction, and if the person is still alive what does it matter if you spoil the ending? But this is irrelevant.)

And last year, I shed a few tears when I first read Eragon by Christopher Paolini. That was when Brom died, and they buried him on a lonely hilltop when on the run from the army... *sniffle* That was in the middle of the book, and many people have read it, so I feel okay about telling you that. And if you've never read the book... that was a spoiler. Sorry.

Anyways, I don't cry often. And not at all often when it comes to books. But there are a couple times. How about you? Do you cry a lot at sad scenes?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On History Stuffs #1

I've decided to do a series of posts on Wednesdays on random spots in history. Fun facts, easy research, or an idea -- history is pretty useful, so here's a little extra knowledge:

The Bubonic Plague, aka The Black Death

What It Was:
  • a plague that wiped out 1/3 of Europe's population.
  • a person might be in full health one day, and die miserably within 24 hours.
  • Recurrence of plague thoughout the 14th century (1300s).

Short Term Effects:
  • population decline.
  • normal rituals/ordinary routines were thrown out the window as panic ruled.
  • Attacks on the Jews, who were thought to be spreading the pestilence (though we know nowadays, of course, that it was fleas on rats, not Jews).
  • Rational theology (the study of God) was replaced with mysticism and fear of God's wrath.
  • fear, horror, and panic as people died rapidly.

Long Term Effects:
  • Decline of Latin as a language.
  • rise of vernacular (spoken) tongues as a medium for serious writing.
  • Art: sterner portrayals of religious figures/scenes; death was a prominent theme.
  • Social tensions were intensified.
  • economy (specifically, wages/price patterns) declined sharply due to fewer workers and people  who needed work; this differed from place to place.
  • Anticlericalism: priests/monks died and were replaced with the less competent, less trained.
  • Saints were featured in church life more (ex.: St. Sebastion, St. Roch).

A lot of people know what the Black Death was: a plague that wiped out quite a bit of Europe's population sometime centuries ago. A lot of people DON'T know what the Black Death caused: it was one of the reasons English became a popular written language. English was spoken at this time, of course, but no one wrote in it; the Black Death changed that. Latin died, and English replaced it.

History's funny that way. Can you wrap your head around that? That the language you speak and read and write every day only came about as a serious written language because of a plague? And not just English, but Italian and several other languages, as well: some of the languages spoken at the time became written languages.

It also was one of the reasons the Renaissance came about. And the Renaissance -- and consequently the Enlightenment -- is pretty much why we aren't also English peasants right now. When the Bubonic Plague came about, people started reverting to Roman ways. Some of the ideas you are familiar with, it being part of American government and all: consent of the governed, certain unalienable rights, etc. And these theories are popular in European thinking as well: probably other countries, though I don't know to what extent.

Here's a song from historyteachers on the Bubonic Plague. Historyteachers, for those who don't know, is a youtube channel that makes historical parodies. This one is of the song Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani. Historyteachers saved my neck before my AP exam last May -- not a replacement for studying, but makes that studying stick in your head a little more.

Have a blessed day, and hope you've found this interesting!

[this is literally copied directly from notes I took in AP World History last year, all except the last two paragraphs. But the bullet points I randomly found in my notebook and copied here, with my shorthand notation removed so you can understand it. And, obviously, the youtube video is from youtube, not me.]

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidently activates a curse binding them together.
To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks -- all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic... and the growing romantic tension between them.

~Print copy, 295 pages
Published: 2012 by Strange Chemistry

I have some problems with this novel.

First off, that summary is wrong. It's probably describing the SERIES: not this book. This book is like, Act 1. I was expecting an actual novel, where there is all that stuff in the summary. I did not realize it WASN'T a standalone novel until the ending, where they are just beginning to go on the actual quest.

I was mildly upset. Would it have been that difficult to add a number 1 on the spine, or perhaps a byline underneath the title that said something like, "Book 1 of the ____ Series"? Or "___ Duet", if it's just this and the next book?

Now, I admit, I didn't expect this to be a 5-star novel: I'm not one for romance, and it says "romantic tension" right there in the summary. But I felt this could've easily been a standalone novel, if Clarke had added another 100-200 pages or so and just went on with the quest.

Fantasy novels, in general, do run along to 300, 400 pages, oftentimes longer. Look at the Inheritance series by Paolini - some of those books are 700 pages long, even longer. Later Harry Potter books run over 500 pages.

This one is a little under 300 pages, and could have been the beginnings of a standalone. I am not making a comment on lazy writing or anything (Clarke seems like an excellent writer, actually: I couldn't have gone along over a dozen pages with that sort of informal voice), I'm just stating an opinion. But I felt, with the way the novel's been set up, it could have been Act 1 of a standalone novel.

Another little thing with the summary: it says "abandons ship". What they mean by this is that she hops on a camel and loses her would-be-betrothed in a desert city. I'd been psyched up for this awesome scene where Ananna jumps off her fiancee's ship and swims to shore, or something like that. Just a little wordy misunderstanding there.

Also, she doesn't really have any "magic" of her own; she was using a Spirit's Vials of Stuff that she borrowed from a stranger to try and defeat him. I thought she was going to discover this new magic inside her and she accidently activates it, can't control it, and then accidently bind him to her. But no -- she borrowed some vials, and they didn't work; when a snake rears up behind the assassin, a common snake about to bite the magician, she kills the snake instinctively. This activates a curse already on the assassin, that whoever saves his life he has to protect with his life.

So, Naji -- the assassin, or the Blood Magician with Super Magic Skills -- takes her to a river witch who lives near a river in a canyon in the desert (try to wrap your head about that). The river witch sends them off to a pirate ship who would take them to the Isles of the Sky, where a Wizard Eirnin lives, who could perhaps help them break their Impossible Curse.

Don't get me wrong -- I liked the beginning and parts of the middle, when I still thought this was standalone. It has this kind of unique voice: sort of American Southern accent, but using Kaol's name in vain, and spouting off names of other fantasy countries. Lots of double negatives and "ain't"s.

It would have been nice if there were made up swear words, too, but there are (a decent amount of) real swear words. Not my cup of tea, but definitely a part of a lot of teenagers' vocabularies. Not really my main tick about this novel.

Also, it's a pretty thought-out world. I was almost confused by all the different names of places, but those were general mentions, and I got the gist of it -- Lisirra, the desert city in the opening pages, was in the south, and was part of the Empire; they were traveling north to the Isles. There wasn't just sights mentioned, either: temperature played a large role, uncomfortable-ness too, especially in the latter stages as they travel north.  

Ananna... what to say about her? She was pretty cool early on -- all bad-girl-with-super-sword-skills. Then as things progress, she relies more and more on Naji, freaking out when he disappears or leaves her alone (that's actually when they make it to the Isles; I suppose I can't blame her for not wanting to be alone on a floating island that's supposed to drive you crazy from the magic in the air).

But Naji was kind of cool, I guess. He sulks a bit, and he generally doesn't tell Ananna things (like WHO is chasing them, why they want him dead...). But I kind of respected his privacy, and he really did need that curse ended. He would be in severe pain whenever Ananna was in danger, and she was in danger a lot, so he actually had a reason to want this curse ended. (I have read books where there was no real point in the quest. This was not one of those books.)

So, really... the only problem I had was that misleading summary. I expected manticores and nobility, but those don't occur in this book. And I really like manticores. :( But I kind of thought this book would make a nice beginning for a standalone novel. Good voice, a decent array of characters...

I'd recommend this to those who realize this is part of a series, but I was kind of disappointed. I give it three stars.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Follow Friday #26

[I totally forgot to do this last week! It took me until now to realize - my brain is all fuzzy from writing and revising. Oh, and school stuffs, too. Sorry for that!]

Anyways, Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: Activity! Who do you want to be? If you could choose any character from a book. What do you think that character looks like and what do you have in common?

Ooh, Saphira!! I would totally love to be a dragon. I have, like, nothing in common, but it still counts, right?

Seriously, though, I think... I don't know. There's so many to choose from. Perhaps Meggie, from Inkheart by Cornelia Funke? We both love books; not to mention, she gets to literally go inside one of her books.

Perhaps Elizabeth from The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman - She gets a job at a sort of library, except instead of trading just books, they trade EVERYTHING. I read this book a couple years or so ago, so I can't remember Elizabeth too well, but... a library. That trades everything. (One of the things they traded, which really stuck out in my mind, was Marie Antoinette's favorite wig. Not exactly your typical library fare.) Also, they have a secret room full of magical items from Grimm fairy tales. Meep!
I'd keep going on (and on) about who I'd like to be, but three's enough, I suppose. I am so tempted to keep going, but I don't want to make this blog post a mile long.

Who did you choose? Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On Dreams

[This is a short post, because I'm still recovering from a series of stomachaches I had all morning. Not fun. Anyways.]

A couple months ago in AP Psych, we did dreams (and states of consciousness). A quick overview of what I learned:

1. There are five levels of consciousness: conscious, nonconscious, preconscious, subconscious, and unconscious. Sleep (which I always thought was unconcious) is actually conscious, that first level.

2. Sleep is on a 25 hour cycle of 5 stages.
  • Stage 1 is that couple minutes when you're halfway between awake and asleep.
  • Stage 2 is when you're fully asleep, but it's not deep sleep yet.
  • Stages 3 and 4 are deep sleep - this is the stage where your body heals and grows.
  • REM sleep is where you dream: it's often called paradoxical sleep, because your brain is active and your body is paralyzed (to prevent you from getting hurt while acting out your dreams).
3. There are two basic theories for our dreams:
  • Freud (the man who came up with that stereotypical "and how do you feel?", lying on a couch, telling someone your deepest secrets) decided dreams are a roadway to the unconscious, that last, deepest level of consciousness. Dreams have underlying meaning; they'll help you solve your problems. They are censored stories that represent our innermost emotions. 
  • The activation-synthesis theory is more biological. Our brain is trying to interpret the random electrical activity we have while sleeping. This is why dreams make no sense: our mind is simply throwing random tidbits at us while we're asleep.
  • (There's a 3rd theory, the information-processing theory, that basically says dreams are a way to deal with stress. I didn't really count this one as a theory, although AP Psych seems to.)
4. Animals other than humans dream, as well. (This was obvious to me: I live in a house of cats, and have since I was born. Their paws and face twitch in their sleep, which is actually them dreaming.)

5. You can actually dream while you're not in REM sleep - it's called NREM sleep (non-REM sleep). REM sleep is associated with negative emotions, NREM sleep is associated with positive emotions: people with depression actually spend more time in REM sleep, which exacerbates their depression.

6. I remember a program I watched on dreams (I didn't write any notes down for that particular documentary -- I think it was NOVA -- which kinda irks me) that told about a man who decided dreams were actually a biological way to remember danger: your ancestors from Old Stone Age times passed on dreams of falling, of running away, of other dangers to the next generation (through handy genetics). It's been passed all the way down to you, to warn you of the perils of nature. That's why you have nightmares.


A lot of writers say they came up with the idea for their book (and indeed, a lot of people in history who aren't writers came up with their ideas) through dreams. Indeed, some of my favorite ideas come up through dreams. What do you think? Are dreams random images, a pathway into your deepest level of consciousness, or a genetic warning?

Have a blessed day, and watch your dreams! You never know what might happen. 

(By the way, the information here is from my AP Psych class and an article, "The Meaning of Dreams" by Jonathan Winson.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

"How does it feel, anyway?"
"How does what feel?"
"When you take one of those books?"
At that moment, she chose to keep still. If he wanted an answer, he'd have to come back, and he did. "Well?" he asked, but again, it was the boy who replied, before Liesel could even open her motuh. "It feels good, doesn't it? To steal something back."
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War 2, Death relates the story of Liesel -- a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as her neighbors.

~Print copy (from the library), 550 pages
Published: 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf (New York)

How did I feel about this book? ....

It didn't feel worth two weeks of my time. Yes, it was November, and especially in those last two weeks when I was pounding away the words (on the brightside: I did make it past 50,000 words!), but two weeks is a long time for me to spend on a book.

To put that into perspective, it also took me two weeks to read Lord of the Rings: the entire trilogy -- which put together in a one-volume edition is over 1,000 pages. The Book Thief is half that, and took the same amount of time.

This wasn't one of those "I'm savoring it" type of books, either -- it was more sheer stubbornness and loyalty to reading that I stuck through. Let me tell you why:

1. I could not really connect with Liesel. This story is told from Death's POV: an unusual and interesting character to tell a story through, I grant you, but it did not bring me closer to the story. In fact, it jumped perspective to Liesel's foster father Papa or Hans several times, and occassionally to the Jewish man they were hiding, Max.

It didn't seem an organized jump around in POV, either: the whimsical jumps from what Max was doing, to flashbacks of Liesel's friend Rudy, to Hans's time in WW1 and why they were hiding the Jew in the 1st place was too scattered for me to connect (which is an amazing feat - I can connect things randomly better than most people I know).

2. Another reason is the clumsy attempt at romance, especially in the second half of the novel. I don't want to give too much of this part away, since it would give away the ending, but I don't like romance in the best of terms and when you spring it on me at the end of the book, I'm unsettled.

3. The ending. That ending. I wanted... well, not that. And it didn't help that there was like, a chapter or two (literally) seemingly dedicated to bluntly foreshadowing (foretelling?) the ending. I could guess at the ending about halfway in, and I prefer a surprise. Preferably a happy surprise.

4. It was kind of episodic. You know, like the Scarlet Letter? Anotehr book I don't particularly like? She spent a lot of time happy, as well. You expect a certain amount of suffering, which increases throughout the book at a somewhat steady rate, and then they get to Climax and either they're suffering ends or they lose. Well, The Book Thief more tells an event, then she relaxes, then another event occurs, and so on. It's almost a biography, a sort of cataloguing of personal events.

Let me give you an example: there is a chapter on what she does over the summer: reading from a stolen book, playing soccer, and reading on the floor of the mayor's floor of the library, as the mayor's grieving wife sits and watches. There are chapters of Hans's time in WW1, of Max's time getting to their house, and a flashback to an incident of Rudy's past that really only reflects on Rudy's personality/quirks, not really advancing the book.

This wasn't your typical "arc" -- plot wise. You could make a case for character-wise. It was more, something came up, something was dealt with, all the way up to the end, which was (as I've always had a tic about) pretty much a chance ending.

I am not critisizing Zusak's writing capabilities whatsoever, really. I am just not thrilled about it -- it's just not my cup of tea. And I read it at the worst possible time, when I'm trying to write a fantasy novel in a month.

There were good aspects of it. I mean, I already said that Death is an interesting POV. It's not often I come across a "unique" (in my sense of the word) main character. And thought Death isn't an MC per say, you could argue that, since it's a war and he does show up every time someone dies (which is kind of often during this book) so he could be considered, in my opinion, a rather cool MC.

I also like the time period, and some of the quirks of this particular cast of characters. Not the bloodshed of war, mind you: I'm just a bit of a history lover, and wars/cultures/what-is-or-was-going-on in other countries (mostly) interest me.  And Hans played the accordian, and that accordian played an important part in this book, which is kind of amazing. I've never heard an accordian, but it's like the wierdest, coolest-looking instrument ever, next to the guitar.

Liesel herself seemed kind of bland and ordinary to me; her friend, Rudy, was kind of meh, but he had a trouble-making side and he has a big family, which I can relate to. (Not the trouble-making, the big family -- I don't remember a time I've gotten in trouble for anything other than reading a book at inappropriate times).

In all, I would give this book a 2.5. I don't feel like putting a picture on this post, so I'm just going to leave it at that. I might recommend it to other people, if they love WW2 and aren't quite so... like me. It's just overall not my cup of tea.

[Sorry this is so late, too -- I've had homework up to my ears, I've just begun editing my completed nano project, and my throat is killing me. Have you ever tried writing an essay, a blog post, and highlighting what you need to edit in your first draft, all while you have a sore throat, a somewhat stuffed-up nose, and a wierd almost-cough? It's bad.]

Anyways, have a blessed Monday, if there is such a thing! And while I'm at it, have a happy Tuesday!