Book Review: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

What is it about books that makes them so tantalizing?

What is it about them that begs to be picked up, to be enjoyed, to be READ?

I’m not quite sure what it is…but it is a powerful force.

It’s the force that made young Liesel Meminger perform her first act of thievery: picking up a book lying half hidden in the snow by her even younger brother’s grave.

What follows in The Book Thief is a masterful tale of the power of written words snatched from snowy seclusion, from a censor’s fire, from a kindly cruel neighbor’s library.

The illiterate Liesel is taught to read by her near-illiterate foster father. Liesel reads to the Jew her foster parents are hiding in their cellar. And both the Jew and Liesel write as death looks on.

For this story is set within Nazi Germany, while the Grim Reaper is busy across the whole of Europe.

The Book Thief is a fascinating story, not the least because it’s narrated by the Grim Reaper himself.

An excerpt from the beginning of the book:

“As I’ve been alluding to, my one saving grace is distraction. It keeps me sane. It helps me cope, considering the length of time I’ve been performing this job. The trouble is, who could ever replace me?….The answer, of course, is nobody, which has prompted me to make a conscious, deliberate decision–to make distraction my vacation. Needless to say, I vacation in increments. In colors.

Still, it’s possible that you might be asking, why does he even need a vacation? What does he need distraction from?

Which brings me to my next point.

It’s the leftover humans.

The survivors….

Which in turn brings me to the subject I am telling you about tonight, or today, or whatever the hour and color. It’s the story of one of those perpetual survivors–an expert at being left behind.

It’s just a small story really, about, among other things:

  • A girl
  • Some words
  • An accordianist
  • Some fanatical Germans
  • A Jewish fist fighter
  • And quite a lot of thievery

I saw the book thief three times.

The Reaper tells the story of all his dealing with Leisel–the Book Thief, as he calls her–from her first act of thievery to her last breath. Along the way, he tells a story of men and women and little girls and boys who risked much and gained much in silent resistance to the Reich.

I found it wonderful.

Rating: 5 stars
Category:Historical fiction
Synopsis:The Grim Reaper tells the tale of a young girl inside Nazi Germany who finds herself enamored with books–and willing to go to great lengths to obtain them.
Recommendation: I greatly enjoyed this book–although it took a bit to get accustomed to the Reaper’s unique style

Interesting note about this book–This was my first, and last, adult fiction book with last name “Z”. Just so happens, all the other books my library owns by authors with last names starting in Z are either sci-fi or mysteries–books I determined from the outset that I wouldn’t include in my personal challenge. So there you have it :-)

Flashback: Bookworm Reminisces

I’m a reader and I’ve always been, which makes Linda’s book-related Flashback prompt this week kinda fun for me!

Flashback Friday buttonPrompt: Did you like to read when you were a child? What were your favorite genres, books or series? Did you read books because of the author or because of the title/plot? Did you own many books?…

I learned to read at my mama’s knee, and once I had completed the final reader in the “Little Patriots Read” series (I think it was the purple covered Sounds of Joy), I was allowed to get a library card. From then on, I was an avid reader and library patron.

I’m a binge reader–always have been.

The Little House books, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess were some of my earliest favorites. (I own several copies of each of these today.)

Then I had times of serial mystery binges: Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and the rare Trixie Belden I could find at a garage sale or used store. (A couple years ago, I finished re-reading all the Nancy Drew mysteries–now I’m working on both the Boxcar Children and the Hardy Boys from my local library.)

By my pre-teen years, I was avidly reading Christian romances: Janette Oke, Lori Wick, Gilbert Morris, Michael Phillips. (Lori Wick was one of the first authors I “closed out” on my “read every book” goal–and I’m currently working my way through Oke.)

In fifth or sixth grade, I became addicted to popular pablum. My sister and I collected way too many Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins and Friends books. (We threw them all away under conviction in our seventh?, ninth?–sometime during Junior High or High School.)

Then I started reading Harlequins. First, the “Love Inspired” Christian twaddle–and then clean Regency romances that my mom had pre-screened. Then I moved to the not-so-clean Regencies. While I still love certain aspects of the genre, I deeply regret the thoughts and images I allowed into my mind during this period.

In ninth grade, we started a co-op literature class taught by my aunt–and my reading grew up a bit. I started reading Hawthorne and Austen and Beowulf and Hemingway.

I’d read non-fiction throughout my life, but I became a real fan in my late teenage years. Educational theory, medical innovation, grammar, history, memoirs… I loved it.

And most recently, I’ve been binging on…theology.

With regular snacks of all my old favorites, that is!

Visit Linda and follow the links to read some more stories about books!

Reading Meme

Borrowed from Carrie, who borrowed it from Barbara, who got it from a Booking Through Thursday prompt.

What are you reading right now?

Founding Faith by Steven Waldman.

Oddly, that’s all I currently have going. I expect that to shortly change :-)

Do you have an e-reader?

No sirree, Bob! I’m a paper and ink girl–a semi-Neo-Luddite (as much as one can be while being an avid blogger, that is!)

Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

I’m always reading several books at once–but I like there to be only one fiction title going at a time. I have a harder time keeping fiction plots and characters straight if I’ve got more than one going at a time. So fiction generally gets read in fits and bursts instead of a few chapters a day like the rest of my reading.

Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

Yeah–I started keeping my books out of the library forever so that I could get them all reviewed! I also occasionally wonder “How will this look in my Nightstand post?” But I never censor my reading for Nightstand posts, even though I’ve thought of doing so. What you see is what you get–although it doesn’t always mean what you think :-)

How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

Less often than I’d like. But there are just too many books to be read–and too many IN my comfort zone to keep me busy.

What is your reading comfort zone?

Girlie novels (certain Christian romance novelists, chick lit, stuff that’s all about interpersonal relationships), Juvenile and YA fairy tale adaptions, memoirs, sociological type stuff. Okay–my reading comfort zone is pretty wide. It’s easier to say what ISN’T in my comfort zone than what is.

What ISN’T in my comfort zone is mysteries, suspense, science fiction, smutty romance novels, and fiction that makes you think. (It’s the fiction that makes you think that I’d prefer to read more of, by the way).

Favorite place to read?

In the bathtub.

What is your policy on book lending?

I only lend books I own :-)

and books that I know the library doesn’t own.

Otherwise I direct people to the library.

Christian living/theology/doctrine books, I lend out carefully on a few conditions:

  1. I have to know who has what
  2. The person I loaned the book to has to actually read the book
  3. The person I loaned the book to has to be willing to either write notes in the margins or discuss the book with me once they’re done or both!

Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Of MY books, absolutely. Generally, though, I only write in nonfiction titles–I write arguments, Scripture references, other thoughts, etc. And, as I mentioned above, I beg anyone I loan books to to do the same.

What makes you love a book?

I love a book that I don’t have to work too hard to get into =). And I like if it portrays good and evil as good and evil. I like…

Man, that’s a hard question. I’m not sure what makes me love a book. I just know that I love it.

What will inspire you to recommend a book?

For fiction, if it is well-written, engaging, accurately depicts reality (good and evil, interpersonal relationships, etc.), and has some cross-genre appeal. Otherwise, I tend to qualify my recommendation as to where it fits within the genre.

For nonfiction, if it is well-written, engaging, and addresses a valuable topic in what I deem to be a thoughtful (or at least thought-provoking) manner.

Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

Fiction that makes me think. I tend to want to turn off my brain when it comes to fiction–but from my brief forays into fiction that makes me think, I know that it’s worthwhile. I just don’t take/make the time and mental energy to read them.

Favorite biography?

That’s a tough one. I tend to remember the person being “biographed” rather than the biography itself. The only thing that comes to mind is not strictly a biography–more an autobiography or a memoir. But I love Corrie ten Boom’s Hiding Place

Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

I haven’t read much from the “inspirational” front this year. I’ve been more into the “get down to the nitty-gritty, challenge your faith, figure out what you believe” front. Lots of exercising my mind towards the things of God, not a lot of “heart-warming” stuff.

How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

Not sure how I feel about it. I do give negative reviews. But whether I should, and how I choose which books to review (even though I had a negative impression of them)? I guess I give negative reviews when I think there’s a good possibility that some people could be led astray by the book if they don’t read some truth about it, or if a book had pros and cons, or if I expected a book to be good based on other reviews, book jacket flaps, whatever and was disappointed.

Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

Plato’s Republic. I was in sixth grade. I wasn’t intimidated then. I am now! Then, of course, I didn’t feel the challenge of having to understand it. I read it, but didn’t understand it. Now I’m frightened.

Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Despite reading and enjoying everything my library owns by Tolstoy apart from these two titles, I’m still intimidated. It’s a Russian novelist thing. I’ll get over it eventually.

Favorite fictional character?

Elizabeth Bennet

The longest I’ve gone without reading.

Summer 2006, Jacksonville Florida. Two months. Only read the Bible. Challenging. Growing. It was my “Summer of One Book.”

Apart from that? I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a day since I learned to read. And I’m not exaggerating at all. (Just ask my mother and siblings!)

What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

My sisters shrieking wildly because my brother had just proposed to his girlfriend.

Other than that, I am NOT easily distracted. I was one of seven children, homeschooled, in an 1100 square foot house, remember?

Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

A&E’s Pride and Prejudice

Most disappointing film adaptation?

I’d ditto Carrie and Barbara and say Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story. I don’t know that you can even call that an adaptation.

What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

Absolute boringness or complete and utter heresy. I’ve done it with only a handful of books: Oz Garcia’s The Healthy, High Tech Body, Larry McMurtry’s Books: A Memoir, and Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You. Those are the only books I can remember stopping reading (without writing myself a note to pick them back up again.)

Do you like to keep your books organized?

Yes–but the organizational system varies. My fiction is ordered by author’s last name. My nonfiction is ordered by topic. My Biblical reference/Christian living is ordered partly by topic, partly by last name, and partly by what looks good on the shelf :-). My library books are ordered either by size or by due date, depending on how confident I feel that I’ll be able to get everything read before it’s due back!

Read-Aloud Favorites

I don’t often get a chance to read my library selections aloud to youngsters. Instead, I read most of my picture books silently, by myself.

As a result, most of my reviews of children’s picture books are based on, well, my own opinion of the books and how I think youngsters might respond.

But this last week, I had an opportunity to babysit for a couple of my favorite little ones–avid readers at age 4 and 2.

I brought along a selection of library books and we started reading them one by one. We’d gotten about halfway through my stack when they started asking for repeats (instead of continuing through.)

These three titles by Jim Aylesworth were the ones they wanted to hear again:

Children's books by Jim Aylesworth

Country Crossing tells the simple story of a railroad crossing in the nighttime country. All is quiet except for crickets chirping and an owl hooting. But the a car drives up and is stopped at the tracks. The train approaches and departs. The car starts up again and drives away. And the country returns to its quiet activity.

What makes this story unique and repeat read-aloud-able is its use of onomatopoeia and rhythmic language to give the listener a feel for the activity occurring as the car and then the train approach and recede. The illustrations by Ted Rand are old-timey and fairly realistic. I enjoyed reading this one out loud–and the children enjoyed listening and perusing its pages.

Little Bitty Mouse is an understated alphabet book that describes how a little mouse snuck into a house and explored a variety of the house’s contents. Every few pages, the story repeats the refrain

Tip-tip tippy tippy
Went her little mousie toes.
Sniff-sniff sniffy sniffy
Went her little mousie nose

The story is enjoyable, with a nice rhyme scheme and an unobtrusive alphabet element.

But the part that probably endeared it to the kids was the very end when the little bitty mousie hears a “ZZZZ” and goes to investigate. What she finds–a cat sleeping–frightens her, and she lets out a “Squeak!” (The four year old jumped every time I turned the page to see the cat and let out my own shrill pitched “Squeak!”)

Sweet Little Bitty Mousie,
Just as scared as scared can be,
Went run run run run running!
That was all she cared to see!

Jim Aylesworth’s Book of Bedtime Stories is a compilation of four stories. We started to read these a second time, but didn’t get all the way through due to the kids’ Mommy arriving home. So I’m not sure exactly what appealed; but, like the other two stories, these stories featured a pleasant rhythm and rhyme structure, fun onomatopoeia, and simple but engaging story lines.

These stories were a hit with a couple of kids–and this reader wasn’t complaining about the repeats!

Reading My LibraryFor more comments on children’s books, see the rest of my Reading My Library posts or check out Carrie’s blog Reading My Library, which chronicles her and her children’s trip through the children’s section of their local library.

Nightstand (July 2010)

On last month’s nightstand:

On my nightstandOn my nightstand

What I actually read this month was…
(Click on the titles to see my reviews.)




  • Children’s Picture Books author ARNOLD-ASBURY (42 titles)
    including two books without words by Jose Aruego
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Secret Panel by Franklin Dixon

Currently in the middle of…

On my nightstand


  • American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham
    Read some quotes from the introduction. I’m currently about halfway through and am definitely enjoying this title.
  • The Cross of Christ by John Stott
    I expect to be done with this title by the end of the week. Be sure to check out my notes on chapters 1-9.
  • Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris
    My ladies’ book club is still moving slowly through this title.
  • Inside The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Bell, Pykkonen, and Washington
    Reading this as part of Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Carrie doesn’t like the “For Dummies” titles, but this book reminds me of the “Dummies” genre–except that it’s intended as an introduction to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for younger readers (late elementary school, probably?)
  • The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd
    Still working on this with my Monday night book club. We’ve had some AMAZING discussion so far.

On this month’s nightstand:

On my nightstand


  • Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke
  • Love’s Enduring Promise by Janette Oke
  • The Quest by Nancy Moser
  • Second Time Around by Nancy Moser


  • Founding Faith by Steven Waldman
  • The Narnian by Alan Jacobs
  • See What I’m Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of our Five Senses by Lawrence D. Rosenblum
  • Dozens of craft/decorating books


  • Children’s Picture Books author ASCH-?
  • The Animal Shelter Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Beyond the Wardrobe: The Official Guide to Narnia
  • C.S. Lewis: The Chronicler of Narnia by Mary Dodson Wade
  • The Phantom Freighter by Franklin W. Dixon
  • The Thief Lord by Carnelia Funke

Drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading.
What's on Your Nightstand?

What’s on MY Nightstand?

It’s time for taking inventory of our stash of soon-to-be-read’s with 5 Minutes for Books’ monthly meme “What’s on Your Nightstand?”

What's on Your Nightstand?

Not surprisingly, my nightstand is full, packed with a wide variety of library (and a few privately owned!) books.

Adult Fiction

  • Barren Corn by Georgette Heyer
  • The Carousel Painter by Judith Miller
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke

Young Adult/Children’s Fiction

  • Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
  • Mystery in the Sand by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Mystery of the Flying Express by Franklin W. Dixon


  • Catastrophe by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
  • Life is Tough but God is Faithful by Sheila Walsh
  • Guinness World Records 2010
  • One Thing by Sam Storms
  • Dave Barry Slept Here by Dave Barry
  • I Married Adventure by Luci Swindoll

I also have a whole stack of children’s picture books by Verna Aardema. I’ve been in the process of reading every book in my local library for a little over 3 years now–but I’ve been doing it rather haphazardly. Carrie’s system of reading through the picture book section of her library struck my fancy, so I’ve started at the beginning–and the beginning is Aardema. I’ve only read two of her books thus far, but it appears that she generally retells African folk-tales. The pronunciation can be a bit tricky, but both stories I’ve read seem okay. Not great enough that I’d recommend them, but not bad enough that I’d recommend avoiding them. Just neutral.

Check out what other women are reading at 5 Minutes 4 Books

What’s on Your Nightstand?

What's on your nightstand? Logo

5 Minutes for Books hosts a monthly “What’s on your nightstand?” carnival on the fourth Tuesday of each month. The idea is that you let everybody know what you’ve been reading or are planning on reading this month.

It suits me to a T since the books I’m reading are literally on my nightstand. Here’s today’s photo.

Books on my nightstand (August)


  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (I’ve been re-reading this one. Check out my notes on Chapter 1, 2, 3a, and 3b.)
  • Dangerous Sanctuary by Lois Richer (A recommendation from my little sister that I haven’t started yet.)


  • How Do Astronauts Scratch an Itch by David Feldman. (Halfway through–just finished reading about why ceiling fans get dusty.)
  • Your Two-Year-Old by Loise Ames. (Still trying to finish up that 649.122 Section at the library.)
  • Secret’s of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers by Tracy Hogg. (Ditto above. Only about a dozen books to go in the section–can’t let them multiply too fast on me.)
  • Bicycling Magazine’s Complete book of Road Cycling Skills (Now that I’m commuting by bike and training for my big ride next year, I’d like to develop some skills.)
  • How to Expand and Upgrade PCs. (Got my new hard drive installed, now I just need to clone my current hard drive over and get everything arranged right.)
  • Do it Yourself PC Upgrade Projects. (Do you mean to tell me that you do not routinely check out at least two books on any given subject before attempting to accomplish a task?)
  • The Perfect Apron by Rob Merrett. (Felt the need for some cute new aprons for while I’m teaching my cooking-I mean-Scientific Principles of Food Preparation-lab. And these aprons are HARD-CORE cute. I made the bias cut one and wore it to lab today.)
  • Get out of that pit by Beth Moore. (My church’s ladies retreat this fall is based on this book. A friend and I decided to read it and discuss it together prior to the retreat. So far, so good.)
  • Opposing Viewpoints: Medicine. (With the current Health Care debate raging, it helps to be informed!)

Childrens/Young Adult

  • Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems. (Carrie at Reading to Know recommended Mo Willems–and I’ve fallen in love with his cute illustrations and story lines–in that order. I haven’t read this one yet though.)
  • Breathing Underwater by Alex Flynn. (I read Alex Flynn’s Beastly and loved the modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s perspective. This one looks to be pretty different, but I’m eager to read it regardless.)


It’s too depressing to enumerate these. Suffice to say that I’ve got a biochemistry text and a couple of library biochem primers, a book of lab tests (to study for the RD Exam), a text for my program planning class, and a half dozen texts for my counseling class.

Just finished

  • Farmer Boy Days (A very abridged version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy for new readers. Unless your child is seriously intimidated by the bulk of the Little House books, I’d encourage them to read the “real thing”. I was reading the Little House books by 2nd grade–and I don’t see why others shouldn’t be able to as well.)
  • Nurse Matilda: Collected Tales by Christiana Brand. (I loved Nanny McPhee, so when I saw this book at the library, I snatched it right up. I enjoyed the first novel, but found the second two to be a bit too repetitive.)
  • The Contented Soul by Lisa Graham McMinn. (This wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t great either. It had nice thoughts of contentment, but seemed a lot more “worldly wisdom” than “wisdom from above”. I can get enough worldly wisdom from worldly books. I don’t want to have to read it in “Christian” books too.)
  • Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley. (I LOVED Beauty, McKinley’s first retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In Rose Daughter, McKinley tells the story again–with a completely different twist. I love both. These are books you definitely don’t want to miss.)

Exclamation Mark

I’m reading Ravi Zacharias’s Cries of the Heart (Good book, by the way). Ravi quotes Lewis Thomas from Medusa and the Snail:

The mere existence of that cell should be one of the greatest astonishments of the earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours, calling to each other in endless wonderment, talking of nothing except that cell….If anyone does succeed in explaining it within my lifetime I will charter a skywriting airplane, maybe a fleet of them, and send them aloft to write one great exclamation point after another around the whole sky, until all my money runs out.

The quote impressed me with the author’s sense of wonderment–and my own lack of such wonderment. The cell is but the least of the wonderful things that I could spend my whole life astonished at. What of the new life being wrought in my friends Jolene and Jennifer as they reach the last trimesters of their pregnancies? What of the orderliness of the universe and the fine-tuning of every law to permit human life? What of the intricacies of weather systems that bring life and death, beauty and destruction? What of the miracle of regeneration?

Yet I rarely stop to wonder, much less spend my every day wondering. And I believe I have lost much in my blase grown-upness that thinks it knows the answers and therefore fails to ask the questions.

Oh, to embrace wonder once again. To return to the child-like astonishment, that on hearing why the sky is blue, asks yet again, “But why?” For indeed, the first explanation is rarely the end, it is only a springboard for a deeper sense of wonder.

May I look at life today through different eyes, through the eyes of wonder. May I take the time to wonder, to be astonished, to gasp in awe at the greatness of my Father displayed through all His creation. May my life be a grand exclamation mark, repeated with every breath–an exclamation mark punctuating the grandness of my God.