Quotes from The Book Thief

I just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It took me a while to get into it—the narrator is Death, so I didn’t really connect to anyone until Liesel started to take a stand for herself and became a character I rooted for, not just one I felt sorry for. Then I fell in love with this book, its characters. I’m not the only one, of course. It’s a bestseller and has won all kinds of awards, but I particularly liked the the commentaries and asides on storytelling. Like this one:

Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building a mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens next and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest and astound me.

I especially love that last line. I often peek at the ends of books before I finish reading them.

Words had also brought her to life. “Don’t punish yourself,” she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too. That was writing.

Amen.

And also, I loved this line: “Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”

And: “I am haunted by humans.”

This was such a moving and powerful and heartbreaking book. But this is the second WWII book I’ve read recently and with all that’s going on in the world right now, I think I’d like to read a (moderately at least) happy book next. Any suggestions?

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Books I Read in 2012

I didn’t read as many books as I wanted last year. I was, you know, sort of busy with my own book tour. But I did manage to read the following, and am posting this list because people are always asking me for book recommendations and my response is often “Uh…” as my mind blanks on even the most recent book I read. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten some here. This year, I plan to keep an ongoing list. It’s another one of my new year’s not-resolutions-but-but goals/hopes this year.

I’m an impatient reader and I will give up on a book if I’m not engaged quickly.This list does not include all the books I started and didn’t finish, because I don’t want to call them out. There were merits in all but one I started, and maybe they will grab me if I try again. Sometimes it’s just the wrong time. Though some of the books included on the full list below sort of disappointed me, or had issues that bothered me after I finished, each one of these books was worth my time to read, and I hope you’ll check them out. Happy reading!

My Favorites

  • The Rules of Inheritance, Claire Bidwell Smith

This was probably my favorite book of the year. I was expecting it to be sad and it was, but it was also beautifully written and uplifting, too. I picked it up and thought I’d read just a little bit and then I finished it in two days despite having tons of work to do. I really loved it. It just came out in paperback. Go buy it!

  • The Kitchen Daughter, Jael McHenry

A modern family story full of ghosts—real and imagined—with writing that makes you hungry. Great for foodies.

  • The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan

The little dictionary entries tell the story of a relationship in alphabetical order. This was a gem and a super quick, fun, and surprisingly emotionally resonant read.

  • The Underside of Joy, Sere Prince Halverson

A complicated stepmom/mom story about two women who each feels she is the best caretaker for two young children after their father dies. Full of lovely sentences and great descriptions.

  • The Year of Fog, Michelle Richmond

A tense time-bomb of a mystery about a girl who disappears from a foggy SF beach.

  • Contents May Have Shifted, Pam Houston

Some of my absolute favorite lines of all time were written by Pam, and I found several more in this novel-in-pieces. Pam is so wise and her writing renders all the places she’s visited in such detail you can imagine you are traveling to all the exotic places, too, except you get the bonus of a smart and witty guide.

  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt

A coming-of-age story about sisters and jealousy and the little girl buried under the leaves of our past.

  • Wife 22, Melanie Gideon

A fun and funny read about a wife who dissects her marriage for a survey and makes some interesting discoveries along the way.

Full List

  • The Kitchen Daughter, Jael McHenry
  • Waking the Witch, Kelley Armstrong
  • The Underside of Joy, Sere Prince Halverson
  • The Hunter, John Lescroart
  • Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones
  • Julia’s Child, Sarah Pinneo
  • Contents May Have Shifted, Pam Houston
  • White Horse, Alex Adams
  • Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore
  • The Servants’ Quarters, Lynn Freed
  • The Rules of Inheritance, Claire Bidwell Smith
  • Deadlocked, Charlaine Harris
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor
  • Then Came You, Jennifer Weiner
  • Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner
  • The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver*
  • No One Is Here Except All of Us, Ramona Ausubel
  • Thirteen, Kelley Armstrong
  • Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison*
  • The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker
  • The Year of Fog, Michelle Richmond
  • The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan
  • The Baker’s Daughter, Sarah McCoy
  • Reached, Ally Condie
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt
  • Wife 22, Melanie Gideon
  • Before I Go to Sleep, SJ Watson

*Re-reads

Did you read any of these books? What did you think?

Hand Me Down on Good Morning Texas!

Good Morning Texas

So, Hand Me Down made her TV debut last week on Good Morning Texas. Sometimes I’m still so in awe that I even HAVE a book out there, you know? This was one of those moments. I was so proud seeing her up there with those other books, in a real live TV studio, with the book-savvy Gwen Reyes of Fresh Fiction talking about how great she is. “Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult,” she said. Why, thank you.

I was happy it was my book up there representing us on our first TV appearance, looking all cool, calm, and collected, instead of me, who would have been sweaty and nervous. My book baby is still so pretty. I suppose all new mothers think that, right? She’s almost six months old. Can you believe it?

Anyway, check out this segment of Buy the Book on Good Morning Texas. Hand Me Down gets mentioned around minute 2:47, but the other books sound interesting, too. I’ve added several of them to my TBR list.

Welcome to the World, New Books

My goodness! So many books have come out recently that it’s hard to keep track, but I wanted to mention a few that I’m looking forward to reading.

Our Book Pregnant group had twins yesterday: Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck and Fobbit by David Abrams.

Hemingway's GirlIn Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match…and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.

This book has blurbs from Jenna Blum, Caroline Leavitt, Dawn Tripp, Sarah McCoy, and several other women’s fiction writers, and was praised by Publisher’s Weekly and tons of bloggers. Plus, Erika is sweet and warm and funny, an author worth supporting. I’m not even a big fan of Hemingway—though Erika might kick my ass for saying so—but it sounds great and the internet is abuzz with rave reviews from readers I trust. If you like love stories, historical fiction, stormy Key West imagery, and duh, Hemingway, you should check out this book.

Fobbit

In the satirical tradition of Catch-22 and M*A*S*H, Fobbit takes us into the chaotic world of Baghdad’s Forward Operating Base Triumph. The Forward Operating base, or FOB, is like the back-office of the battlefield – where people eat and sleep, and where a lot of soldiers have what looks suspiciously like an office job. Male and female soldiers are trying to find an empty Porta Potty in which to get acquainted, grunts are playing Xbox and watching NASCAR between missions, and a lot of the senior staff are more concerned about getting to the chow hall in time for the Friday night all-you-can-eat seafood special than worrying about little things like military strategy.

Darkly humorous and based on the author’s own experiences in Iraq, Fobbit is a fantastic debut that shows us a behind-the-scenes portrait of the real Iraq war.

Fobbit was praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and tons of other media outlets online and in print, including TIME! David is kind and generous, and runs a great blog for writers and readers called The Quivering Pen, where he posts reviews and updates from the book world, as well as features from guest authors about their “first time” experiences in the industry, and yesterday, a nice thank-you post on his book’s birthday. It’s especially great to support authors who invest so much time in supporting the world of writing. Fobbit is definitely on my to-read list. Go get your copy of what Publisher’s Weekly called “an instant classic.”

The Salt God’s Daughter by Ilie Ruby released yesterday, too. This book was a Library Journal Editor’s Pick, praised by Kirkus, LA Review, and lots of other media sources, and sounds just lovely: “This is a bewitching tale of lives entangled in lushly layered fables of the moon and the sea.” I read the first few pages online and had to stop before I got too into it. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

The Salt God’s Daughter by Ilie Ruby is the story of a loss of innocence as told by Ruthie and Naida, a mother and daughter who are forever changed by violence, by family mysteries, by towering acts of love. In an oceanic wilderness where identity is as changeable as the ocean, they face the rites of passage necessary to endure and find in themselves a strength and connection that survive the ages. Theirs is a story that brings to light the primal divinity of the isolated, the marginalized and of those bonded by blood and myth as seen through a lens of transcendent beauty. A stunning, raw, evolutionary tale about the ties that bind, and how far we’ll go to save the ones we love.

The Crown: A NovelYesterday was also—see, I told you a bunch of books came out recently!—the paperback release of Nancy Bilyeau‘s The Crown, a historical thriller with big raves from Entertainment WeeklyRedbook, and O, Oprah’s magazine: “the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.”

And, finally, last week, Barbara Claypole White‘s The Unfinished Garden burst into the world. I love the tagline for this book: A love story about grief, OCD, and dirt. I think I might be most excited about this one since I have some mild OCD issues of my own (as if you haven’t noticed my anxiety from earlier posts), and I love gardening, and I love Barbara’s attitude toward both of those things. Plus, I just keep hearing how much everyone loves Tilly. I think we’re all in for a treat with this book: “The Unfinished Garden is a mesmerizing tale of fear, loss, and love. Tilly and James are richly drawn and wonderfully flawed characters who embody the contradictions and imperfections that exist in all of us. Barbara Claypole White has created a novel as beautiful and complex, dark and light, sweet and sensuous as Tilly’s beloved garden.”  – Joanne Rendell.

I know there are a ton of books released every day, but I hope you’ll check these out. There  are, of course, a ton more on my radar as well, but it seemed like this little pack of novels—and their authors—were worthy of a shout out. When you’ve read them, report back and let me know what you thought! My TBR list is a mile-high, but I will do the same. Happy reading!

A New Type of Picture Book

Contents May Have Shifted: A NovelPam Houston is one of my all time favorite writers. Waltzing the Cat is my favorite of her books so far, but I am so very very excited for her newest book, Contents May Have Shifted (isn’t that a great title?!) I’ve heard her read from this several times as she’s worked on it and everything has been fantastic. Half of it made me tear up. I’ve been waiting for this to be released since I heard her read the short story that inspired the whole thing and loved it. Less than 2 months to go!

Pam is a great reader and if you’ve never heard her in person, you should! She’ll be on tour starting in February, and I plan to be at her kick-off reading on Feb 6th with my copy of Contents May Have Shifted ready to be signed. It’ll be at Book Passage, an excellent bookstore in Corte Madera where I will also be making an appearance in April.

But if you’re like me and wish you could read the book right now, here is the next best thing: a collection of photos from Pam’s travels and quotes from the novel with each one.

“Spotting whales at sea is not so different than spotting deer in the woods. For hours you see nothing, and then you see one, and suddenly you realize you are surrounded.” Continue reading

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

Just saw the new Hunger Games movie trailer. I am SO EXCITED! Like so many other people, I loved these books. LOVED them. I bought Mockingjay in an airport last December and then stayed up until 4am finishing it, crying through the whole second half.

They’re the kind of books that will make great movies—story driven, action-packed, full of injustice that will piss you off and make you want to stand up and scream followed by love and selfless sacrifice that will make you cry. You’ll want to save Katniss, be part of the revolution, make the impossible choice between Peeta and Gale. If you haven’t read the books, go get them now. You won’t regret it unless you have other plans, because once you start reading, it will be hard to stop.

But if you’ve already devoured the books, you’ll have to wait until March for the movie just like me. I’ll be there on opening day.