Tag Archives: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

What is it with all the point of view and timeline changes in novels today?

I want to apologize ahead of time if this post ends up sounding like a rant. I don’t mean it to but I do want to ask for your opinion on the subject. Here’s my question to you: when was the last time you read a book that was written in the past 10 years that didn’t involve a constant change of point of view (POV) or a shift in the timeline? Is it just me or is every novel being written today structured this way? And why, oh why? Would you ever tell a personal story to someone that way?

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinAs a fast reader, I find nothing more distracting that having to shift point of views every few chapters, or even worse, every chapter. The story may be told in the third person, but first you’ll see it from the mother’s point of view, then the father’s, then the children’s, and so on. Yes, Jodi Picoult, I’m talking about you! Every book that I read from her was written that way and it got old pretty fast. But it’s not just Jodi Picoult. Actually it seems to be almost everyone. As much as I liked The Night Circus by Erin Morgensten, the timeline shift got old by the end. The shifting point of views in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn didn’t trick me. 30 pages into the book, I had figured out the “big twist” and the story was only disappointing after that. The ONLY point of view shift I found that was used brilliantly was in Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, because it actually made the story’s twists reveal themselves very neatly. By the way, if you haven’t read this book, you should put it on your to-read list. It’s very, very good.

I’m now reading Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford, and as much as I’m enjoying the story, it constantly shifts between the present and the past. Yes, the story is about remembering something that happened in the past, but why can’t the writer start with the present, go back to the past to tell the whole story, and then come back to the present? Is it really that hard?

So what keeps me interested in reading? A good story that doesn’t rely on the constant POV or timeline shift. A nicely threaded story with a continuous timeline tends to keep me on the edge more. Finishing each chapter with a little suspense will make me want to start the next chapter rather than put it down. I have no problem with a story that starts in the past to establish a past event, then shifts back to the present and stays there. The Green Mile by Stephen King is a great example of that. It contains tons of cliffhangers, as only a few writers seem to have mastered, and keep you turning the pages, even though the book is over 500 pages long.

The book thief by Markus ZusackOf course, there are other ways to keep my interest as a reader. An unusual narrator will also do the trick for me. Both The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and The Lying Games series by Sara Shepard use a character that has been murdered as the narrator. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak uses Death itself as the narrator for the whole story. That was so unusual to me, and I personally found the idea brilliant, especially because of the violent and depressing World War II setting.

I only have one explanation for this trend of shifting point of views and playing with timelines: technology and the many distractions it brings. In today’s world, we’re used to talking on the phone while watching TV and browsing the web, texting while driving and listening to the car radio, talking with someone face to face while checking our voicemail or email. So here’s my theory: today’s writers think we’re so “good” at multi-tasking that the only way to keep our interest is to use this constant shifting, otherwise we may get bored.

Distracted driving

Image courtesy of the Sinnamonlawyers blog

All I can say is, I hope this is just a trend, and just like other trends, it shall pass and good storytelling will come back. Storytelling that doesn’t rely on this constant shifting to keep us interested but actually tells the events in a captivating way. If so many writers have been able to do so until recently, why can’t newer writers do it too?

I guess I’ll stop my rant here. Now I’d love to hear your opinion on the subject. Do you like shifts in points of view and time in novels? Do you think they add to the story or distract? Do you prefer a first person or third person point of view? What’s your favorite type of storytelling of all?

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My favorite books of 2012

I read a lot of books this year, adult and children’s books, fiction and non-fiction, memorable books and others I’d rather forget (Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?). It was hard to narrow it down to a few favorite and of course, my choices are very subjective and personal. These are books that grabbed my attention from the first few pages, made me laugh or cry or both, made me think, or made me dream by taking me to faraway places. These are all great books in one way or another.

My favorite adult fiction books of 2012

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry

1) The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry
This series includes The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son. I’ll be reviewing the last three books later this week, and in the meantime, you can read my review of The Giver here. Wonderful, wonderful futuristic stories, full of shocking discoveries, adventure, courage, survival and hope. Lois Lowry is a brilliant storyteller and I love the worlds she created. These books are great for young adults (probably age 12 and up), as well as adults, and you can read them again and again and enjoy them just as much. I think that next Christmas, I’ll be asking Santa for these four books so they become part of my personal book collection.

The book thief by Markus Zusack

The book thief by Markus Zusack

2) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is another young adult book that is perfect for adults too. This is the only book I’ve ever read on World War II that was told from a German citizen’s perspective. This book really touched me in many ways and will stay with me forever. Just like The Giver quartet, I think it deserves its own spot on my bookshelf. You can read my review of The Book Thief here.

The hunger games by Suzanne Collins

The hunger games by Suzanne Collins

3) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I also read Catching Fire and Mockinjay but The Hunger Games was my favorite. I found the novels very dark and gruesome, but well told. Suzanne Collins is not as hopeful about the human race as Lois Lowry but she might be more realistic. Who knows what’s in our future, right? Read my review of The Hunger Games. By the way, I do have The Hunger Games trilogy on my bookcase already.

A dog's purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

A dog’s purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

4) A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron
Alright, technically I finished reading A Dog’s Purpose last December, but since I read the next book in 2012, I’m including both on this list. I loved these books and I’m not even a dog person. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed and I cried some more. If you’re looking for a feel good story, these two books are perfect. Read my reviews of A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey.

The invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

5) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Yet another book that deserves a permanent spot on my bookshelf. I have never read such an imaginative book when it comes to the way the story is told. Zelznick tells Hugo’s story by alternating between words and pencil illustrations. Unlike picture books, these detailed illustrations tell a specific part of the story instead of using words, giving a full meaning to the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Selznick is a pure genius at illustrating and storytelling. Read my review of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

My favorite adult non-fiction books of 2012

Quiet the power of introverts by Susan Cain

Quiet the power of introverts by Susan Cain

1) Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain
If you’re an introvert, you’ll want to read this book. If you’re an extravert, you’ll want to read it too so you give us introverts a break and realize we’re not a bunch of anti-social people. ;-) Read my review of Quiet: The Power of Introverts here.

Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan

Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan

2) Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan
If you want to learn more about PTSD (post-trauma syndrome disorder) specifically in U.S. soldiers, this story is it. Told in the first person, it explains the various symptoms, the possible treatments (and how our soldiers are taken care of, for better or worse) and how Tuesday, the golden retriever who was about to fail his training as a service dog, helped Montalvan when he himself was on the verge of giving up. The 5 stars by almost 1000 reviewers on Amazon say it all: this is a must read (read my review of Until Tuesday). And yes, this is the REAL Tuesday on the book cover.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

3) The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
Miller has been a 6th-grade teacher for about 20 years and has discovered, implemented and refined ways to ignite the love of reading in her students. This book is not just a great tool for teachers but for parents too. Read my review of The Book Whisperer.

My favorite children’s books of 2012

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

1) The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson
Well, don’t you know? There’s no such thing as a gruffalo. Or, is there? These brilliantly rhyming books are meant to become children’s book classics. Read my reviews of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child.

Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed

Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed

2) Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed
I loved, loved, loved this book (and damn it, it made my choke up!). This is a beautiful story of loneliness and friendship children and adults will love and cherish. Read my review of Pete & Pickles.

The Last Basselope by Berkeley Breathed

The Last Basselope by Berkeley Breathed

3) The Last Basselope: One Ferocious Story by Berkeley Breathed
Berkeley Breathed may be known for his comic strip Opus, but The Last Basselope is a wonderful story about searching for the unknown, finding it, discovering its priceless value and keeping it safe from the rest of the world. Read my review of The Last Basselope.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

4) Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
This has to be one of the funniest children’s books we’ve read this year. When Oliver’s kite gets stuck in a tree, he throws everything up there, including the kitchen’s sink. My kids and I loved the silliness of this book and we laughed about it for weeks. Read my review of Stuck.

Mucky Moose by Jonathan Allen

Mucky Moose by Jonathan Allen

5) Mucky Moose by Jonathan Allen
“I’m going to eat you for my dinner” says the big wolf to the big moose. But that’s before he realizes that Mucky Moose really, really stinks. My four-year old couldn’t get enough of this story and months later, my kids still quote the book. Read my review of Mucky Moose.

Ricky Ricotta's mighty robot by Dav Pilkey

Ricky Ricotta’s mighty robot by Dav Pilkey

6) Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey
This series gave my eldest his first taste of independent reading of chapter books before he reached the end of kindergarten. He’s since graduated to much longer and intense books but I’ll never forget that this series of books gave him the motivation to read on his own (I wasn’t allowed to read him the books so I read them with his brother). Read my review of Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot here.

Zen ties by Jon Muth

Zen ties by Jon Muth

7) Zen Ties and Zen Shorts by Jon Muth
Muth’s watercolors are simply beautiful and his stories teach children about the principles of Zen Buddhism in a very simple way. Stillwater the giant panda is a wonderful teacher. Read my review of Zen Ties.

Back to school for rotten ralph by Jack Bantos

Back to school for rotten ralph by Jack Bantos

8) The Rotten Ralph books by Jack Bantos
Rotten Ralph is everything you don’t want your kids to be and so, kids love him! Rotten Ralph is a really rotten cat and you wonder if he’ll ever show kindness and consideration for others. Deep underneath that rotten attitude, Rotten Ralph may actually have a heart and a conscience. This is a very funny series that will make you laugh out loud. Read my reviews of several Rotten Ralph books here.

What books have you read this year that turned out to be your favorite? Anything I should put on my to-read list for 2013?

WWW Wednesdays – December 12, 2012

WWW Wednesdays

If you participate in the WordPress weekly photo challenge and you would like to see my contribution to this week’s theme Changing Seasons, hop on to my photography website. While there, you may also enjoy looking at a few photos of tiny raindrops on spider webs I took this past week.

My WWW Wednesdays update is one day late but I’ve read two great books in the past three weeks and I’ve got wonderful children’s books to share too.

My bookshelf

A Wanted Man by Lee Child– What I’m currently reading 
A Wanted Man by Lee Child, for my book club meeting. I’ve never read a Jack Reacher novel and I understand this is probably not the best one. If I like it, I’ll definitely read more.

– What I recently finished reading
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I loved this book for two main reasons:
1) I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book where Death was the narrator. To me, it was a unique angle to tell the story and I thought it was a brilliant idea, especially considering the subject of the book (WWII Germany).
2) I can’t remember if I’ve read a book about WWII from the German perspective in the past. I’ve read a lot of novels on WWII (fiction and non-fiction) and it’s always been told from a Jewish or invadee angle. It was a very insightful to read such a story.
Two things I’m not too crazy about:
1) I thought the ending was wrapped up a little too fast. Yes, Death apologizes for this fact, but still, a few more pages would have helped.
2) I was surprised to see the Sydney reference. I saw afterwards the author is from Sydney but I’m not sure it was necessary to this story as it could have remained in Europe (it would have been more credible to me).
Overall, I really, really enjoyed reading this book, although “enjoyed” may not be the right word considering the subject. This is definitely one of these books with a lot of visual clues that could be made into a great movie.

The Giver by Lois Lowry. Way before The Hunger Games, there was The Giver. It’s one of the first and most popular young adult novels on a futuristic, dystopian society and after reading it, I see why. A very short read, The Giver describes a society where people feel no pain, no fear and they are all at peace. Everything is decided for them: their career, their partner, their children… When Jonas turns 12, he’s not assigned a career like the other children but instead is selected to be the next Receiver. The Giver is to provide him with all the memories of the past generations and this process is an eye opener for Jonas. I can’t say more without spoilers so I’ll just say I really, really liked this book. I just found out yesterday that after almost 20 years, Lois Lowry has just published the sequel to The Giver. She previously published two other books (Gathering Blue and Messenger) that were partially related to The Giver, but Son is the direct sequel to The Giver and I can’t wait to read it.

– What I think I’ll read next
I’m not sure since I have no library book waiting for me, but I just ordered a few more, so hopefully they’ll come by the time I’m done with my new book.

My kids’ bookshelf

Room on the Broom by Julia DonaldsonWhat they’re currently reading
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson. This book by the same author (and the same illustrator too) of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child is one of our favorite right now. A witch allows several animals to ride with her on her broom until the broomstick breaks and they all fall down. A ferocious, fiery dragon suddenly appears and decides to have the witch for dinner. Who will save the witch? (that’s the best part)
My Snake Blake by Randy Siegel (illustrated by a French artist). A boy receives a very long, green snake from his father for his birthday. His mother is less than pleased until the snake proves he’s not only kind, but also very smart (he can write words with his own body!) and talented. A very sweet story, except the part where the snake teaches a lesson to the school bully (my kids LOVED that part!).

Good news bad news by Jeff Mack– What they recently finished reading
Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack. These are pretty much the two phrases repeated throughout the book, which is perfect for my 4-year old who could read the book on his own and laughed at every page. While on a picnic, Bunny sees only the good, while Mouse sees only the bad. And Murphy’s Law is in action on every page!
Hippo and Rabbit: Three Short Tales by Jeff Mack. We’ve borrowed this book in the past and it’s always a big hit at our house, especially when the thunder goes KA-BOOM! across the page. These stories are in comic strip format and my youngest reads the words with little prompting.

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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WWW Wednesdays – November 28, 2012

WWW Wednesdays

My bookshelf

The book thief by Markus Zusack– What I’m currently reading 
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I like it so far. The choice of narrator for the story keeps me on edge for sure.

– What I recently finished reading
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle. I can see Turkle spent a lot of time gathering the research needed to write this book. The results of her research are quite fascinating and it’s surprising how people can react to technology. The conclusions she draws from studying people’s interactions with pet robots is very interesting. I laughed at the comments people made about Disneyworld’s Animal Kingdom, where using real animals didn’t appear as “realistic” as the animatronic creatures used in other parts of the park! By reading all the positive things adults and children alike have to say about robots, you can’t help wondering if robots will replace humans in various parts of our lives in the future. As for technology like cell phones, social sites and online communities, Turkle show clear evidence the younger crowd prefers this way of communication over face-to-face discussions, which is quite concerning. She also explains how 9/11 changed our relationships with cell phones, when we realized we had to be able to get a hold of everyone and anyone at any time, in case something happened. I didn’t like the density of this book, which was full of so much research, it made it hard for me to read. But if you can read through all the data, there’s a lot of good stuff in there.

– What I think I’ll read next
The Giver by Lois Lowry. It’s been on my to-read list for a while and last time I had it, I had to return it to the library get I could read it. Now, I can’t wait!

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
Several books by Leo Lionni, including:
Little Blue and Little Yellow, where the two colored dots are friends and manage to merge as one green dot. They get scared when they try to go back home and their parents tell them they don’t belong there (wrong color).
The Extraordinary Egg, a very funny book where one frog finds an egg and shows it to the other two. One of them, who “knows everything about everything” says it’s a chicken egg. When the egg hatches, she confirms, “I was right, it is a chicken”. Yep, just take a look!

The extraordinary egg by Leo Lionni

The extraordinary egg by Leo Lionni

– What they recently finished reading
Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth, a favorite children’s book author and illustrator of ours. Stillwater, the big panda, goes to the train station to welcome his little nephew Koo. “Hi, Koo”, he said, a play on words with “haiku”, which is how Koo talks throughout the book. I love all of the Stillwater stories and how they each teach a kind lesson. This one is about taking care of an elderly woman who may have something to teach the kids. And Muth’s watercolors are so colorful and beautiful, they almost look magical. It’s a pleasure to keep turning the pages.

Zen ties by Jon Muth

Zen ties by Jon Muth

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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