Thursday, 27 March 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's btt:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

I'm not sure that the design of a book has much impact on my reading enjoyment but if I did not like the "look" of it then it might not make it into my hands to get read in the first place. I prefer the experience of reading a trade paperback in bed (so much lighter) but of a hardback or large format paperback when curled up in an armchair. Having said that, there are a couple of hardback books that I've not read simply because they are very heavy and I am waiting for the paperback versions!

If part of a series then it needs to "match" the rest, if the font is small or annoying then I will tut but continue however if the story is good then I don't really mind what the book looks like.

Until it's on my shelf... Then I want all my books to be objects of beauty with gorgeous covers, clear font, crisp pages and delightful illustrations. :)

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Hesperus Week

Pop over to Stuck in a Book and enter your name in the draw for a free copy of one of the current Hesperus catalogue.

They have so many tempting (and beautiful) books that I found it impossible to decide which I'd like if I won - in the comments I listed "Behind a Mask - Louisa May Alcott, Christina Rossetti's Commonplace, Cousin Phillis by Elizabeth Gaskell, Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow..." but I know I could find at least another 20!!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Who is your favorite Male lead character? And why?

OK - the obvious swoon has to be Pride and Prejudice's lovely Mr Darcy. I have no visions of Colin Firth in a wet shirt as I type this (although I do now as I've just written it - eughh) but I fell for Mr Darcy as a teenager and I am loyal like that.

I am also very fond of Dr. Iannis from Captain Corelli's Mandolin and (if TV was allowed) Jed Bartlet.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Happy World Book Day!

It's World Book Day! A main aim of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. So in the spirit of expanding her reading range, I've nicely asked my niece to spend her £1 token on Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. Because I want to read it... I know she has already read the Jane Blonde and the Humphrey the Hamster ones so I hope I am in with a chance! If not, I suspect I can just about stump up the £1 myself.

Speaking of books that are really for children but I read anyway, Georgina kindly lent me some more of her books this weekend so I am reading Barkbelly at the moment. It's a book I bought her after it was blogged about here and I am looking forward to reading it myself. Also on the pile is a book about a witch called Pongwiffy which she tells me is very funny so that might just be next.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Bowing to popular demand, (Well, Nicole B posted a comment yesterday) here are my thoughts on The Book Thief now that I’ve had time to think about it some more.

The Book Thief is set in WW2 Germany and it’s the story of Liesel, a nine-year old girl who has been sent to live with foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, on Himmel Street in Molching. It’s the story of Max Vandenburg , a Jew hiding in their cellar. It’s also the story of Rudy Steiner (who would like Leisel to kiss him) and of Ilsa Hermann, the mayor’s wife.


This novel is narrated by death. It's a small story, about: a girl; an accordionist; some fanatical Germans; a Jewish fist fighter; and quite a lot of thievery.


Death will visit the book thief three times.

So… A book about Nazi Germany that’s narrated by Death. Tasteless? Just a gimmick? Not at all. It gives the story an impartial observer who can give a broader context to WW2 than could be expected from a girl growing up in a suburb. It also enables the expectation to be set for the reader from the first chapter that this is not going to be a comfortable read - as Death says in the first chapter, “I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling amongst the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair and surprise. They have punctured hearts… It’s the story of one of those perpetual survivors – an expert at being left behind.”

Given when (and where) it’s set, it is only to be expected that this book is heartbreaking in places and it most certainly is. However, it’s not all doom and gloom and The Book Thief doesn’t easily fit into the “worthy WW2 read that will make you think” category. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments in the book and the main characters are certainly engaging. Leisel’s friend (and sometime partner in crime) Rudy Steiner is a delight and I defy anyone not to grin when reading the account of him painting himself black with coal and running around the local track in an effort to emulate his hero, Jesse James.

The originality of the layout gives The Book Thief a freshness that’s one of the book’s major assets. Max writes Liesel a book at one point, using material he has on hand, and the whitewashed text of Mein Kampf leaking through into the handwritten story of a man living in hiding gives his creation a poignancy that it could not have achieved in another way.

Having said that it’s not a worthy WW2 read , I would love to see it being used in schools and read alongside Anne Frank as a companion piece. I am sure GCSEs have moved on since “my day” but I am sure that a book like this would have stimulated debate in History, RE or English Lit as a pseudo-source material text. Yes, it’s a great read and kept me turning the pages (probably too quickly at the end) but it’s also a very thought provoking book .

The Book Thief has been marketed at both the teenage and adult market (depending where in the world you live) however this is a book that could, and should, be read by all ages. It manages to successfully combine being a page turner with providing plenty of food for thought and I can’t offer higher praise than that.


Have tissues to hand.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

So. I've just finished The Book Thief and it was one hell of an emotional journey. I'll post more once I have had time to articulate my thoughts.