Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Few Reviews

I've been a little busy lately (yesterday I was only able to read about 5 pages of a book--I'm having withdrawal symptoms!), so I 'll briefly review the books I have managed to read/listen to:

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum(1980, 535 pgs.) - Intense and very entertaining to read. The only similarities between the book and the movie are the name and the idea of a man who gets amnesia. I love them both, but the book is (of course) better than the movie. I hadn't realized that it was written in 1980, so the technology is much different. I had a hard time putting it down, except at the end, when I had to take a break between chapters to take a few breaths.

The Wide Window
by Lemony Snicket (2000, 3 hrs.)
- Book 3 of the Series of Unfortunate Events. The Baudelaires end up with Aunt Josephine, who has many irrational fears, and reminds me a bit too much of myself! I don't have the right vocabulary to describe Lemony Snicket's writing style, but I love it. As a reader, I like being addressed, and I love his definitions (or connotations) of words and idioms. The author narrated this audio book, which was highly unpleasant for me. The second one was narrated by Tim Curry, which was great, so I don't know what possessed him to read for this one (and the fourth, which I will read the old-fashioned way!) I'm excited to move past Book 3 and into new material that wasn't covered in the movie.

The Good Mood Diet by Susan Kleiner (2007, 231 pgs.) - Sometimes I think I can never lose weight because then I wouldn't have a reason to read diet books! I have always been fascinated by food and how it affects you body, starting when I was about ten and read a book called Eat to Win. Unfortunately, I have not always eaten to win. I like the premise of this one, the focus is more on feeling good and fighting depression, and then weight loss usually follows. Not surprisingly, the foods that put you in a good mood are all of the latest foods spotlighted for good health: salmon, whole grains, veggies, etc. The author encourages eating enough food (yesterday I felt like I was eating all day long as I followed her plan!) and eating food in the right combinations--always having protein and fat with each meal and snack. To me that's kind of a pain and takes a lot of thought, but I'm trying it out. I like that she tells you to eat one whole egg everyday and end the day with hot cocoa (made with skim milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, and Splenda). Today is just the second day I'm trying it (and I am absolutely stuffed from breakfast). If I am actually successful at losing weight, maybe I'll do a follow-up review, but no one should hold their breath!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusack (2007, 550 pgs.) - This may seem blasphemous to the many fans of this book to not put this one on a pedestal and give it its own post! Despite its being buried in a multi-review post, it is a novel that sets itself apart with its originality and brilliance. Narrated by Death, who is almost reluctantly compassionate, it tells the story of Leisel Meminger, a German girl living with foster parents during the upheaval of World War II. Through the events of her life and her collection of stolen books, Death conveys the power of words, whether they are used for good or evil. Each time she steals a book, it's almost as if she is just taking back what it rightfully hers but has been taken away by the Nazis and Hitler. I felt like it was a very honest portrayal of what individual feelings and attitudes would have been at the time--no one is idealized and it is not overly sentimental, and yet it is emotionally powerful. Here's one of my favorite excerpts:

"On June 23, 1942, there was a group of French Jews in a German prison, on Polish soil. The first person I took was close to the door, his mind racing, then reduced to pacing, then slowing down, slowing down . . .
Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear. . .
They were French, they were Jews, and they were you."

I should note that I started listening to the audiobook, which was excellently narrated, but in looking through the book, I realized that this is one you have to read, because there are a lot of visual elements to the story that enrich the experience. Although I have to admit, that without listening, I would not have know how to pronounce all of the German cuss words!

Well, it's back to life for me! I have been very lucky to have had so much time to read this past month or so, but I should have realized that was only temporary. I also have put on about five pounds, despite my reading of a couple of health books that would have me go in the other direction. In the past I have stepped up and down on my step while reading to get in some extra exercise--I'll have to try doing that again. I've considered giving myself a reading limit, maybe just 1-2 hours a day or a certain number of pages. But I would probably be just as successful with that as I am with limiting my food intake!


  1. I read the Bourne Books in college and loved them! I don't know if I will read the newest...didn't I hear that there is a new one.

  2. Oh yes, The Book Thief was one of my most favorite reads recently. It is a very visual book, I'm not sure how it would come across listening to it. A great book everybody should read.

  3. I loved the first two Bourne books, not so fond of the third. But I still love the original two. There are two others written by another author (I want to say Eric Van Lustbader). I thought the first one was really good. He stayed very true to the character. I haven't read the second yet.


  4. I hope you have email alerts so you'll see this post even though it's old. I get the impression from a couple of your posts that you are LDS (the one about helping at DI, in particular). If you are, would you recommend "The Book Thief" for a RS Book Club? We're not too uptight about things but any gratuitous sex or really rough language would not be acceptable. I'm going to read it myself soon but thought I'd ask your opinion now. Thanks. Feel free to email me if that would be more convenient for you.

  5. Kim,
    Yes, I am LDS! It can be tough picking a book for a church book club--there are so many different levels of tolerance for content within even a small group of women! From what I recall, there was no sex in The Book Thief. There was fairly frequent profanity, but I didn't find it too offensive, and a lot of it was in German. The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the characters using the Lord's name disrespectfully fairly often. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the writing, but once I did, I loved it.

    Hope that helps!

  6. Thanks so much for the info. It's always nice to get a few opionions on books. I read somewhere that The Book Thief is considered YA fiction. Would you have classified it as such?

  7. I loved the first two Bourne books, not so fond of the third. But I still love the original two. There are two others written by another author (I want to say Eric Van Lustbader). I thought the first one was really good. He stayed very true to the character. I haven't read the second yet.