The Book Thief-1/2

          From what I have read so far, this book is beyond incredible. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak manages to conquer a vast amount and quality of themes presented with an engaging plot and unique voice that I have only seen paralleled in To Kill A Mockingbird. There are a great deal of similarities between these two books, and the most obvious one is that the story is told predominantly from the eyes of a young girl. Throughout both books, perspectives and ideas are presented through the eyes of youth that adults or older humans simply could not see. This youthful lens provides unique insights and challenges the normality of the prejudice instilled in the societies of both of these books.

          In the simplest of examples, Liesel, the main character, describes the weather outside for Max (The Jew that is being hidden in Liesel’s basement). She says, “The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it’s stretched out, like a rope. At the end of it, the sun is like a yellow hole…” (Zusak 249). The way Liesel is able to give such a detailed report and depict such unique similes (i.e. “like a yellow hole”) provides more depth to the weather than adults more weathered by life could comprehend. An adult might say “it is sunny” and be finished. But this attention to detail demonstrates, in the simplest of ways, how much there is to gain by recognising the beauty and complexity of even the most seemingly trivial things. This perhaps bland fact of the day recounted with fervour brings life and vivid imagery to Max, who otherwise would not have this experience.

          This perspective is also shown when Liesel is able to question the prejudice and hatred towards Jewish people, similar to how Scout was able to question the prejudice in her community against black people. This was partially facilitated in both books by a compassionate father figure keeping the young children’s minds open. In To Kill A Mockingbird it was Atticus, and in The Book Thief it is Liesel’s foster father, Hans Hubermann. Both figures teach the young protagonist to read, and have a strong moral code that is not only against what society normalises, but also sets an example for the reader and the protagonist. Hans shows Liesel true compassion and fatherly love, though her foster mother is abusive and does not fill that role of a loving parent. This situation is similar to Aunt Alexandra living in Scout’s house, limiting her expression and providing narrow mindsets. Liesel’s foster mom is more literally abusive, but the parallel is still certainly there.

          The Book Thief was published after To Kill A Mockingbird, and the amount of parallels between the two books certainly cannot be a coincidence. The fact that this book is so striking in such a similar way is an indicative sign that this is a fantastic and impactful book. I have a great deal more to talk about, and I am invested to see just what happens next.

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Tom Clancy: Oath of Office by Marc Cameron IR Log (1/2)

Disclaimer: Tom Clancy has been dead for six years. The last nine books (including this one) were written by other authors.

 

Halfway through, one major pro and one major con are apparent in Marc Cameron’s Tom Clancy: Oath of Office. The pro is that Cameron is an excellent mimic of Clancy’s writing style, in nearly every category. He writes the old characters precisely the way Clancy did, and gives the new ones individuality, while also clearly being written in the same manner. There is also the occasional Bond-ishness of the Ryan family, with Jack Ryan Jr. pulling one especially gory Hollywood-esque stunt,

“Twenty feet away, fifteen, then ten, the shooter leaned half his torso out the window.

Jack stomped the breaks hard, coming just shy of locking them up. He let off immediately so he maintained control, but the damage was already done. The Peugeot sped past. Metal screamed against metal, catching the hapless shooter and smearing him between the two vehicles with a sickening thump and dragging him out the window of the Peugeot,” (Cameron 63).  

If anything showcases the problem-solving techniques of both elder and younger Ryan, this is it. For comparison, the elder Ryan dealt with an active shooter situation by knocking one shooter out, stealing his gun, killing the next, and kneecapping the last one. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, despite the change of authors, and for that reason, I certainly enjoyed the first half of Tom Clancy: Oath of Office.

However, unless Cameron does plan on straying from Clancy’s style of one book stories with overlapping characters, there was one issue. Four separate major conflicts seem to entirely disappear from the story, with no adequate explanation. At the beginning of the novel, Jack Ryan Sr., who happens to be the President of the United States, is dealing with a flu epidemic, several major cities flooding, a military action against a US embassy, and the looming invasion of the Ukraine. 250 pages in, both offending militaries backed down after a single phone call, and the flu and floods seem to have faded from the characters memory. I’m not sure if this was just a storyboarding goof, or if Cameron is setting the stage for future books, but this plot gap certainly detracts from the overall story, especially considering how crucial some of these events were to fueling the main plot. I hope, for the book’s sake, that at least some of these issues are either actually resolved, or at least mentioned again.

With that said, my rating, halfway in, is 9/10.  

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Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (1/2)

Having read half of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, I must say, I have not liked it. I appreciate the writing style and how the author utilizes multiple perspectives, that of both Park and Eleanor, and their comparing and contrasting views. However, I find the book and story, so far, to be much too sweet and romantic. When I first decided to read the book, I thought that Eleanor’s character would give the story an interesting take due to her backstory. Coming from an abusive household, I thought that Eleanor’s view would contrast well with Park’s, who came from a happy family. But alas, I didn’t find that Eleanor’s view had much of a difference from Park’s. Yes, her view does show trust issues and lets the reader in on a tragic home life, but it is so full of romance that to me, it was sickening. At first, it was sweet and cute how Eleanor and Park’s relationship developed, but after a few chapters, it got repetitive and too picturesque to be able to be believable. While there was some conflict, the lovey-dovey part of the story was too overpowering in contrast to the hardships. For example, despite all of her hardships, Eleanor finally has a chance to call Park on the phone and she writes, “It was the nicest thing she could imagine. It made her want to have his babies him both of her kidneys” (Rowell 93). Considering that these kids are in highschool, like myself, I find it hard to see how a person could feel this way. Perhaps it is because it is Eleanor’s first real connection with somebody, but I found it strange and improbable that just having a phone call could make all your worries float away. That taken into account, I hope that the book will have a more intense conflict in the second half, or that something will disrupt a seemingly perfect love story. I am planning on dragging through all of this lovey-dovey stuff to get to some real conflict.

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A Face Like Glass 1/2

The book A Face Like GLass, is by Frances Hardinge, and honestly, one of the best books I think I’ve read in awhile. So, the Grand Steward of the city the book takes place in, is over 500 years old. At one point, when he’s being introduced, he says, “His well trained tongue could pick out every flavor of a sweetmeat. Honey from bees fed only cowslip nectar, his mind would tell him, with cherries marinated for twenty-one years in peach-and-saffron brandy. Ash, said his soul. Ash and dust” (Hardinge 150). I, personally, connected that character to To Kill a Mockingbird, mainly because what I wrote in my essay. I wrote about how the adults didn’t  reacted much, if at all, to the injustice of Tom’s trial and his death (most adults were even glad he was found guilty). How people get hardened with time and are no longer affected as deeply as children. I don’t really think there was a lot of evidence of that in The Hate U give, though. Maybe a little.

    Another connection that I made, was with the society. People are always like “be yourself”, but in reality we have certain norms that we have, and you can only be yourself within those boundaries. In To Kill a Mockingbird, I saw that mainly with Alexandra, who did everything she could, hid her own emotions acn actual reactions, to maintain the “perfect southern women” persona. Starr did the same when she was at different places so she fit in with the norms of the area and people (also to avoid stereotypes). In Caverna, the city, it’s a little like that. First: a little background. The people who live there and where born there, have no expression. There are, however, people called Facesmithes (you can guess what they do), and people can buy expressions. That also means, people can wear any expression they have at any time, not matter what they are feeling or doing. So, basically, their social norms are to always wear the “correct” Face. Another part of that, is because Faces are so expensive, people in lower classes have less faces, and usually only one or two, if that. For example, “His expression was perfectly blank. Perhaps there was something a little too even about the central line of his mouth. There were no rises, falls, curls, and valleys, just a perfectly straight line. It was not cruel or hard but level as the surface of still water” (Hardinge 238).

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1/2)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a book that is on the shorter side of most books I’ve read, being only 165 pages. But, it’s not noticeable due to it being so full of details, themes, and symbolism. The details were used very generously in the first half, but I would not say they made the book too detailed, or confusing. Ray Bradbury used details very interestingly, mostly being in character development and symbolism. He found a way to make them convey the message he wanted. In the beginning of the book, vague details were given describing Guy Montag’s return from his work as a fireman. The author shared details showing how happy he was with his job, not showing any signs of doubt. Which made me connect the beginning being vague, with his sense of naiveness about his job and what he was doing. Rain was mentioned a lot also, even when it wasn’t relevant to what was going on, he would mention that it was raining. The first time he experienced any sort of realization about his society was after taking his wife to the doctor, him getting home and it being pouring rain. Montag listed off factors that caused him to question his life, each new detail followed by more rain and more rain. Making the reader soon realize that it represented the washing away of his naiveness. Symbols and small details like these made the book hard to put down, it was very interesting to see how these symbols were changing with the character development. For example, each stage of Montag’s development from the beginning was shown through items being the salamander, rain, the car, etc.

Mildred, Guy’s wife, was also very interesting to observe. She was very unpredictable, the reader could never tell whether she would sympathize with Guy being different or if she would act like she didn’t notice. The reader is made to feel bad for her because Bradbury shares that she is oblivious to her being addicted to her medications. Which is something that was present in Brave New World, the medication being called “soma.” She was also very similar to Lenina in Brave New World, they were both portrayed almost as robots, showing their personality as what the rest of their society was like. Every once and awhile, just like Lenina, Mildred would make what seemed like personal growth, by expressing some sort of understanding of what’s actually going on in her society. These sorts of characters create suspense, making the reader want to know how they end up, taking steps either forward or backwards.

Ray Bradbury has done a really nice job of keeping this book with so many different aspects so fluent. With constant variations in symbols, styles, and characters, I hope that the second half continues with trend of changing.

 

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Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine 2/2

After I finished the book, I noticed that one similarity between The Hate You give and Mockingbird is that both Star and  Caitlyn have flashbacks to when Khali/Deven was alive. This allows the reader to get to know the character as the book goes on. This also means that the reader understands the character’s emotions and situation better the further into the book you get. For Star that meant that you realized how close of friends they were and For Caitlyn its that you realize how close of siblings they were. Another parrel I found from the two books was, they both struggle to gain closure for them and their community. For example, after finishing her brother’s eagle scout project Caitlyn thinks “ Suddenly I don’t feel so proud anymore. I still need to find closure for Michael AND I have to find Closure for a whole entire school. And now the community too? How am I going to do all that?”(216). Like Star, Caitlyn feels that she is the only one who can give the community the closure they need. Star does this by going on live television and testifying. Caitlyn does this by donating her brother’s eagle scout project to the middle school her brother was killed at.

Another connection that I saw between the two characters is their ability to feel empathy grows throughout the story. At the beginning/middle, they both struggle with this, for Star it’s when she sees Khali’s mother, for Caitlyn, it’s everyone she even says “ I can’t because it didn’t happen to ME. I don’t have bandages or a purple scratched-up face so how am I supposed to know how it feels?”(122). By the end of the books, both these character were able to feel empathy for other characters and the trauma they went through was the main contributor. Caitlyn was able to comfort multiple characters while they were sad because she knew how it felt, which led to her being able to make friends and understand her peers better.

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Shoe Dog by Phil Knight 1/2

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, covering pages 1-199

Shoe Dog is an extensive narrative about the true events leading up to the success of the company Nike. Written by Nike’s founder, Phil Knight, it’s filled with personal insights about the struggles of starting a company. I found the first half captivating, with a continually unpredictable plot and real-life lessons on perseverance and drive, as well as insights into the world of business.

Phil begins his story when he is fresh out of college, in 1962. He graduated Stanford and his father — whose primary focus is respectability by others — expected him to get a good job, a pretty wife, and settle down somewhere. Phil, however, had different ideas. While he was at Stanford there was a project that he did for his Entrepreneurship class that involved pitching a business model, and he chose to do his presentation on shoes. He spent weeks reading, writing, and studying shoes, and became immersed in the idea of an American company that sold Japanese shoes. He called it his Crazy Idea, and even when he left Stanford the idea was still in his head. Eventually, he persuaded his father to loan him some money to go on a trip around the world, with a special stop in Japan to launch his Crazy Idea to some potential investors. Phil also longed to find himself on the trip, find some sort of resolve to launch his idea, no matter how far fetched and insane it seemed, and he found it. “… I told myself: Let everyone call your idea crazy… just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. (pg. 5)”
Phil’s trip around the world allowed him to find in himself what he was searching for: the determination and drive to be able to launch his own business, despite his father’s disapproval.

One of the things I really like about Phil’s writing style is that he open and honest in his own capabilities; he isn’t trying to make this book a lesson on business, just a story about his own business. He also does a good job of explaining things simply for someone who doesn’t know anything about entrepreneurship (such as myself) without his explanations being condescending to someone who knows a lot about business (such as my dad). His novel caters to all ages while still managing to be a sophisticated piece. Lastly, the themes he focuses on his book are applicable to any occupation, or anyone who is working to achieve something: perseverance is key to success. One of the main themes of the book is how hard work and drive continually take Phil where he needs to go, whether in the workplace or personally; though he experiences setbacks in both aspects of his life.

I’m really enjoying this book so far, and I hope the second half is as good as the first has been!

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