Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fenway: A Fascinating First Century

Bauer, David, ed. Fenway: A Fascinating First Century. New York: Sports Illustrated Books, 2012. Print.
image from:

My Thoughts
As one of my life-long goals is to see Fenway, this book was very exciting to read. Well, there actually isn't too much text---a few essays from Sports Illustrated writers and many photo captions.

The opening pages explain the history of the ballpark (It opened April 20,1912.) and how through the years it has survived demolition, renovation and the curse of not winning pennants. Then the book is broken into a timeline that includes historical events along with the happenings of the park and players that took the field.

The pictures are amazing! It was fun to read about players who once donned the Red Sox jersey and to see the park evolve with the changing times. As many of the essays were written before this book was compiled, the predictions and exclamations made by the writers and players are an interesting piece of history (and fun to see if they came true).

The cutest thing was at the end of the book in the chapter entitled "Little Fenways." Here, the editor compiled various examples of Fenway replications, including a Lego ballpark. Cute, cute, cute!

The last pages of the book are 100 factoids and tidbits related to Fenway Park. Super interesting, especially for the stat loving fan.

I'm leaving tomorrow to see this majestic field. This book absolutely put a spark in my heart, and I can't wait to compare the images from the book to the live stadium!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Book Thief

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Kindle file.
image from:

My Thoughts

The narrative voice that starts this story is first person death. This is an interesting choice, as death travels to all places at all times, especially during a war.

The narrative voice introduces the reader to Liesel Meminger, the book thief. Death sees the colors of red, white and black when he thinks of her. He tells us her story. Most of the story takes place between 1939-1943. Hitler is rising in power and Germany is changing. Jews are being rounded up and sent away.

The narrative voice interjects observations, notes, and information to help the reader understand more of the story and also drops clues of what is to come. The narrative voice has a wry sense of humor.
It made me laugh on more than one occasion. I enjoyed the side notes he provided. For example, "I do not carry a sickle or scythe. I only wear a hooded black robe when it's cold. And I don't have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance" (Zusak). 

Liesel is taken to the Hubermanns for foster care. Her mother can no longer care for her, her father (a Communist) is gone and her brother is dead. Rosa Hubermann is strict,  has "a distinct waddle to her walk" and cusses quite a lot (Zusak). She does washing for other families. Hans is quiet, paints, plays the accordion and rolls his own cigarettes. They ask Liesel to call them Mama and Papa.

The irony of Liesel being the book thief is that she cannot read. Hans tries to help her and is a comfort to her young soul. He is gentle and caring--quite the opposite of his wife Rosa. "If I ever ask you to keep a secret for me, you will do it" Hans says. Liesel promises she will. The secret is learned and kept.

"She was a girl. In Nazi Germany. How fitting that she was discovering the power of words" (Zusak).
The events and characters in the story are intertwined. Often things are seen, but not seen. This is how we live. We don't always see the connections. Enemies are actually friends. Lessons are repeated.

This book has many characters, many poignant moments, many historical elements, many surprises and many lessons about humanity that makes it a good read. It's hard to talk about the book with any satisfaction. It must be read and experienced.

The following are notes I took while reading. As I think the book must be experienced, I also didn't want to forget these things, so I'm leaving them on the blog. Don't read these until you read the book. You will be disappointed to learn what happens from my notes.

Rudy Steiner becomes Liesel's best friend and ally. "In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer--proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water" (Zusak).

Hans Junior--son, Nazi. He calls his father a coward. His story will tragically end in Stalingrad, Russia.
Trudy/Trudel-daughter. housemaid

Ilsa Hermann, mayor's wife, allows her in to library
books belong to Johann Hermann--her son, died 1918

Arthur Berg-apple, food thief
Viktor Chemmel-leads thief gang

*************things happening
Max Vandenburg is hiding---goes to Hubermann's--Max's dad (Erik Vandenburg--taught him to play the accordion) actually saved Hans in Great War--volunteers for handwriting. "That was the first time Hans Hubermann escaped me. ...Not many men are lucky enough to cheat me twice" (Zusak).

Walter Kugler helps Max (they use to fight each other--in that became friends)

"Do you still play the accordion?" = "Will you still help me?"

Viktor throws The Whisperer in the river--Rudy retrieves it

Max is sick--brought up to Liesel's bed--after snowman in basement--Liesel starts bringing him gifts (flattened ball, ribbon, pinecone, button, stone, feather, two newspapers, candy wrapper, cloud "Memorize it. Then write it down for him" (Zusak). toy soldier, miraculous leaf, finished whistler, slab of grief)

Liesel steals 2nd book from mayor's library The Dream Carrier
Max wakes up!

Bombing takes Himmel Street--except Liesel who is reading in the "too shallow" basement

Liesel finds Max in "parade" through town--she is whipped by soldier, too
Liesel tells Rudy story of Max

Ilsa Hermann tells Liesel to write if she can't read any more words (Liesel destroyed book)

back to bombing--kissed Rudy (he's already dead)
holds Mama's hand and talks to her; can't look at Papa. gets his accordion for him

death picks up Liesel's book

"Liesel Meminger lived to a very old age"--Ilsa and husband pick her up at police station

Alex Steiner comes back--Liesel spends time with him in the shop; Max returns!

Death says "I am haunted by humans"

Monday, July 8, 2013


Mosley, Walter. 47. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2005. Print.
image from:
My Thoughts
This is another book that has been on my shelf for a few years. I received this as an ARC (advanced reading copy). The book is classified for ages 12+ and Mosley's "first book for young adults" (back cover).

As I started reading, I thought, "what in the world is this?" so I looked at the back cover. The publisher states that this book "weaves historical and speculative fiction into a powerful narrative about the nature of freedom" (back cover). Ok. Historical fiction I like. Speculative fiction? I'm not too sure. So I decided that I would have to read with an open mind.

This is the story of a slave named 47. (It is explained why he is named for a number.) He meets Tall John who has traveled thousands of years to find him. Tall John is mysterious and feeds 47's mind with possibilities. "It is only the mind that you truly own" Tall John says (Mosley 69). Tall John has many mantras that he shares with 47, the most often repeated is "neither master nor nigger be" and he explains that "when you say master and when you say nigger you are making yourself his dog and his slave" (Mosley 56). Once 47 realizes what this mantra fully means, he feels the "thrill of freedom" in his heart (Mosley 146).

At Chapter 13, I realized the drawing at the beginning of each chapter changed. The drawings depict the connections between the characters in the book with Elle, Tall John's home planet.

There are aspects of slavery discussed in this book as well as timeless adages like "sometimes we have to make hard choices" (Mosley 177). Some of the slavery scenes are quite graphic and uncomfortable to read.  There is a zombie scene that actually fit in a weird way. The idea of freedom and what that means is explored. I caught myself marking the timeless advice that Tall John gives and those revelations 47 has. "All John had to do was give her [Tweenie] a few nice words and she changed from a sullen bully into a woman filled with hope" (Mosley 164).

Overall, the story was ok. I just had a hard time with the unrealistic nature of it. I think I'll have to read more speculative fiction to make a determination if this story was good or not. I did try to read with an open mind, but I kept finding myself doubting the narrative.