book review: the book thief

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Fiction (young adult)

Publishing date: 2005

Publisher’s summary: Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel – a young German girl whose  book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

cover art for the book thief
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak


Favorite quotes:

“The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy who loves you.”

“I am haunted by humans.”

“I have hated the words and I have love them. And I hope I have made them right.”

“Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.”

Synopsis: Narrated by Death, The Book Thief tells the story of a small town outside Munich during World War II. In that town, there are families who love Jews and families who fear Hitler, all trying – above all else – to simply survive. Most closely, the story follows Liesel Meminger as she is dropped off with foster parents by her Polish mother. Liesel’s love of books becomes a focal point of the novel as she begins stealing them from around the town, making plenty of friends – and enemies – along the way.


Sometimes, I feel silly loving a young adult novel as much as I love The Book Thief, but then I remember how good it is and think, I don’t care. Every page of this book is dripping with tension, fear, and hope.

You don’t just fall in love with one character, you fall in love with every character. And not because every character is perfect and lovable, but because every character is flawed and human and multi-faceted and so uniquely well-crafted. More than any book I’ve read before, The Book Thief helps you begin to understand the unbearable fear the entire country lived in during this time, the severe pressure to align with the Nazi cause, and the many consequences of not doing so.

That the novel is narrated by Death only makes it all the more haunting. But Death is crafted as a compassionate, gentle collector of souls. I found the way that Death is portrayed to be so comforting, it shifted my entire perspective on dying. And his voice is quite unique, even poetic, making reading his words all the more enjoyable.

From start to finish, this book is powerful, terrifying, and relentless. It will break your heart, but I promise, it will be worth it.

Overall: 5 out of 5

Who should read this book: Anyone who loves a good book. Really, just anyone. This book is beautiful.

book review: the language of flowers

Title: The Language of Flowers

Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Genre: Fiction

Publishing date: 2011

Publisher’s summary: The story of a woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of other even as she struggles to over come her own past.

book cover, the language of flowers
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh


Synopsis: As a girl, Victoria’s childhood is spent in and out of foster care and group homes. At 18, she’s finally freed and begins a life on her own with a simple goal of surviving. Isolated and angry, Victoria uses the only skill she has – a keen knowledge of flowers – to get a job at a florist. The story follows Victoria through her past and her present, revealing why she is incapable of love and watching as she struggles to overcome the mistakes that haunt her.

Opinion: The Language of Flowers is easy to read, captivating, and enjoyable. Despite her flaws, you’re rooting for Victoria with every turn of a page, hoping she’ll find the happiness that’s always evaded her.

I read this book across two very sleepless nights and found it a welcome respite from a more challenging book I’m trudging through slowly (The Luminaries, if you’re curious). What makes this book unique is its use of the meaning of flowers throughout to communicate emotions, messages, and sometimes healing. Diffenbaugh created her own Language of Flowers based on much research on classic flower dictionaries.

As a lover of flowers myself – thanks, Dad – I enjoyed seeing the often-surprising meanings associated with some of my favorites (hydrangea, jonquils, dogwood, lily of the valley). And watching how the interpretation and misinterpretation of those meanings greatly altered the lives of the characters in this book.

Although the language is not challenging and the writing not particularly beautiful or uniquely stylized, the plot is well drawn and Victoria’s feelings of desolation and turmoil are acutely expressed. As a reader, it is impossible not to sympathize with her.

Overall, 4 out 5.

Who should read this book: Anyone who loves flowers. Those trying to overcome their past. Anyone who feels incapable of letting others in. Those who sabotage their own relationships. Anyone who grew up in foster care. Those who enjoy reading an author’s first novel.

And anyone who cannot sleep and needs a break from a tough book.