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Susan Benson has commented on (5) products.

Cutting for Stone (Vintage) by Abraham Verghese
Cutting for Stone (Vintage)

Susan Benson, January 22, 2012

This is a beautifully told tale that interweaves generations that bring people together. Marion and Shiva, twins, are tied inextricably from birth. Told from Marion's point of view, he struggles with his relationship with Shiva and with their father, Dr. Thomas Stone. The richness of the culture, language, politics, and mythology of Ethiopia brings a unique depth and exotic setting to this exceptionally well written novel.
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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief

Susan Benson, January 30, 2011

My favorite book of 2010 has to be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak because it is singularly superb! The unique point of view of the narrator, the strong characterization, and an innovative approach to an over-worked Nazi Germany topic make this book exceptional. First, the most remarkable feature of The BookThief, is the narrator, death. I loved this brilliant narrative device because death knows the past, present and future events, as well as the outcomes of the story’s characters. Always omnipresent, death guides the reader through the story by giving details about each character’s past and future fate, and interacts with the events in a kind of compassionate, yet custodial way. Throughout the story, death is a character in the story and yet is in the background. Secondly, The Book Thief has some of the finest characters in literature. Orphaned in war-torn Germany, little Liesel is adopted by the Hubermanns. Initially crude and vulgar, Rosa Hubermann, the woman who becomes Liesel’s adopted mother seems most noteworthy for her rough talk and tough hardness. Pejoratives like “saumensch” and “saukerl” stream every other word from her mouth. However, later, the complexities of her personality are revealed as is often the way with persons who cover up tenderness with a crusty defense. The most endearing character is Hans Hubermann, the accordion-playing, anti-Nazi, surrogate father to Liesel. Hans teaches Liesel to read and later, in the bomb shelter, Liesel calms the crowd by reading to them. And finally, The Book Thief is a Nazi-Germany, Holocaust story, but very different from other stories of this genre in the way the focus is on characters and their relationships. The mood is gloomy and tragic, but the humor makes it bearable for the reader to read. And by extension, the humor is what makes life bearable for the characters. Simply amazing story!
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Heroes of the Valley (Heroes of the Valley) by Jonathan Stroud
Heroes of the Valley (Heroes of the Valley)

Susan Benson, January 12, 2011

Jonathan Stroud keeps his endearing humor and good storytellling alive and strong in Heroes of the Valley. In this stand-alone novel, instead of fighting among demons, tricksters, and magicians as in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, Stroud has traveled back to a mythic norse world, where legends of the heroes of the past drive the daily tasks of the people who inhabit the ancient valley. The protagonist, fourteen year old Halli Sveinsson, is an unlikely hero because of his small stature, unattractive deamour, and an unorthodox attitude towards family duties. Despite these perceived shortcomings, Halli never tires of listening to the legends about the great Svein, who was the founder of the House of Svein. Halli longs for greatness and to prove his manhood in a heroic way. Therefore, it is no surprise when the leaders of the House of Hakson murder a beloved relative of Halli, that Halli seeks revenge. What begins as an adventure becomes a life and death journey. In this way, Halli reminds me of Bilbo Baggins of Hobbit lore. They are both unlikely heroes who prove their powers. Along his journey, Halli obtains magic objects and makes contacts that later will prove important when he must face his formidable opponents. Along with great battles, monsters, and trickery, Stroud also gives us plenty of the humor and jokes found in the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Heroes of the Valley is an exceptional read for all ages.
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Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Ship Breaker

Susan Benson, November 7, 2010

Global Warming Gone Feral
Picture a future America destroyed by climate change, polar meltdown, and greed for natural resources: a place inhabited by powerfully rich swanks and insufferably poor masses. The swanks, who band together in clans, hold the power, while the underprivileged masses, who labor slavishly for the swanks, band into crews. To belong to a crew means that someone’s got your back, that there is an ally in a world of fear and violence. This is Nailer’s world–the world of a ship breaker. Each day Nailer, a small framed teenager, and his light crew enter grounded tankers to scavenge metal, wire, and items of reusable value. With his small, compact frame, Nailer crawls though the ship’s ducts, stripping wire for the crew owner, Bapi. Scarred across his face Nailer wears Bapi’s work tattoo. Nailer’s only relative is his hardened psychopathic father, Richard Lopez, a drug sliding, mean, brutally strong, murderer. Nailer knows it is only a matter of time before his vengeful father kills him.
When a city killer, the name for a regularly occurring hurricane, rips apart the coastline, Nailer and fellow crew, Pima, find on a nearby island a shipwrecked swank clipper. They are momentarily optimistic over the big scavenge until they discover a young woman, a swank, Nita, still alive on the clipper. While they are deciding what to do about Nita, Richard Lopez shows up with his own crew of hard edged men and women. Blue Eyes, a woman with a long scar down the side of her body wants to sell Nita’s organs to the Harvesters of the Life Cult. While his father’s crew sleeps off a drunken stupor, Nailer tries to escape the watchful guard of Blue Eyes, but botches the attempt. Just as Blue Eyes is about to cut Nailer with a machete, Sadna, Pima’s mother diverts Blue Eyes’s attention. Nailer escapes, but not without the stain of blood on this hands. Now, Nailer and Nita, with the help of Tool, a halfman, must find their way to Orleans so that Nailer can hide from his father’s wrath and Nita can find her people.
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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake

Susan Benson, January 1, 2010

My fav for the decade because of how the story was prescient to the global issues such as internet pornography, bio-genetics, and two-tiered society of professionals and laborers. Oryx and Crake tells a plausible apocalyptic story for the twenty-first century.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)

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