The Book Thief. Markus Zusak

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The Book Thief
Mark Zusak
Published: Black Swan
Date: 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 553
Genre: Historical fiction.
Source: Own book
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1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel a nine year old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs began to fall.

It’s a small story, about:
a girl
an accordionist
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
 quite a lot of thievery. 
My thoughts banner
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – what can I say, it caught me up and made me carefully read every page. It was very strange in the beginning it was narrated by Death, I think now having read the whole book if I were to go back and read the beginning again, I would not find it so strange. Death is a voice of great compassion.

A story of the best of humanity and the worst. Set in Germany in WW11 it gives us a viewpoint from Himmel St, a poor street in a German town. It is to this street that Liesel is brought to be fostered by Hans Hubermann and his wife Rosa. They become her Papa and Mama. She has already seen and experienced more than anyone her age should, and as the war goes on, it only grows larger. What a Papa and Mama too. They were everything this young girl needed. They also showed her the largeness of their hearts and where they stood in this terrible time.

Liesel makes friends with a boy in the street – Rudy, and what a friendship. They have many adventures together, although remember it’s wartime, so not what you usually find in a friendship. They know hard times and their compassion and largeness of heart only grows. Rudy is all boy and he keeps asking Liesel for a kiss, but will she ever bestow it?

Max is another important character in this book and a strong bond grows between Liesel and himself. She brings him gifts when he is ill, he in turn goes to great lengths to create gifts for Liesel.

When Liesel arrives at the Hubermann’s house she cannot read or write, but she carries with her a book, the first book that she has taken. With Hans help, slowly and painstakingly she learns to read and write. In times of distress eventually her reading will bring others peace and help calm them. And she also becomes a book thief, aided and abetted by Rudy and another surprising woman.

Yes, I wept through the last sad pages, sad for the losses and admiring of the beauty in one young woman who both loved and hated words, recognising the power of the word.

I am pleased that finally I was able to take The Book Thief of my TBR shelf and read it where it took me to a place where I could recognise the beauty of humanity and along with it the evil power that could destroy so many lives.

5 stars
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After You. Jojo Moyes

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After You
Jojo Moyes.
Published: Penguin/Viking
Date: September 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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So what happens to Lou and Will’s family after …. if you haven’t read Me Before You then…probably you don’t care! You may have read it and still don’t care, but I did so I wanted to know! In After You, Jojo Moyes takes up the story of Lou and what happens next.

I’d hoped for more for Lou a little while down the track. She does have her own small flat but is working in a dead end kind of job. And really she is kind of depressed and still feeling much grief and some guilt. But she has joined a group called the Moving On Circle and what a group they are. Mostly on topic and sometimes not so much.

As the story develops I laugh out loud and at other times reach for the tissues. While not quite as dramatic as Me Before You, it does have its magical moments where Lou is totally herself and makes choices that when I sat back and thought, I had to agree with.

We again meet up with her family – some funny developments there. Then there is a young, troubled teenage girl – Lily also making her presence felt. As well there is a couple of Ambulance paramedics (evidently you don’t call them Ambulance Drivers anymore). Sam is one of them, he meets Lou in a rather dramatic way and later on, he, his paramedic partner  and Lou hatch a really amazing intervention.

The book moves along at a very good pace, no dull moments, and if fact as I finish the book I feel like I have been through the wringer.

I love the character of Louisa Clark, all her quirks, and her caring feisty heart. While it might seem she is a woman of inaction, she is the exact opposite as well – a woman of definite action.

Thumbs up from me for this one.

4.5 stars

The Girls of Mischief Bay. Susan Mallery

The Girls of Mischief Bay   Susan Mallery

The Girls of Mischief Bay
Susan Mallery
Published: Harlequin
Date: 24th February 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 416
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there’s a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she’s never seen. He won’t even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time at her Mischief Bay Pilates studio. Can she say enough is enough without losing the man she loves?

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg rose to become vice president in her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she can have it all. And if she can, does she want it?

Although Pam Eiland has a beautiful house and a husband she adores, she feels… restless. She wonders who a stay-at-home mom becomes after the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise her husband brings the heat and the humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she’ll have to redefine herself. Again.

My thoughts
The Girls of Mischief Bay is the first book in a new series by Susan Mallery.  As I read on into the book I began to really enjoy it and followed each of the three main characters with interest as their stories played out.  Three women who are friends – Nicole, Shannon and Pam. Nicole is in her thirties, Shannon is almost forty and Pam is fifty.  I wonder why it is called The Girls of Mischief Bay, these are women – not girls!
Nicole teaches pilates and works hard in her business and loves her young son Tyler.  However her husband Eric has up and left his work and settled in to write a screenplay – oh and to go surfing in the morning.  Meanwhile Nicole struggles on working hard and paying the bills.  Eric seems to be very wrapped up in his own life and vision.  He was a remote kind of character, we never really got inside his head and I had little to no empathy for him.  Nicole and he are drifting apart and this is the struggle and challenge in life for Nicole.
Shannon is very successful – a six figure yearly income. She is a CFO and very competent at her job, prepared to work the long hours it takes.  Yet she hankers for something more, and meets Adam, someone she is attracted to.  He is divorced and shares the custody of his two children week about. For Shannon the challenge is forming a loving and trusting relationship and discovering the ups and downs of moving towards a relationship that could really be ‘the one’.  Shannon is discovering the need to have a child and realises her time is running out.  Will Adam go along with that need, after all he has two children already?
Pam has a loving husband and three grown children – and a delicate little dog – Lulu.  She and John have been married for thirty one years, as the story opens she is struggling with ageing.  She is noticing all those wrinkles and other signs of ageing that no one tells you about until it happens to you! I identify with Pam!  It makes her a little insecure, yet she is such a competent and talented woman who is so supportive of her friends and family.  She also feels her sexual relationship with her husband John is somewhat ‘meh’ so she decides to book a surprise retreat weekend geared towards spicing it up. However soon Pam is dealing with a lot more serious issues than these.
Life throws a number of curve balls for these women to face and work through.  At times I wanted to shake one or two of them, but like in real life it all takes time and things begin to change as time goes by.  For each of these women it was a facing of  the end of one way of life and the beginning of something new. Another stage in life – and with that comes loss and grief, insecurity and being totally thrown.  It also makes way for something new.  
Nicole is to be the main character in the next book and I look forward to seeing where her life leads. She deserves something really good, while she accepts responsibility for what has happened so far, I want her to become really confident in who she is and reach for the stars.  I look forward to meeting again these three friends and their wider circle of family and friends. I wish it was already written.
4.5 stars

Looking For Me. Beth Hoffman

Looking For Me book cover

Looking For Me
Beth Hoffman
Published: Penguin Audio
Date: 2013
Format: Audiobook
Length: 12 hrs and 14min
Narrator: Jenna Lamia
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own book

Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop.  Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky.  It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last.  But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep.

My thoughts
Just like many other readers I loved Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman.  It was a wonderful southern story of family and loss and hope.  
Teddi was someone I’d love to know. Passionate and loving it is her journey and her story.  It is told from her point of view and what a voice.  From early on she loved all things ancient and antique – sold them at her farm gate until later on she opened a shop in Charleston.  I loved that she had two mentors who happened along at the right time and helped her along with her passion.  An expert on antiques and an expert in opening a business.  She also had loyal friends and workers. She had a grandma in her nineties and Teddi took good care of her and her grandma took good care of Teddi.
While she is successful in business she has losses to face and grieving to do for all that she has lost and none so dear as her younger brother Josh who has a passion for protecting nature and the beautiful wildlife that surrounds their Kentucky farm.  When he disappears one day, Teddi almost never gives up hope that he is alive somewhere.  Sometimes the signs seem to say he may have died, but Teddi leaves messages for him.  When the time comes to face the fact that she cannot keep the farm she makes some decisions that are brave and thoughtful.  
This is a story of wonder and joy, heartbreak and sadness, humour and quirkiness.  It’s a tale of love – Teddi’s love for many people and places and things.  Teddi finds love with someone in an unexpected place and while it did not take centre stage it was a nice touch.
Jenna Lamia did a fine job narrating this book, her voices for various characters was great, her pacing and expression – wonderful.  She was Teddi!  I would happily listen to any book she narrates.  This book was already excellent but with her narration Jenna took it up to another level again.
5 stars