Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It took me a few minutes to realize that the book is narrated by Death. I thought that was a pretty interesting twist to a book.

The story starts out with Death meeting Leisel Meminger for the first time. She is with her mother and brother on a train headed to her new foster family. Leisel's brother dies along the way and that is where Death first encounters Leisel. It is also where Leisel steals her first book.

Leisel's foster parents are a bit older and her new mama is a bit of a tyrant. Papa spends many nights helping Leisel learn to read and get through her nightmares. The setting and time of the story is in Germany during World War II. Hitler is as at his peak and the Jews are despised. Leisel and her family survive on Mama's awful tasting pea soup. Among all of the children in their small town is a boy named Rudy who befriends Leisel.

When Leisel's foster parents need to repay a debt to a man that saved Papa's life they end up hiding a Jewish man in their basement. Leisel befriends Max through the course of time.

The story progresses through World War II and the hardships and risks Leisel and her family encounter. Leisel's mother takes in laundry to help the family survive. One of her customers is the mayor's wife. The second book Leisel steals is a book from a book burning sanctioned by Hitler. Leisel knows she has been seen by the mayor's wife. Eventually the mayor's wife shows Leisel her library of books and Leisel spends many hours reading among the books. Eventually though the mayor fires Leisel's mama. In bitterness Leisel goes to the mayor's house and steals her 3rd book.

Food is rationed and Rudy and Leisel are so hungry that they join a group of children on the streets who steal food from local farms. Both Rudy and Leisel have a knack for thievery and a desire for survival. Unfortunately death visits Leisel and those closest to her once again.

My Thoughts:

Usually I will read a book first before I watch the movie version. But in this case I watched the movie first and then picked up the book. I actually enjoyed both. I did find that the book was a bit confusing. I'm not sure if it was just my Kindle version or if that is the way that the book is, but some of the abbreviated headings I found hard to distinguish if it was the narrator(Death) or some other characters thoughts. But that aside, I did like the book. I liked the characters. Rudy was a hoot. From painting himself black and calling himself Jesse Owens, to his constant hope that someday Leisel would bestow a kiss on him, Rudy was a free spirited young man with a desire to live and a knack for getting into trouble.

The treatment of the Jews and those who came to their help was brutal. Every time I read a Holocaust based story I shudder at the idea that people could be so evil to other human beings. I could go preachy here, but I won't. I will just leave it at the fact that the book is set in a dark time in history.

I loved how Leisel's love for her foster parents developed. Even for Rosa her crusty foster mama, Leisel developed a love for both. Her papa was her anchor though. With his hours of helping her read, to his hours of playing his accordion. Hans was a good man through and through.

The ending of The Book Thief wasn't very satisfying, and it was pretty sad. I guess I would have liked to know more of what happened after WWII with Leisel. What became of her? Who did she marry? What scars were left to her throughout the rest of her life?

For the most part the movie and book followed each other. Of course there were things that couldn't be told in the movie because of length. How do you condense a 550 page book into a 2 hour movie? I thought they did a pretty good job. And I did eventually get used to Death narrating the story in both the movie and the book.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Murder Comes By Mail by A.H. Gabhart

As Deputy Michael Keane was taking a group of church ladies to a play he sees a man about to jump off of a bridge into the river below. As Michael rescues the jumper the man tells him that he will be sorry that he saved him. Sure enough a few days later Michael receives pictures in the mail of a dead girl. It doesn't take long for Michael to realize that he is being set up for murder. The question is why would the jumper target the man who rescued him?

My Thoughts:

As seems to be my habit I started with this second book in the series. I don't think reading the first book is necessary to get the background of the characters in the book, so that is a good thing. I really liked Murder Comes By Mail. There was quite a bit of suspense wondering who would be the next victim. Some of the characters in the town of Hidden Springs are quite entertaining. I enjoyed Aunt Lindy's no-nonsense teacher attitude. Hank the newspaper man was a bit annoying, but did prove useful. Betty Jean, secretary at the Sheriff's office, was quite a character. Desperate to find a husband but no options have presented themselves. Alexandria, Michael's love interest, is a lawyer in Washington, D.C. whom he has been best friends with since grade school. All of these people make up just a part of the small-town life of Hidden Springs. There were some things that I think could have been answered more clearly but for the most part I think this was a solid mystery/suspense.

A.H. Gabhart is a new author for me and I plan on checking out other books by her.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Progeny by Tosca Lee

Audra Ellison, now Emily Porter, has had her mind wiped of all memories. She doesn't know why she voluntarily had her mind wiped, but she knows there was a reason. Moving on with her quiet life in Maine, Audra is adjusting to her new life. Meeting Luka at the local grocery store and then seeing a mysterious figure watching her has Audra becoming paranoid. Who can she trust? Has her past caught up to her?

My Thoughts:  

There is so much in this book that is so hard to explain. The story centers around the descendants of Elizabeth Bathory, a female serial killer from the 1600's (she's for real, I looked her up!). These descendants are known as the progeny in the book. For centuries they have been hunted and put to death. Audra is part of that line. Having to jump back into the life that she so willingly tried to erase from her mind is difficult and frustrating for her, but she knows that it is a matter of life and death. Both for her and for the man she has come to love. With no memories Audra is having to start all over on her quest to end the killing of the progeny. Secret sects, ancient secrets, life and death all chase Audra and her friends through Europe in her desperate attempt to follow clues she left herself before wiping her memory. I loved the characters in The Progeny! Tosca Lee has a way of delving into the deep feelings of her characters. You can feel the agony tearing Audra apart, you can also feel the depth of love that Luka has for her. The suspense of trying to figure out why Audra wiped her memory is intense. And the evil that has set everything into motion once again is palpable. The story is convoluted and at times confusing, but that didn't keep me from enjoying every bit of it. And oh my word! The book ends with a major cliffhanger that left me stunned and desperate for the next book in the series. The last paragraph y'all! Seriously sent goose bumps up and down my arms!

FYI: This book does have some curse words in it, so may offend some readers. 

**I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own. Publication date is May 24, 2016.**

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Castle in the Sky by Miranda Atchley

About The Book:

In 1915, it is believed that there isn't much hope for a woman beyond marriage. Yet Abi Leigh Hensley, lover of the written word, believes otherwise. Growing up as the daughter of a wealthy lawyer in the gold mining town of San Francisco, Abi never felt like she fit in with her parents' stifled lifestyle. And though she's been raised to believe that her lot in life is to marry, she's always loved to read and write and has dreamt of being an author all her life. 

After her parents' failed attempt at an arranged marriage, Abi leaves the comfort of her wealthy upbringing in San Francisco to pursue her dreams of becoming an author in New York City, a city she has always loved. Excitement seems to loom around each corner, yet Abi may be in for than she bargained for.
Full of hopes, dreams and self-discovery, A Castle in the Sky is a novel fans of historical fiction are sure to love.

My Thoughts:

I thought this was a sweet story. In an era when women were expected to get married and be taken care of by their man, author Miranda Atchley has created a female character that defies those norms. Abi is a strong-minded female determined to become an author even though it alienates her from her family. I liked her independence and even liked some of her innocent assumptions about life. I liked the friendships that Abi made that caused her to grow and mature as a person and as a writer. The message that I took away from the story was that pursuing our dreams sometimes requires sacrifice, but achieving those castles in the sky will bring great happiness and fulfillment to our life. I look forward to a sequel to  A Castle in the Sky to see how Abi's career is progressing. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Final Tap by Amanda Flower

This is the 2nd book in The Living History Museum Mystery series. I haven't read the 1st book in the series because that is the way I seem to do things! It didn't take long to catch up with who the characters were though so I didn't feel totally lost while reading.

I enjoyed the mystery of this new series and look forward to going back and catching up with the 1st book The Final Reveille. It appears that there has been murder on Barton Farm before. In this installment Kelsey is preparing for the maple sugar festival to be held on the farm. When Dr. Conrad Beeson turns up dead, and one of Kelsey's workers seems to have the most motive to have killed him, Kelsey makes it her mission to investigate and clear his name.

Kelsey seems to have a lot on her plate. Running the farm, caring for her son, dealing with an ex-husband and his soon-to-be-wife, contemplating a new relationship with a local EMT, and last but not least keeping the foundation that oversees funding for the farm happy. Add chasing murderers and it's a wonder that anything gets accomplished. Thankfully Kelsey has a good staff that seems to take up the slack while she pokes around to find the murderer.

I enjoyed The Final Tap and found the information about the production of maple sugar interesting. There were signature light-hearted and humorous moments while reading, but also plenty of suspenseful moments to keep the reader turning the pages. Kelsey seems to be a very nice person and a bit on the naive side when it comes to her perspective of human nature. She has seen what people are capable of by the 2 murders that have taken place on the farm, yet she can't seem to see the "bad" in those closest to her(her ex husband's fiance for example) until she is sideswiped by it. I'm looking forward to seeing how her relationship with the EMT will unfold, how her relationship with her ex and his fiance will develop, and what the next murder on Barton Farm will bring.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

I read my version of The Blue Castle on my Kindle and this was the image that was on it.

About the Book:

Valancy is turning 29. All of her life Valancy has been sort of an afterthought to her family. Nobody pays her any attention. Her features are unremarkable. Her personality stifled. Valancy is an old maid and her family lets her know it every chance they get.

When Valancy receives some upsetting news she decides that she is tired of living in fear. This is when Valancy really comes to life! Valancy's family does not know what to make of her when Valancy starts speaking her mind, doing things she never would have done before, and no longer being the wallflower her family expects her to be.

Valancy further scandalizes her family by becoming involved with the local bad boy Barney Snaith. Valancy has never believed the rumors that fly about Barney so has no problem being seen around town with him.

Having made up in dreams all of her life her Blue Castle, Valancy is finally living a life of freedom and building her own Blue Castle that is made of more than just dreams.

My Thoughts:

I thought The Blue Castle was a beautiful story! I loved reading about Valancy shedding her fears, rebelling against family prejudices and finally becoming the person she truly was meant to be. I am ashamed to say that this is the first L.M. Montgomery book that I have read other than the Anne of Green Gables series. I should have known that the author that could write the Anne books could also write other stories that were just as meaningful and enjoyable to read. If you haven't ventured beyond Anne, then I suggest starting with The Blue Castle. A sweet story that is sure to cause the reader to want to shed a few fears of their own!

A couple of other covers:

This one reminded me of the Anne covers that I loved so much
This one captures what color Valancy's hair was, but I really feel like the cover is a bit juvenile for the story.