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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

>> Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This book was just amazing. Fortunately I was able to read the second half all in one day and completely immerse myself in it.

From the front cover flap:
"It's just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery...."

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist-books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
. . . an unforgettable novel about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Death is a surprisingly eloquent, compassionate and gentle narrator to a story that is quite emotional and far beyond what I expected from what is being marketed as a Young Adult book. It seems that every couple of pages was another stunner of a beautiful image, sentence or paragraph.

I’m not going to say anything more about the plot, but I am going to highly recommend this book. Definitely one of my top 5 for this year.


Thyme of Death by Susan Wittig Albert

>> Friday, October 27, 2006

This is the first in a new (to me) mystery series. I read about the series on Framed and Booked's blog and decided it sounded interesting. The main character, China Bayles, is a former hot shot Houston Lawyer who gave up the rat race and moved to a small town in the Texas hill country and opened an herb shop. In this first book in the series, a friend of China’s is found dead. It looks like a suicide, but is it really?? China’s friend Ruby, the town police chief, and China’s ex-cop now criminology professor boyfriend are all along for the ride in solving the case. This was a fun book with some interesting characters. Several of these, who will obviously be recurring characters, have hints of a past that may be brought up in later books. I’m definitely going to continue with the series to find out. Thanks Framed


Audiobook - Mrs. Pollifax Innocent Tourist

>> Thursday, October 26, 2006

This has been an enjoyable series to work my way through as my commute and driving around town listening. Light, entertaining, and most of all read by Barbara Rosenblat. She's one of my favorite readers for Audiobooks. I have one more to go in this series.


Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

>> Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This one was recommended to me by my Surly friend. This thriller begins with Camille Preaker (a writer for a Chicago Newspaper) getting sent to her hometown to cover a possible serial murder story. She hasn’t been home in years and there are clearly some issues with her family and her past. We learn the facts and clues to both the murder mystery and Camille’s past as the book continues. Definitely a page turner that I would love to have been able to curl up and read in one day. Not for the faint of heart, because there are some seriously messed up folks in this book, but this first novel impressed me and I’ll be watching for more from this author.


Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

>> Friday, October 20, 2006

This was an amazing book. It’s not only a fascinating pair of stories in itself, but the story of how this book came to be written and published 60 years after the author’s death is just as compelling and difficult to view separately.

Irene Nemirovsky was a successful writer in 1930’s Paris. She’d been born in Russia and her family fled, eventually to France, at the time of the Russian Revolution. When Germany occupied Paris, she and her husband fled to the countryside with their 2 daughters. Although she had converted to Catholicism, she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz where she died. Her husband also later died there. After evacuating from Paris to a small town in the French Countryside, she had begun writing what would become Suite Francais. The Appendices in the book include her notes for what she envisioned as a 5 part epic novel. Before she was arrested she had only completed the first two parts. Her daughters’ kept the manuscript, which they mistakenly believed to be their mother’s journal, locked away and unread for many years because they thought it would be too painful. After the youngest one died in 1996, the surviving daughter did finally read the manuscript. She discovered a completed first part and the initial manuscript of the second part of their mother’s planned novel. These are what has become Suite Francaise.

The first part “Storm in June” begins with the evacuation of Paris as German troops are preparing move in. We follow many different people ranging from aristocrats and artists to working class folks as they flee to the countryside. The descriptions of the clogged roads and overwhelmed country villages as the evacuees seek food and shelter are vivid. The struggles of the characters to face their situation and survive or panic are highly emotional. The seemingly unconnected vignettes do eventually intertwine as some of the characters meet and interact. Many of them do eventually return to Paris as the occupation continues. This section seems choppy at times, but I think that is what conveys some of the confusion and disorientation the characters are experiencing.

The second part, “Dolce”, is set in a small village during the ongoing German occupation. The soldiers that are billeted with the local families become part of the story. Some of the characters we met in Storm in June are also in this part of the book. In both sections of the novel, there is interesting commentary on the social classes and their actions and reactions to the turmoil of their world. The writing is absolutely beautiful which is impressive, considering it was translated from the original French.

The story OF this book is as much a part of it as the actual novel. Although it was not published until 2004, it was not written from the viewpoint of looking back in time to these events. It was amazing to read this and remember that the outcome of the war was unknown and the author didn’t survive to find out.

An appendix with Nemirovsky’s own notes that she made as she envisioned the full novel and wrote follows the text of the book. This insight into the author’s process is fascinating. There is also a section of letters that tell more of what happened to her and her family. Finally, an excerpt from the preface to the 2004 French edition of the book

THANK YOU to Andie for recommending this book.


Under the Bridge by Rebecca Godfrey

>> Sunday, October 15, 2006

I picked this one up last weekend at Munro’s Books when we were in Victoria, BC. It won the 2006 British Columbia Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. This one was an interesting, although disturbing read. In 1997, 14 year old Reena Virk was beaten and murdered by a group of teens that she desperately wanted as friends. Eight of the teens were charged with assault and two were charged with murder. This book takes the reader from the discovery of the body, back to the story of how most of those involved came to be together that night and then on through the investigation and trials.

The writing style seemed a bit odd at times (particularly in the beginning). It was almost as if she was trying to capture the vernacular of the teens and letting that seep into other parts of her narrative. Later, as she writes about the investigation and the trials this distraction fades. I hadn’t heard about this case before, but found the book interesting. Unfortunately, the whys of this disturbing case will probably never be truly answered.


Audiobook – The Cat Who Went Underground

>> Saturday, October 14, 2006

We listened to most of this one on our trip to Victoria last weekend. We managed to finish up the last tape today on our way to football game. This series is one we enjoy listening to on road trips because it doesn’t take a lot of attention, and the cat quirks usually have us laughing. We have 3 cats, so we can usually relate the cat behavior in the books to one or more of our cats.

Once again, though, helping Jim Qwilleran seems to be a dangerous thing to do. I’m thinking he’s going to have to move again in an upcoming book. At the rate folks are dying in the two towns where he's been spending most of his time, this series is going to be needing a new source of victims soon.


Audiobook – In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

>> Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This gently charming series has been great for listening to in the car. I tend to listen in 10-15 minute chunks to and from the park and ride on workdays and while running errands. The reader, Lisette Lecat, is just wonderful.


Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

>> Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Once again, Stephanie Plum and her entourage had me laughing out loud as I read this book. This series continues to be a great combination of sharp, sexy, slapstick fun. It was good to see the ever-growing list of sideline characters get pared down a bit for this one. We really don’t need to see every member of Stephanie’s family, friends and cohorts in every single book. I’m sure they’ll be back, and the group does continue to grow in this one with the addition of Melvin. Grandma Mazur and Lula continue to be the biggest source of laughs. Can’t wait for #13!

So – if you’re a fan of this series – Ranger or Morelli??


Vacations mean new bookstores

>> Sunday, October 8, 2006

I love exploring new bookstores when we're on vacation. We're in Victoria, BC for a long weekend and I got to visit the local famous bookstore Munro's. Just a lovely place.
I picked up a copy of an award winning book by a local author. Under the Bridge by Rebecca Godfrey won the 2006 British Columbia Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. I think it'll be next after I finish Twelve Sharp.


Watermelon by Marian Keyes

>> Saturday, October 7, 2006

I have a friend who's been telling me for months I need to read Marian Keyes. I usually avoid the "chick lit" table and "women's authors" sections in the bookstore. Karen was sure I'd like Marian Keyes, so I hunted this one up. Thank you Karen - I giggled my way through it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

From the back cover:
At twenty-nine, fun-loving, good-natured Claire has everything she ever wanted: a husband she adores, a great apartment, a good job. Then, on the day she gives birth to her first baby, James visits her in the recovery room to inform her that he's leaving her. Claire is left with a beautiful newborn daughter, a broken heart, and a body that she can hardly bear to look at in the mirror.

In the absence of any better offers, Claire decides to go home to her family in Dublin. To her gorgeous man-eating sister Helen, her soap-watching mother, her bewildered father. And there, sheltered by the love of an (albeit quirky) family, she gets better. A lot better.

In fact, so much better that when James slithers back into her life, he's in for a bit of a surprise…


2nd Chance by James Patterson

>> Monday, October 2, 2006

I’ve been busy and a bit scattered lately so I needed something that didn’t take concentrating for more than a couple of minutes at a time – The perfect time for a James Patterson book!! Continuing a bit of a brain vacation, I picked up the second in the Women’s Murder Club series from Patterson. I knew it would be a quick, fast paced read, which was just what I was looking for. I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with not much of a break expected soon, so I’m sticking with some of the quicker, easier to ‘read for just a few minutes at a time’ books on my shelf.


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