Archive for August, 2013

The Book Thief

book thiefHERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE
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 begin to fall.
SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH

The subject of this novel was of interest to me. I have read lots of books set during World War II but most have been from the point of view of the British, Americans or Europeans resisting the Germans, some have been about the Jews having to cope with the horrors thrust on them, only one has been through the eyes of a person living in Germany and trying to make sense of what was happening around them. The Book Thief is about Liesel, a young girl growing up in the wartime in Germany and this made it fascinating, quite aside from the interest in why she was a book thief or why Death himself was narrating the story.

Therefore, and I feel compelled to be honest here, it was a bit of a disappointment when it took me a little while to really get into this. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood! I found it hard to get to like our protagonist Liesel, despite her plight, (she loses her brother and mother and is fostered into a new, harsh family early on in the novel), however as I got to know her, and her new family I got drawn in.

From the beginning I was interested in the narration. The voice of Death as a storyteller and as a character is quirky to say the least, and the pictures painted in his sections are very evocative. It is evident that the war period is going to be a busy time for Death and he is ideally placed to comment on what is going on all around him. As an overseer he gets the big picture and can comment on the lives of Liesel and those that live with her and around her.

Liesel’s is a story of growing up in pre-war and wartime Germany, a time of tension, fear and suspicion, at least if you were unsure about Nazism and didn’t want to be a part of what was happening. As her father was a communist Liesel has been sent away to a new home, a place of safety. She has to learn about a new family, a new neighbourhood and a new Germany. There are tough times, food shortages and job difficulties for Liesel’s new father, work is hard to find if you are not thought to be sympathetic to the cause. It is hard to get by and live up to your conscience. Liesel also has to cope with finding friends, standing up for herself, proving herself and all the other things that would normally affect a teenage girl.

Zusak effortlessly shows us the toughness of Liesel’s world and the plight of the German people, those who are unhappy about what is happening and those who are drawn in. The book burnings, the attacks on the Jews, the shortages suffered by many, the fear of being different, the pressure to be the perfect German. As Liesel’s new family suffer, hide a Jew, wait for the bombs, lose a father to work away from home, through all these things the curtain is lifted on what it was like to be part of the other side.

Verdict: In the end I was enthralled, some of this is not easy to read, but it is so thought provoking, it is heartbreaking and at the same time it succeeds in being up-lifting. Many of its themes are still relevant today. A fascinating read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Black Swan
Publication Date: September 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 554
Genre: Historical fiction, WWII
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Deadly 60 Fact Book: Reptiles and Amphibians!

Steve Backshall, (Compiled by) Jinny Johnson, (Designed by) Sue Michniewick

deadly 60Join DEADLY 60 presenter Steve Backshall in the world’s deadliest book about animals, packed with fascinating facts, killer statistics and stunning photographs. Combined with his own incredible experiences with creatures, large and small, Steve reveals tricks of camouflage, feats of strength, endurance, teamwork and speed, as well as giving us a glimpse into the lives of extremeophiles and looking at some of our planet’s endangered species.

This is the first information book I have reviewed and I really enjoyed it! I’ve been a fan of Deadly 60 on TV . So when I got given this book I was SO pleased. When I moved house I lost it but now I’ve found it AND I LOVE IT!

It’s only 78 pages long and doesn’t take long to read so it’s not too hard to read! This would be a handy book to take on holiday because it is pocket sized and easy to slip into a suitcase or bag, perfect for reading on a plane or train.

Follow the footsteps of the Deadly team and discover the secrets of the animal kingdom as they reveal fascinating facts and killer stats in their guide to reptiles and amphibians!

It’s fun and cool, boys and girls everywhere will love it.

Did you know… That the Basilisk lizard can walk on water?! And the Komodo dragon is the world’s biggest Lizard? These are all facts from the book!

Verdict: This was probably the hardest book to review because I couldn’t explain the story though I really enjoyed this book. I think it’s for boys and girls everywhere aged 8 to 12.

Reviewed by Izzy (9)

Deadly 60 fact book reptiles and amphibians!

Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: February 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 80
Genre: Non Fiction
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Izzy (9)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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The Perfect Retreat

Kate Forster

the perfect retretCan you live on love alone?
Willow Carruthers – British Oscar winner, style icon and mother of three is facing a crisis: she’s broke, discovery of her partner’s infidelity has left her a single mother and, if the banks have their way, she’s about to be homeless.
Meanwhile nanny to Willow’s children Kitty, is desperate to keep her job and knows just the place they can retreat to – her crumbling ancestral home in the Bristol countryside, Middlemist House.
To both women in their hour of need, the idea of leaving LA seems brilliant in theory, until Kitty’s brother Merritt returns home unannounced.
From London to LA, The Perfect Retreat is pure escapism – full of sex, scandal and intrigue.

Having read Kate Forsters ‘The Perfect Location’ I knew that this would be an instant ‘like’ for me. Actually it turned out to be a ‘love’!

Willow Carruthers is our main protagonist and although I wasn’t initially sure if I would warm to her, once I got into the book I found myself rooting for her especially on discovering the nature and character of her rock star (soon to be ex) husband! The author paints a great landscape and picture of the life that Willow and Kerr had together and you feel like you understand fully where they’ve been and where they are at and why. Although Willow seems to ‘have it all’ her life is falling apart, her marriage is over and the bank are threatening to repossess the house.

Kitty is her faithful and dependable nanny, who in all honesty Willow treats like a bit of a slave, just expecting her to be there at all hours and take on the main responsibility for the children. Kitty is comfortable with Willow’s three children more than she is with adults. She loves her job but is slightly daunted at the idea Willow has to home-school them – especially as Lucien doesn’t speak at all.

When Willow is facing homelessness it is Kitty – desperate to keep her job – that suggests they move to England where she is, in fact, joint heir to the family ancestral home Middlemist. Willow is shocked to find that Kitty part owns this amazing grand home which is in a great state of disrepair but which also provides ‘The Perfect Retreat’ they need. What they didn’t anticipate was Kitty’s brother Merritt who is usually off travelling the world, to arrive at the house the same evening and wonder what the heck is going on.

Merritt, who has his own demons having been married and divorced and had his wife cheat on him, is actually quite accommodating, allowing Willow and her three children to stay at Middlemist while Willow starts to find work again and get some money in the bank. A film part followed by a suggestion that Middlemist House would be a great backdrop to the movie that Willow is shooting means the house is suddenly full of film crew, actors and actresses and life starts to take on a few twists and turns for them all.

Merritt is a fabulous character – a typical hero in many ways and I really enjoyed how his character had depth and warmth. There is a real mix of characters and a couple of ‘villain’ style characters along the way that I enjoyed. I also enjoyed seeing Willow change and develop as a person especially in regard to her children, as they seemed to be quite a hindrance and a frustration to her at the beginning and you see their relationship change and gain more depth as Willow changes. The author also deals with a couple of disabilities in the book which I felt were dealt with sensitively and carefully and to me added extra layers and depth as those characters and those that love them dealt with these issues.

As you might guess, there are relationship ups and downs, miscommunications and broken hearts, all set against the backdrop of this fabulous house with it’s own history and secrets which get revealed over time.

Verdict: This has been a great read and one I would heartily recommend. I’m off to see what else Kate Forster has that I haven’t read yet!

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: March 2013
Format: eBook
Pages: 400
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Book Excerpt: All In by Marta Brown

Marta Brown

All In CoverOn the picturesque island of Martha’s Vineyard, there are two kinds of residents. Locals and Stays.
Local boy, Lane McCarthy, plans on spending his summer working at the country club to save money for college in the fall, while summer stay, Ashley Whitmore, and her elite group of friends are only there to play.
As the summer heat goes up on the island, so does the ante, when both Lane and Ashley must decide what they’re willing to wager in order to follow their dreams… and their hearts.
With stakes as high as the surf, and hopes as high as the midday sun, will they risk everything and go all in?

Ashley

His head is down as he crosses the private section of the beach, staying close to the water’s edge but avoiding the moving tide.
“Lane,” I call out over the noise of the party and the waves, but he doesn’t seem to hear me, so I call his name again, this time louder. “Hey, Lane.” He glances up and scans the party, squinting before finally seeing me. A smile flashes across his face. I smile back as I approach him, my flip flops kicking up sand behind me.

“Hi,” I say. My drink, mostly untouched, sloshes and spills over the lip of the cup when I stop in front of him.
“Looks like you’re having fun.” He nods at my drink and then up at the party.

“I actually just got here. I’m glad you came.” I feel my cheeks heat up, and I’m relieved it’s dark enough that he can’t see. “I think Andrew’s around here somewhere.” I look over my shoulder to point Lane in the right direction.

“Ah, no thanks. I think I’ll steer clear of your kind of parties,” he says, shoving his hands in the pockets of his cargo shorts.
“What do you mean my kind of parties?”

“Nothing, never mind.” He kicks at the sand and looks uncomfortable.

“Oh no.” I cover my mouth with my hand. “Did you get in trouble last night when the cops showed up?”

“Yeah, thanks to your boyfriend,” he says with a sneer that makes me take a step back.

My boyfriend?

“I’m not sure what his deal is, but he’s a serious dick.” Lane’s jaw is tight, and there’s not a hint of joking in his tone.
“Gregory?” I ask wide eyed. Why would he think Gregory is my boyfriend? I have a flash of Greg and I at lunch together looking very much like a couple and then again at the bluffs when he gave me his coat, something a boyfriend would do. Oh.

“He is definitely not my boyfriend,” I say seriously. “He’s my ex, if you can even call it that. We dated for like a second, but it was never very serious.” Why am I telling him all this? Stop rambling, Ashley. I dig my toes into the sand. “But you’re right about one thing. He is a dick.” I give Lane a playful grin and watch the light from the bonfire bounce off his features as his jaw loosens and a tentative smile spreads across his face.

From a distance, I hear Gregory’s voice, and when I glance over my shoulder, he’s stumbling our direction, obviously drunk and completely uninvited.

“Speak of the devil.” I roll my eyes and that makes Lane smile bigger.

“The rest of the staff is over there,” Gregory slurs, pointing to the tent where the cater waiters are busy putting out more hors d’oeuvres. Lane ignores his snide remark, never taking his eyes off of me.

“It was nice seeing you again, but I gotta go,” Lane says, and I’m immediately disappointed that he’s leaving.

“Are you sure?” I look down at my feet and try to garner enough nerve to ask him not to go. “Stay,” I say so softly it comes out as more of a whisper when I look back up at him.

He peers over his shoulder across the small peninsula to the lighthouse then back at me. “I’m sorry, I can’t…I…I have to work.” He looks genuinely disappointed, and I wonder if he knows I am too. “But hopefully I’ll see you around, okay?” He gives me a smile that makes my knees go weak before taking off down the beach. In the faint light coming off of the fire, I see him glance back at me before he cuts across the sandy peninsula and disappears into the shadows of tall sea grass.

Lane
He’s not her boyfriend.

I shake my head to clear my mind before I steal one last glance over my shoulder at her as I walk away, but it’s on a loop, and it’s all I can think. He’s not her boyfriend.

I shake my head again, this time to snap myself out of it. There’s no way a girl like that would go for a guy like me anyway. Would she? I shut my eyes and replay the way she looked at me through her long dark lashes, softly asking me to stay, causing my stomach to knot.

“He’s not her boyfriend,” I say out loud at the door of the lighthouse. I pull my keys from my pocket as the sounds of the party float through the otherwise quiet night, and I feel a stupid grin spread across my face despite the rude remarks I just got from that ass-hat Gregory. Seriously, when will the ‘help’ jokes get old?

“Let go. You’re hurting me,” a girl yelps from down the beach. I spin around and from the light coming off the bonfire I can see Gregory’s hand is wrapped around Ashley’s arm, and she’s wincing in pain.

Without a thought, I drop my keys to the ground and take off running, reaching them in seconds. “Let her go,” I yell. My fists ball tight, ready to make him if I have to.

“Mind your own business, loser,” Gregory snarls back as he jerks Ashley by the arm eliciting another cry.

“Lane,” Ashley says, struggling against his grip, fear on her face.

I lunge forward and grab Gregory’s arm, yanking him away from her with a force that surprises even me. “I said Let. Her. Go.”
Ashley falls to the ground when Gregory releases his hold, rubbing her arm in pain. I kneel down and brush the hair from her face, searching for any other signs of injury as adrenaline pounds in my veins.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I promise,” she says, our eyes locked with one another. “Thank you.”

“Come to save the damsel in distress,” Gregory says in a patronizing tone, looking down his nose at me. Convinced Ashley’s alright; I jump up and face him. He’s poised and ready for a fight, and that makes two of us. “You do know the peasant doesn’t get the girl, right? The prince does.”

I can’t stop the laugh that comes out of me. “Are you serious right now?” Who does this guy think he is? “Dude, when a girl’s screaming to be let go, it’s a pretty good indicator that she doesn’t want you, prince or not.”

I hear a light snickering from behind me before I see that a small crowd has gathered around and is watching us intently. I’m surprised they haven’t all started chanting ‘fight’ by the way they look on like we’re simply the entertainment for the evening.

“You know what? She can slum it all she wants with you. She’s nothing but an uptight frigid tease anyway. Good luck getting into her pants,” Gregory says, wearing an arrogant smirk, his arms crossed leisurely across his chest like he’s just landed a fatal blow.

My vision goes red. He’s about to find out exactly how a real blow feels. To the face.

marta brownMarta Brown grew up in the Pacific Northwest and was a teenager when Doc Martens, Pearl Jam and flannel were the norm and Dylan loved Kelly forever. (Beverly Hills 90210 shout out)
She still lives just outside Seattle, now with her husband and cat, and loves the rain.
When she’s not writing about cute boys, first kisses and the magic and wonder of being seventeen, she’s watching The CW. And she sleeps in. Late.
Learn more about Marta by visiting herWebsite (click here to visit), on her Goodreads authors page(here) or Tumbler (here). Alternatively you can converse with Marta on Twitter (here)

All In is available to buy from Amazon.com(here),Barnes and Noble (here) and Kobo Books (here)

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