Reviews by Louise J

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The House I Loved
by Tatiana de Rosnay
Sublime Reading! (10/21/2012)
Rose writes letters to her deceased husband, Armand who has been gone 10 years. She is writing about the tearing down of the homes and shops on their street so the construction organization can widen the roads. This is going to change the face of Paris forever. Some of the neighbours and shop keepers are upset whilst others are not. Flower shops and bars can be moved to new establishments, but the doctor in the area isn’t happy and worries over losing all his patients.

Rose’s husband was born in the house she lives in as was his father and grandfather. The house was 150 years old and had seen several generations of Bazelets living there. “No one else but the Bazelet family had lived between these walls built in 1715, when the rue Childebert was created.” No siree, Rose had no plans whatsoever on leaving her beloved home. They could offer her all the money in the world, tear down around her, but she wasn’t budging! Rose continues to putter around her home, making tea, sewing embroidery all the while the men outside are hard at work demolishing.

When things get too close to her home, she takes to the basement and lives in the cold, drab dark where no one knows where she is except a lonely tramp of a man who brings her food and warm beverages. Rose, by candle light, pens her story to her husband Armand and reveals to him a secret that she’s kept her entire life.

Rose is a woman who possesses great strength and courage and is loved by everyone. She reminds me of the quintessential grandmother, one I’d love to have myself.

The House I Loved was beautifully written and was a gorgeous, loving, testament to the type of woman Rose was. I loved this book so thoroughly that I want to read it again.
Caught
by Harlan Coben
A Rollercoaster Ride! (10/21/2012)
CAUGHT is a rollercoaster ride with more twists and turns that you won’t want to get off until the train hits the end of the track!

Seventeen-year-old Haley McWaid is a high school senior who goes missing. She has never been in trouble before, gets good grades and just seems to vanish leaving her parents heart-stricken.

Dan Mercer, is a social worker who works with trouble youth and receives word that a young girl is in trouble and could he meet her at her home to talk as she is shy. When Dan arrives he realizes he’s been caught in a sting operation set up by t.v. report Wendy Tynes who is trying to expose sexual predators. Dan soon finds himself caught up in something he had no intentions of getting caught up in and Wendy is thrown into a situation she just wasn’t prepared for.

This book reminded me of the television show on MSNBC with Rick Hansen where they monitor chat rooms online and set up meetings with alleged sexual predators of young kids.

This is a book not to be missed!
The Forgetting Tree: A Novel
by Tatjana Soli
Magical! (10/17/2012)
The Forgetting Tree was majestic, monumental, and magical!! An incredibly complex story with well-developed characters, the story basically focuses on two women: Claire, a white-woman dealing with cancer, and Minna, a black-woman who is Claire’s caretaker.

Claire met and fell in love with Forster Baumsarg who owned a large citrus farm in California. Claire gave up her literary studies to marry him she was so enamoured. Early on in the story, Claire must deal with every mother’s nightmare – coping with the death of a child. Her young son, Joshua, is found dead near a lemon tree. Claire, already struggling with her loss ends up having to fight breast cancer and keep her family’s citrus farm together regardless of the financial or emotional toll.

Minna, makes for an interesting character. Originally from the Caribbean and having suffered through a rather rough life, she ends up in California. She meets one of Claire’s daughters in Starbucks one day and is hired as her caretaker while fighting breast cancer.

Minna tells Claire that she is the great-granddaughter of author, Jean Rhys, who wrote ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s famous Jane Eyre, focusing on the “crazy woman in the attic.” Minna herself reminds you of that “crazy woman in the attic.” Minna quickly gains Claire’s trust and is soon mixing up elixirs and other concoctions and potions for her to drink as part of her cancer cure. The two women are both damaged but Claire continues to allow Minna to call all the shots.

I can’t get into too much more about this story without creating serious spoilers but this is simply a book you MUST read.

The Forgetting Tree was masterfully and skillfully written and kept me turning pages late into the night. I haven’t read Soli’s first novel ‘The Lotus Eaters’ but will be doing so now.
My Name Is Parvana
by Deborah Ellis
Honest and Real... (10/1/2012)
This was a riveting, page-turner that I didn’t want to end. I felt bad that her mother died as she was the last connection to Parvana’s family. Deborah Ellis always writes the most honest stories about real issues that gives us a bird’s eye view of what some of these people go through. I’ll be recommending Parvana to my friends.
Joy For Beginners: A Novel
by Erica Bauermeister
Pure Delight! (9/24/2012)
Kate is home again after just surviving breast cancer. To celebrate she invites six of her closest friends to come and share in an intimate dinner. Kate was hit very hard when she discovered she had breast cancer.

I found I could relate better to some characters better than others. My favourite challenge was Sara’s trip to Italy as I’ve learned a lot about that country, love Italian food, have a long-standing pen pal there, and would love to visit someday myself.

Joy for Beginners is a great representation of being able to find joy and learning to feel and embrace that joy. It’s a story of love, friendship, heartbreak, hope, and remembering that life is for living especially if given a second chance.
Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey
by Margaret Powell
Simply Charming! (9/22/2012)
Below Stairs is the true story of Margaret Powell who worked as a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – in 1920’s England. I appreciated the book for its honesty, directness, and the informative way in which it was written. I also appreciated the integrity with which Margaret wrote – she wasn’t backward at coming forward about expressing the anger and contempt she felt for some of those she worked for.

Overall I found Below Stairs to be a funny, honest, and charming read.

Margaret was born in 1907 in Hove and died in 1984 at the age of 77.
Beautiful Ruins: A Novel
by Jess Walter
Disappointing... (9/22/2012)
I was very disappointed in this novel. For all the hype and drum rolls I heard, I expected an interesting and phenomenal read – boy was I wrong!

It’s hard to explain but I actually found the story confusing at times and at other times rambling on and on and on but really not going anywhere. I will admit that I skipped and just skimmed through some of the chapters just so my misery could end a tad sooner.

Giving an undesirable review of a book bothers me greatly but when I began this book review blog I vowed to be honest. And, just because I didn’t enjoy Beautiful Ruins doesn’t mean that you won’t. I’ve read many glowing reviews so I know a lot of people did enjoy it thoroughly and I sincerely hope that you will too.
The Watch: A Novel
by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
Eye Opening (9/21/2012)
The Watch gives us non-military folk first-hand experience about what war zones are really like. I now have a better understanding why a lot of these soldiers return home changed people. Overall, this was an excellent and eye-opening read.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo
Behind the Beautiful Forevers (9/20/2012)
Katherine Boo has written a remarkable, thoroughly researched, engaging, insightful, educational, and informative ethnography of slum life on the outskirts of Mumbai in Annwadi. Boo’s ability to capture the devastating toll this type of living has on its inhabitants is truly phenomenal.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a must read in order to fully understand the degrading and indignant conditions in which some of our fellow human beings are forced to live. It has been quite a while where I have personally been so affected by a piece of writing. As I finish this review my shock factor is still at its height.
Home Front
by Kristin Hannah
The Tragedies of War... (9/19/2012)
Home Front is a hard book to read but reminds us how thankful we need to be to any and all soldiers/members of the military and recognize that they are putting their lives on the line for us. I don’t know that those of us who are non-military families can truly appreciate what those families go through. I couldn’t even begin to imagine having to wait at home every single day waiting for word from my husband, son, daughter, cousin or other family member. After reading Home Front I will be sure to say ‘thank you’ from now on when I cross paths with a service person. Excellent read that I’ll be highly recommending.
The Roots of the Olive Tree: A Novel
by Courtney Miller Santo
Superbly Crafted Debut Novel!! (9/17/2012)
For a debut novel, Courtney Miller Santo has done a remarkable job in writing this novel. The story was superbly engaging, the characters were very well developed, and really gave a believable voice of each of the women. I won’t have any trouble recommending The Roots of the Olive Tree to everyone I know. I loved the cover of this book and it was an all-round super read! I was sorry to see it end.
The Book of Jonas
by Stephen Dau
Powerful (9/10/2012)
The Book of Jonas is a compelling novel that describes the human cost of war and the long-lasting effects on the human mind. Adjusting to his new life in America proves more difficult than Jonas originally thought. Mandated to see a therapist, Jonas begins to explore what happened. He eventually turns to alcohol in order to cope. The book is written as if it were a funeral mass with chapter titles: Processional, Remembrance, Communion, Confession, etc. It was an interesting way to read a story and I didn’t expect the ending at all. For a debut novel this will be a big hit.
The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir
by Wenguang Huang
A Memoir & History Lesson in One! (9/8/2012)
The story was well-written, interesting, funny, interspersed with the political state of China at the time. A story and history lesson all-in-one. Excellent read.
Small Damages
by Beth Kephart
Disappointing... (9/5/2012)
Young, Kenzie is sent to Seville, Spain in 1995 and upon arrival is setting off for Los Nietos to a farmhouse or cortijo. It is owned by a man named, Miguel and is actually a bull ranch. Miguel is a friend of, Kenzie’s mother, and he has agreed to take Kenzie in until her baby is born who will then be adopted by a couple named Javier and Adair. Once the baby is born, the plan is for Kenzie to head back to American to start college.

Kenzie’s mother has great difficulty dealing with any type of hardship. When Kenzie’s father passed away whom she was very close too, Mom only grieved a short time, got rid of his stuff and signed herself up on match.com. She appears to enjoy making things she can’t deal with disappear and she’s done the same thing with her pregnant daughter by whisking her off to Spain so no one will be the wiser. The father of the baby, Kevin, hasn’t bothered to go to Spain with Kenzie and is letting her handle this all on her own. Kenzie is alone until she get to know, Estela, a very stubborn and old cook.

Although the premise of the story was good, I didn’t enjoy the writing style and found at times the story to be quite convoluted. I don’t think I’ll be reading another Kephart novel.
No Safe Place
by Deborah Ellis
Couldn't Put It Down! (8/30/2012)
Abdul is a Kurdish refugee from Iraq who at fifteen-years of age has lost everyone in his family through the war and terror that has plagued his homeland. He meets a boy is own age and they become fast friends, both enjoying playing guitar and loving The Beatles. One day, Kalil, is beaten to death in front of Abdul’s very eyes and he vowed then to go to England to Penny Lane in honour of Kalil.

Abdul first ends up in France where he meets an unlikely group of kids who oddly enough end up making a sort of makeshift family. Rosalia, is a Romani girl who has escaped from the white slave trade but she is one tough cookie; Cheslav, is AWOL from a Russian military school and has an attitude like no other; and Jonah, the ten-year-old nephew of the horrible man whose small boat they are on in France escaping to England.

When Abdul boards the smuggler’s boat with the other kids he really thinks his life is finally heading in the right direction, but that is not to be. When a storm suddenly blows up things escalate quickly and become out-of-hand. From here the story really takes off and you’ll find yourself reading faster and faster because you can’t wait to find out what is going to happen next.

   No Safe Place was a sad story but showed the strength, endurance, and courage of a group of young people who had lived rough and tough lives but came out in the end as whole people. I loved it!!
Sold
by Patricia McCormick
Sad but True... (8/28/2012)
The writing style in this novel is very unique. It is written in short vignettes making for a simple, quick, but captivating read.

According to the author, each year nearly 12,000 Nepali girls are sold by their families “intentionally” or “unwittingly” into a life of sexual slavery in the brothels of India. The U.S. State Department estimates that a staggering half million children are trafficked into the sex trade each year.

The sad thing is that, when or if, some of these girls do make it home they are ignored by their families for fear of shaming them as happened to one girl in Sold. I guess the lesson there is that sometimes being “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “being free”.

Anyone interested in joining the fight against human trafficking and the sex slave trade can visit Patricia McCormick’s website for information regarding rescuing young women. If we all helped, we could make a difference. You can visit McCormick’s website at: www.patriciamccormick.com SOLD was an excellent, well-written account of just one girl out of millions caught up in the sex trade each year.
Sacred Hearts: A Novel
by Sarah Dunant
Awesome! (8/27/2012)
A great piece of historical fiction that was hard to put down. It brought to life the world of an Italian convent in Ferrara, Italy in 1570. Back in that era, women could be placed in convents by ‘force’. Many of these women who ended up there were castaways from families; unwanted in general; others to curb promiscuous lifestyles; or even those with rich families who could provide a dowry with the young woman just for them to take her off their hands.

Sacred Hearts is a phenomenal piece of historical fiction that will capture the hearts of all who read it.
The Sandcastle Girls: A Novel
by Chris Bohjalian
Hugely Disappointing... (8/22/2012)
The Sandcastle Girls is a love story between Elizabeth Endicott, a wealthy Bostonian, and a young Armenian engineer named Armen. This love story takes place during the Armenian genocide in 1915- 1916, but the entire storyline reverts backs and forth between the past and the present.

I found the book a bit drab and didn’t enjoy the writing alternating between past and present tense. I honestly cannot say that I will be recommending The Sandcastle Girls to anyone soon as I won’t be. This novel was a huge disappointment to me considering the strength of and enjoyment in Bohjalian’s previous fourteen novels.
The Age of Miracles: A Novel
by Karen Thompson Walker
The Age of Miracles (8/20/2012)
The story is narrated by eleven-year-old, Julia so really more of the story is about coming-of-age but also part sci-fi and part young adult fiction. However, as a full grown adult I did thoroughly enjoy the book. It is beautifully written and I will be recommending it to my friends.
In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel
by Vaddey Ratner
Exemplary Writing! (8/19/2012)
The story is written in the first person and told through the eyes of Raami. The words are so beautifully written, a real talent for a first time author. An extraordinary story that takes you to the impossible highs and lows of what human beings can do in this life, both on the good side and the bad. This is a story that will reach deep inside your soul and leave you shivering. I would highly recommend this book to anyone and believe it needs to be read for the sake of the people who died and those still living that suffered through this terrible tragedy.

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