Reviews by Louise J

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by Louis Sachar
Lots of Action! (4/4/2012)
This was a cute story for kids. Stanley Yelnats is accused of stealing a pair of running shoes donated to a homeless shelter to raise money to fund the program, however, Stanley is truly innocent but the judge doesn’t believe him. He is sentenced to 18 months at Camp Green Lake where he is forced to dig holes under the blazing hot sun every single day including Saturday and Sunday. The holes must be exactly five feet wide and five feet deep.

Each kid at Camp Green Lake is given a camp name and Stanley’s is ‘Caveman’. He hates digging holes and soon winds up looking for his friend ‘Zero’ after he storms out of camp into the barren lands. What they find might surprise you.

All round cute story that was darkly humorous with lots of action and adventure. Your kids will love it!
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable
by John Boyne
A Startling Read! (4/2/2012)
Bruno is nine-years-old when he arrives home from school one day to find the maid, Maria packing up the belongings in his room. He becomes very upset and demands to know what is going on when his mother comes into the room and asks him to meet her downstairs in the dining room. Bruno is so anxious that he speeds past his mother and his waiting for her downstairs before she even has a chance to step off the first stair. She tells Bruno that his father has received an important promotion and they must leave Berlin and move to another city and live in another house. Bruno, of course, is quite upset as he doesn’t want to leave his beloved home nor his three best friends. His mother assures him that things will be alright and that the whole family including: Bruno; his twelve-year-old sister, Gretel; their father; the maid, Maria; the butler, Lars; and Cook will all be moving together.

When they arrive at the new house Bruno is very disappointed as it sat almost in the middle of nowhere with no other homes nearby nor markets or stores. All Bruno can see from the window of his new bedroom is a fence with barbed wire on top, some huts in the distance, and older men, younger men, and boys all wearing the same grey striped pajamas and grey striped cap with soldiers watching them. He doesn’t even know what his father’s job is.

What is this place and what could possibly be his father’s job working with all these dirty, filthy people all dressed the same? He wants to be an explorer so decides to go for a walk. He follows the fence along for quite a distance until he comes to a piece of fencing where he sees a small boy. The boy approaches the fence and he and Bruno and make introductions and begin talking. The boy’s name is Shmuel, he is the same age as Bruno and even shares the same birthday. During an entire year, naïve Bruno brings his new friend bread, cheese and cake most days as the boy doesn’t have enough to eat.

One day Bruno is told by his father that his mother, Gretel and Bruno will be returning to Berlin while he stays and continues working at the same job. He tells Bruno that it is no place to raise children and he’d be much happier back in Berlin. Bruno is devastated, he doesn’t want to go back to Berlin now because he doesn’t want to leave Shmuel but they plan to have a last day together like no other bringing the story to a crashing end! I was totally taken aback at the ending and didn’t expect it at all.

John Boyne has written a book about nine-year-olds that isn’t for nine-year-olds as it says on the back cover of the novel. Don’t miss this one people, it’ll surprise you and break your heart so have some kleenex standing by. Beautifully and hauntingly written.
The Dressmaker: A Novel
by Kate Alcott
Nice Historical Fiction (4/2/2012)
A lot of the testimony in this story was taken directly from the transcripts of the U.S. senate hearings. According to the author, the “basic bones of the story are true: Lady Duff Gordon, a world-famous designer, escaped with her husband and secretary in a lifeboat that, according to various reports, could have held between forty and fifty people instead of only twelve.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of part fiction and part fact and would highly recommend it to my friends. Kate Alcott has managed to write beautifully about a sad and tragic event in history. Well done!
The Sentimentalists: A Novel
by Johanna Skibsrud
Very Disappointing! (3/26/2012)
As hard as I tried to like this book the more it miserably failed me. I’d heard a lot of hype and was told by a select few that the novel was “riveting”. I found nothing riveting about it whatsoever.

I found the story to be slow, jumping all over the place back and forth in time, and the sentences were long, rambling, uninteresting, and took forever to get to the point.

This definitely did not live up to my expectations and would advise others’ to “read at your own risk”! A big disappointment.
Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel
by Russell Banks
Disappointing! (3/9/2012)
I was deeply disappointed and had a very difficult time finishing. I only finished because I’d invested a lot of time in this book. I’m not sure I’d recommend this one to my friends, at least without a warning.
Between Shades of Gray: A Novel
by Ruta Sepetys
Hauntingly Beautiful (2/26/2012)
This beautifully written, sad story is a dark reminder from the past. The hard thing about reading the book beside the fact the story is based on truth is understanding that these horrible things did actually happen to these people. I thank those brave enough to bring stories like this into the open. As kind, compassionate, decent, and caring people, we must NEVER, EVER allow anything like this to happen again.

You will not be able to put this book down. Although hard to read, believe me, you’ll be so absorbed that you’ll want to keep reading. Be sure to read the “Author’s Note” and the end of the book for important information. Be sure to have kleenex standing by for this book! Absolutely excellent.
The World We Found: A Novel
by Thrity Umrigar
Stunning! (2/21/2012)
What a fantastic read! Beautifully written, explaining the bonds of friendship, this is a stunning novel for all to read.
You Can Run but You Can't Hide: The Life and Times of Dog the Bounty Hunter
by Duane Chapman
An Honest Look at the "Dog" (2/14/2012)
Duane “Dog” Chapman has led an unbelievable life. Many times he was destitute, feeding his kids’ cat food, living on food stamps, and welfare. Somehow he always managed to pull himself up by the bootstraps and climb out of whatever dark hole he was in. At times he was so down and at times ready to give up but his faith in God kept him going.

He cared deeply for his mother and loved her deeply and never wanted to disappoint her but like all children, he did disappoint her at times. However, her unconditional love for her son shone through every bad thing he ever did.

It’s no secret that the Dog loved his woman and he was quite explicit in telling of his forays with the many, many women he had in his life and is proud of the fact that he has fathered 12 children with different women. Underneath the scary looks, the bad dude image, Duane “Dog” Chapman is a family man at heart who cares for and loves his family beyond measure. There is nothing more important to him than his wife, Beth, and all their children.

This was an honest look at a man who himself admits to making a lot of mistakes in his life but the difference is, he learned from those mistakes. The fugitives he captures today always get a second chance with the “Dog”. This was a very interesting read to say the least.
All the Flowers in Shanghai: A Novel
by Duncan Jepson
All the Flowers in Shanghai (2/5/2012)
This was a great novel which I read in one sitting and would highly recommend it to anyone. For a debut novel it was well written.
A Walk Across the Sun: A Novel
by Corban Addison
A Scorcher of a Read! (1/29/2012)
This was a difficult book to read for me because it dealt with the horrible but very real world of exploitation in its worst form; the rape of young girls and women. This despicable act isn’t just relegated to the farthest reaches of our planet but happens every single day in our own backyards.

I was enraged at the blaring disregard for women and I had many tear-stained pages throughout my reading of this novel. I was thankful for Mr. Addison’s notes at the end of the novel on how to help stop human trafficking and is a must read! This novel has moved me into action and I highly recommend everyone read it. This would be a great book selection for book clubs. It needs to be discussed and kept on the front burner and in the forefront of everyone’s mind. We all need to pitch in and help.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe
by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Couldn't Put It Down!! (1/18/2012)
This was one book I simply couldn’t put down. Kamila Sidiqi’s journey into entrepreneurship will inspire you. In the face of war and with her community under the watchful eye of the hated Taliban, Kamila rose above the poverty and strict rules laid out by the Taliban to run a successful business employing neighbouring women by teaching them how to sew. These women became independent breadwinners for their families during a time when women were looked down upon and treated less than human. Without Kamila’s dedication, deep faith and belief that she could help to empower these women, their families would have starved to death or been forced to move during a dangerous time.

This incredible true story of Kamila Sidiqi will leave you rooting for her and making you feel empowered to go out and contribute to society. Ms. Lemmon has done a remarkable job at telling Kamila’s story and I’d like to say “thanks” for the best few hours of reading I’ve had in a while.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand
Incredible Story! (1/3/2012)
This isn’t normally the type of book I would choose to read but something about the synopsis on the cover propelled me into buying it and I’m glad I did. This is the incredible and true story of Louis Zamperini’s survival, and redemption and the resilience of his mind, body, and spirit.
Room: A Novel
by Emma Donoghue
Boring! (10/27/2011)
I don’t really know what to say about this book. I do know that I’m disappointed as I don’t think it lived up to all the hype and hoopla that was generated by the public, but then again, I’m only one person. Obviously this just wasn’t the book for me. I found it silly and boring to be quite honest. Enough said.
Hotwire: A Maggie O'Dell Novel
by Alex Kava
Hotwire (10/21/2011)
Special Agent Maggie O’Dell of the FBI specialized in criminal behaviour and profiling. She had advanced degrees in behavioural psychology and forensic science. Her boss, Raymond Kunze had sent her to Nebraska to teach some classes but she ended up at the crime scene of the teenagers in the forest off Highway #83.

What is going on in this forest? Who or what has attacked these kids? Well, hang onto your hats folks for this is one rollercoaster ride of suspense you don’t want to miss! Alex Kava never misses the mark!
The End of Everything: A Novel
by Megan Abbott
Enjoyable (10/11/2011)
Lizzie’s own pain is palpable and you can’t help but feel like transposing yourself into the pages of the story to help her look and walk the streets hand-in-hand. Her focus on the one man she thinks took Evie almost becomes all consuming to her and she remembers the car and knows it is his.

This was an enjoyable yet sad in a good way read and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I wish I could tell you the ending of the story but you’d all scream at me if I did that!
Heart in the Right Place: A Memoir
by Carolyn Jourdan
A Most Delicious Memoir!! (9/24/2011)
This was a beautiful, serene, relaxing memoir and I absolutely adored this story! The characters are real and endearing, each of them carving out a special place in your heart. And what a gorgeous name of this town “Strawberry Plains”, how delicious is that?

Carolyn Jourdan has written with such vividness that it was an easy slip into the pages to walk amongst the words and feel them, snuggle into them and experience the Great Smoky Mountain area just like the generations of family who have resided there for years and years. Jourdan mentioned penning a sequel to Heart in the Right Place and I certainly hope she continues with it and sees it through to completion. I’ll be first in line to pick it up. I would highly, highly recommend this beautifully written memoir for all ages. This is the type of memoir that will stick with me forever.
Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away
by Christie Watson
Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away (9/22/2011)
This was a great story and I was totally involved with the characters. Christie Watson, in her epilogue at the end of the story tells us that: “The Niger Delta, known as “the Big Heart” is home to proud people, with good reason. I would highly recommend this book for everyone.
The Night Circus: A Novel
by Erin Morgenstern
Purely Magical!!! (9/16/2011)
Erin Morgenstern has done it! “THE NIGHT CIRCUS” has definitely lived up to the hype and hoopla. This is a purely magical and enchanting story that will fit the bill for every reader. The prose is beautiful but not too simplistic, the fantasy images are easily understood and so vivid and almost real. The descriptive narrative is so clear and concise that one’s mind easily slips into the circus at night as you experience the words on the page with such clarity and vividness that it’s startling.

The love story that takes place between two illusionists is at once real and tempered with just the right amount of verbage to keep you guessing and wondering to the end. It’s fairy-tale atmosphere that makes this romance a slow-burning ride to the conclusion.

The Night Circus was utterly flawless and Ms. Morgenstern is well on her way to becoming a well-known, respected, and talented author. For a debut novel, it surpassed the mark by millions!!
Back of Beyond: A Novel
by C.J. Box
Back of Beyond (9/14/2011)
I found ‘Back of Beyond’ to be a little too slow in the beginning but really picked up once we hit Yellowstone Park. Overall, it was a fairly good book but I wouldn’t read it again.
The Girl She Used to Be
by David Cristofano
Wonderfully Interesting! (9/8/2011)
Although 253 pages, I read this in one sitting, I couldn’t take my eyes off the pages.
The writing was flawless in the novel and the story just flowed like a river. I absolutely fell in love with both Jonathan and Melody and really wanted them to become a couple, to be engaged and then to marry. How crazy is that?

The concept of this story, that a “protected witness” would willingly go with a “killer” is almost beyond comprehension, but believe me, it works. And who knows, in Melody’s situation, with your feet in HER shoes all these years, you just might make the same choice. This was definitely one book well worth reading!

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