Reviews by Louise J

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The House at the End of Hope Street
by Menna van Praag
Absolute Magic! (6/9/2013)
A magical book, an enchanted house, a cast of characters who previously lived there but remain on the walls in photographs to be talked to whenever the desire strikes you. Florence Nightingale, Agatha Christie and Sylvia Plath to name a few. This whimsical house lives and breathes, the walls moving in and out like a heartbeat, the lampshades bowing to get a closer look at you. The mysterious and magical 82-year-old Peggy who runs 11 Hope Street is a kind and wise woman.

Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will love this novel. I put it in the same category as Allen’s novel and the book Night Circus. A beautifully written, happy, magical story that is a very rare treat! A book you won’t want to see end. Alba, Carmen, Greer, Stella and Peggy are characters I won’t soon forget. They are all there for different reasons and the house knows exactly what each woman needs.

I lived at 11 Hope Street from the time I read the first chapter. I couldn’t have forced myself to leave even if I had wanted to. I loved the happiness, the love, the caring and the warmth the house enveloped me in. The house knows what you need. You may think you need one thing but the house won’t give it to you unless you really do need it. It’s the house that decides and does and provides you with what you truly and sincerely need in your life.

I will be keeping this as part of my permanent collection and am going to read it again before I put it away on my shelf for a while, that’s how much I enjoyed this book and I know you will too. I highly, highly recommend this book for everyone. If I could rate it at a one thousand, I would! For a debut novel, this is an unbelievable story, a story you’ll absolutely fall in love with.
Lovely, Dark and Deep
by Amy McNamara
Lots of Emotion (5/5/2013)
Mamie – but Dad calls her Wren. Her parents never agreed on anything when they married, so she answers to both names.

There is a lot of emotion packed into Lovely, Dark and Deep. While reading along you can empathize and feel Wren’s many emotions with her. This is a story that is real because this exact situation could happen to anyone and probably has over and over. It depends on our inner strength as to whether we’re able to pull ourselves up and out of the muck and mire and mere depression, survivor’s guilt, and that feeling of a lack of inertia. The book also shows that when someone is grieving, it not only affects the griever themselves, but many other people involved in that person’s life.

For a debut novel, Lovely, Dark and Deep packs a punch and I’m looking forward to more of Amy McNamara’s work.
Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline
Truly an Amazing Story! (4/23/2013)
The Orphan Train was a phenomenal story that affected me deeply. My heart went out to all the children on the orphan train. I will most definitely be recommending this wonderful masterpiece to all who’ll listen. Orphan Train gets a huge thumbs up from me! Thank you Ms. Kline for a most interesting and intriguing story.
The Distance Between Us: A Memoir
by Reyna Grande
A Mesmerizing Memoir!! (3/29/2013)
This story captured my heart from the beginning to the end. It was so eloquently written with such a descriptive narrative that I could literally feel and smell and see the sights around me. From the dust on the ground to the feel of the dirt and mud clinging to my feet to the taste of the medicine Abuela Evila used to rid the children of worms.

This memoir is one I won’t soon forget and is now part of my permanent collection. I loved ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls but The Distance Between Us has that beat by a long shot. If you want an unbelievable read, don’t miss this one, it definitely gets a thumbs up from me.
The Still Point of the Turning World
by Emily Rapp
Beautiful Memoir! (3/26/2013)
Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease at the age of nine-months. Tay-Sachs is a rare and always fatal degenerative disorder, and precious little Ronan wasn’t expected to live beyond the age of three, and would be permanently stalled, developmentally at the age of six months.

The Still Point of the Turning World is a beautiful story that is a true testament to Rick and Emily’s son. It stirred up so many emotions in me and I longed to befriend the couple. Not to be nosey or seek information, but just to be an extra ‘someone’ for them to count on who didn’t judge, prod, or ask questions. Just to “be” in silence or conversation, whatever they needed at any given time. I will admit that I had a few sniffling moments while reading this gorgeously, bravely, written memoir. This definitely gets a huge thumbs-up from me!
The Plum Tree
by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Horrifying & Appalling but a Great Read! (3/18/2013)
The Plum Tree was 367 pages of unbelievable writing that was so well-done. I read the book over two days just so I could make it last a little longer. Although sad and heartbreaking, the writing was so spot on that I didn’t want it to end. I’ll definitely be recommending The Plum Tree to everyone and keeping it as part of my permanent collection.
Me Before You: A Novel
by Jojo Moyes
Couldn't Put It Down! (3/14/2013)
I didn’t expect the ending of this book at all, it was quite a shock to me to be quite honest and I cried for about ten minutes. The author has done a fantastic job at penning this novel and you won’t be able to put it down once you’ve started and I was sorry to see it end. I’ll definitely be recommending it to family and friends.
The Promise of Stardust: A Novel
by Priscille Sibley
Exceptional Read! (3/11/2013)
When I first decided to read this novel I was worried that the story would get bogged down in lengthy, drawn-out, and boring court trials and details. However, just the opposite was true. Ms. Sibley tells the story through flashbacks of their past and it works very well. I couldn’t put the book down until I was done. The Promise of Stardust would be a perfect selection for a book clubs, so much controversy and so many different aspects and viewpoints would make for hours and hours of great discussion. This is the kind of book you won’t soon forget. Very well-done!
Wave
by Sonali Deraniyagala
Not What I Expected! (3/7/2013)
I’m finding it a bit difficult to write this review as on the one hand the story itself was a huge letdown and not at all what I expected for all the hype I’d heard. On the other hand, it was an amazing novel of the telling of immense grief Sonali went through in coping to learn to live without her entire family.

I expected the story to be more of a telling of not only her own family and the tragedy she faced in losing everyone but also I expected some other stories of other people she met along with way and what their stories entailed in this unbelievably sad day in the life of so, so many people. I found the book to be quite repetitive in a lot of places and kept waiting for something “new” which never really materialized.

It is said that some 226,000 people lost their lives that day and that is a staggering number for sure. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose my husband, my children, my parents, and my friends all within the blink of an eye and how finding your way back from that would feel like. Survivor’s guilt for sure enters into this tragedy and one wonders how anyone could have survived what Sonali did that particular day.

However, I just felt the story was lacking ‘something’, I expected more substance and although I understand it is a “memoir”, I still expected to hear more details, figures, numbers, and stories of other people she encountered on her journey to redemption and acceptance. I just felt the book didn’t live up to the hype and I’ve not totally convinced myself that I would bother recommending this to other people, at least not without a warning that it wasn’t what I had expected from this much talked about memoir.
Temple of a Thousand Faces
by John Shors
The Magnum Opus! (2/18/2013)
John Shors newest novel is an absolute work of genius! The novel, a historical fiction, set in the 1100’s is one of his best works yet. I’ve read all of John’s previous books and each was truly a stunning success on its own, however, Temple of a Thousand Faces really shines through as the magnum opus.

The novel is about the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia where, John himself traveled to research this book, and is set in the year 1177. The Khmer people and the Cham people go to war to seek ownership of this grand, majestic, and massive temple. I especially loved the “echo chamber”.

The Khmer people were led by, Prince Jayavar with his beautiful wife, Ajadevi by his side. They are a people of unbiding and unconditional love and caring and want their citizens to live in peace and prosperity. Indravarman is head of the Cham people and is an evil, wicked, self-serving man who rules with an iron fist and has an altogether different agenda. The Cham’s soliders are all dedicated to Indravarman and his evil ways except one named, Asal who falls in love with a Khmer woman named, Voisanne. Will this love be enough to make him turn tide?

I loved a wonderful family we meet along the way whose patriarch is nothing but a simple fisherman. His lovely wife, Soriya and their two boys, Prak, who is almost blind, and Vibol are Khmers. The family is so dedicated to their Prince and the people that they too are brave enough to take up arms and aid in the war. Their part in the story will make you feel good and your heart will most certainly go out to them.

Temple of a Thousand Faces is filled with a rich history, beautiful imagery, full of suspense, drama, intrigue, love, hatred, a brutal war, and finally a stunning conclusion.

One of my favourite all-time books has been Pillars of the Earth written by Ken Follett but John Shors has just bumped Pillars to second place on my list. John is truly a master storyteller.

I’ve just ordered five more copies to give to friends as an act of kindness and to ensure that they don’t leave this earth without reading THE BEST novel they’ll ever read in their lives. Thank you, John, for providing me with the best 507 pages I’ve ever read!
Calling Me Home
by Julie Kibler
Calling Me Home (2/1/2013)
I really enjoyed the way this story was told in alternating voices between Dorrie and Isabelle. Isabelle’s chapters are told in the first person with memories of her childhood whereas Dorrie’s chapters deal with present day occurrences.

Calling Me Home is a novel of friendship, bonding, trust, sharing confidences, part love story, learning to let go, hope for the future and an end to the past. Julie Kibler’s debut novel, in my opinion, will become a big hit and I expect to see it on the bestseller lists within a relatively short time. Thank you, Julie for writing a story that evoked so many emotions in me and one I won’t soon forget. I’ll always carry a piece of Miss Isabelle and Dorrie with me for a long time to come.
Calling Me Home is also the perfect title for this novel and once you’ve read it, you’ll understand why. Well-done!!
Heat Wave: A Novel
by Nancy Thayer
Beautiful Novel!! (1/16/2013)
I absolutely loved this story!

Nancy Thayer has written a real story about real women. She has an uncanny knack for taking real life situations and putting them in story mode. This novel is completely believable and I actually know someone who several of these issues happened too. I love her books and always highly recommend them. Well done, once again, Nancy!!
Y: A Novel
by Marjorie Celona
Loved It! (1/7/2013)
Y is a compelling look at one young girl’s fight to find the birthmother who abandoned her on the front step of the YMCA on the day she was born, wrapped in a dirty grey sweatshirt with a Swiss Army knife tucked in as something to remember her by.

Although we discover some of the answers we wanted to know by the end of the book, I would have liked a couple more chapters to explain a few others things, but I suppose those are left up to our imaginations. I read this book in two afternoons as I just couldn’t put it down. Well done!
The Art Forger
by B A. Shapiro
Phenomenal Reading! (1/3/2013)
The Art Forger is not only entertaining but teaches us about the world of art and for someone like me who knew nothing of the subject when I picked up the book, has really opened my eyes and provided me with a lot of fascinating information that I had no previous knowledge of.

This entire story is phenomenal and ingeniously plotted. I thought I had it figured out but I was dead wrong! I thought Ms. Shapiro presented a well-rounded tale of this famous art heist and would highly recommend The Art Forger to anyone. There is mystery, suspense, love, and betrayal all packed into one fast-paced, seamless read. Well-done!!
Paris: A Love Story
by Kati Marton
Paris: A Love Story (12/20/2012)
Paris: A Love Story is an unbelievably candid, open, honest memoir with no holds barred. The book had more of an “all about me” ring to it and “who I know that is famous”. I felt at times as though Marton had flipped through her datebook looking for things to write. Although I did enjoy the book very much, and it truly was a love story as far as Kati and Richard went, a more appropriate title might have been: Paris: A Story About Me & Who I Know.
The Binding Chair: or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society
by Kathryn Harrison
Big Disappointment (11/18/2012)
After having read Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, I was familiar with the age old torture of foot binding performed on young girls in early China. A year long process that I couldn’t imagine having had to endure. Poor May had to endure foot binding in this story as done by her grandmother as her own mother just didn’t have the heart to do it herself. Gramma however, was relentless and forced May to make the long walk from the binding chair to her mother’s room where she laid on the bed wrapped in her mother’s arms sobbing. May’s mother cried as hard as she did.

Overall, the story itself wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be which annoyed me as I’d waited eight months for this book to come out of “temporarily out of stock!” I found the characters boring and flat, there was no warmth or “real” personality to the characters. Developing the personalities a lot more would have taken this story much further. I found myself becoming more and more bored and less enamored with the story as I read deeper into the book.

The narrative went back and forth in time and place as it stuttered to what I’d call a ‘dying end.’ NOT a book I would recommend to family and friends.
The End of Your Life Book Club
by Will Schwalbe
The End of Your Life Book Club - You'll Love It!! (11/12/2012)
Will Schwalbe has done a remarkable job with this novel, touching on the real feelings and issues surrounding the process of a close family member dying. They way in which this mother and son chose to deal with the heartbreak was truly amazing and worked well. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will be recommending it to all my family and friends.
Man in the Blue Moon
by Michael Morris
Man in the Blue Moon (11/5/2012)
Vivid descriptions, southern realism, and great story telling had me drawn in from the first page. Michael Morris knows how to weave a tale that will keep you turning page after page after page.

"Man in the Blue Moon" was a treasure to read. The complexity and depth is amazing. I’ll definitely be referring my friends to this masterpiece. Well done, Mr. Morris!
Never Fall Down: A Novel
by Patricia McCormick
Unbelievable True Story! (10/28/2012)
The atrocities that these people faced was horrible and hard to believe that people, human beings, could be so very cruel. Never Fall Down is a difficult book to read but a necessary book to read. I think everyone needs to read this true story to understand the magnitude of destruction of human life the Khmer Rouge forced upon the people of Cambodia. Patricia McCormick has told Arn Chorn-Pond’s story well and my hat goes off to Arn for having the stamina, courage and fortitude to change from being a killing machine to a man of peace. An excellent piece of work!
The Barbarian Nurseries: A Novel
by Héctor Tobar
It Was Okay (10/25/2012)
The Barbarian Nurseries was a fairly good read although I found it to be quite mundane and too drawn out in parts.

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