Reviews by Jeannine
R. J. Palacio
A Borzon Book published by Alford E. Knopf
ISBN 978-0-375-86902-0 (trade )
ISBN 978-0-375-89988-1 (ebook)
ISBN 978-375-96902-7 (lib.bdg.)
Wonder is simply a wonderful book! It’s listed as Child Literature Middle Grade but I read it for an adult reading group at my library. I recommend all adults as well as children to read this book. It’s about a boy who is entering fifth grade after being home schooled until now. The boy, August, is intelligent, witty, a rather average child except his face is badly deformed. He is used to people quickly looking away from him should they glance at him and he is sure he’ll get the same treatment at school where he knows no one. His older sister is already in high school, so once at school he’ll be entirely alone, fending for himself. Will “Auggie” be up to the challenge and will the children ever accept him as a regular boy? I couldn’t put the book down and I’m sure other readers will be as drawn into the story as I. I rate from one to five and this received my highest rating of five. Perhaps I ought to add a six especially for Wonder.
Jeannine D. Van Eperen
Diane Daniels Manning
Benny is the product of a broken home. His father has custody and has a new wife. To say the least, Benny’s mother isn’t much of a mother, and his stepmother, Sonya, and he are still getting to know one another. Benny goes to a nearby school for “special” children. There are few other houses on Benny’s street, and he meets seventy years old Bess Rutledge one evening when he is exploring the area. He was drawn toward a small building after hearing a strange noise. He finds puppies are being born and Bess, who has run a kennel for many years, is comforting and helping the new mother with the infant Standard Poodle arrivals. Ben is interested and begins talking to the woman. He tells her he’d like a dog but certainly not a poodle with their silly hairdos. This is the beginning of friendship of the pair. The boy often visits and when someone steals McCreedy, the father of the puppies, Benny works tirelessly making posters of the theft to help get the dog back.
This is a charming tale of boy and dog and boy and an old woman and how each in some way helps the other and become friends. There are several places that may bring a tear to your eye as you learn more about the backgrounds of the characters, including the Standard Puddles. As one reads, the reader cheers for the troubled youth and equally troubled seventy-year old woman who believes she had ruined her last chance to show one of her dogs at Westminster, a longtime dream of hers. A dream she believes should be ended. Benny has other ideas, but how can a youth with problems of his own, help a headstrong old woman? It is worth reading Almost Perfect to find out. It’s a winner.
Jeannine D. Van Eperen
A Story about John Kennedy and Richard Nixon
David R. Stokes
We’ve all heard people say, “I wish I could have been a fly on the wall so I could have heard what was said.” Well, Capital Unlimited makes one feel like they are that little unnoticed fly taking in the words and actions of two important Americans, each one a future president. The story hooked me at once. I could see each man so clearly stuck together in a train sleeping compartment for the night in March of 1947, and making the best of things.
They had just debated in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. As junior members of the House of Representatives they were earning their wings or spurs by debating when and where their respective parties needed them. The young men had a lot in common. Both had served in the Navy during World War 11, they were passionate about seeing their country continue to be a world power, but they had different ideas on how it should be done, and on what path to take as there were several choices. Both worried about communism and socialism.
The men talked of their differences as well as things on which they could agree. John Kennedy had always lived in wealth and was groomed by his ambitious father to be a success in the world or politics. Richard Nixon came from the middle class. His father had been a farmer in Southern California . His parents were Quakers, who though not approving of war were proud of their son for his role in the navy during the recent last war. Kennedy, a democrat, thought the Democrats had the right plan for America’s future, while Nixon was convinced the Republicans were the ones to lead the country. During their train ride in the cramped sleeping compartment, they did not sleep, but discussed their lives, surprisingly finding they actually had a lot in common. Both wondered what their future would be and if they might have a place in guiding the country they both loved.
Jeannine D. Van Eperen
CITY OF SCOUNDRELS
Broadway Books/Crown Publishing Group
Author Gary Krist has taken twelve days, beginning July 1919 and made them come alive. If you are a Chicagoan or have some Chicago roots I’m sure you will find this book fascinating. I know I did. Though my family had often talked of their early time in Chicago before my elder siblings or I was born, I had never heard them mention a blimp disaster. Naturally, this caught my attention. It happens that other noteworthy things were also going on during the time of Chicago’s mayor, William Hale Thompson. I do remember his name being mentioned when people got together and talked about the old days in the Windy City. And “Big Bill” Thompson was sometimes mentioned. As a small child, I don’t remember if what was said was complimentary or not, just that he seemed colorful, and from reading Mr. Krist’s words I believe “Big Bill” liked being in the spotlight and worked continuously to stay there. During the twelve days in 1919 not only was there the Blimp Disaster, a small child was missing from her family’s home and found murdered, there was a beginning of race riots, public transportation was brought to a standstill while the unions and mayor differed, and there was soon to be elections of mayor, and governor. This must have been a horrible time for Chicago. It also concerned the beginning of prohibition and how to enforce it. Chicago now is a beautiful city, and we have in part “Big Bill” Thompson to thank for some of that. This is a well-written and greatly researched book. Gary Krist brought an earlier Chicago to life, and the surprising thing is, he is not a Chicagoan.
Jeannine D. Van Eperen
Orphaned on the Ocean
Richard Logan, PhD &
Tere Duperrault Fassbender
Title Town Publishing, LLC
Green Bay, Wisconsin 2010
Dr. Arthur and Jean Duperrault from Green Bay, Wisconsin planned and looked forward to a family vacation on a private boat in the warm waters of the Caribbean. A dentist, Arthur served in the Navy in World War II and after his service he settled in Green Bay. He and Jean were parents of three children Brian, Terry Jo and Rene. They lived a good life and had many friends in Green Bay.
The family arranged a week cruise to the Bahamas. He rented a boat, the Bluebelle. That would be captained by a handsome, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, a veteran bomber and fighter pilot, Julian Harvey, a capable seaman. Harvey’s new wife also came along. The group sailed off from Fort Lauderdale and headed for the Bahamas for a week of relaxation and to decide if they would eventually buy their own boat for the coming years ahead.
The boat never returned to Fort Lauderdale.
I’m sure I’ve said enough to get your interest up and don’t want to ruin the story for you as it is a great story and remember this is not fiction. It is a true story, one of survival and of crime as remembered by the only person who lived to talk about it, and who was a child at the time.
Jeannine D.Van Eperen
A CHRISTMAS HOPE
ISBN: 978-0-345-53075-2 Ebook ISBN 978-0-345-54554-1
New York, NY
I was asked to read this for a book group I belong to and didn’t expect to like the book, feeling that most Christmas books were a piece of fluff. I soon found I was mistaken and A Christmas Hope by Ann Perry is a book of substance. I truly enjoyed reading it. In fact I found it hard to put down.
Set in England in 1868 it clearly showed the class distinction of that time in England and that women had very little rights and were subject to the control of their husbands, and had very little choice in whom she would marry. I’m sure those mores were in other civilized countries as well as in England. It made me so glad to be born in the twentieth century even with its wars and faults. This is good reading for all year long, not just the Christmas Season. It features engaging characters as well as a mystery to be solved.
Jeannine D. Van Eperen
Claire Nicolas White
August 20, 2013
This is a story of an old woman, Francine De Groot, and her various lifetime escapades, loves, marriages, and travels during her ninety some years. In the story, a friend now writes books based on Francine’s adventures, and uses her likeness (or what he believes was her likeness) as a young girl. In his novels he calls his heroine Ernestine. I admit writing of her life for a child, would be a challenge. The likeness used for the fictional books is of a young girl and replicas of Ernestine sell and are as popular as Barbie Dolls. Much of this story of Francine is set in flash-backs of Francine’s life during WWII in Belgium and the Netherlands. She traveled around quite a bit and there are times when the story takes us to Italy, England and France. There is a bit of a mystery in the story though it is easy to identify before one is told.
In a way this is a charming tale, but I was never able to feel close to any of the many characters. At times the book was confusing jumping from one character, place and subject to another. In other words, the author never drew me into the story and made me care for the characters.
Jeannine D.Van Eperen
Eternity 4Popsicle Publishing, Vancouver, BC
ISBN 978-0-9733561-5-1 (Print)
ISBN 978-0-9733561-3-7 (ebook)
ISBN 978-0-9733561-4-4 (Audio)
A remarkable swashbuckler reminiscent of Rafael Sabatini’s “Captain Blood” and Kenneth Robert’s “Lively lady”. The stories are completely different, but the general feel of the ocean, perhaps, is there for the reader to enjoy. Our hero, Walter Crofter, sets out to write his biography before he dies. He is suffering from malaria and fears that if this is the end, he must put his life record down with quill and parchment so everything about him and family is known. He decides even his despicable brother Gerald’s dastardly actions must be admitted. He believes the bad things must be admitted for they are part of his life as well as his own good deeds and also his good luck.
Walter has led a vivid and almost unbelievable life of adventure since he took to the sea when he was but twelve years of age. He sailed to many exotic places as well as from England to Spain and back, with eyes on the lookout for pirates who were always ready to fight the British Merchant Seamen and who tried to take not only the goods they carried but their ships as well. Fortunately, Walter was most often on the winning side. Not only was Walter a seaman he also dabbled in merchandising sugar and tobacco with a man he took a chance on and became his partner.
Not only do we meet and learn about Walter’s life on the sea, we are introduced to other intriguing characters who are intrinsic to Walter’s life and values including beautiful Maria the very young girl he rescues then waits for, hoping one day to be found worthy of her by her parents.
I haven’t read a seafaring novel for some time, and I’m glad the one I chose to read was this one. It was well worth the wait. Plenty of action as well as true romance. I believe both male and female readers will enjoy I, Walter . I understand this is the first in a series. Hopefully, they will carry on with exciting stories of Walter’s children and/or friends.
Jeannine D. Van Eperen
A Sheltered Life
Take It To The Streets
West Bow Press
(A Division of Thomas Nelson)
ISBN: 978-1-4497-9020-2 (sc)
ISBN: 978-1-4497+9021-9 (hc)
April 8, 2013
What would drive a man from a middleclass English family to devote his life to the homeless in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico? And how in the world did he ever discover his life-work so early in his life and never veer from his path? These are questions I asked myself as I began to read A Sheltered Life.
What would drive a man from a middleclass English family to devote his life to the homeless in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico? And how in the world did he ever discover his life-work so early in his life and never veer from his path? These are questions I asked myself as I began to read A Sheltered Life. I chose to read this story because I had lived in Albuquerque on and off during a great part of my life and remembered when Joy Junction was founded and was curious. The book more than met my expectations. It certainly fed my curiosity and I found it to be very spiritually uplifting.
This book is not only an amazing autobiography of Jeremy Reynalds’ life, he also gives us a biographical insight into many other people who work at Joy Junction or have been helped in some way by this haven for the homeless and down and out who find themselves in Albuquerque. Joy Junction offers more than food and a place to sleep, it offers hope.
This is truly a remarkable story, well worth reading, and would be a great discussion book for book clubs.
Jeannine D. Van Eperen
Who Did It?
Suzanne M. Hurley
Everyone believed that Jason Armstrong shot his father, Jake. He was tried but the jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him, though each juror believed him to be guilty. Jason was now free but the only person who found him innocent was his mother, even his sister thought he did it.
It wasn’t easy to like Jason. He had a caustic personality and a quick temper. At least that is what Samantha Barclay decided when she met him. Samantha who had taught psychology before she was recruited to the FBI was sent out on her first assignment to find who did kill Jake Armstrong and among the suspects Jason still remained high on the list.
Jake Armstrong had been a member of the FBI before he changed careers years ago. Could his death be related to this fact? For years now he had been the principal of a high school in Erie, Pennsylvania. Few people knew he had once been an FBI Agent, and certainly not anyone in Erie where he had lived for many years was aware of that fact. It was a part of his life that his wife and children knew nothing about. But still it could be the reason for his death.
The high school staff was told Samantha was a psychologist sent there to help those who had a difficult time adjusting to the violent death of the principal. Though it had been awhile since Jake died, the fact that those who believed his killer was free and now living in the area might bother those who thought the whole ugly incident was over and done with. Since Jason was now free, wounds that had healed were now opened again. The school staff didn’t want Samantha there, and or course they did not know she was an FBI member who was trying to find evidence on Jason or find the real killer if in her investigation she should find Jason innocent.
While at the school, she finds few who wish to speak to her about the principal’s death. The new principal lets her know he doesn’t want her there. Most believe that Jake’s son shot his father. They wanted the whole thing gone. Most would also like Jason gone from the city, too.
Despite this Samantha manages to become friends with a few and is especially interested in an eighteen-year-old senior who is having problems. Though the young man, Wyatt, is reluctant to have her help, she finds ways to help him. His home life seems to be falling apart as his mother has started drinking and his father had left mother and son several months ago.
Who Did It is a complex story that lets the reader follow the mind and the work of a competent woman who is able to look beyond the exteriors of places and people, and who draws the reader into a intricate situation satisfactorily, not giving away too much of the mystery, yet keeping the reader involved in trying to find out if Jason truly killed his father.
I must say WHO DID IT? is simply my favorite type of a “who dun it.” Suzanne M. Hurley truly draws her readers into the story smoothly, keeps her reader wondering and gathering clues along with the interesting heroine, Samatha. I loved the fact that the author kept the story from becoming gory, her vocabulary is clean, and the heroine moral. We need more books like that. I look forward to Suzanne M. Hurley’s next book.
Jeannine D. Van Eperen
The Last Sewer Ball
The Elevated Press
**1/2 Sewer Balls
Vinny Schmidt is back in New York City where he grew up, having left California where he had been residing . His marriage is over, also his job, and he suspects he has lost the love of his teen-age son. The reunion of his eighth grade class brings him to his old neighborhood. The one person he’d like to see again is not there. There are many rumors about his childhood best friend, Whitey, but which is true? And had he in some way let down his friend. Finding Whitey, if he is still alive, becomes an obsession, and he works harder on that than on the starting-over- job he has found.
The book chapters go back and forth between Then and Now. The story has a good plot, but truthfully, I would have put it down after several chapters because of an over-kill of sewer language. Since I was reviewing it, I felt obligated to finish the book. I know there are people who talk that way, but the constant barrage of foul language was too much for me to enjoy the book or take a liking to the characters. I must say Steven Schindler gave a good description of a Catholic High School for Boys. It reminded me of a Catholic Girls School I attended. By page 200 or so I started to get more into the story. I think by then Mr. Schindler was getting a little tired of all the profanity himself and seemed to be writing from the heart.
Jeannine Van Eperen
Cora Carlisle is thirty-six, married, and the mother of teenage twin sons in 1922 when she decides to act as chaperone for fifteen year old Louise Brooks who will attend a school of the dance in New York City for six weeks. Cora has little knowledge of Louise but knows of the Brooks family who live in Wichita, Kansas as do Cora and Alan, her lawyer husband. As a child Cora had been sent out on a train that took orphan and unwanted children from orphan homes in New York to be taken in by anyone willing to take a child for whatever the adults’ reasons. Some wanted cheap labor and others wanted to help a homeless child. Cora for years had been driven to seek out knowledge of her parents and this was her chance. No one knew this part of her life but Alan.
Louise Brooks is a beautiful willful talented teenager, unloved by her parents, who hopes this school run by Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis will be her chance to leave her Wichita home for greener pastures. Cora has a five hour span during the day while Louise is engaged in dance to search for information. Cora finds much more than that. The trip changes her life completely though she returns to Wichita, living a lie, while Louise has gotten her chance for freedom dancing with St. Denis’s troupe.
Laura Moriarty has given us a story of true-life Louise Brooks, silent film star but interwoven into her story is one of a seemingly average comfortable family in the mid-section of America. We learn in this superb story that what one sees is not always the truth. Also, that the good old days of yore are not always what they are purported to be.
When I finished this book, I wanted to read more, and having finished it was like losing an old friend. The following morning I picked it up, but sadly put it down again. That is the mark of a good read.
Jeannine Van Eperen
FROM THE HEART, Seven Rules to Live By
ISBN: 13: 978-14013-0333-4
Robin Roberts eloquent words do seem to come from the heart. In this book she tells with pride of her father, a former Tuskegee Airman and her mother, a strong woman who after raising her children then forged a career, as well as her siblings. Ms Roberts’ success did not come overnight. She worked from the bottom up, and in her book she stresses to younger readers that success cannot be achieved overnight. One can’t start as head of a company. One must learn as she/he steps up the rungs of a ladder. Robin Roberts tells us, it’s okay to dream big, but focus small. Also, focus on the solution not the problem. Mostly, focus on family. If you are a parent, don’t try to be your child’s friend, but be a parent. Sometimes on one’s path, the person needs to venture off the chosen path to see if there is something beyond that appeals more than the original journey, and at times, change is good. Most important live life, don’t stand on the sidelines and watch it go by.
FROM THE HEART by Robin Roberts is a book one can read quickly, but don’t. It contains a wealth of good information that one ought to consider, so slow down and really think about what you are reading. FROM THE HEART, SEVEN RULES TO LIVE BY is for young adults to senior citizens. The book may confirm your beliefs or suggest to others that life is good, your path clear, you need only find it, and each has her/his own way. Make the most of what you have, don’t give up and forge ahead.
Jeannine Van Eperen
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday/Random House
This is the story of beautiful Serena Frome, set in England in 1972 when the Cold War reigned. Serena, daughter of an Anglican Bishop, is an intelligent Cambridge educated woman who appears to always take up with the wrong man. Through one of these liaisons she becomes employed by M15 and groomed for espionage . A voracious reader it seems reasonable that Serena should fall for the writer she is supposed to be checking on as to his politics and if he is a spy.
This is a bitter-sweet story of the 1970s when no one completely trusted another be it person or country. Or at least it was supposedly like that in some circles. Ian McEwan skillfully draws us into this era by use of a very attractive heroine. There are several men in her life, but I don’t believe any of them deserved her. In my opinion, the last fifty pages were the best.
Jeannine Van Eperen
LOVE, LIES AND A DOUBLE SHOT OF DECEPTION
Emma was a poor little rich girl who as an adult endured an abusive marriage. When she returns home one evening after delivering her sons to their boarding school and finds her husband dead, she is glad he is dead. But she feels guilty for feeling happiness at another’s death.
When Emma meets dashing Logan Crawford, she can’t believe that he is actually interested in her. He is a Trump-type character – a wealthy entrepreneur, extremely handsome and dynamic.
Logan is surprised to find himself so attracted to Emma. When Emma is accused of the death of her husband and other odious things, can the blossoming romance survive? Or will Logan, too, prove to be another cad?
Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception by Lois Winston is a fast-paced romantic suspense story of the very best kind. Lois Winston has written a heart-rending but also witty story of love against great odds. Ms. Winston is certain to become one of our notable romance-writers. Fortunately for me, I took this book with me on a long plane trip to South America, and it sure made being packed in like a sardine in an oily can more pleasant. I could escape into the world Ms. Winston created and not miss sleeping.
Jeannine Van Eperen
4 ½ Portraits
Claire, at twenty-six years, has been in pain since she was hit by a car when she was sixteen. She still remembers the man’s face as he looked down at her. He paid her hospital bills but hadn’t even tried to comfort her as she lie on the ground. She knew his name, that he was very old, and learned he had out-lived five wives. He shouldn’t have been driving as his sight was bad. Claire learned to live with her pain at the home with her parents. When she saw a “For Rent” sign on a house while driving by, she was immediately drawn to the place. It was huge, rather run down, but Claire knew she had to have it. She wanted to be self-sufficient. Though she walked with a limp, often used a cane, she wanted to be on her own. She rented the place. After she moved in she found a dumb-waiter that went to the attic and basement. She also found some hidden stairways. While in the attic she found a portrait. That too drew her. She wanted to know more about the picture. She hung it in the living room, asking the Realtor if he knew who she was and if it was all right for her to remove it from the attic. The Realtor told her that Mrs. Pruitt, the house’s owner was very old, in a nursing home and that the portrait was that of her daughter who died just after her marriage at age seventeen. Claire continued to search for other things of Faith’s and came across the girl’s diary and wedding photo. She learned Faith had not wanted to marry the man her parents chose for her. Claire started to dream of Faith and the accident that had taken the girl’s life just three days after her marriage. She decided to remove the portrait from her sight as it was starting to affect her thinking, but when she touched the canvas, something happened. She was no longer herself, she was somehow transported into another realm, into the 1930s, into a pain-free body, and into more problems that she ever dreamed possible.
Jude Liebermann has written a compelling novel with equally compelling characters. In this book both love and hate transcend time, and some things are not exactly what they seem to be. Ms. Liebermann’s detail to life in the depression era help to make the story believable. Claire, being in Faith’s body, and with her more modern thinking, causes some waves, and her parents just do not understand her anymore. Though the story has some tragic parts, it is not a dark story, there are moments of humor, too. There are definitely good guys and bad guys. Can someone from the present go back and change the future? To find out, read the book. I’m sure you’ll all be surprised by the ending. I was.
Jeannine Van Eperen
THE ART OF TEMPTATION
Lady Corinna Chase is an artist and she believes a good one. Her one failing as an artist she believes, is she being a woman, is not supposed to draw anything but landscapes and still life. She yearns to do portraits. She wants to study the human body, so she does the best she can, she goes to the British Museum to study and sketch the Elgin Marbles, mostly statues of Greek gods. Her sisters who accompany her are interested in seeing the Rosetta Stone. They amble off leaving Corinna to her sketching. It is then the meets artist John Hamilton and Sean Delaney, Hamilton’s brother-in-law. The two men dislike each other. Sean’s sister, Deidre wants a divorce from John so that she can marry the man she loves. Deidre and John haven’t lived together for years, as he is a womanizing, unfaithful and even cruel husband. At the museum the two men see Corinna sketching. John introduces himself as Sean Delaney and tells Corinna that Sean is the artist John Hamilton. Sean, of course denies this, but because John Hamilton is reclusive, few of the London ton have actually seen him, Corinna choses to believe the charade. John promises Sean Delaney that if he, Sean, pretends to be Hamilton and visit his dying uncle, he will grant Deidre a divorce. Sean is reluctant to do such a thing, but to guarantee his sister’s happiness, he pledges to do so. Sean had been told the uncle is an unfeeling tyrant. John had not seen his uncle since he was a very small child. When Sean meets the man, he finds that John Hamilton’s words were untrue. Sean finds that keeping his promise is harder than he imagined. Not only does he feel guilty lying to the dying man, he becomes fond of the gentleman. To add to his problems, he finds Lady Corinna to be often at the man’s home. Corinna finally accepts that Sean is not John and she mostly keeps his secret. He has always told her he was in truth Sean Delaney, but at first she didn’t believe him, thinking him to be the reclusive artist Hamilton. Sean is a wealthy self-made man from Ireland, and though he grows to have feelings for Corinna, he knows her family will never accept him. Both try to quell the feelings that arise. Corinna doesn’t care if the ton shuns her if she pledges her love for Sean, but Sean doesn’t wish to ruin Corinna’s reputation, no matter how much he loves her, he knows he cannot have her.
What a charming, can’t put down story! I was completely drawn in during the first pages and had to know where the plot led. It is a far more complicated story than I outlined above with many colorful and well-drawn characters. Sean Delaney is a worthy hero and Corinna is feisty, beautiful and talented. A wonderful duo! Lauren Royal, not only wrote a compelling love story of Sean and Corinna in The Art of Temptation , she added an equally compelling sub-plot featuring Griffin, Corinna’s brother, and Rachel, a woman he always thought of as a cousin. This is a must read book!
Jeannine Van Eperen