Category: Review

Breathing Room

Author: Marsha Hayles
256 Pages
Published: June 5, 2012

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

Evvy Hoffmeister is thirteen years old when her family brings her to Loon Lake Sanatorium to get cured of tuberculosis (TB). Evvy is frightened by her new surroundings; the rules to abide are harsh and the nurses equally rigid. But Evvy soon falls into step with the other girls in her ward. There’s Sarah, quiet but thoughtful; Pearl, who adores Hollywood glamour; and Dina, whose harshness conceals a deep strength. Together, the girls brave the difficult daily routines. Set in 1940 at a time of political unrest throughout the U.S. and Europe, this thought-provoking novel sheds light on a much-feared worldwide illness. Hundreds of thousands of people died each year of TB, and many ill children were sent away to sanatoriums to hopefully recover.

Kim’s Review:

This book was a simple narrative about a little girl who has active tuberculosis and goes to a sanatorium to rest and recuperate and to keep from spreading the disease. I liked the perspective of thirteen-year-old Evvy (pronounced like Chevy). She’s a sweet girl whose life is thrown upside down by her condition, she doesn’t even get to keep her stuffed bear with her in the sanatorium because of germs.

However, she moves from the scared little girl, ripped from her parents and twin brother to a mature teenager who is willing to sacrifice for her friends. And the heartbreaking journey of the patients of the sanatorium hit me right in the gut! I decided to ask Ivan about Evvy’s chart (yes there are pictures in this book! YAY!!) and his prognosis was not good. I did my senior college thesis on a local TB hospital back in Greenville, SC, so I knew a little about the stays of patients at these types of institutions.

Tuberculosis is a scary disease and my heart went out to these people. This is not an action-packed book, there isn’t any mystery or crazy drama. I would recommend this to history teachers, and they should absolutely have this book on their shelves, or to anyone looking for an easy, historical read.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Santa Claus is for Real


Santa Claus Is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing
Author: Charles Edward Hall
209 Pages
Published: October 14, 2014

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 Stars

Description from Amazon:

A heartwarming true-life fable from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Santa—including his personal journey of discovering the magic of Christmas. Every year, over a million people attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, where they have the pleasure of seeing Charles Edward Hall don a traditional red suit and become the world’s most famous Santa Claus—a role he has played for twenty-seven straight years. But Hall wasn’t always such a jolly old soul. Believe it or not, this Santa was once a Scrooge. For the first time, Charles tells the inspiring story of his own transformation, from a wide-eyed child who once caught a glimpse of Santa through a frosty windowpane, to a young man who lost his faith in jolly old Saint Nick. It wasn’t until fate intervened, in the form of an unexpected role, a stage malfunction, and hundreds of letters from children, that Charles rediscovered his Christmas spirit. Ultimately, he realized Radio City was his life’s work, and that Santa isn’t just a role. He lives in the hearts of the millions who attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and everyone who embraces the Christmas spirit. Santa Claus, in other words, is real. When Charles needed him most, Santa was there, with kind words and a special gift. As this delightful true-life fable proves, he is there for everyone. All it takes is a good heart, an honest joy, and a belief in the magic of Christmas.

Kim’s Review:

This has become one of my all-time favorite books. It has become tradition for me to listen to the audiobook every November. If you don’t believe in Santa Claus, then I guarantee you will by the end of this book. I still believe in Santa and Christmas is my very favorite time of year. Mr. Hall managed to capture all those amazing, warm, tender feelings that Christmas always seems to elicit.

My original Goodreads review was, “I have nothing to say! Everything wonderful, magical, unexplainable, awesome, compassionate, loving, everything about Santa is in this book! I laughed, I cried, I believed! A truly amazing book!!” This is the third year that I’ve listened to this book and that review has not changed at all. And to make it even more special, I decided to write a letter to Mr. Hall last year, thanking him for this book. I wrote the letter while sitting in my Grandmama’s hospital room. She had been put on comfort measures and it was only a matter of time. I had been taking the 10pm-2am slot at the hospital that was an hour away from my house, so I was struggling with exhaustion and grief, and I thought pouring my heart out in a letter would be comforting. And it was! As I was writing, I felt like Mr. Hall was actually listening to me. I thanked him for writing a book that touched me so deeply. I told him about coming from a background where Santa was not allowed because he took the place of Jesus. I told him that having faith in something not seen, is never a bad thing. I told him all about marrying someone who had never believed in Santa, but who I was slowly bringing around. (So far we’ve reached a compromise on Father Christmas.) I felt happy and relieved after I finished the letter and sent it out along with letters to Santa from my nephews. I wasn’t expecting an answer.

Unfortunately, very few authors and celebrities live up to the standards that we, their readers and fans, set for them. Mr. Hall exceeded my expectations. Less than a week went by, and I received a package in the mail. I opened it to find a physical copy of the book, with a beautiful note from Mr. Hall inside. I have no problem admitting that I broke down in tears. The man who played Santa in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, who knows Santa personally, who wrote the book that embodies the Spirit of Christmas in such a perfect way, took the time to not only answer my letter, but to send me a gift! I plan to add a letter to Mr. Hall to my annual tradition.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone. This is a perfect book for believers and nonbelievers, alike. Even Ivan, a proud nonbeliever, admitted that this book is awesome. If you haven’t managed to get into the Christmas Spirit, read this book. If you want an early start on Christmas, read this book. If you are struggling with faith, read this book. If you need someone to believe in you, read this book. “Santa isn’t an answer, he’s a friend.”

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: November 17- December 5, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Jessica’s Review:

I have thought about how to review this novel for several days after finishing.  I was admittedly nervous to read it due to the content and controversy of this novel, but felt I had to read it.  This may be a review that not everyone will agree with, but it is MY opinion.  I have debated on sharing it on social media as this review will go against the mainstream.

Yes, this is an important novel that will bring about many discussions, I just don’t agree with it. And yes, I see both sides of the issue.

A police officer shot an unarmed young man. BUT the young man didn’t do what he should have done.  Starr is our narrator and she even tells us about ‘the talk’ her parents had with her if she were to ever be pulled over by a police officer. She tells us these rules and she tells us what is going on when she and her long time childhood friend Khalil are pulled over.  Khalil does not follow these ‘rules’. Be respectful to the officer, Khalil mouths off and gives attitude.  When the officer steps away Khalil goes back towards the car and opens the door! No sudden movements!  You don’t do that! Yes, Khalil was checking on Starr to make sure she was ok, but the officer did not know that.  Police officers are trained for certain situations and have to make sudden choices that mean life or death.  I have taken classes with local police departments and part of that is FATS: Fire Arms Training Simulation. This is where a situation plays out in front of you on a screen and you have to face that sudden, unexpected choice of to shoot or not to shoot. That can be life changing for a police officer. Do they get killed or the person they are facing? Everyone should do this at least once. It gives you a different perspective of what police officers go through.

Back to the novel: Khalil is a black teenager and the officer happens to be white. So this becomes a racial issue.  Khalil also did not have a weapon.  Rumors begin to surface that Khalil was a drug dealer and gang member.  Starr finds out things about her friend that she did not know.  She and her family fear what could happen if it becomes known that she witnessed the shooting. I can’t help but wonder what the novel would have been like if the officer had been black.

Starr is also a black teenager and lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a suburban prep school that is mainly made up of white students. Some of her friends are stereotypical and you can’t believe some of these kids!   Starr’s parents made the decision for her to attend that school. They want a better life for her. In some ways Starr seems bipolar- she is one person at home in the neighborhood and someone else while at school.  Who is the real Starr? I don’t think she even knows.

She is also dating a white boy from her school and has for a year.  Do her parents know this? No, and her dad would not be happy about this.  At one point she says she can’t be with Chris as he is white. He also wouldn’t understand what she is going through because he is white. Really? Give the boy a chance!

As people are upset about Khalil’s death, they protest. They even protest at Starr’s school.  Those students did not even know him- they were basically protesting to get out of class.  There is also a difference between protesting and full out rioting.  This occurs in the novel as well. I don’t understand this. Damaging people’s property, leaving clean up and more lives affected once protests are over.

Yes, there are good police officers and bad officers.  I listened to the shooting a second time after I finished the novel.  Khalil was shot three times in the back.  Three times seems extreme.

Yes, I do see both sides of this controversial issue. This will be an issue for a while.  That was the purpose of this novel: To bring out conversation and make you think.  It made me think and still does.  The novel is not really for me.  There is foul language used, including the ‘N’ word and there are some sexual references.  I would say parents read first before you let your kids read this novel. I would not let a young child read it but this would be for older teenagers. Teenagers are old enough to understand the issue and have that conversation.

Though not really a book for me, I do recommend it for the conversations it will bring.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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