Review: “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford

I had heard good things about Jamie Ford’s novel, his first I believe, so I was excited to check it out from my library. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet tells the story of Henry Lee, a Chinese American living in Seattle, both in the present (1986) and in the past (1940’s). A downtown hotel is being remodeled and during renovations some belongings of Japanese Americans, deported to interment camps, are found. This opens up memories for Henry, a recent widow, of his teenage years in Seattle and his first love, a Japanese American girl named Keiko.

Parallel in this story is the depiction of Henry’s past relationship with his own father and his current relationship with his adult son. However, I found Henry’s relationship with Keiko to be the heart of this book. Their young love is heart-breakingly portrayed. His pain at Keiko’s forced relocation to a camp and his determination to help her is touchingly rendered. Henry’s experience as a Chinese American scholarship student at an all white school, along with the prejudice and bullying he endures, is vividly portrayed as well.

I found I enjoyed reading about Henry’s life as a teen more than I enjoyed the current day story of Henry and his son, sifting through the things found at the hotel for a link to Keiko. In my opinion, the novel ended quickly and very “neatly”, but what can I say? I love a happy ending!

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading of this time period and of the Chinese American and Japanese American experiences.

I would give this book 4 Stars!

Quick Review: Just Take my Heart by Mary Higgins Clark

To my delight, I was able to quickly obtain Mary Higgins Clark’s latest thriller from our library (my secret: request it in large print; it comes in faster). This was a typical Higgins Clark ride: a quick read with a sympathetic heroine who is hard-working and intelligent, but seemingly in peril. Without giving too much away, I’ll say this book involves a past murder, a current murder, a serial killer stalker, and a prosecutor who has had a heart transplant. It was a fun and fast read – perfect for the summer!
I’d give it 3 1/2 stars!

Quick Review: Cape Cod by William Martin

Since I enjoyed “Harvard Yard” so much by Martin, I read his “Cape Cod” this month (my husband had bought it). Martin’s books are long — this one was over 600 pages — but they don’t disappoint. As in “Harvard Yard”, “Cape Cod” follows an item (in this case a diary from the Mayflower) down through the centuries and follows two families whose histories are linked. There is mystery and history intertwined, along with a few thrills and some human interest stories. I loved it!
I’ll have to give it 4 1/2 stars!

What’s on my Nightstand….

“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford (poignant memoir of the relocation of Japanese Americans from Seattle during WWII)
“Cape Cod” by William Martin (author of the previously reviewed “Harvard Yard”)
“The Lady Elizabeth” by Alison Weir (about QEI for my hf bookclub)
“Tea Time for the Traditionally Built” by Alexander McCall Smith (LOVE this series!)

Happy Reading!

REVIEW: 8th Confession by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Being a Patterson fan, I just couldn’t wait to get his newest Women’s Murder Club book from the library (there were over 250 holds on it!) so I scored it for 50% off at BJ’s. I’ve read all the other Women’s Murder Club books in this series and this one did not disappoint. One can read this book on its own, but if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll enjoy tracing old themes and reading new ones.

The main plot in this story is the murders of some high profile San Francisco millionaires and their bizarre method of death: by snakebite. Tie in a subplot of the murder of a homeless man, some similar cold cases from 1982, and issues with everyone’s love lives (except Claire’s), and you’ve got this one in a nutshell!

I enjoy these quick reads – the perfect beach book for me!
This one has the added bonus of an excerpt from Patterson’s forthcoming book for Dec. ’09: “Witch and Wizard”.
I’ll give it 3 1/2 stars – it was a fun read!

Review: Murder Most Maine by Karen MacInerney

On a recent trip to the library, I picked up Murder Most Maine since it looked entertaining, not gory, and not too long (under 300 pages). It turns out that this book is the third in the Gray Whale Inn series, mysteries that involve Natalie Barnes, the innkeeper of the historic Gray Whale Inn on Cranberry Island, Maine. In this installment, Natalie is hosting an upscale weight loss retreat at her inn, when Dirk, the handsome trainer, is found poisoned and Natalie’s boyfriend is named a suspect, throwing the inn (and Natalie) into a tizzy. A secondary storyline runs throughout the book as well, as a 150-year-old skeleton is found in the local lighthouse and Natalie decides to do some additional sleuthing.

I’ve discovered that these books are part of the literary genre known as “cozy mysteries”. I personally had never heard that term before. A cozy mystery (according, in part, to is a mystery that usually features a heroine, in a small town or village, who is a typical citizen, yet she has the propensity to “find” mysteries and enjoys enjoys being an amateur sleuth. Cozy mysteries may contain murders, but they aren’t graphic, overly violent, or otherwise extremely disturbing (my prior review of the Agatha Raisin books would fit these qualities).

I really enjoyed reading this novel. It reminded me of the Faith Fairchild mysteries which I also enjoy and which also feature recipes at the end. I definitely look forward to getting books 1 and 2 of this series!

I give it 4 Stars!

Review: A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi (YA)

I recently came across a copy of A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi at our library booksale. I really enjoy Rinaldi’s historical fiction for young adults and have read many of her YA novels. A Break with Charity tells the story of Susannah English – a teenage girl living in Salem at the outbreak of the witch trials. While at first Susannah longs to be part of the group of girls who are secretly meeting together at the parsonage, she soon comes to fear them, and her efforts to stop them result in her own family being accused of witchcraft.

I enjoyed reading this novel, especially since I recently re-read Miller’s The Crucible. Rinaldi does a great job of blending historical fact and fiction. Readers should remember, though, that there is fiction in historical fiction, and realize that Susannah’s story is not true. Many of the surrounding facts and characters are based in fact, though, and this book serves, in my opinion, as an excellent introduction to the Salem Witch Trials, particularly for young readers. I’d recommend it to those who like historical fiction, especially those who are in middle school and up.

I’d rank it 4 Stars.