Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was the emotional read that I was looking for. I laughed, I cried, I smile every time I think about this book. A very moving story of two young children who don't fit into the world around them and forge a bond that connects them for life. When I think of love, this book portrayed the simplest and purest form of it.

This really is a four star book, but I felt obligated to take off a star because of out of place time references - one that sticks out was the reference to Brandon Lee's death in 1986 (he didn't die until the early 90's). Overall though, a really outstanding read.

Synopsis: In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

Recommended Reading:
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Friday, March 25, 2011

Banned!

Hi. My name is Sherry and I'm a bookaholic.

I'm banning myself from new books. I don't have a choice. Remember that little goal I had to drop my TBR list below 25? Yeah. Not so much. It's hovering near 50. Again.

I blame Oddo and free book Fridays and the fact that I can buy a book when the mood strikes and read it instantly. But mostly, it's just me. Thinking I have the problem under control when I don't. Until I do get this under control, I'm on a book ban. Sorry Free Book Fridays, this includes you too.

Proclamation 1:
No new books until the TBR list is under 40.

Proclamation 2:
I have to read 3 books for every 1 book that I add.

You're holding me accountable.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goldengrove

GoldengroveGoldengrove by Francine Prose

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I started reading this book expecting a lot. I'll be honest, I read this because I wanted a good cry. I wanted to be emotionally connected to the characters. This book failed both expectations. There was a complete lack of emotional writing. Everything was written logically (although quite beautifully) and I couldn't really think of the characters as real. There was a strange cast of characters, quirky and interesting, but just not believable.

Synopsis: At the center of Francine Prose's profoundly moving new novel is a young girl facing the consequences of sudden loss after the death of her sister. As her parents drift toward their own risky consolations, thirteen-year-old Nico is left alone to grope toward understanding and clarity, falling into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister's enigmatic boyfriend.

Over one haunted summer, Nico must face that life-changing moment when children realize their parents can no longer help them. She learns about the power of art, of time and place, the mystery of loss and recovery. But for all the darkness at the novel's heart, the narrative itself is radiant with the lightness of summer and charged by the restless sexual tension of teenage life.

Recommended Reading:
House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
Blue Angel by Francine Prose
The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
Yesterday's Weather by Anne Enright
Goodbye and Amen by Beth Gutcheon

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Shack

The ShackThe Shack by William P. Young

I can't even rate this book. That's how much I did NOT like it. I tried. Really. I walked in with the mantra "open mind open mind open mind". It wasn't even the story that bothered me, it was the writing. It was terrible I couldn't get past the first two chapters. So, first, I always have a problem with stories that start in the middle, drag you back to the beginning and then finish in the future. It's a stupid writing hook. If a story is good, tell it from beginning to end. Second, there was this stupid "The Great Sadness" line that was repeated over and over and over. Seriously, I got it, okay? Something bad happened to his daughter and he's depressed. Third, the metaphors! Every description was a metaphor. Not even good metaphors. I give this writer and epic.fail for writing a crappy book.

Synopsis: Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

The United States of Arugula

The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food RevolutionThe United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm struggling with the star rating on this one. I'm so on the fence about this book, I can't decide if it's a 2-star or a 4-star book (but somehow 3-stars isn't right at all). I did not finish this book - due to time constraints and wanting to move on to other books.

This book was not what I was expecting. I started reading with the expectation that the book would be about food, it was more about the people behind the food. The first section of the book is a mess of names and overlapping time lines. I had a hard time remembering who was who - with the exception of Julia Child. After that the following sections (at least as far as I read) were easy stories to follow.

Synopsis: The wickedly entertaining, hunger-inducing, behind-the-scenes story of the revolution in American food that has made exotic ingredients, celebrity chefs, rarefied cooking tools, and destination restaurants familiar aspects of our everyday lives.

Amazingly enough, just twenty years ago eating sushi was a daring novelty and many Americans had never even heard of salsa. Today, we don't bat an eye at a construction worker dipping a croissant into robust specialty coffee, city dwellers buying just-picked farmstand produce, or suburbanites stocking up on artisanal cheeses and extra virgin oils at supermarkets. The United States of Arugula is a rollicking, revealing stew of culinary innovation, food politics, and kitchen confidences chronicling how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to pervasive—and became the cultural success story of our era.

Stuck Part II

Stuck, slump, distracted. Sums up my reading progress these days.

The United States of Arugula. I have so many thoughts on this book. I'm torn between hating it and loving it. I can't focus on it. I'm struggling to finish it.

The Shack. I started it. Managed two chapters and um, it's not working for me. I want so badly to finish this book so I can fully participate in book club discussion but I can't even bring myself to pick up the book again.

I give up. I surrender. I'm marking these two as unfinished and moving on. There are too many other books I'm excited about reading.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Famous Coffee House Recipes

Famous Coffee House Recipes ... Coffee and of course the Desserts Volume IIFamous Coffee House Recipes ... Coffee and of course the Desserts Volume II by Chefs Secret Vault

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At first I was a little disappointed when I discovered that "Famous" refers to a brand, not an adjective. (Eh, what do you expect from a free ebook?) It took me a few read-throughs - reading cookbooks on a Nook is not easy, the recipes run consecutively and are often cut through by "pages". It's very distracting to have to flip back a page to refer to the ingredients.

Anyways, frustrations with the ebook format aside, the coffee recipes were pretty basic - mocha, latte, iced coffees and such. There were only two recipes I pulled out to make in the future: Famous Spiced Holiday Coffee and Harvest Coffee Cider.

The dessert recipes varied from scones and cheesecakes to puddings and custards. They all seem simple with common enough ingredients, but, well, we know my tolerance for baking hovers around zero, so I kept an easy mocha brownie recipe and left the rest of the recipes for the big girls (or guys).

Synopsis: Everyone has their "favorite" coffee beverage from their "favorite" coffee house. And the desserts they offer are decadent. Now you can enjoy those same treats in the comfort of your home or office. Wow your family and guests with some of their favorite recipes. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ShadowFever

Shadowfever (Fever, #5)Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I snuck this one in when I was supposed to be reading something else because I couldn't wait any longer. I absolutely had to know how this series ended. This book delivered and failed. I can't really explain it. The plot was everything I hoped it could be and so so much more. It brilliantly and skillfully written. It satisfied on so many levels. I'm not sure why I'm disappointed - maybe that it's over?? - or maybe some failing of my recollection. The book starts at exactly the moment that the last book ends. There is no introduction, no replay of events. The story starts and hopefully you keep up. There were numerous references to events from previous books, which is always where my short-term memory fails me in a book series. Overall, the book was a page turning lose all track of time read.

Book Series: Fever Book 5

Synopsis: MacKayla Lane was just a child when she and her sister, Alina, were given up for adoption and banished from Ireland forever.
Twenty years later, Alina is dead and Mac has returned to the country that expelled them to hunt her sister’s murderer. But after discovering that she descends from a bloodline both gifted and cursed, Mac is plunged into a secret history: an ancient conflict between humans and immortals who have lived concealed among us for thousands of years.
What follows is a shocking chain of events with devastating consequences, and now Mac struggles to cope with grief while continuing her mission to acquire and control the Sinsar Dubh—a book of dark, forbidden magic scribed by the mythical Unseelie King, containing the power to create and destroy worlds.
In an epic battle between humans and Fae, the hunter becomes the hunted when the Sinsar Dubh turns on Mac and begins mowing a deadly path through those she loves.

Who can she turn to? Who can she trust? Who is the woman haunting her dreams? More important, who is Mac herself and what is the destiny she glimpses in the black and crimson designs of an ancient tarot card?
From the luxury of the Lord Master’s penthouse to the sordid depths of an Unseelie nightclub, from the erotic bed of her lover to the terrifying bed of the Unseelie King, Mac’s journey will force her to face the truth of her exile, and to make a choice that will either save the world . . . or destroy it.