Showing posts with label 2010 reading list. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2010 reading list. Show all posts

Bloodroot and Holly's Inbox: Book Reviews

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Last week I finished two books I really enjoyed, Bloodroot by Amy Greene and Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham. Bloodroot only took me three days to finish. I heard about it the books section of one of my magazines. I loved it! I don't know why I'm fascinated with stories whose characters have 'the touch' or some other mystical power. Same with books set in the south (location was part of the reason I loved The Help, too). This book has childhood friendships, familial loyalty and a little bit of tragedy. It's set in Appalachia and spans almost 50 years. I was sucked in within the first few pages. 

Bloodroot (Vintage Contemporaries) Holly's Inbox Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City

Holly's Inbox is set in Britain. Every book that came out after Bridget Jone's has had some type of comparison. This is one is called Bridget Jones meets technology. The story is told entirely through emails between Holly, her friends, her family and co-workers. It's not a small book at 672 pages but since it's not all text, it reads really fast. It's cute and funny just as chick lit should be. I have the sequel but am only about 20 pages in. Interesting side note, Holly Denham is the character's name. The author is actually a man. 

Both these books would be good beach reads.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: Book Review

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetAbout a year ago, I went to Numero Water Boutique, a spa and tea house in Little Italy. One of the spas owners, Daisuke Muira, recommended I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. While he was preparing tea for us, I remarked on the decor in the tea room, and how much I loved the wood on the walls. 

Mr. Muira told me the wood was reclaimed from the Panama Hotel, the hotel that is the centerpiece of the book. He went on to tell me the story of the hotel and it was so fascinating I knew I needed to read the book. I found it at my library's used book store a few months ago. I'm so glad I picked it up. It's a great read.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is set in Seattle. The book jumps back and forth between present day (1986) and the 1940's during World War II. The story centers around Chinese Henry Lee and Japanese Keiko Okabe, two childhood friends. They meet at Henry's school, the all white school on the opposite side of town from where Henry lives. The tension at the time between the Chinese and Japanese should have kept the two kids from becoming friends, especially because of how Henry's father feels about the Japanese, but over the course of the story the two go beyond friendship and fall in love.

The story opens in the present. Henry has heard that developers are renovating the Panama Hotel, and they "found something" in the basement. Hearing this brings back memories for Henry and sparks a little bit of hope that he may be able to keep the childhood promise he made to Keiko after all.

What I like about the book:
The story has just enough history and politics (FBI roundups, Japanese interment camps and the Seattle jazz scene) to make the story come to life, but not so much that you feel you're reading something bordering in non-fiction.

Knowing that the book is based on fact makes it even more poignant. The Panama Hotel is real. Japanese families did hide their belongings in its basement. Families were taken to camps. The reality behind the fiction is heartbreaking but sucks you into the story even more.

What I have mixed feelings about:
Since I didn't dislike anything about the book, I'll phrase this as ambivalence. I understand why Ford told the story using the past and present. I think it was necessary to weave Henry's present relationship with his own son in with his relationship he had with his dad. Sometimes it was hard to keep up with the ages Henry and Keiko were during the jumps but knowing their ages isn't vital to the plot.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is such a good book. At only 285 pages, it's a fast read too. Be sure to read the interview with the author too. 

Have you read this book? What did you think?

*I posted pictures from my Numero Water trip on Whrrl. See what else I've read in my 2010 reading list.

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder: Book Review

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm not sure why I'm fascinated by books set in the post Depression south. I think it's the novelty of the way modern day authors portray the south and southern hospitality. I read The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder as part of TLC Book Tours. 

I've read all of Rebecca Wells' other books and was excited to see a new title. I wish I could say I loved it; and I'm glad I can say I didn't hate it.  I think the Ya Ya's books were so enjoyable, it was inevitable that I'd compare them despite Calla Lily being a stand alone novel and not part of a series (unless that's coming).

In a nutshell, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is about a young girl, the book's namesake, and her path from childhood to adulthood dealing with different tragedies and triumphs with love and loss thrown in. The book starts out well, lags in the middle and falters a bit at the end. I like many of the themes in the book, like the strength of relationships with family and friends. But, there was a lot of syrup-y overkill too.

What I didn't like:
*The book felt unfinished. Or perhaps as though this version should have been a draft. Parts of it just weren't smooth.
*It felt too long. Parts could have been left out entirely or shortened.
*I'm glad Wells didn't gloss over the state of race relations for the time (I believe it begins in the late 50's or early 60's), but the one section she included, the beating of a young boy, seemed thrown in just so she could say she didn't ignore it.
*The ending, though predictable, happened very abruptly. I could have done with less of some things in the middle of the book and a slightly longer resolution.
*Calla Lily and her family are from La Luna, Louisiana. The Moon Lady and a reverence for the moon is a constant theme throughout the book. It got really tiresome at times.

What I did like:
*The story itself is really sweet. 
*Wells has a way with words. When she's not overwhelming us with the Moon Lady with lines like this:

"The moon, La Luna, is always there. Her pull is strong, strong enough to move the mighty Mississippi, Calla. The Moon Lady, La Luna, is your bridge from darkness to light. Trust in her strength," 

her writing is really lyrical and pretty.

"This was all before I started school and was graced to spend days on end with my mother, so rich and private that even now I can close my eyes and relive them."

I also like the way Wells wrote Calla's mother. Some of the things she says are priceless, " If cleanliness is next to Godliness, then pampering is next to Goddessness." (so true!)
*I'm a sucker for love stories, especially childhood love and reunions. 
*As I said above, I really like stories about the strength of family and lasting friendship bonds, particularly stories about girlfriends who grow up together.

While I wouldn't put this with my top reads or as a book I'd read again, overall I enjoyed it. You can listen to Book Club Girl interview Wells about the book on Blog Talk Radio

Have you read The Crowning Glory? What did you think? 
(This is my first book review, did I give too much information? Not enough? Did I ruin the book for you?)

*TLC Tours gave me a copy of the book to review. I'm sure I'll pass it on to my mom. Unless she reads this review. She has less patience for books that don't 'wow' in the first few chapters than I do.The link to the book is my Amazon affiliate.

2010 Reading List

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I didn't do such a great job at keeping up with my reading list last year. I'd like to do better this year because it is nice to be able to look back and see what books impacted me and in what ways. I'll move this over to the sidebar shortly along with the lists for 2008 and 2009. (all links are Amazon affiliate)

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else - (Michael Gates Gill) This wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. Still, it was interesting to read about and "old, white guy" losing his status and privilege but finding meaning and happiness in working for others.

Love and Other Natural Disasters - (Holly Shumas) Loved it! A good, fast read about infidelity in a marriage. I've felt an emotional affair would be much harder to overcome than a physical one and this book confirms that.

Never Change - (Elizabeth Berg) I said before in last year's reading list that she's one of my new favorites and this book didn't disappoint.

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing -  (Melissa Bank) Loved it! I really like her writing style and some of her sentences were beautiful. Very fast read.

U is for Undertow (Kinsey Millhone Mystery) - (Sue Grafton) Not as good as some of her other alphabet series but still enjoyable and super fast.

The Help  - (Kathryn Stockett) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I can't stop telling people about this book. I read it in a few days. It's a different take on white privilege, racism and class. I was skeptical of a book on those themes written by a white woman but Stockett did a great job.

Someone Like You - (Cathy Kelly) I really like her books. I've thought before they are a little longer than they need to be and had the same feeling with this one. The ending was predictable but it was still a good, light read.

The Friday Night Knitting Club - (Kate Jacobs) I've been wanting to read this for awhile. I like books about female friendships and bonding. This was a little cliche at times with the mother/daughter rebellious pre-teen relationship, but I liked and appreciated the way she handled the mixed couple and bi-racial daughter. An easy, quick read.

Little Earthquakes - (Jennifer Weiner) I've read all of her books, my favorites being Good in Bed and In Her Shoes. Typical me, they're light, fast easy reads.

Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel - (Audrey Niffenegger) I loved The Time Traveler's Wife so much I feel the bar was set super high for her second book. It started slow but I kept at it. I ended up really enjoying it.

A Reliable Wife - (Robert Goolrick) Loved! Even though it felt a little slow at times it was really, really good. How this man could know what he knows but still love his wife anyway is amazing! I can't say much without ruining it but the twist at the end blindsided me.

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder - (Rebecca Wells) I read all the Ya Ya books and loved them. This one didn't read the same and I didn't like it as much, but it's still a good story overall. Read my full review here.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -  (Steig Larsson) I'd heard such great things about this book I expected to be blown away. I had a really hard time getting into it. Because of the raves I stuck with it but it didn't really start to hold my interest until about page 130. That's a loooonggg time for a book to be only 'OK'. But, it picked up after that I ended up enjoying it. I'll probably get the next book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, but definitely not a new copy.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (Tony Hsieh) I really liked this. The Zappos CEO is a good storyteller and the from the ground up history of Zappos is fascinating. Read the full review here.

Very Valentine - (Adriana Trigiani) Loved. I started reading her with the Big Stone Gap series and I've been a fan ever since. I'm looking forward to the next in this series.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet  - (Jamie Ford) I loved this book. It was recommended to me by someone with a connection to the real hotel featured in the book. It's a fast read and a great love story. Read my full review.

Goodbye, Jimmy Choo - (Annie Sanders) Of course I picked the book up because of the shoes. The story is about two women who are different but end up becoming friends and starting a business together. I didn't love it, but I liked it a lot better than I thought I would.

Belong to Me: A Novel - (Marissa de los Santos) I loved it. I read her other book, Love Walked In, and knew I'd enjoy her second book. I like stories of complicated family relationships and this one didn't disappoint.

The Kommandant's Girl - (Pam Jenoff) I like this book. It deals with the Nazi occupation of Poland but it's not as depressing as that sounds. I think the ending was a little abrupt but otherwise it was good.

The Girl Who Played with Fire - (Steig Larsson) The second in the trilogy. I definitely liked this better than Dragon Tattoo. It started off better and the pace was good. I think it only took me three days.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - (Steig Larsson) This is the last in the trilogy. I loved it. I read it in two days. All the plots come together nicely. I'm sad that it's over and hope the rumors of another novel are true.
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