Summer Reading Recap

School starts tomorrow at our house so now is a good time to look back on a busy summer. Here’s a recap of what I read in June, July and August. Click on the titles for the full review.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet picHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Rating:  ***

A sentimental World War II love story about a Chinese American boy and a Japanese American girl who is sent with her family to a Japanese internment camp.


Slaughterhouse-FiveSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Rating:  *****

Excellent satirical novel about violence and war. A genius mix of fiction and Vonnegut’s experience as a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II.


Just Enough JeevesVery Good, Jeeves &
Joy in the Morning
by P.G. Wodehouse
Rating:  *****

From the collection of stories, Just Enough Jeeves.  Hilarious and clever, a light but smart retreat to the upper class world of England’s Bertie Wooster and his manservant Jeeves.


Second Street StationSecond Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy
Rating:  ****

An engaging historical fiction murder mystery about the first female detective in Brooklyn. Lawrence Levy’s first of a series.


America AmericaAmerica America by Ethan Canin
Rating:  ***

A political drama about the rise and fall of a United States presidential candidate in 1972.


The TranscriptionistThe Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland
Rating:  ***

Rowland’s debut novel about a newspaper transcriptionist and an unlikely news connection.


the valley of amazament picThe Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Rating:  ** 1/2

Saga about mother and daughter and courtesan life in Shanghai, China during the 1890s and 1900s.


Candidate_cover5Candidate by Tracy Ewens
Rating:  ****

Smart political romance full of fun, tantalizing banter and romantic tension.


IMG_1890“The Man Who Knew Belle Starr” by Richard Bausch
Rating:  *****

Jarring short fiction about strangers meeting, misinterpreted remarks and unstable situations.


I read some good stuff this summer!  How about you?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Author? Jamie Ford

Who's that author final

Jamie Ford pic
Jamie Ford – from huffingtonpost.com

Jamie Ford (1968 – ) is an American author of two best-selling books, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (2009) and Songs of Willow Frost (2013). Ford was born in California and grew up in Oregon and Washington. His great grandfather was Min Chung, a Nevada mining pioneer who emigrated from China in 1865 to San Francisco. When his grandfather arrived in America, he changed his name to Ford and, as Jamie Ford writes, confused “countless generations.”

Interestingly, according to a biography on about.com, Ford’s grandfather, George William Ford,

changed his name back to George Chung in order to gain more success as an ethnic actor in Hollywood. In Ford’s second novel, he explores Asians in Hollywood in the early twentieth century, around the time his grandfather was pursuing acting.

Ford graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle and, before becoming an author, held jobs in the art field and in advertising. In addition to his two books, Ford writes short fiction and is an active blogger.

For more information about Jamie Ford, check out this Wikipedia article on Jamie Ford.

Be sure to visit Jamie Ford’s website at jamieford.com.

Click here to read an interesting biography of Jamie Ford in the About Entertainment section of About.com.

You may also want to read one of Ford’s recent blog posts about the auctioning off of photos from the Seattle’s Panama Hotel.

Click here to read my review of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet picClick here to learn more about the Panama Hotel.

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Info about real Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I always like to know the background of a book and it didn’t take long to find some interesting facts about the famous Panama Hotel, featured in The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

As Jamie Ford notes in the back of his book, “the Panama Hotel is a very real place. And yes, the belongings of thirty-seven Japanese families do indeed reside there, most of them in the dusty, dimly lit basement.” Check out these pictures and descriptions from the hotel’s website:

This early picture of the hotel was photographed in 1929.  The building still maintains much of the original structure.

Panama Hotel pic

Two Japanese American women storing valuables in the basement of the hotel.  This chest still remains along with many others remains where it was left over 50 years ago.

Panama Hotel 03

This picture from The Seattle Times shows the Panama Hotel’s current owner, Jan Johnson looking at the artifacts in the basement.

Panama Hotel
Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times

A July 2015 article in The Seattle Times announced that the hotel has been awarded a $137,000 preservation grant from the National Park Service, deeming the hotel a “National Treasure”. Click here to view the article.

Click here to read my review of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet pic

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

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

Rating:
3 book marks

Jamie Ford’s historical fiction is a sentimental World War II love story about the forbidden friendship between a twelve-year-old Chinese American boy, Henry Lee, and his Japanese American classmate, Keiko Okabe. Set in Seattle, Washington, the story begins in 1986 as Henry mourns the death of his wife, Ethel. When Henry passes the historic Panama Hotel, he sees its owner announce the newly discovered, forgotten belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during the war. Henry wonders if Keiko’s things are among these unclaimed possessions and he dares to hope to find a special gift from long ago.

Ford looks at a dark period of American history in which Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II, for fear they were collaborating with Japan. Chinese Americans also disliked and shunned Japanese immigrants, including Henry’s father, a devoted Chinese nationalist. Henry and Keiko are drawn to each other, as the only Asian students on scholarship at their school, and a deep friendship develops. When Keiko’s family is sent away, Henry wonders if he will ever see her again.

Henry struggles with his feelings of loyalty to his family culture and his own desire to embrace an American independence, which is paralleled in the modern portion of the story, between Henry and his son, Marty. But the young Henry discovers he doesn’t fit in either worlds. His father forces Henry to speak only English and Henry is shunned and bullied by his American classmates for being Chinese.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an enjoyable love story, with some predictable characters, including Sheldon, a black saxophone street musician, Mrs. Beatty, a rough-talking lunch lady at Henry’s school, and Chaz the bully. And while the plot takes some twists and turns, it winds up in a nice place.

Although Ford’s story is for all readers, I think it fits nicely into the Young Adult genre, because of its historical background and somewhat simple plot.

Click here to learn more about the Panama Hotel.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!   

Friday Fiction – Jessica Ch 28 “The Plan”

Friday Fiction

Jessica

Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 28 of Jessica. Jessica is nineteen-years-old and she is trying break the pattern of loss and unhappiness that has defined her childhood. What she wants most is to build a life with Jimmy, but Jimmy is trapped in a dangerous family dynamic. When she learns the truth about Jimmy, it’s up to her to save him. To do this, she must turn to the one person who has hurt her the most, her father. A series of events pushes Jessica beyond anything she can imagine and forces her to define happiness and love in a different way, and at a heartbreaking price.

Chapter 28 – “The Plan”

The break-in at my Dad’s Philadelphia office was set for the following Sunday night. I’d talked to Dad a few times since my trip to New York and he told me he had arranged everything. Two weeks earlier, he’d even called Jimmy’s boss and hired them to repair some equipment at the Philly office. And sure enough, Jimmy was given that assignment. He took an inventory and drew up a floor plan of the offices and most important, he figured out the security system enough to get them in and out. Stu borrowed the key card one night and got someone to make a copy to duplicate the code. They were set.

Jimmy was nervous that Saturday night. We met at his house for dinner and he barely ate. “You can’t stay here tonight, Jes. I can’t think of anything else except the break-in tomorrow night. I just want to get this over with.”

Jimmy knew that by helping the police arrest Stu and Gene, he would get a lesser sentence, and maybe he wouldn’t even be charged. But his hands were shaking as we sat at his kitchen table.

“You should relax, Jimmy. Trust my dad. Everything is going to be fine,” I tried.

“I can’t relax. Stu’s got me carrying a gun. Jesus Christ, Jes! I’ve never even touched a gun before and he thinks that’s going to help us. Stu acts like he knows what he’s doing, but shit, I don’t think he knows crap about guns either. These other jobs, they were so easy. They weren’t complicated like this one. How the fuck is this going to work? How are the police going to control Stu, how are they going to know when to get us, and how are they going to know if Stu’s going to shoot that thing? And besides that, this other guy is coming and I’m sure Stu’s got him carrying something too and Gene, he’s just a kid, Jes. I’m scared shitless. I want it to be over, but I don’t want to do it at all!”

I’d arranged with Dad for the police to watch out for Gene. Since he was underage, Dad told me not to worry.

“Jimmy, don’t worry about Gene. The police know he’s underage. They won’t go hard on him.”

“How the fuck do you know anything, Jes? And why is your dad suddenly an authority on police procedures? And you, you’re acting like you’ve been through this a million times before. God, we are in this so deep and I don’t know what to do anymore!”

The truth was, I was just as nervous as Jimmy. I was worried about just as many things as he was and after it was all over, I was nervous about what would happen with Jimmy and me. I hadn’t talked to him again about moving out of my house, of maybe moving into a place with Jimmy, of starting fresh, just the two of us. It was hanging out there. I wanted to reach for it. I wanted to believe it was there waiting for us once this was all over.

Dad acted like we had nothing to worry about, but I don’t think he was sure how it was all going to work. I was glad to lean on him and if I’d had more time to think about it, I guess I would think it was strange that I was depending so much on someone who had deserted me and made me grow up without his help.

I wondered if he had told his new family about seeing me. His new wife and my unnamed brother. I’d tried to ask Dad about his new family. I had a right, I felt, but Dad cut me off, as if he was saying, “I’m helping you with this mess, and you don’t get to ask me about my life.”

“Dad, is this your wife now?” I had asked.

“Yes, Jessie” and then he cut me off. “Let’s get back to the problem here.”

But I wanted to know more. “Who’s this little boy?” I asked. “Is this my brother?”

“Look, Jessy. You knew I had a new life here. You came to me, remember? I didn’t come looking for you. I’m sorry if that hurts you, but I’m here helping you, right? No more questions. I can’t do this and answer your questions at the same time, got it?”

I knew Dad was partly right, but I resented the reminder because I felt like he was twisting the facts to win his argument. Dad was the one who left, after all. It would have been much easier to ask him for help if he had just been sitting at his desk in our den. But I was in no position to say so. Maybe he’d realize this when it was all over.

I said goodbye to Jimmy and drove home. As I lay in bed, my stomach churned and I felt my nerves jolt up and down my arms and legs. The plan was in place. Now it was just a matter of time.

Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.

Click below to check out earlier chapters.

Chapter 1 – “Jimmy”
Chapter 2 – “Stevie”
Chapter 3 – “A Photo and a Letter”
Chapter 4 – “The Life Within”
Chapter 5 – “Jimmy’s Truck”
Chapter 6 – “The Springs Diner”
Chapter 7 – “Dinner and a Game”
Chapter 8 – “He Made Me Nervous”
Chapter 9 – “I Called Dad on My Thirteenth Birthday”
Chapter 10 – “Connections and Time”
Chapter 11 – “The Reverse Apology”
Chapter 12 – “Empty Bedrooms”
Chapter 13 – “Job Description”
Chapter 14 – “The Car I Saw”
Chapter 15 – “It’s Not What You Think”
Chapter 16 – “A Different Route”
Chapter 17 – “Choosing Balance”
Chapter 18 – “A Mother Sees”
Chapter 19 – “Taking More”
Chapter 20 – “Robbing the Future”
Chapter 21 – “I Thought I Didn’t Need Her”
Chapter 22 – “It Was Up to Me”
Chapter 23 – “Separate and Icy”
Chapter 24 – “Striking a Nerve”
Chapter 25 – “Help Has Its Price”
Chapter 26 – “Who Asked for Help?”
Chapter 27 – “You’ve Done Enough”                            

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Friday Fiction – Jessica Ch 27 “You’ve Done Enough”

Friday Fiction
Jessica

Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 27 of Jessica. Jessica is nineteen-years-old and she is trying break the pattern of loss and unhappiness that has defined her childhood. What she wants most is to build a life with Jimmy, but Jimmy is trapped in a dangerous family dynamic. When she learns the truth about Jimmy, it’s up to her to save him. To do this, she must turn to the one person who has hurt her the most, her father. A series of events pushes Jessica beyond anything she can imagine and forces her to define happiness and love in a different way, and at a heartbreaking price.

Chapter 27 – “You’ve Done Enough”

I should have felt glad that Jimmy had agreed to Dad’s plan, but instead I felt uneasy. I wanted to feel like Jimmy and I were in this together, that we were a team. But Jimmy made it clear to me that he was being forced to do what Dad had arranged. I didn’t know where I stood, just that I was in the middle.

I also couldn’t shake the feeling I had about the “other guy” Jimmy and Stevie were using to help with the break-ins. Jimmy had acted strange about him and I was sure he wasn’t telling me everything. I was in this now, I reasoned, and I needed to know more about him, to tell Dad, in case he was going to help with the Philly job. I had only told Dad that Jimmy and Stu had agreed to the plan. I hadn’t mentioned their friend yet.

The next day, I drove to work the way Mom had taken me when I didn’t have a car, so I could go by his house and see if his car was there. I thought of the rocks and now that I knew what they meant, I decided to check them out. It was just getting light when I turned onto 401 and approached his house. Sure enough, his beat-up car was sitting in the carport and there was a stack of rocks at the edge of the driveway. I slowed down and turned my head just in time to see the shadow of a man as he opened his front door and walked over to his car.

It was one of those moments you can’t predict, when two people, who seconds before had no warning that they would cross paths or connect in any way, when they look up at each other at the exact same time and there between them is a strange and intense look in each other’s eyes, a look that is scary and curious at the same time. I looked up and this stranger’s eyes locked into mine, I could tell they did, even at that distance, even from my car, as it slowed past his house. And a shiver went down my back for a reason I didn’t understand. In an instant, the man looked away and, shoulders bent, he turned completely around before reaching his car and went back inside his house.

The image of him looking at me, turning and walking back inside was running through my brain long after I passed his house. It was strange, I thought, that he would stare at me like that, that he would somehow know to look up at me just as I drove by. And why did he go back in the house before he got to his car? The expression on his face was still in my head. It was as if he could tell I was looking for something.

How crazy, I thought. I know that he’s unloading the things that Stu and Jimmy are stealing and he looked at me like he knew I knew.

Jimmy called me that afternoon. He was calmer, but still distant. It hurt to hear his voice and know that’s all he was offering. I took comfort that he had called me, but there was a flatness in his tone.

“Stu’s going to pick a night soon. Until then, nothing’s going on.” I had been hoping he wanted to see me. Now I was sure he didn’t. Our relationship was suddenly shaky. I knew it wouldn’t help to talk about their extra guy, but I was in this for Jimmy, I reasoned. I had to ask.

“Jimmy, tell me who is this guy who’s helping you? I saw him today on my way to work and he looked at me in a crazy kind of way.”

“Jes, what the hell are you doing going by this guy’s house. Stay out of it, will you? I know you think you have a part in all of this, but I’m telling you to stay away from that house.”

“God, Jimmy, I was just going to work the other way and yes, I was curious about this person you refuse to tell me anything about. I wasn’t going to stop there. I just happened to see him as he walked out of his house and he turned at the same time as me and he had a strange look on his face, that’s all. It was over in a second and then I was on my way to work. Don’t make such a big deal about it.”

Jimmy was right, I did feel like I was part of this mess, but more than that, I felt like I had the right to know everything about it.

“I’m just trying to help, Jimmy,” I defended myself.

“Well, don’t. You’ve done plenty. That’s more than enough.”

Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.

Click below to check out earlier chapters.

Chapter 1 – “Jimmy”
Chapter 2 – “Stevie”
Chapter 3 – “A Photo and a Letter”
Chapter 4 – “The Life Within”
Chapter 5 – “Jimmy’s Truck”
Chapter 6 – “The Springs Diner”
Chapter 7 – “Dinner and a Game”
Chapter 8 – “He Made Me Nervous”
Chapter 9 – “I Called Dad on My Thirteenth Birthday”
Chapter 10 – “Connections and Time”
Chapter 11 – “The Reverse Apology”
Chapter 12 – “Empty Bedrooms”
Chapter 13 – “Job Description”
Chapter 14 – “The Car I Saw”
Chapter 15 – “It’s Not What You Think”
Chapter 16 – “A Different Route”
Chapter 17 – “Choosing Balance”
Chapter 18 – “A Mother Sees”
Chapter 19 – “Taking More”
Chapter 20 – “Robbing the Future”
Chapter 21 – “I Thought I Didn’t Need Her”
Chapter 22 – “It Was Up to Me”
Chapter 23 – “Separate and Icy”
Chapter 24 – “Striking a Nerve”
Chapter 25 – “Help Has Its Price”
Chapter 26 – “Who Asked for Help?”                          

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

Who’s That Author? Robert McCloskey

Who's that author final

Robert McCloskey
Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey (1914-2003) was an American writer and illustrator of children’s books. He was the first person to be awarded the Caldecott Medal twice, once in 1941 for Make Way for Ducklings, and also in 1957 for Time of Wonder.

McCloskey was born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio. Before becoming an artist, he had a great many interests. He studied music and played the piano, harmonica, drums and oboe. He loved mechanics and electronics and spent a lot of time as a child inventing different gadgets, including elaborate lightings for the family Christmas tree. He discovered art in high school and won a scholarship at the Vesper George School of Design in Boston. McCloskey also studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York. McCloskey wrote and illustrated eight of his own books, and illustrated twelve additional children’s books.

He married Peggy Durand, daughter of the children’s author, Ruth Sawyer. They settled in upstate New York and spent summers in Maine and raised two daughters.

Books by Robert McCloskey:

Lentil (1940)
Make Way for Ducklings (1941) Caldecott Medal
Homer Price (1943)
Blueberries for Sal (1948) Caldecott Honor
Centerburg Tales (1951)
One Morning in Maine (1952) Caldecott Honor
Time of Wonder (1957) Caldecott Medal
Burt Dow, Deep Water Man (1963)

Thanks to Wikipedia and the The New York Times for this information!

Click here for my review of Make Way for Ducklings.

make way for ducklingsThanks for visiting – Come back soon!