Sunday, May 22, 2011

Challenge Change-Up

After looking at all my books on my Kindle and all the Challenges out there on my favorite blogs, I decided to do a little Change Up.  I have started reading books by Author A-Z.  I will also be able to keep up with all the challenges I am involved.    I have started with Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen.  Peach Keeper has been on my TBR pile for awhile, and will also be listed on My Southern Literature Challenge I am involved in.  I wonder how may cross-challenges I can do now.

How many of my friends have done Change Ups?

Happy Reading

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

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

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author:  Jamie Ford
Hardbound:  290 pages
Date Published:  January 27, 2009
Publisher:  Ballantine Books (div of Random House)
ISBN:  9780345505330
Ford vacillates between a front story dominated by nostalgia and a backstory dominated by fear. The front story struggles to support the weight of the backstory, and the complexity Ford brings to the latter is the strength of this debut novel, which considers a Chinese American man’s relationship with a Japanese American woman in the 1940s and his son in the 1980s. Although Ford does not have anything especially novel to say about a familiar subject (the interplay between race and family), he writes earnestly and cares for his characters, who consistently defy stereotype. Ford posits great meaning in objects—a button reading “I am Chinese” and a jazz record, in particular—but the most striking moments come from the characters’ readings of each other: “Henry couldn’t picture bathing with his parents the way some Japanese families did. He couldn’t picture himself doing a lot of things with his parents. . . . He felt his stomach turn a little. His heart raced when he thought about Keiko, but his gut tightened just the same.” --Kevin Clouther
About the Author:

Ford’s interest in his father’s “I Am Chinese” button inspired him to write a short story of the same name, which eventually became a chapter in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

My Review:
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes place in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and this act of Japanese military aggression on American soil determines many of the central events in the novel.  The historical components were just enough and held my interest throughout the book.  Set in the Asian American community in Seattle during World War II, and narrated alternately by a young and impressionable Chinese American boy and the middle-aged man he grows up to be.  Sometimes the jumping back and forth between eras was disconcerting, but it did not take away lovely story-line. I really felt the heartwarming friendship between Henry Lee and Keiko and the childhood love they had for one another.  

While searching through the items in the Panama Hotel for vestiges of Keiko and her family, including an extremely rare jazz record of the performer Oscar Holden, aided by his son, Marty, and Marty’s fiancĂ©e, Samantha, Henry finds himself revisiting his childhood: his intractable conflicts with his father, a Chinese nationalist who refused to accept the innocence of Japanese Americans in his neighborhood; his own struggle to accept his identity as a Chinese American; and the choices he made years ago that prevented him from fulfilling his promises to Keiko.

The title of the novel is perfect. The story is full of the bitter and the sweet, bitter for the American prejudices held not only for the Japanese, but for anyone of Asian descent, and sweet for the innocence of first love, the ability of children to find hope and joy.  Isn’t that the way life is today.  Most children don’t see prejudice and are so accepting of others

When I finished the story last night, I closed my Kindle and smiled.  I really must have been in the mood for a happy ending,

This story is definitely an 8/10 for me.  This story would create a lively discussion and would recommend for any literature class and book clubs.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Beginnings Friday 5/13

A little bit of fun on a Friday, this weekly meme is hosted by A Few More Pages.
I'll share the first line (or two) of the book I'm currently reading (including the title and author) and let you know what my first impressions are - good or bad!

The funeral is over. The ashes, in matching urns are on the mantelpiece

My next read is Leeway Cottage by Beth Gutcheon.  This is for the 1st In A Series Challenge.  I could not resist since the setting of the book is in Maine, my home State.  Really looking forward to this story. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Unexpected Son by Shobhan Bantwal
From Booklist
Vinita’s life is upended when an anonymous letter informs her that her son in India has cancer. As a young woman, Vinita became pregnant out of wedlock and was told by her family that the child died at birth. She now lives in the U.S., and her husband and grown daughter are unaware of her past. Vinita is compelled to travel to India to try to help her son, but the man she meets is angry, believing that she willingly abandoned him. Trouble also arises when his adopted father, a political leader, finds out that his son’s biological father is his hated rival. It’s a shame that the novel’s tension is undermined by an all-too-convenient happy ending, because Bantwal, author of The Sari Shop Widow (2009), once again paints a convincing portrait of a woman facing the repercussions of old-fashioned and oppressive social mores. --Aleksandra Walker

About the Author
Shobhan Bantwal was born and raised in a large, conservative Hindu family in a small town called Belgaum in Southwestern India. An arranged marriage to a man who happened to live in the U.S. brought her to New Jersey. She wrote, directed and acted in a humorous play at an Indian-American Konkani convention in Chicago in July 2000 in addition to recounting a few comical stories to the audience. She then decided to become a freelance writer and started contributing to a variety of Indian and Indian-American publications. She tried her hand at short fiction. That, too, was a success, with a first-place award encouraged her to write full-length novels and embark on the grueling quest for a literary agent. The ideas for her books are generally are inspired by her interest in women's social issues, especially South Asian women.

First 2 sentences in this story
There was something odd about it, despite its plain and inconsequential appearance. Vinita gazed at the mystery envelope for a long moment, weighted it in the palm of her hand. Her instincts were prickling. It went beyond mere feminine intuition.

Vinita, an average-looking college student falls for the charms of Som Koria wealthy playboy. After a summer affair, Vintia is pregnant and Som wants nothing to do with her or the baby.

When Vinita goes against her parent’s advice to have an abortion, she is sent to Bombay to live with her brother until her delivery date. Desperately ill, Vinita’s baby must be delivered by Caesarean. Vinita is told that her baby did not survive. Vinita is devastated...Vinita eventually marries a divorced Indian engineer, Gerish P who holds a good job in America. Over the next twenty-five years, Vinita bore a daughter and grew to love her husband very much. Vinita’s life is turned upside down when she receives a mysterious letter. Vinita’s son is alive, living in India, and is dying of leukemia. Vinita decides she must return to India to meet her son and see if she can be a bone marrow donor for him.
Vintia meets her son Rohit, who is very hostile and does not want her or her bone marrow. Bantwal includes an interesting subplot involving Som Kori and Rohit’s adoptive father, who are on opposite sides of the territorial conflict that descends into violence.

My Review:
The Unexpected Son offers an interesting look into the workings of an Indian-American family. This is an interesting look into the conservative culture of an Indian middle-class family. Vinita is a product of her culture, spends most of the book yielding to everyone else.

This is the first book I have read by Shobhan Bantwal and am now a HUGE fan. Shobhan writes with eloquent detail. Shobhan’s writing had me sitting in the coffee shop when Vintia and Som would secretly meet, in the living room when Vinita had to tell her parents and brother of her pregnancy, in Bombay when Vintia first met Girish, and then later when Vinita lays eyes on her son for the first time.
I enjoyed the ending, not the fairy-tale ending you might expect, but more true to life. The only thing I wish was the author of the mysterious letter was revealed. It left me thinking it could have been a number of people. This book was a definite "A" for me and have put Shobhan Bantwal on the list of my favorite authors and her other books, The Forbidden Daugher, The Dowry Bride, and the Sari Shop on my TBR list.