Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Book Reviews

I should have done another book review post because I have read quite a few books since the last one!  I'm actually pretty amazed that I have finished so many since the only time that I read is before bed. Michael calls me his little "Weekly Reader."  I'm assuming the name comes from those little paper newspapers that we used to get in elementary school?  Who knows?

 Most nights I read one or two chapters before bed from whatever book I am currently into.  It has allowed me to finish lots of books but that creates my problem of staying up too late!  I guess I need to actually get into the bed earlier so that I'm getting a good night's sleep too.  I just never take the time to read during the day since there seems like there are so many other things that need to get done.

Here are half of the books that I have read since my last book review post in August, and my thoughts on them (I will do another post on the other half soon...there were too many for one post):

Book Summary by

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 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.

My Review:  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet taught me a lot about the events happening in the United States during World War II.  This book is not a history book but while telling a wonderful love story, it gives details about what it was like for Japanese families living in the U.S. during a time when the bombing of Pearl Harbor had made everyone terrified of all things Japanese.  I learned very little about the internment camps where all of Japanese people living in the United States were forced out of their homes and sent to live at government controlled "camps."  During my history classes through school, the main focus of our World War II lessons were on the Holocaust and the war going on in Europe.  I remember learning very little about what was going on here in our own country and I learned a lot from this story.

The author does a wonderful job of giving you a sense of the time period and its happenings while telling about the relationship between Henry and Keiko, their struggles living in a country that does not accept them, and how much of an influence their extremely different families make on their lives.

Book Summary by

A brilliant and beautiful contemporary novel about love and memory.The events of a December afternoon, during which a father and his daughter find an abandoned infant in the snow, will forever alter the 11-year-old girls understanding of the world and the adults who inhabit it: a father who has taken great pains to remove himself from society in order to put an unthinkable tragedy behind him; a young woman who must live with the consequences of the terrible choices she has made; and a detective whose cleverness is exceeded only by his sense of justice.Written from the point of view of 30-year-old Nicky as she recalls the vivid images of that fateful December, her tale is one of love and courage, of tragedy and redemption, and of the ways in which the human heart always seeks to heal itself.

My Review:  I don't know why I keep reading Anita Shreve books.  I just don't think I am a fan.  I usually enjoy them right up until the end and then either she looses me with a lot of crazy details or the book just seems to end with no real closure.  Light on Snow was the "book just seemed to end with no real closure" type to me.  I liked the story and it kept me into the mystery of where did this baby come from?, how could anyone leave their newborn in the snow?, what is going to happen to Nicky and her father?  But then, just like always, the story started to deteriorate for me and I just wasn't happy with how the ending developed and closed.  Anita Shreve is an extremely popular author so I know it is just my taste and I never seem to give up because I keep reading more and more of her books.

Book Summary by

It is a house on the beach. Honora doesn't mind renting - despite its age and all its flaws, the old house is the perfect place for a new marriage. She and Sexton throw themselves into fixing it up, just as they throw themselves into their new life together. Each morning, Honora collects sea glass washed up on the shore, each piece carrying a different story in its muted tones.

Sexton finds a way to buy the house, but his timing is perfectly wrong. The economy takes a sickening plunge, and as financial pressures mount, Honora begins to see how little she knows this man she has married.

There is Vivian, an irreverent Boston socialite who becomes Honora's closest friend even as she rejects every form of convention. McDermott, a man who works in a nearby mill, presses Honora's deepest notions of trust - even as he embroils her in a dangerous dispute. And there's Alphonse, a boy whose openness becomes the bond that holds these people together as their world is flying apart.

My Review:  I enjoyed this one more than most other books by Anita Shreve that I've read.  Although the ending was sad, the story was well written and the way that the characters were developed kept me interested.

Book Review by

Set during World War II in Nazi Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing something she can’t resist–-books. With the help of her best friend Rudy, she learns to live on Himmel Street after her brother dies on the train-ride there. She learns to read thanks to her accordion-playing foster father, Hans Hubermann, and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is found and marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul and human spirit. This book will entrance any one, this is a must read.

My Review:  I really enjoyed this book. I find the Holocaust and World War II era fascinating and I especially loved that this book was told from the perspective of a German family. It made me see this sad, and horrific time from a new viewpoint.

Book review by

'When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. I would figure out this or that way and run it down and run it down through my head until it got easy.' So it begins the tale of Ellen Foster, the brave and engaging heroine of Kaye Gibbon's much acclaimed first Novel. The story of an eleven-year-old orphan, driven to desperation by some of the wickedest relatives in literary history, this is the story of her battle for survival. Wise, funny and affectionate.

Having suffered abuse and misfortune for much of her life, a young child searches for a better life and finally gets a break in the home of a loving woman with several foster children.

My Review:  I am a big fan of books from Oprah's Book Club and this was no exception.  Stories about abused and neglected children always make me emotional but this story, although sad at times, is about such a tough, smart, and inspiring little girl you feel uplifted.  Her honest and innocent thoughts will teach even adults important life lessons.  I have always considered adopting a child and this book made those feelings even stronger.

Book review by

A funny, sad, wise, and redeeming first novel about a young girl's battle with a troubling affliction. Rural Kentucky in the 1950s is not an easy place to grow up in, and it's especially hard for 10-year-old Icy Sparks, an orphan who lives with her grandparents. Life becomes even more difficult for Icy when the violent tics and uncontrollable cursing begin. Icy's adolescence is marred by the humiliation brought on by her mysterious condition, and its all-too-visible symptoms are the source of endless hilarity as everyone around her offers an opinion about what's troubling the girl. Eventually, Icy finds solace in the company of an obese woman who knows what it's like to be an outcast in this tightly knit Appalachian community. Narrated by a now-grown Icy, this first novel shimmers with warmth and humor as it recounts a young girl's painful and poignant journey to womanhood--and the many lives she touches and enriches along the way.

My Review:  Another selection from Oprah's Book Club that I really enjoyed...right up until the end. I didn't feel satisfied with how the story ended...I needed a little more closure and wanted to know more about Icy's future.  Although it was a very eye opening read because I knew very little about Tourette's Syndrome.  It is a story that anyone can relate to that has felt like an outsider.

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