Deana (deana_in_texas) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 1-6

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a beautifully written book! But also so sad and eye opening. I had, of course, heard of the Japanese interment camps in the western US during WWII, but I had no idea what was involved, really. It's so difficult for me to imagine that such things went on right here in my own country. I do think the book has the wrong title, although I have no idea what title I would give it. I just don't think the title conveys much about the book, or the right impression of what is inside.

I cried multiple times during the course of the book, but really enjoyed reading it. I absolutely loved the characters of Sheldon and Mrs. Beatty - the author's favorites as well :) And I loved reading the interview with the author at the end about his family and his research, and also the short story he wrote (for Orson Scott Card, no less!) that eventually became this book.

For those who don't know the basic idea - Henry (born in America to Chinese parents) and Keiko (born in America to Japanese parents) become best friends as the only two Asian students in an otherwise all-white school. They bond over their similarities and their love for jazz. Henry's staunchly traditional Chinese parents (his father in particular) do not approve of his friendship with Keiko because he considers the Japanese to be "the enemy", and actually end up refuses to speak to his son for years because he persists in the disgraceful friendship even after Keiko and her family are placed in an interment camp. The story is told in both the 1940s and the 1980s, alternating, which for me really enhances the tale. Oh, and you get a lot of fun stuff to read about the jazz scene in Seattle in the 1940s, which is maybe the best part!

The only real qualm I have is near the end when his son [does something that I won't say because it's a SPOILER] and it says "... but to Marty, a few hours on his computer, a few phone calls ..." A few hours on his .... COMPUTER?! In 1986?! I -might- have gone for that in 1996... but 1986? No.

But I suppose it's a small thing. Read the book anyway.

Devil WaterDevil Water by Anya Seton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a love-hate relationship with this book. On the one hand, I found the story (meaning the plot and characters) fascinating, and moreso because it is based on real people and real events. I found myself looking multiple things up on Wikipedia during each sitting. And yet... it was an INCREDIBLY slow read. It kept putting me to sleep. Partly because it seemed to drag on and on - events seemed to take far more pages than needed (spoiled by the internet much?) and ... I don't know, I guess I just didn't care for the writing style. Which makes me sad, because this author has been recommended by many people. Then again, they have never recommended this book in particular, so perhaps this one isn't really representative.

The story revolves around Charles Radcliffe and his daughter, Jenny. Charles is the grandson of King Charles II of England, and his older brother is the Earl of Derwentwater (translated as Devil Water) at Dilston. They are fervently Catholic in a time when England is moving quickly toward Protestantism, and are supporters (to the death!) of "The Pretender", "King James III" (in quotes, because he was never recognized as King although he was technically next in succession, but he was Catholic and there was a new-ish law preventing Catholics from taking the throne).

But the story more surrounds his daughter, Jenny (Jane), who was the result of a childhood affair with a country girl named Meg, whose father forced a marriage between them when he discovered her pregnancy, of course causing a scandal in the upper class life of Charles and his family. Jenny is torn in many ways due to her mixed heritage - between country life and life as "a lady", between Catholicism and Protestantism, between life in the north country and life in London, between romantic love to a childhood companion and fixed marriage to better her status and that of her family. I cried at multiple points in her story, and ESPECIALLY a lot at the ending... I began to believe I was in love with Rob myself, and was horrified by his reaction [to a spoiler], but glad of how he 'remedied' it.

And the historical details thrown in are just fascinating. I do think it's worth struggling through the writing style, but be prepared to take forever reading this. It -is- broken up into six shorter "Books" by timeline, so that gives good stopping points, where you can stop and come back to it months later like I did :)

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful book! As I was reading, I found myself laughing aloud at all the literary references, and wondering how many MORE references were simply whizzing by over my head. Fforde's writing style is wonderful and the story itself is quite entertaining. I find that I don't have much to say about it, but I'm glad I've picked up a few more of his books recently and am looking forward to reading them all!

The Worthing SagaThe Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally got around to reading this book, which I purchased many years ago after reading Ender's Game. And I'm glad I did. If I could give it 4.5 stars, I would!

The chapters in this book began as short stories all about the same universe, where the invention of Somec allowed people a strange type of immortality -- Somec is a drug that would put people, those who "deserved" it for being rich or famous, into a sleep state for many years in which they would not age a day. The more famous you are, the more sleep you are allowed -- 5 years asleep to one year awake is fairly common. It was originally created for star pilots to allow them to sleep during the long journey through space without aging, but made its way through the population.

And yet, this story is not REALLY about Somec. The first ... two thirds or so of this book focus on Jason Worthing, a star pilot with the controversial Swiper ability allowing him to read the minds of others. It is the story of Jason and why he was chosen to help populate a far away planet, and the accident that leads the planet's inhabitants, thousands of years after he reaches that planet, to believe him to be God.

Yes, it has a lot of religious undercurrents, common to Card's writing in general -- but it's done in such a way as to not be pushy. Rather, it's really interesting, and made me think a lot about the parallels to our world's religions. It's a wonderful dystopic novel, and I found myself contemplating a world without pain, or a world where I could fall asleep and wake up many years later without aging a bit. Some of the stories, especially in the second half (backstory) part of the book are horribly sad and really got me all emotional.

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming SentencesSister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty Burns Florey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I was young and complaining about my homework, my mom told me about sentence diagramming. I don't know whether it was supposed to show me how lucky I am that we no longer had to do this task, or if it was supposed to give me renewed interest in my homework. At the time, I found it interesting, though I didn't fully understand why the lines went where and what went on them. I think I may have been a bit too young for the lesson, which crammed a lot of information into a small time period. But I did find it interesting, and occasionally my thoughts would drift back to those confusing lines my mom drew on paper -- mostly because of my love of madlibs, and my peers utter inability to remember what adverbs and adjectives are, or what it means for a verb to take an object.

This book was cute. It gives a neat history of the art of diagramming sentences, and the author's enthusiasm for the task makes the book that much more interesting. It doesn't really teach you -how- to diagram sentences, although it does explain a few things about the shapes and directions of certain lines so that you will understand some of the nuances and situations where sentence diagramming doesn't work all that well. I loved the last chapter, where a modern day teacher is using sentence diagramming as a tool in her classroom. What fun!

It's definitely not the sort of book I'm going to read over and over again, but it was interesting and I learned a few things. And I found the complex, two-page diagrams of real sentences from real authors simply fascinating to follow. My only real complaint is that she describes many instances of "bad grammar" (to show that it is perfectly easy to diagram sentences using incorrect grammar and that sentence diagramming cannot by itself make you a better writer) but she doesn't always explain what is wrong with them. In fact, she almost never does. Now, actually I believe I have a pretty decent grasp on most grammar rules (with the exception of comma usage... though I don't usually take the time to use proper grammar -- too much work and I'm lazy) and probably 80% of her examples I could spot the error. But there were some that looked fine to me and I would love to know what the problems were! And I'm sure there are other people out there (reading the reviews here shows I am right) who also missed some of the "bad grammar" of the examples.

[For example, she describes a situation where E.B. White, another stickler for grammar, asks his granddaughter when she is moving into her new apartment. She replies, "Hopefully, on Tuesday", which causes Mr. White to nearly choke on his lunch. What is so wrong with her answer? I suppose I will never know.

Hi Deana -

Mr. White is very very picky. Hopefully is an adverb. So he will insist that it modify a verb. As in, "She looked hopefully at her teacher, who was about to announce the winner." But he didn't consider hopefully could modify the verb - move - in the sentence mentioned. To move "with hope" sounded funny to him. I'd say he was an awful stickler ! Glad he wasn't my teacher. : )

Love, Mom

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very interesting, and kind of fascinating. As a story, I didn't much care for it. But then, I don't think that was the point of the book. I do think I liked it, but not for the story. In fact, there wasn't much story - and the "mystery" I had figured out on page 5 or so. Whenever he tells his dad that he is going to do the detective work and figure out who killed the dog.

In some ways, I related to how Christopher thinks about the world. In others (like what he thinks about when he stands in a field) I couldn't relate at all, and found it amazing. His voice came through loud and clear in the writing and though I am not autistic I could see the world from another, very strange, point of view. Some of the chapters flat out ignored me - complete non-sequiters that had no relation to anything that came before or after, like the chapter about God... which was really interesting actually and I've had similar thoughts. But it didn't belong there. Then again, maybe that's how an autistic person's brain works.

I found it incredibly strange that the word "autistic" never appears in the book, or any variant of it. I found it especially strange that no one mentioned it to the police officer, and I wondered if the old lady who told Christopher about his mother knew. Speaking of his mother, I really did not like her character, but obviously I can't go into details without spoiling the book. But I hated that she took the easy way out and just left the father with a disabled son. And she obviously wasn't too smart...

The father, yes, he did some horrible things - but I think if I were to live with someone like Christopher day-in and day-out I might end up doing some horrible things too. Christopher was made to be fairly likeable in this book - I empathized and sympathized with him and really liked him as a character, but to be honest, I'm sure that's only because the book is told from his point of view, and he doesn't find himself annoying. He glosses over "I did the groaning" in a single sentence for something that took hours. If the book had been told from the point of view of the police officer, or his father, or the nice lady on the subway who tries to help him and he pulls a knife on her, or any of the people in the store where they try to buy pajamas and he ends up rolling around on the ground screaming and groaning, I think perhaps people might feel differently about him.

But I hope this book has opened some people's eyes and helped them be less judgmental when they see such children in their own lives.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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  • Book 12

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