I loved Water for Elephants, and when I found out that Sara Gruen's latest book was set during my favorite historical time period, World War II, I couI loved Water for Elephants, and when I found out that Sara Gruen's latest book was set during my favorite historical time period, World War II, I couldn't wait to read it. I was not disappointed!
Maddie, her husband Ellis, and their friend Hank are spoiled society young adults in 1940s Philadelphia. Living off their family money, their lives are filled with parties, drinking, more parties, and more drinking. Scandal abounds in both families, and Ellis' father was outed as a fraud after he claimed he had pictures of the Loch Ness Monster, only to have his hoax discovered and his honor destroyed. After one particularly crazy New Year's Eve party, where their behavior leads to them being thrown out of Ellis' parents' home, Maddie, Ellis, and Hank decide to make the crossing to Scotland to find the Loch Ness Monster, and avenge Ellis' father's honor, in hopes of being welcomed back into the family. They end up in a small village in Scotland, staying at a small inn, where they plan to start their search for the monster.
All three of these characters are entirely unlikeable. Rude, spoiled, and clueless about what's going on in the world around them. It was difficult to get into the book because I hated the three of them so much. However, as Maddie comes to realize that her marriage is not what it seems, and she opens her eyes to the world around her, I started to really root for her. She becomes friends with the girls who work at the inn, and slowly falls in love with the acting proprietor. At the same time her husband's behavior becomes more and more unpredictable and boorish.
After the first 100 pages or so, I flew through this book. The plot was intriguing, and moved quickly, with bits of magic and superstition lightly woven in to the story. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Perhaps the ending was wrapped up too tidily, but it was still satisfying.
I read this book not having read the first two books in this series. So I expected I might be a little bit lost in the beginning, and I was OK with thI read this book not having read the first two books in this series. So I expected I might be a little bit lost in the beginning, and I was OK with that. However, that was definitely not the case, since the first 50(!) pages were pretty much a rehash of everything that took place in the previous books...to the point that it got tedious and I was ready for the story to start.
Ellie is a twice-widowed woman raising her two adopted boys while working as an artist in New York during the early 1940s. When her oldest son disappears from school, and it turns out he's fled to Hollywood to become an actor, Ellie follows him west, to bring him back. However, she ends up staying in Hollywood, bringing her family with her.
I found Ellie to be a pretty unlikeable woman. Harsh, unfriendly, cold, and always thinking she was better than everyone else. She treated Stan, her love interest in Hollywood, pretty horribly. I felt absolutely no connection to her and could really care less what happened to her.
This book was filled with constant descriptions of things that happened in the previous books. As if the author felt the reader couldn't possibly remember something that we had already been told 75 pages previously. How many times did we need to be told how Ellie came to adopt Tom? Or how Ellie was so wonderful because she founded a woman's homeless shelter in New York?
For a book that takes place during World War II, there was very little mention of the war! Except for a handful of pages where Ellie's new half-Japanese friend Suri talks about the horrors of the internment camps, and a bizarre side trip to Manzanar, all of which seemed incredibly contrived, as if the author felt she had to somehow shoehorn in something about the Japanese internment camps to prove her book was set during wartime.
Overall, I cannot recommend this book, and I don't think I'm going to go back and read the first two books in the trilogy. If you've already read the first two, you may want to give this a try, just to finish the arc. Otherwise, give this one a pass....more
Having read all of Sarah Jio's novels, I was super excited to win this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. But as I was reading this novHaving read all of Sarah Jio's novels, I was super excited to win this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. But as I was reading this novel, I couldn't help but think that with this, her fifth novel, Ms. Jio is following a formula for her novels:
1. Something bad/emotional happens to woman in modern day. 2. Something bad/emotional also happened to woman in past. 3. Modern day woman finds unexpected love while also stumbling upon the "mystery" of the woman in the past. 4. Coincidences between modern day and the past abound. 5. Mystery solved. 6. Happy ending.
Don't get me wrong, the story was engrossing as it traveled back and forth from the past to modern day, and it kept me reading, to find out what was going to happen. The setting, a houseboat community on Seattle's Lake Union, was interesting.
But at times the story was just too predictable, and some of the characters actions were unrealistic. Modern-day Ada is a stereotypical Type A working mom that had a REALLY BAD THING happen to her. Past-time Penny was a weak, naive girl who married a man 20 years her senior who didn't treat her right. Something REALLY BAD happened to Penny in the past. Ada is uncovering clues to find out what happened to Penny, as she also is getting over her own REALLY BAD THING.
If you've liked Ms. Jio's other novels, you'll like this one too. It's a quick, easy read. But don't expect anything new or different. Ms. Jio is a talented writer - I hope that with her next novel, she can break free of this formula and write a story with more depth to it....more
In Jamie Ford's second novel, Songs of Willow Frost, he proves that he's not a one-hit wonder. This book was just as readable as his first, Hotel on tIn Jamie Ford's second novel, Songs of Willow Frost, he proves that he's not a one-hit wonder. This book was just as readable as his first, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter Sweet.
Beginning in early '30s Seattle, we enter the world of William and Charlotte, two orphans at the Sacred Heart orphanage. William, a Chinese boy, longs to find his mother. Charlotte, a blind girl, lives in fear of her father returning for her. After a chance sighting at the cinema, William is convinced his mother is Willow Frost, a well-known Chinese actress, and along with Charlotte, William sets off to find her.
This adventure, and its aftermath, is the first third of the novel. We are soon taken back in time 10 years to find out who Willow Song is, and how she got to where she is when William discovers her. The last third of the novel returns us to William's timeline for a satisfactory resolution to the story.
I found the parts of the novel about William and Charlotte to move much faster than the parts about Willow Frost (aka Liu Song). While it was interesting to read about how the Chinese were treated in 1920s Seattle, the story sometimes bogged down in the details.
Overall, however, this was an engrossing read. If you liked Lisa See's Shanghai Girls, you'll like this book too. And of course, if you enjoyed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, you'll want to read this book. Recommended!...more
One of my favorite genres lately is the era that stretches from WWI to WWII, so I was excited to read this story, as it seemed right up my alley.
ThisOne of my favorite genres lately is the era that stretches from WWI to WWII, so I was excited to read this story, as it seemed right up my alley.
This book did not disappoint. It was a little slow going at first, but once I fell into the rhythm of Davey and Elspeth's letters, I found myself unable to put it down. Their letters were infused with such emotion, something that is missing in today's instant communications. Most certainly, they defied the normal conventions of the day, and perhaps--especially on Elspeth's part--made decisions that were selfish and hurtful to others, although not purposefully. You could sense the struggle in Elspeth's heart. And by the end, I had a tear in my eye, even if the ending was somewhat predictable. I honestly wouldn't have had it any other way.
My only quibble with the story was that Margaret (Elspeth's daughter) was not a bigger part of the story. I would have enjoyed reading more about her wartime experiences and delving deeper into her relationship with Paul.
Overall, a wonderful debut novel, and I'm looking forward to Ms. Brockmole's next book. If you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (as I did), you'll enjoy this novel....more
As a parent of 3 boys (12 and under), I could really relate to some of the stories in this book. Raising children is hard, but so rewarding. But you hAs a parent of 3 boys (12 and under), I could really relate to some of the stories in this book. Raising children is hard, but so rewarding. But you have to have a healthy sense of humor to get you through the crazy times.
The author's description of his 5-year-old daughter's random tantrum/meltdown/screamfest was spot on. I've SO been there. It was validating to know I'm not the only parent to feel like I just couldn't take one more scream, but ultimately was able to get through it.
Reading this book was like listening to a friend tell me his stories from the front line of parenting. I have to give the author credit for his honesty - he didn't shy away from admitting his mistakes, and that gave his stories an intimacy.
If you're a parent, you'll get this book. If you aren't, you might not. And if you don't like profanity, don't read this book.
But if you want a quick read that will make you laugh out loud, give this one a try....more
Typhoid Mary. We've all heard of her, but how many of us really know her story? An Irish immigrant with a talent for cooking who, unfortunately, is alTyphoid Mary. We've all heard of her, but how many of us really know her story? An Irish immigrant with a talent for cooking who, unfortunately, is also a healthy carrier of Typhoid fever, spreading the illness through the food she cooks for the wealthy families she works for.
It was difficult to feel sympathy for Mary in the beginning of this fictionalized account of her life, as she was incredibly stubborn and refused to believe she could be making people sick. I was frustrated with her inability to understand what she had been doing, and the anger she displayed in the face of her circumstances. Her unreasonableness (which was really denial and panic and fear) led her to both be ostracized in the press, and forcibly removed to an island in the Hudson River to live in isolation, and prevent her from further infecting people.
With the help of a young lawyer, Mary finally wins her release, on the condition that she promise to never cook for anyone again. It is here that I begin to feel more sympathy for Mary. The one thing that she is talented at doing, cooking, is the one thing she should never do again. She tries to do other things, but circumstances seem to always lead her back to baking and cooking once again, and Mary becomes the queen of denial, telling herself that this couldn't possibly hurt anyone, or that baking is not the same is cooking. You get the sense that deep down inside, Mary knows she shouldn't be doing what she is doing, but she's good at pulling the wool over her own eyes.
Mary's life is not comfortable - she is a working-class woman in early-20th century New York, and the author does a tremendous job of describing what that was like. In addition to all this, Mary's relationship with her companion, Alfred, was strained by her time on the island. She has difficulties finding a place to live. It seems that this one thing, her status as a carrier of the fever, is slowly breaking apart her life in all areas.
My only issue with this book was the way the author jumped from past to present and back again. It was sometimes difficult to keep track of where in time we were. But overall, I enjoyed this novel, and would recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction....more
Two years after the death of her husband from leukemia, Anna is struggling to reach normalcy in her life. As the story opened, I immediately didn't liTwo years after the death of her husband from leukemia, Anna is struggling to reach normalcy in her life. As the story opened, I immediately didn't like Anna - I found her and her actions annoying. Even as she got on the road with her grandmother Goldie, on a trip cross-country to return a set of Japanese prints to her grandmother's former friends, I continued to dislike Anna. I just could not seem to understand why Anna did and said the things she did, and I was nearly ready to set this book aside.
Until the story shifted to Goldie's time in early 1940s San Francisco as a shopgirl. Goldie's story was fascinating and it was at this point that I could not put this book down. It was almost as if it was a book within a book. I loved the descriptions of Goldie's small-town girl reactions to San Francisco, and her relationships with the Nakamura family and others she met though her job at Feld's department store. I found Goldie refreshing and honest. And I didn't guess at any of the twists in her story, which just added to my enjoyment.
The ending was sweet, if a bit disappointing. I think I would have rated this book higher if it had been just Goldie's story, without Anna. Goldie's story: 5 stars. Anna's story: 2 stars.
Review copy provided courtesy of the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program....more