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 th...moreI 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.(less)
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 nov...moreHaving 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.(less)
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!(less)
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.
This...moreOne 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.(less)
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 h...moreAs 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.(less)
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 al...moreTyphoid 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.(less)
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 li...moreTwo 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.(less)
I really liked Ellen Hopkins' novel in verse Triangles (I stayed up all night reading it), so I was eager to read her latest work, Collateral. However...moreI really liked Ellen Hopkins' novel in verse Triangles (I stayed up all night reading it), so I was eager to read her latest work, Collateral. However, this story didn't grab hold of me like the story in Triangles.
Told in alternating past and present time, Collateral is the story of the relationship between Ashley, a grad student at San Diego State, and Cole, a United States Marine. Theirs is a passionate relationship, but also a volatile one. The story spans 5 years, with Cole being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times, and Ashley left behind to deal with the emotional trauma of having a loved one deployed to a war zone.
In the author's signature "novel in verse" style, she accurately portrays the impact - the collateral, if you will - of being in love with a soldier. It's a difficult road to travel, with the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. You can see the deepening impact that being deployed has on Cole, and in turn, the impact on Ashley, who increasingly depends on alcohol and pills to make it through. I thought the ending was unfortunately realistic, shocking, and sad, but not in the way you might expect.
My only quibble with the story was the poems that were "written by" Ashley and Cole. They didn't fit with the rest of the novel at all. Maybe that is my general dislike of modern poetry coming through, but about halfway through the book, I started skipping over those to get back to the main story verse.
An interesting story that makes you think about the impact of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on not only the men and women serving our country, but also their families at home. (less)
Let me say up front that based on the title and cover alone, I probably never would have picked this book up - it's not my typical reading fare. But a...moreLet me say up front that based on the title and cover alone, I probably never would have picked this book up - it's not my typical reading fare. But after reading an excerpt from this book online, I was completely hooked and wanted to keep reading immediately. So much so, that I was willing to read it online using the Kindle app on my iPad - the first book I've ever read using the app.
Budo is Max's imaginary friend - and because Max imagined him as a human boy, he can walk and talk much like you and me. Except that only Max (and other imaginary friends) can hear and see him. Max is in 3rd grade, and is most likely on the autism spectrum (this is never explicitly stated). Which is why Budo has "lived" much longer than most imaginary friends.
Budo looks out for Max and helps him cope with the stress of life. However, when something terrible happens (don't want to give away too much here), it is up to Budo to save Max, even if that means sacrificing himself.
The story is told completely from Budo's point of view, in first person. It is this that makes this book so interesting, because we are seeing the world through the child-like eyes of someone who is on the outside looking in. Budo's observations and somewhat skewed understanding of the world he and Max lives in, are both funny and sometimes sad. Budo's descriptions of the other imaginary friends he runs into are one of the best parts of this book - not every child imagines his friend as a human. Some are just a hair bow, or a paper doll (complete with wrinkles and rips and folds from being in the bottom of a backpack), or a bobblehead.
This was a really original story, that suprised me with how much it drew me in and made me care about Budo and Max. And I was sad when it was over. I highly recommend giving this book a try.(less)
While the subject matter of this book is a little disturbing, the story itself was really compelling. Trish is on the verge of losing her son after he...moreWhile the subject matter of this book is a little disturbing, the story itself was really compelling. Trish is on the verge of losing her son after he's injured at home as a result of her hoarding. As her various family members step in to help her clean up, it's not just garbage and junk that is exposed to all. Family secrets are revealed, relationships are renewed, and truth comes out.
If you like the A&E show "Hoarders", you'll like this book. This story is essentially the fictionalized version of a "Hoarders" episode.
I had a hard time putting this book down, because as bits and pieces of the past were revealed, I wanted to keep reading to find out the whole story. I liked the alternating points of view, seeing the story alternately through Trish's eyes, and in every other chapter, through her sister Mary's view.
As another reviewer stated, the ending was somewhat disappointing, in that it seemed to just come to a halt, with not enough resolution of each character's story. But overall, I enjoyed this read, and can recommend this book.(less)
The description for this book made it sound like it would be interesting, but in fact I could hardly finish it. The story never really went anywhere....moreThe description for this book made it sound like it would be interesting, but in fact I could hardly finish it. The story never really went anywhere. The characters were annoying and I didn't like any of them. Am I really supposed to believe that each of them could resolve their big "problem" or come to their big "life realization" or experience a big "life moment" over the course of a single weekend? Maybe because I didn't go to an Ivy League college, I just didn't get the whole "reunion weekend" concept. In any event, I didn't enjoy this book and wouldn't recommend it.(less)