Interesting read, although some of the plot points at the end were mildly frustrating to me. Definitely made me more curious about both Hawaiian histo...moreInteresting read, although some of the plot points at the end were mildly frustrating to me. Definitely made me more curious about both Hawaiian history and about how Hansen's disease has been viewed/dealt with over the years. (less)
I so wanted to love this as much as I did Middlesex, and unfortunately it fell quite short. Enjoyable enough but it failed to live up to my admittedly...moreI so wanted to love this as much as I did Middlesex, and unfortunately it fell quite short. Enjoyable enough but it failed to live up to my admittedly high expectations(less)
I don't know what to say about this book. On the one hand, I pretty much hated every single character in the book. On the other hand, I don't remember...moreI don't know what to say about this book. On the one hand, I pretty much hated every single character in the book. On the other hand, I don't remember the last time I felt this much emotion towards a book; negative or positive. This is a deeply disturbing novel, one I wish to never read again. I don't even want the book in my house again. (less)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a WWII era Romeo & Juliet-esque story. Henry is a 12 year old first generation Chinese boy growing up w...moreHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a WWII era Romeo & Juliet-esque story. Henry is a 12 year old first generation Chinese boy growing up with very conservative parents in Seattle. Keiko is a 12 year old second generation Japanese girl growing up just a couple blocks away. The two are the only non-Caucasians in their elementary school, and the two quickly bond over their similarities rather than their differences while working in the school cafeteria. But it's the time of Japanese internment, and things quickly change, when Keiko and her family are forced to evacuate Seattle. The story jumps between 1942-1943 and "current day" 1986 with Henry and his adult son.
** Plus 5 - Perfect spot-on Seattle details. Much like The Art of Racing in the Rain, it's clear the author lives in Seattle and knows it's history. I love it when someone gets the details right, down to street names, buildings, and local clam chowder.
** Plus 3 - Loved learning about a part of Seattle's history that I really didn't know much about sadly. Makes me wish I could have seen the International District prior to WWII.
** Minus 4 - Gonna be a while before I can go back to the Puyallup Fair. Reminders of its checkered history are tragic and unfortunately true.
** Plus 2 - Positive male role models coming from outside of the home. Henry's relationship with Sheldon really just made me happy that he had such a positive male influence when he had such a strained relationship with his father.
** Minus 3 - The mail clerk thing was kind of lame. So was the old man smoking on the steps at the jazz club. Contrived coincidences are just annoying as a plot point.
** Minus 4 - I don't understand Henry's father's actions towards the end of the novel. But then again, I don't understand the harsh bigotry he shows throughout the book either. It makes me sad that those feelings exist all over the world between countless groups.
** Plus 3 - I love that Sheldon and Henry remain friends throughout their lives. Again, it made me super happy.
** Plus 2 - A really nice love story. At 12 & 13, it's really just puppy love but the way it's portrayed I think is true to any love story at that age.
** Plus 3 - Cheers to hidden heroes. Anything more said, and I give away something, so I'll just leave it at that.
Final tally - Plus 7
Really this was one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time. It'd make a good accompaniment to The Help, with similar undertones of racism and fighting against it. Definitely recommend this one to anyone. Can't wait to read it again for book club.(less)
**spoiler alert** My latest selection is The Commitment Dan Savage. To be upfront and honest, I should state at the beginning that I love Dan Savage....more**spoiler alert** My latest selection is The Commitment Dan Savage. To be upfront and honest, I should state at the beginning that I love Dan Savage. I’ve read his column every week for over 10 years and I’ve listened to every single one of his podcasts as well. Plus, when I was a freshman in college, I went and saw one of his lectures. I read one of his earlier books, The Kid, when it first came out. When I was in high school, Dan Savage was a beacon of light for one of my best friends, who was in the closet, and terrified of what would happen when he eventually came out. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of his. Which means, this review is more than likely tainted by my love for him, and my final score should probably be halved to account for it.
The Commitment is a memoir of marriage. It tells the journey in which Dan and his boyfriend Terry decide to marry or to get tattoos commemorating their 10 year anniversary. From family vacations, and family pressures, to their son being totally opposed to the idea, the book presents what I believe is an honest portrayal of gay families in the United States.
- Dan talks about his grandparents’ marriage, but not the end of his parents’ marriage. – Minus 3
- The hotel room scene in South Dakota/Iowa (I can’t remember now) – absolute hilarity and totally something that you can picture happening to any parent – Plus 3
- Surprise ending for me. I read his column weekly, and listen to his podcast, and I was still surprised. – Plus 2
- Super quick read. I read it over Thanksgiving weekend and I didn’t even have to try that hard to finish it. – Plus 2
- I’ve said it before, I genuinely enjoy reading books that take place in Seattle and mention specific places. Authentic Seattle is awesome. Way better than generic Hollywood version (better known as Vancouver BC). I loved that I know where Re-bar is, and know all about Dan’s annual Valentine’s Day party. – Plus 2
- I liked the mini update on DJ’s mom. I read The Kid, about half a dozen years ago, and I appreciated that he took the time to update readers on how her life had progressed since giving up DJ for adoption. – Plus 3
- I did not dig the fake ending. Lame parlor trick. – Minus 3
- It was bittersweet reading this book with so much of Dan’s mom knowing that she passed away this spring. It was also bittersweet reading this novel so soon after Prop 8 passing in California. – Neutral
- The Mad Clipper … totally reminds me of my Grandmother sending me comics in the mail when I was a kid. Of course, her return address was usually hers, unlike Dan’s mom. – Plus 2
- While I’m completely used to Dan’s vocabulary and blunt use of sexual language, it could certainly throw some readers. If you’re not sure what you’re getting into, it could be a surprise. – Minus 2
Final total … 6 – not nearly as biased as I expected. But I held back ;)
**spoiler alert** Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a story about two friends in nineteenth century China. The two girls, Lily and Snow Flower, are ol...more**spoiler alert** Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a story about two friends in nineteenth century China. The two girls, Lily and Snow Flower, are old sames or laotongs. They are closer than the best of friends and closer than spouses. Lily is the narrator, and the story is follows her from her early childhood to her foot binding years, through her engagement, marriage, and motherhood. It’s a moving story, and is skillfully written.
As a general rule (thanks to a Lit class in college) I tend to shy away from Chinese Literature, but this novel was picked for the November/December meeting of the Hersday Book Club, and so I was “forced” to read it. I was pleasantly surprised …
** Late in the novel, there is a simile that compares something to tofu skin. Delightfully unique – Plus 3
** There were simply way too many times when the foreshadowing was blatantly obvious. I’m all for some subtle foreshadowing here and there, but when it’s obviously stated it’s annoying. - Minus 2
** The chapters tended to be longer, but usually the longer chapters were a bit more quick paced than the shorter chapters to compensate. – Minus 1
** The so called secret fan kept the details of the friendship between Snow Flower and Lily throughout the 20 plus years they were friends. It had their first meeting, their hardships, their marriages, the births of their children, the deaths of their children, and finally the death of Snow Flower. Which lead me to wonder … how fricking big was this fan??? – Minus 3
** I found the relationship between Snow Flower and Lily, mostly comparable to many life long girlfriends. Lots of ups and downs, a couple of drag down fights, but in the end genuine love for one another. – Plus 3
** It was difficult for me to picture the foot binding process without trying to find a picture. If only this had been a non-fiction, and then there could have been photos. – Minus 1
** This novel gets a bonus simply for being one of the first novels that I’ve read in a while that I genuinely liked. I’ve had a string of bad luck lately – Plus 5
** I’m usually a pretty open person about cultural foods, and usually will try anything once. But all the same, caramelized fried taro sounds particularly disgusting. So I don’t really understand why it’s such a treasured treat. – Minus 1
** The idolization of Snow Flower by Lily reminds me of nearly every stereotypical nerdy girl looking up to the cheerleader in high school. It’s a nice reminder that even the ones who seem to have a perfect life, probably have just as many problems as you do. – Plus 3
** This book was entirely TOO SAD. I understand that it takes place in a time and place when child mortality rates were extremely high, but still. A little less death would have been nice. – Minus 2
** I found it an interesting approach to have very few named characters. Aside from Lily and Snow Flower, most of the characters in the novels failed to have names. It was mostly things like Elder Brother, Third Sister, and Second Son. – Plus 2
** It's hard to read a novel about how treasured small feet are when you're a girl with slightly larger feet (but nothing ridiculous). – Minus 1
Final Score … Plus 5 … I guess that isn’t stellar, but the sum of the parts made it a good novel to read. I certainly enjoyed it, and I’m glad it came along when it did. I was beginning to grow disheartened with my book selection.(less)
**spoiler alert** It’s difficult to describe The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. On the surface, the novel tells the...more**spoiler alert** It’s difficult to describe The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. On the surface, the novel tells the story of a small community in North Dakota over a span of about eighty years. The primary narrator and character in the novel is Father Damien, who is actually a woman named Agnes. Through an unusual set of events, Agnes takes on the role as priest to a small Native American Catholic church, thus becoming Father Damien. Under her charge is a young girl named Paulin possesses extraordinary powers, and in In time becomes Sister Leopolda, and after more time, Sister Leopolda is under investigation for sainthood. From the back cover of the book, this seems to be the entirety of the story. The struggle for Agnes to tell the story of Leopolda without divulging her long standing secret of being a woman.
The reality is that the novel is more about the Ojibwe community that Louise Erdrich has created to tell her story. There’s the oversexed Nanapush, the bitter Lulu, the second priest Father Gregory, the investigating priest Father Jude, Kapshaw and his 4 wives … The reality is that the book is about much more than what the back of the book would lead you to believe.
Scoring on this novel has been difficult. It’s a complex narrative, with a lot going on at any one time, and I had a hard time picking it apart in pieces rather than seeing it as a whole, but I did as best as I could …
** There is something about this woman’s books that makes me have dreams about my Grandad. This is the second novel by Louise Erdrich that I’ve read this year, and while reading both of them, I’ve had at least half a dozen dreams starring my grandfather. – Plus 3
** God bless a book with cross-dressing. – Plus 2
** There is SO much going on in this novel. For the first time in a while, it certainly seems like there was not an editor pulling out important plot points to the story to keep it under 350 pages. But all the same, it’s hard to keep all the details straight sometimes. – Minus 3
** Something I don’t quite get … the back of the edition of the book that I have mentions that Father Damien risks losing everything by revealing the whole truth. But at the same time, Father Damien guesses that he’s at least 90 years old, and probably closer to 100. How much could you really lose at that age, it’s not like he would have to start over from scratch. – Minus 2
** Nanapush & the moose … hilarity – Plus 2
** I love the murder mystery element of the novel. There are so many small towns with a crazy unsolved murder of a bad seed ruffian that creates gossip. – Plus 3
** The San Francisco Chronicle compared Erdrich to Garcia Marquez. It’s no secret that I hated Love in the Time of Cholera and I love both this book and Plague of Doves, so I’m not a huge fan of the comparison on principle. – Minus 100,000 points to the San Francisco Chronicle.
** Impossible title to remember and tell your friends about. – Minus 1
** Chapter length … pretty average. But you can’t get away with absent minded skimming in this book. So no reading half asleep on the bus or in bed. – Minus 2
** Reading Louise Erdrich’s books makes me kind of want to go North Dakota, which is a strange feeling. I also love that in her real non author life, she owns an independent book store. – Plus 2
** I kind of like how difficult it was to score this book. Seeing the forest through the trees doesn’t always happen, especially to me, since I like to pick apart all of the details. I appreciate that the combine whole overwhelmed the details. – Plus 3
** All of the priests were human in this book. There were four different priests in the novel (six if you include the pope and the old dead priest that Father Damien replaces) and each of them had their flaws, and had their weaknesses. None of them were portrayed as holy and without imperfection. And none of them had a weakness for little boys. - Plus 2
Final Tally ... 9 points. I really liked this book, but be warned, it's not for a casual reader. It's really something that you need to read in only a couple of weeks. Any more time without reading constantly, and you get lost in what's going on.(less)
This novel took me forever to read. And I can't figure out why. It's interesting enough, and the story moves well, but I could not stay motivated at a...moreThis novel took me forever to read. And I can't figure out why. It's interesting enough, and the story moves well, but I could not stay motivated at all with this book. I'd read 20 pages here and there, but no marathon sessions.
The story is a good one. Twists, turns, deaths, births, revelations, and ghosts. A mostly decent book, but I think it failed my expectations since most people seem to love it.(less)
**spoiler alert** Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez is a memoir of a woman who traveled to Kabul just after 9/11 as a humanitarian aid worker....more**spoiler alert** Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez is a memoir of a woman who traveled to Kabul just after 9/11 as a humanitarian aid worker. Her trade is cosmetology and she wasn't sure what she could offer to the people of Afghanistan but she knew she wanted to help. During her first trip, she felt mostly useless but fell in love with the country and people of Afghanistan, and knew she would return. Over the next year, Ms. Rodriguez took the lead and became involved with a project to begin a beauty school in the city of Kabul to help train the women of Afghanistan in a trade. She gets sponsors, donations, and returns to the country to change women's lives. She slowly adapts to the culture, marries an Afghani man, and ends up staying in Kabul to keep the school running.
Kabul Beauty School is my first nonfiction book of the journey to 30. As I was reading this book, I realized that my usual method of scoring a book is not going to work very well for non-fiction. It's not like I can judge a decision of a character when in reality it's a decision of this woman's life. So ... bare with the kinks of having to review a non-fiction memoir rather than a novel.
** I learned a lot about the Taliban's reign in Afghanistan and the ramifications. I knew they were the bad guys, but it some of the restrictions - like outlawing all beauty salons - I had no idea about. - Plus 3
** I really didn't need the life story of the maid. Call me elitist ... but I didn't really care. - Minus 2
** I've said it a TON ... girl power rules and the fact that this woman left her abusive husband, went to Afghanistan and started making a difference is super duper girl power! - Plus 10
** Long chapters ... I've said my full on this, but it took me about 4 days to read this book from start to finish, so it couldn't have bothered me too much ;) - Neutral
** I loved all the side stories of the women in the school, but they got distracting keeping up with them all. And they were all depressing. - Minus 3
** Total curveball that she became arranged to be married. And then actually got married. (I'm not giving anything away if you read the book cover) - Plus 2
** I love memoirs. They're pretty much the only non-fiction book that I'll regularly read voluntarily. - Plus 3
** I learned something. Learning is good and knowledge is power. - Plus 2
And I'm tapped out. It's a lot more difficult to come up with scoring when you're critiquing someone's life rather than someone's literary decisions.
Final Tally ... 9. I'm sure that's high because I couldn't find the heart to say that I didn't buy that she screamed and yelled and tried to get a guy arrested for grabbing her ass in the market. Cause I'm sure she did do that, and she has my respect for it. I'm pretty sure I would have ignored it and just shot evil eyes. (less)