Normally, I can put aside my job as a copy editor and enjoy books, but some of the errors and poor judgments in Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Swee...moreNormally, I can put aside my job as a copy editor and enjoy books, but some of the errors and poor judgments in Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet were so egregious that I found myself reaching for a red pen.
The 1942 passages, as far as I could tell, were well-researched, and the rough idea of the plot was compelling. The 1986 portions were a disaster, and the story seems to drag and repeat itself. We don't learn anything new every flashback/fast-forward, which, to me, defeats the purpose of a split-time setting.
My biggest gripes were the anachronisms in the 1986 part of the story and the portrayal of Henry's parents. There isn't really a good argument for choosing 1986 as the setting. A lot of the "modern" technology mentioned is very modern -- it wouldn't be accessible for at least another 10 years. Henry's son uses the internet to search for a person, but the internet was really not used a lot before the 1990s. I'm vaguely remembering that he might have been majoring in something computer-related, but even with that access and know-how, that wasn't something readily available in 1986. And CDs weren't big until the 1990s, either. In 1986, everyone was mostly using cassette tapes.
The treatment of Henry's parents is patronizing. Even when it's clear that they're speaking in Cantonese and the conversation is in English for the reader's convenience, they omit verbs in a very stereotypical portrayal of Asian immigrants. It makes no sense to suggest that they would be speaking so brokenly in their native language.
The mistakes really didn't make me think less of the author; like I said, the story is compelling. But the editor could have made it so much better with some strategic cutting and a closer read for fact-checking.(less)
I was OK with most of what P.D. James did with the characters, but I didn't like that Col. Fitzwilliam becomes less likable. I also didn't like how much Darcy ruminates. The conversation between Darcy and Elizabeth in epilogue in which Darcy harps on the Wickham/Georgiana near-elopement years before Pride and Prejudice takes place seems entirely unnecessary. Adding the scene with Georgiana and Alveston to the previous chapters (although it could be argued that Alveston isn't a necessary character at all), the book would be fine without the epilogue.
That said, I did enjoy the story. The ending wasn't necessarily a surprise, but I generally enjoy reading about later lives of the characters, and there were some nice touches. I liked that James brought in references to Persuasion and Emma, especially since fixing a situation would be in keeping with Emma's character.(less)
This was hands-down the best book I've read this year and the most beautiful imagery I've ever read. It's so beautifully written that I feel like anyt...moreThis was hands-down the best book I've read this year and the most beautiful imagery I've ever read. It's so beautifully written that I feel like anything I say about it would cheapen what was obviously a labor of love.(less)
After a slow start, I was sucked into the intricately detailed world Carey creates. There's so little I can say without giving away masterfully woven...moreAfter a slow start, I was sucked into the intricately detailed world Carey creates. There's so little I can say without giving away masterfully woven surprises. It was a delight to read. Mostly.(less)
When I started reading The Baker's Daughter, I was disappointed to see that it jumped back and forth from present to past in different points of view....moreWhen I started reading The Baker's Daughter, I was disappointed to see that it jumped back and forth from present to past in different points of view. Usually, I like a third-person point of view to be either omniscient or to concentrate on one character because swapping things around is so difficult to do well. Sarah McCoy is an exception. I was very impressed with how well the story flowed together. It wasn't hard to follow. You didn't get confused about which character was the focal point at any given moment. For what originally looked like something of a patchwork quilt, the plot moved pretty seamlessly.
There were parts that I wanted to know more about. What happened to all the other women Hazel was living with? Is it an actual historical unknown? If so, there probably would have been a way to weave that in. I also wondered about Josef's ending. Did that really happen? Or was it a rumor that reached Elsie?
Initially, I was uncomfortable with equating the Holocaust with deporting undocumented immigrants. But then I realized that McCoy wasn't trying to equate, per se. Studying Nazi Germany, it's easy to condemn all Germans who lived through the Holocaust, supported Hitler at any time or on any level or fought in the war. But governments commit atrocities all the time without the knowledge, much less consent, of the people they purport to represent. It was interesting to read something not remotely sympathetic to Nazism, but definitely sympathetic to the average German just trying to eke out an existence during a war that devastated the entire continent (and much of the rest of the world). I thought the passage where Reba asks Elsie whether she was a Nazi was poignant -- particularly Elsie's response: "I was a German."(less)
I knew nothing about the Dominican Republic's revolution, much less its major players, but I devoured this novel. I loved the sisters' distinct person...moreI knew nothing about the Dominican Republic's revolution, much less its major players, but I devoured this novel. I loved the sisters' distinct personalities and how you got to know each one. Hearing the story made me want to learn the history.(less)
I received an advance copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.
I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were classified (or, if it is,...moreI received an advance copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.
I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were classified (or, if it is, if I had realized that) as young adult literature. It's an easy read, and it's very interesting. I just couldn't stay motivated to read it, partially because it has a very straightforward plot and simple language. Although it deals with big ideas, it does so in a way that young people can understand. It's perfect for late elementary- and middle-schoolers. And I think it would have been better for me personally if I'd read it in that framework.(less)
I usually think of biographies as pretty dry reading, and the length of this one was daunting. While I did doze off during some of the House committee...moreI usually think of biographies as pretty dry reading, and the length of this one was daunting. While I did doze off during some of the House committee meetings, this was much more engaging than I expected it to be. The family is fascinating, and the authors researched meticulously with about a quarter of the book citing sources. I was amazed when I read they had written it in only four years.(less)
I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
I wasn't as impressed as other reviews suggested I should have been. The stories ar...moreI received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
I wasn't as impressed as other reviews suggested I should have been. The stories are almost essays and are very loosely connected. A few were powerful, but they were watered down by the ones that seemed to be there simply to move the plot along. It felt like the book couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a series of essays or a narrative memoir and succeeded in being neither.
I particularly enjoyed the chapters where the author talks about menopause, reconnects with her father and discusses her complicated relationships with her mother.(less)
In compliance with FCC regulations, I am disclosing that I received a copy of Next To Love by Ellen Feldman as a part of the Goodreads First Reads giv...moreIn compliance with FCC regulations, I am disclosing that I received a copy of Next To Love by Ellen Feldman as a part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
The perspective Ellen Feldman presents historically is really interesting: The war never ends, at least in the minds of the people who lived it. Some of the trauma fades, but it's changed all the characters drastically. I have not lived a war the way people on the home front lived World War II, so it was something I never considered. If PTSD is a struggle now, of course it was in the 1940s and '50s, and men would have been ashamed to seek help because of gender stereotypes. The emotions the characters experienced were painstakingly recounted, and the nightmares, the guilt resulting from emotional instability, and the strain all of that puts on a marriage were eloquent and poignant. The reader feels what the characters feel.
This was a compulsive read and an interesting story, but the organization made it somewhat disjointed. I don't know if that was intentional, but it hurt the book for me. I think the story would have run more smoothly if, instead of breaking each chapter up into three parts to give Babe, Millie, and Grace equal parts of the story, Feldman had just written the whole book in third-person omniscient, as she did the last chapter. This way, you sort of know what's going to happen before it happens, and as you get to know the characters, you know how they're going to react.
I also felt like starting with Babe the day news of the Allies' invasion comes is a little unfair if you want the story to have three heroines. No one else's perspective is shared from that day until much later, so for me, I started the book most sympathetic to Babe, rather than liking all the women equally. With a different format, I might have been more sympathetic toward Grace, who is probably most like me of the three, and Millie, who is probably the most likable of the three. As it was, I was on Team Babe from the start, and I plowed through the Millie and Grace chapters to get back to Babe.(less)