Archives for October 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
written by Jamie Ford             
published by Random House Publishing Group

Why did I pick this book: I read it because it was my book group selection for the month of November. It had been on my “to read someday” list but I never got around to it. So, I was glad that my book group chose this book — another one off that list.

Did I enjoy this book: It was alright. It wasn’t a book that I couldn’t put down or a book that I had to read every free chance I could get. It took a bit longer than I wanted to finish it. (Of course, moving may have had something to do with that!)

The underlying story was sweet, if not a bit predictable — well, really predictable. But sometimes predictable is okay. Although it jumped between 1942 and 1986, it wasn’t hard to follow. The main characters – Henry and Keiko – were likable as were some of the secondary characters, especially Mrs. Beatty – Henry’s cafeteria boss – and Sheldon – the street corner jazz saxophonist trying to make it big. 

The ending left me wanting more resolution. I wanted to hear the dialogue that was sure to have occurred at that moment. I won’t say anymore so as not to spoil the end for those who haven’t read this book. However, for those who have read this book, do you agree with me? Did you want that conversation on the page?

Would I recommend it: Yes, to those who like historical fiction books…books about a story that occurred during a real event in history.

Will I read it again: Probably not. It was a good book – well written for what it was about –  but not one that I could read over and over again. 

About the book – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS: The story starts in Seattle in 1986 when Henry Lee, a Chinese American, stops in front of the Panama Hotel where a crowd was forming. The new owner of the long boarded up hotel was there and showed off a Japanese parasol that was found in the basement along with a lot of other long-forgotten family items and treasures that were put there for safekeeping during the Japanese internment in America during World War II. “The more Henry thought about the shabby old knickknacks, the forgotten treasures, the more he wondered if his own broken heart might be found in there, hidden among the unclaimed possessions of another time. Boarded up in the basement of a condemned hotel. Lost, but never forgotten.” This quote was the first to foreshadow the predictable end. 

Truly, the predictable part occurs in the first three chapters when Henry saw the parasol and talked about his deceased wife of six months, then we flashed back to his meeting Keiko. I mean, really, can we guess where this is going to end?!?

Anyway…the story continues through a series of flashbacks to 1942 and present day, 1986. Both time frames go into father/son relationships. Henry’s relationship with his father in the 1940s when he was not permitted to speak Cantonese, only “American”, even though this meant he would not be able to speak to his parents. (Neither of them spoke English) And Henry’s relationship with his own son, Marty, which is strained and became worse after the death of Ethel. Both relationships are resolved in the story…one good and one not so much.

We meet Keiko Okabe in the third chapter. She is a Japanese American who does not speak Japanese. Yet, she and her family are sent to the internment camps during World War II shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Throughout the book, we do get glimpses of what life was like for Keiko and her family being Japanese during this time in America as well as the other Japanese Americans living in Seattle at that time. The locals changing their street name from Mikada Street to Dearborn Street was just one of many changes to make themselves more American and less Japanese.

Both Keiko and Henry were bullied by “all-American” kids. But Henry was also bullied by the other Chinese American kids for being a “white devil”. Henry and Keiko attended the American school, Rainier Elementary, where they were both on scholarship and worked for the school in the cafeteria and doing janitorial work. The story in 1942 follows Henry and Keiko’s budding friendship, romance, and separation because of the internment.

If you have read it, let me know what you think!!!

Flyte (Septimus Heap Series, #2), by Angie Sage

Flyte (Septimus Heap Series #2)
written by Angie Sage             
illustrated by Mark Zug
published by HarperCollins Publishers

Why did I pick this book: I read this book because it is Book 2 in the Septimus Heap Series. When I read a series, I usually read the entire series, unless it is absolutely horrible. So far, this series isn’t horrible. 

Did I enjoy this book: Yes. I enjoyed it more than the first book in the series. I was more used to the “misspellings” and the capitalization…it still got a bit annoying but, as I said, I was used to it this time around. 

The story moved faster this time and the characters were just enjoyable if not more so. I really liked the scenes with the Dragon Boat. They were written in such a way that I felt I was there watching the adventure unfold just like Aunt Zelda. 

I was also excited to meet the new characters of Beetle, Wolf Boy, and Milo Banda. They are all welcomed additions to this cast of characters.

One of my favorite parts was when Sarah Heap told the ExtraOrdinary Wizard how it was going to be when she requested a visit from her son, Septimus. That scene just made me giggle…you don’t mess with the Mom. We see this same frank attitude from Sarah at the end of the book as well. Sarah is not a prominent character in this or the last book but I enjoy her. 

Would I recommend it: If you liked the first book, Magyk, then, yes, you should read this one. 

Will I read it again: I don’t think that I will read this series again for the sake of reading it. This may change when I read the remainder of the series. I will probably read it again when my boys are old enough to read it so that I can discuss it with them as they read it. 

About the book – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS: Well, it will definitely contain spoilers for the first book if you haven’t read it yet…and it may contain spoilers for Flyte….last chance to not read the synopsis!!!

Flyte begins on the night of Septimus’s Apprentice Supper on the Marram Marshes and the recovery of the Necromancer, DomDaniel’s, skeleton.

The story then picks up one year later and finds Septimus Heap, the seventh son of the seventh son, hard at work learning Magyk, Charms, and Conjurations as the Apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand. However, Darke Magyk is still lingering in the castle. In fact, Marcia is being trailed by a Darke Shadow that grows more apparent every day until it is able to be identified in the climatic end to this story. The ExtraOrdinary Wizard is constructing a ShadowSafe to capture her Darke Shadow.

Simon Heap, Silas and Sarah’s eldest son, has been missing for a year and reappears at the castle. Simon has changed, and not for the better. He is still harboring a grudge against his youngest brother for becoming the Apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. Simon still does not believe that Septimus is his brother. Simon thinks that he is nothing but a Young Army brat who stole what he believed to be his Apprenticeship. (Not that Marcia had ever or would ever have wanted Simon as her Apprentice.)

When Simon returns to his family for a brief visit, it isn’t to see his folks, it’s to kidnap his adopted sister, Jenna, by order of DomDaniel who we thought was dead at the end of the first book, Magyk. Jenna, the Princess, has been living a good life at the Palace and starts to settle into her role as Princess and future Queen. Simon is a Darke WIzard wannabe and rather childish to the point of one wanting to walk up to him and say, “grow up already and get over it!”

We are also treated to another adventure of the Dragon Boat driven by the Dragon Master, Septimus, along with his brother Nicko and Jenna, the Princess to whom the Dragon Boat owes its loyalty. And we are introduced to the Lost Art of Flyte. 

If you have read it, let me know what you think!!!

Magyk (Septimus Heap Series #1), by Angie Sage

Magyk (Septimus Heap Series #1)
written by Angie Sage             
illustrated by Mark Zug
published by HarperCollins Publishers

Why did I pick this book: I chose to read this book because I am a huge Harry Potter fan and fantasy fiction fan. Yes, I know, I’m a thirty-three year old mom of two but I like to read books that allow me to escape every day life and walk through a world of fantasy.

Did I enjoy this book: Yes, I did and I will read the next book in the series, Flyte. However, I found it to be slow in a few parts and kind of confusing. There is so much detail, Magykal spells and charms but not a lot of explanation. For example, why is the Physik Woman called the Physik Woman? Why is the White Witch the White Witch?  Theses are only two of many questions that I asked myself. However, these questions did not stop me from reading finishing this book. The answers were not needed to continue reading the story…the answers would have been nice though. 

Some of the characters talk incessantly to the point that you just want to say, “enough, I get the point.” But that is the charm of these characters and you get the feeling that the other characters listening to them feel the same as you..”enough already!” These parts made me chuckle a bit because how real they felt to me.

Another confusing/off-putting part was that the author uses a lot of capitalization that don’t quite make sense to me. I know they are there for a reason but I’m not sure what that reason is. And the “misspellings” — i.e. DarkeMagykalPhysik — take a while to get used to. But once you get past that, it is an enjoyable read. I laughed out loud at some parts and felt my breath catch at others. And I wanted to know what happened at the end. 

Would I recommend it: Yes. My advice is to stick with it to the end. It is worth it.

Will I read it again: Too soon to tell. I want to see how the rest of the series plays out.

About the book – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS: Magyk started with the birth of the seventh son of the seventh son but the seventh son, Septimus Heap, was taken from his mother and pronounced dead by the Midwife that delivered him. When his father, Silas Heap was out getting herbs for his wife and newborn son, he stumbled across another newborn child crying in the snow. He took this child, a baby girl, home with him. When he returned home to find that his son had died and that the Midwife had taken him, the family took in the girl child, named her Jenna, and raised her as their own. 

The story then jumps to 10 years later, and finds Jenna the only girl with six brothers in a Wizard family living in a small apartment. How do we know the family is a Wizard family, besides the author telling us so? All of them, except one, has the mark of a Wizard…green eyes.And can you guess which child does not have the tell-tale green eyes? That’s right, Jenna. The family soon learns that Jenna, who does not have green eyes, is, in fact, the princess that was saved after her mother, the Queen, was assassinated. The story then progresses to the hiding and protecting of the princess, or Queenling as she is referred, and the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand.

Soon, more eccentric characters are introduced. Boy 412, who starts out wary of the Heaps and the ExtraOrdinary Wizard who try to help him but whose true identity isn’t learned until the end of the book. DomDaniel, the Darke wizard, who comes to take back his position as ExtraOrdinary Wizard. Stanley, the Confidential Message Rat. And Alther Mella, the ghost of the ExtraOrdinary Wizard that Marcia succeeded. These are just a few of the many characters that we meet throughout this adventure that is suspenseful, exciting, and keeps you guessing.

If you have read it, let me know what you think!!!