Thursday, July 27, 2017

This Day In History ... Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford

Summary: In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families,left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.
(Summary and cover photo from of

Heather's Review:
 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a beautifully crafted novel which speaks of the segregation that took place after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It addresses the difficulties of being of Asian decent during this period of time and the prejudices that arose. The novel also depicts a rocky relationship between a father and his son - an indestructible wall of secrets built between the two. Yet at it's heart Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a love story.

Jamie Ford's writing took my breath away time and time again with his tale laced with symbolism. My chest tightened as I watched one season of a life come to an undesirable end and another unpredictable future begin. My eyes were far from dry as I savored the final pages. Despite all the war and torment that takes place during this book there is a feeling of total and utter peace as the last word is read and the cover is closed.

I was fortunate enough to attend one of Jamie Ford's book talks and signings. He is a very charismatic man with a wonderful sense of humor, yet remains humble. It just made me love this book (now signed!) more.

Her Rating: 5 Stars
(I did catch the discrepancy between the time frame of the novel and the technology written about but I was so utterly engrossed in the tale that it did not distract from the story line for me. So it remains a 5.)

To sum it up: A perfect balance of fact and fiction wound together to create a beautiful love story.

Mindy's Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the quiet and expressive story of Henry Lee, told in two alternating parts—Henry as young boy and Henry as an elderly man. Young Henry lives in Seattle during WWII, and though he is Chinese, contends daily with the shameful racism brought about by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and a father who holds a deep-seated hatred of the Japanese. His father longs for his native China, but desperately wants his son to be seen as an American. Old Henry tells his story with a voice of experience and wisdom. While mourning the loss of his wife Ethel, and confronting some of the same issues he and his father faced with his own son, Marty, Henry keeps can't help but think about the past and what could have been. Through the eyes of young and old, a beautifully rich story unfolds. It is young love, hateful actions, familial betrayal, and undying loyalty, all set to the beat of Seattle’s famous jazz scene.

It seems cliché to use the word bittersweet to describe this particular novel, but in the end the word is fitting, and perfectly describes my feelings as I read. I didn’t always know what was going to happen, but was content to go where the story led. If the ending tied up a little too neatly, I found I didn’t mind at all. I closed this book with a contented sigh and the feeling that all was as it should be.

Her Rating: 4.5 Stars. For the sensitive reader: I really can’t remember anything offensive. Of course, I’m a bit batty right now, so that might not mean a whole lot.

Sum it up: A beautifully written love story that should not be missed.

Average Rating: 4.75 Stars

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What's In My Stack

Ah, summer! It's the perfect time for hammocks, icy lemonade, and a stack of books while kids play happily in the sprinklers. Right? It's also the perfect time for a move, apparently. And do you know what suffers when you move? Your reading time. I'm dying to pick up a book!  Assuming I finally unearth my books, here's what I hope to dive into ... while my kids are practicing their start dives at swim.

My dad recommended this one, given my time in Austria and my interest in World War II. Can't wait to get my hands on it! 

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, the remarkable true story of the valiant rescue of priceless pedigree horses in the last days of World War II. 

As the Russians closed in on Hitler from the east and the Allies attacked from the west, American soldiers discovered a secret Nazi effort to engineer a master race of the finest purebred horses. With the support of U.S. general George S. Patton, a passionate equestrian, the Americans planned an audacious mission to kidnap these beautiful animals and smuggle them into safe territory—assisted by a daring Austrian colonel who was both a former Olympian and a trainer of the famous Lipizzaner stallions.

This one was recommended to me by a fellow GT mom, and after listening to a podcast featuring the author, I'm so curious about her book!
In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, athletes, students, and business people-both seasoned and new-that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called “grit.” Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.

Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. As a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth created her own “character lab” and set out to test her theory.

Here, she takes readers into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers-from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to the cartoon editor of The New Yorker to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that-not talent or luck-makes all the difference.

Doctor Who? Books? Sold.
The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies - think Doctor Who with librarian spies!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

On This Day...

On This Day 2016...
We were too busy reading to post on this day in 2016, and honestly much of July 2016 at all.  But on the 18th we reviewed Welcome to Deadland by Zachary Tyler Linville.
See our review here.

On This Day in 2015...
We reviewed The Adventures of Loriel and the Wood Fairy by CJ Walery
See our review here.

On This Day in 2014...
Image result for Great Read Alouds chapter books

On This Day in 2013...
....we were busy reading...again. But a few days later we were unimpressed from reading Inexcusable by Chris Lynch.
See our review here.

On This Day in 2012...
I shared what was currently in my stack of to-reads--how serendipitous!  See that list here.

On This Day in 2011...
...we were off a day on posting, but the next day I shared reviews of four Mo Willems Pigeon books.  We love Mo Willems!
See the reviews here.

On This Day in 2010...
...we were again off by one day in posting.
 But the next day we reviewed I'd Tell You But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter.
See the review here.

On This Day in 2009...
We reviewed Need by Carrie Jones.
See our review here.

Image result for need by carrie

On This Day in 2008...
We hadn't started reviewing here at RFS, but it was coming!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What's In My Stack

Hello my reading friends.  I've been MIA for a while, but there's good reason: I've been single parenting my three daughters while my husband finishes his masters degree for the last three years, working full time, and am now able to announce I am expecting Caulder baby #4.  I'm not going to lie: it's been rough.  Thankfully, reading hasn't stopped amidst of all this; just reviewing books I've read has.  If you're needing a way to keep up with your reading, but can't stay awake long enough to keep your eyes open longer than two minutes, try audio books.  It's heaven-sent and the only way I'm keeping up with my 50 books a year challenge.  So, here's my current to-read stack:

Image result for The future of usI just started The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher.  I enjoyed reading 13 Reason Why by Asher and have meant to pick up another of his books.  I loved the idea of this book, since in 1996 I was a teenager making my way through high school and the fast changing world that did not include texting, but did include the explosion of the internet and email.  I'll let the book jacket give you more:

What if you could see how your life would unfold--just by clicking a button?

It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet. Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM. Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on--and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future. Everybody wonders what their destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.

Image result for the reluctant fundamentalistI've been wanting to read something to open my eyes to new perspectives and this book came highly recommended by one of the English teachers in my school district. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid gives an outsiders perspective of what life would have been like for those living in America, but seen as an outsider and for some a major threat.

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . .
Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his relationship with Erica shifting. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

Image result for wolf hollowWolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is another highly recommended book on my to-read stack.  As a teacher, this is one I've wanted to read as it's an award winner and deals with the aftermath of the two world wars. 

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.
Image result for truly madly guiltyTruly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty has been recommended to me many times over and I just haven't gotten to any of Moriarty's books yet.  I've been told this is a great one to start with.

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.
Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

Image result for king's cageHaving read the first two in the Red Queen series, I was anxious to pick ups King's Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard.  The first two were a new dystopian series with a different twist that felt more like the X-Men.  I'm hoping the culmination of this story is more satisfying than some of the other dystopian trilogies out there.

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.
When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Image result for Dead End in NorveltJack Gantos is coming to my daughters' school next year to talk with them about writing.  I've watched interviews with Gantos before, and he's is entertaining!  I purchased Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos earlier this year at the book fair at my daugthers' school.  I'm excited to see how his hilarious personality comes out in the books he writes.

 Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

On This Day ...

On this day in 2009, Heather posted her review of The Help, still a book everyone should read. It's one of my favorites! 

Summary: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted insider her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determinationto start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women -mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends- view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
Summary from book jacket, photo from

My Review: To quickly summarize this is the story of the help, referring to black housemaids living in Mississippi in the 1960's. It's their journey and one that will completely engulf you. If you want a more detailed explanation read Mindy's review or the above summary from the book jacket. What I will tell you is that this is an utterly delicious story that will consume you from the opening chapter right through to author's note on the final pages.

Kathrynn Stockett has written this novel in a manner which allows the reader a private journey inside the characters heads. Three main characters tell this story and each chapter is written in their unique voice. The first chapter begins with Aibleen describing herself, "I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning." And in writing as such these brave, humorous, sassy, sensitive, tough, sweet women seem to jump from the pages.

I found myself tangled up within this story, completely engrossed and loving every moment of it. Tears and laughter, love and bitterness, humiliation and pride, it's all within the pages of this book and on so many different levels. It's a riveting story that addresses the ugly issue of discrimination, (not only racism but sexism and social class as well), in a delightfully entertaining manner.

It is a beautifully told story that you'll want to share with others. There is so much to talk about that this is a must pick for book clubs. While this story was based in the 60's, it's easy to see how some of the issues still apply in modern times. It will leave you reexamining the treatment of our fellow human beings, regardless of race or social class.

My Rating: 5 Stars, really not a book you should miss

If I had to sum it up in one phrase it would be: An all-consuming story of three women whose courageous actions confirmed that they had much in common regardless of their skin color.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On this Date...To Kill A Mockingbird

I think we can all agree that there are lots of iconic books out there. Just ask anyone what they think and they’ll give you a few off the top of their heads. The titles may vary and some will be obscure but hopefully, by the very fact that they’re iconic, you’ll recognize them, and I’m willing to bet that To Kill A Mockingbird will be there.  This phenomenon is similar with people’s favorite books. If you ask them to give you a list, and they’re any kind of reader at all, there is a high likelihood that they will say To Kill A Mockingbird in their list. Whether you loved that book or not (how could you not!?) you have to admit that it’s one of the most famous, most iconic, and best books of all time, if not the best.

Today, July 11, 1960, this book was published and the world was never the same. In light of this historic event, we dedicate today’s “On This Date” to a book that challenged, affirmed, and forever rocked the world.

Has it been awhile since you’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird? Maybe it’s time to re-read it again and decide why you think it is honored by many as one of the best books of all time.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How are Those Reading Lists Coming???

Happy Summer! We're officially halfway through summer break here (serenity now, SERENITY NOW!) and I wanted to check in with y'all on your summer reading. Have you adopted a summer reading list for your family? For you?

My kids are participating in their school's Reading Bingo Blackout program again, but my oldest has aged out. He's recovering from a rough ELA year, so we're really focusing on falling in love with reading again. But, that being said, here are some of the best reading lists I've been relying on! What are your favorites?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day!

We at Reading for Sanity want to wish you all a happy Independence Day today. This has always been one of my favorite holidays and makes me want to crank up the Sousa, dive into some incredible US History books, and enjoy some watermelon.

Have an amazing day!!


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