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Topic: 2012 HF Challenge Course 5 - Celebrate Our Past - Discussion

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Subject: 2012 HF Challenge Course 5 - Celebrate Our Past - Discussion
Date Posted: 1/1/2012 9:25 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
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Last Edited on: 1/1/12 9:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Bonnie (LoveNE) - ,
Date Posted: 1/1/2012 9:44 PM ET
Member Since: 2/17/2007
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Hi Christa!

Date Posted: 1/1/2012 9:56 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
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Hi Bonnie! :)

Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 1/7/2012 5:26 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
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I just finished my first book for the contest. I picked #22 because it is my birthday. It is the category with a color in the Title. I rad The Scarlett Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick. Excellent. I liked it better than the Greatest Knight.  Very sad when William Marshall dies you want him to live for ever but he was 72 quite old for those days. Just beautifully written. Higly recommend to anyone who has not read this series of books.

Alice

Date Posted: 1/16/2012 3:34 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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I had the day off today so I finished reading The Black Hand by Will Thomas for the "color me" category.  I just didn't see a spot where this would really fit in for the mystery challenge so I put the book here.  This was an excellent mystery featuring the team of Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn and alas it is the last one that the author has out currently so I will have to wait for a new installment.   Barker is asked to try and stop the Mafia from an insidious takeover of the London crime scene and there are bodies and violence aplenty in this one.  Really very well written and a great story line with some new clues to Mr. Barker's mysterious past.

Date Posted: 1/16/2012 4:13 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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Cheryl, I love the WIll Thomas books ... and get a secret little thrill of pride when I think about Will Thomas ... he is from Oklahoma! 

Date Posted: 1/16/2012 8:08 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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I love these too, and I wish he would make an announcement on the next book.  On face book everytime he is asked about it he is evasive.  He had some health issues, but is well again, so I hope soon we will know something about the next book.  I just wonder if he has lost his publisher or something like that?



Last Edited on: 1/16/12 8:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/16/2012 9:27 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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That would be a shame if it was due to lack of a publisher.  I hope the book has just been delayed because of health issues.  I think everyone who has enjoyed reading them is anxious for the next one.

Date Posted: 1/24/2012 7:05 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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One of my random picks was to read a book in which the letter "R" was part of the title or author's name.  I chose the very wonderful novel, Doc, by Mary Doria Russell.

Linda

Date Posted: 1/26/2012 7:49 PM ET
Member Since: 8/29/2008
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I picked #16 Pagan Past in honor of my oldest daughter's birthday. I read Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie. It's the 2nd book in the Medicus series. I enjoyed this one just as much as the first. Some of the dialogue is laugh out loud funny. I especially enjoyed the free clinic Ruso gave to the native Britain population. I have the next one on my kindle, and will definately be reading it soon.

Date Posted: 1/28/2012 3:56 PM ET
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The number 27 (my daughter's birth date) is the letter E.  I read The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, which is also the February pick for my face-to-face book club.  The book has two story lines, only one of which is set in the past.  However, in Kostova's words, the book "holds a historical mystery at its core".  A Chicago Tribune article reprinted at the end of the book calls it, "historical fiction with a twist."  Anyway, I loved this book and rate it 5 stars.  It's about psychiatrist  Andrew Marlowe's pursuit to help his patient, Robert Oliver, a brilliant, psychotically obsessed painter and also about a passionate and tragic love affair between two painters in 19th century France (very simplified summary!)  What makes the book work so well for me is Kostova's use of a writing style that matches the artistic subject of the book - almost "painting" the scenes with words.  Lovely book.

Bonnie (LoveNE) - ,
Date Posted: 1/28/2012 5:39 PM ET
Member Since: 2/17/2007
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Just finished SKP's Here Be Dragons. It should be titled Here Be Fabulous!  What great history Wales has had. Loved Llewelyn(still not as much as Jaimie tho!) Now I must decide where to put it in the challenge!

Date Posted: 2/10/2012 7:42 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
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Course 5:  Celebrate our Past

Habla espanol:   Perla by Carolina De Robertis, 4/30/2012, 4 stars

A young woman named Perlita (Perla) leads a charmed life.  Her parents are wealthy and her father is an officer in the Argentine military.  What she doesn't know won't be a problem or will it?  She falls in love with a man whose passion is writing about the thousands who disappeared in Argentina's bleakest recorded moment who asks if she could have been a child of disappeared parents.  "Of course not!" she replies testily but in a small part of her brain a question has been planted.  Yes, Perlita was born in the period when 30,000 people disappeared and five hundred babies were torn from their mother's arms for adoption.  She comes home one day to find a watery man in her home.  He must be a ghost but she cannot ignore him.  He was one of the disappeared and he tells her some of his story, tells her about his wife, their love for each other and of the child they were expecting.  The ending is predictable but charming.  The tale is graphic in some parts but those scenes are told with detachment that make one feel as if one were watching a silent movie.  I enjoyed this read and if you are interested in a portion of history that could happen anywhere I recommend this read for you.

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay, 4 stars:  A famous ballerina is selling her jewelry to benefit the Boston ballet. Nina Revskya is ill, in pain, and confined to a wheelchair. However, her decision to auction her jewels opens past memories that she would prefer to forget.  The novel moves back and forth between her past and the present.  The present is likewise divided between Nina's thoughts and emotions and that of the young woman, Drew Brooks, who is researching and evaluating the collection plus the reactions of a professor, Grigori Solodin, who believes that he is related to Nina.

Nina recalls her experiences as a child, later as an aspiring ballerina, and finally as a an accomplished and well revered ballerina.  As Nina's story unfolds, Viktor's best friend is arrested and sent away. Nina's friend, Vera, is devastated as she is in love with the friend. Nina becomes more and more distrustful of those around her and focuses primarily on dance. Viktor wants to have a child but Nina is afraid to bring one into this world. She and Vera quarrel and avoid each other.  However, there is so much to the relationships and her marriage than one can share in a few lines.    Back in the present, Grigori Solonin owns an amber necklace that he believes belongs with a set that Nina has listed for sale.  In his attempt to discover if it is and if he is related to Nina he finds himself attracted to Drew and another story line evolves.  I loved the novel and the bouncing back and forth between characters and time frames only seemed to me to enhance the story.  It's a wonderful read well documented by the author's research.  While these comments may seem disconnected it is difficult to share impressions about this read without giving away too much.  Suffice it to say that this is a most enjoyable novel that I highly recommend.Continuing saga:  Gold Under Ice by Carol Buchanan

New-to-you author:   God's Thunderbolt by Carol Buchanan, 4 stars

This is a wonderful historical western. The hero is a principled man who turned from being a lawyer to become a surveyor because he liked to live and work out-of-doors. Dan Stark is a surveyor in Montana Territory's Alder Gulch. He has left his home in New York with memories of his lawyer father's suicide after he gambled away the family's money and that of many of his clients. His promise to his grandfather is to earn, discover and bring back enough gold to pay the debts incurred by his father and hopefully redeem some of the family honor.   It is 1863 in Virginia City and the middle of a brutal winter. It's not just the weather that bothers Dan but the political leanings of the miners. Emotions run high among the miners, many of whom sympathize with the south while Dan is an abolitionist. Some of the residents have served in the Civil War which is in its final years. There is little or no law in Virginia City except by the smoking end of a gun. Always, Dan carries his rifle on his shoulder.  When a young man is murdered, Dan finds himself involved in helping find the murderer perhaps at the risk of his own life. 

Who dunnit:   The Bellini Card by Jason Goodwin

On your shelf:  Falls the Shadow by Sharon Kay Penman 

ALA:  

Non-fiction:  Prairie Son by Dennis M. Clausen.  This is the story of a man who is adopted by a couple who are searching for a hired man.  Never does he encounter love or affection.   The people he knows as Ma and Pa are married as a matter of convenience - Pa's convenience.  He needs Ma to clean, cook and keep his house and Claus the work the farm so he can play cards and fish.  Claus remembers his birth mother holding him and loving him so and cherishes this memory his entire life.   Why did she give him up?  The child finds friends in a cousin who like him is adopted, two dogs, the mailman, neighbors and teachers.  While he misses more school than he attends he, nevertheless, graduates from high school.  His one passion, as he grows up, is to find his birth mother.  The book uncovers many mores of the time.  For example:  Bearing a child out of wedlock is tabu for any young woman.  Attending church is customary.   Taking a child out of school to work on the farm is common.  

Extra Picks:

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon, 2/15/2012  While I have enjoyed this series very much, Brotherhood is in my opinion the poorest written of the four.  In fact, I delayed writing these comments until I had finished The Scottish Prisoner and Lord John and the Hand of Devils, both of which I really liked.  The Brotherhood plot is interesting but slow moving as John and his brother strive to remove the blot on their father's reputation following his suicide.  He was accused of being a Jacobite and commits suicide the night before he is to defend himself, strengthening belief in the accusation.  John and Hal refuse to believe it.  In addition, the Seven Years War finds Britain fighting on the side of the Prussians.  If you are reading the series and feel it impoortant to include this selection for continuity, do so.  However, if it doesn't matter I would skip Brotherhood but read the others.  I kept having the feeling that the author went through this novel again and again, adding words and detail to lengthen it.  Others may feel differently but that's my take on it.  It's an ok read.    

Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon, 2/22/2012  A most enjoyable read!  When I read Lord John and the Private Matter I decided to obtain the entire series but didn't read the rest until now.  Then the author published The Scottish Prisoner.  At first, I wasn't certain I would like it but when Lord John, his brother Hal, and Jamie come together to keep peace in the country the tale becomes fascinating.  Jamie's grief for his lost wife is so sad but he finds solace in the child he fathered at Helwater when Geneva took him to her bed.  Lord John is human enough to bait Jamie now and then but the two end respecting and depending on one another, becoming almost friends.  And, Hal with his sense of justice combined with the Grey sense of honor forces Jamie and John to work together to investigate a man in Ireland who is believed to be involved in the Jacobite movement and becoming rich by stealing as a result of his military post. Lord John fights a duel and kills a man that he believes is deeply involved in the Jacobite revolt only to discover that the man was one of the best British spies who had infiltrated the Jacobite.  Little incidents such as the disappearance of Jamie's son during a picnic when the fog moves in quickly add a sensitive touch that makes one smile.  Truly an awesome read!

Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon, 2/26/2012     The three stories included in this novel are very good.  Truly enjoy Lord John's adventures as a soldier as he tries to extricate himself from various situations and investigates murders, thefts, and more.  The first story is titled Lord John and the Hellfire Club and begins when John meets Harry Quarry's cousin by marriage, Robert Gerald, a good looking young man with flaming red hair.  John knows that their romantic interests are the same but before he gets to know the young man, he is murdered in the street.  John and Harry, puzzled by the murder, begin to investigate to determine who and why Gerald was murdered.  John uncovers a secret sect that, one of whose members is responsible for the murder for his own reasons, and would have joined young Gerald in death except for Harry's intervention.  The second story, Lord John and the Succubus, takes place in Germany during the seven years war.  John, his valet, Tom Byrd, and Stephen von Namzen, join forces to discover the cause of the deaths of first a German soldier and then and English one.  Myth and superstition play a major role in the telling as soldiers and citizens alike search for a succubus that they believe is responsible for the death of at least the German soldier.  The truth is far simpler but John and Tom Byrd must sift through the superstitious beliefs and actions of all involved to discover what really happened to both soldiers.  Lord John and the Haunted Soldier, the final story, finds John before a three member panel to explain his actions during a battle that resulted in an exploding gun that killed a young soldier and gravely wounds John himself.  The three men seem determined to find fault with John's leadership and actions during the battle.  John walks out on the inquisition determined to investigate for himself, not the least of which to discover whether or not he was indeed at fault.  The tale is fascinating with many twists and turns as John finds himself drawn into situation after situation to help someone or uncover the truth of what happened during the battle.  It's wonderfully well written and my favorite of the three. 

 

 

 



Last Edited on: 8/10/12 2:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 18
Date Posted: 2/16/2012 6:11 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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#15. Who Dunit:   The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau,

Well…I am joining in the chorus to sing the praises of, The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau. It is in my opinion a first rate historical mystery as well as a wonderful historical fiction novel.  Now those who know me know I rarely read anything that is remotely connected with the Tudor era, it has been done to death.  But several friends said: “It is good! I know you’ll like it!” As I trust their taste, I thought why not? 

Sister Joanna Stafford second cousin to King Henry VIII is a novice at the Priory of Dartford.  She has run away from the Priory, to London, to be present at her Cousin Margaret’s execution by burning.  Margaret has been convicted as rebel, for her part in the Pilgrimage of Grace.  Joanna’s motivation is one of honest compassion, so that her cousin and her dearest friend should not die alone.   She is unprepared for what she sees at the execution and in a resulting scuffle she is arrested and taken to the tower. The Stafford’s are the family, of the disgraced and also executed, of the second Duke of Buckingham.   A family that has a claim to the throne, this is equal, if not better than that of the Tudors.  She thinks she can explain the reasons she is there and will be released, to go back to the priory and take her punishment and resume her calling to become a nun. 

But powerful, dangerous forces are at work, the Dissolution of the Monasteries has begun.   Sister Joanna has become the perfect pawn in the power struggle between the Kings counselors.  And there is something a powerful relic, the crown of Athelstan that many want, and Joanna is the corrupt Bishop Gardiner’s best hope of obtaining it for his purposes.  She agrees to look for it, not for herself but for another’s whose life depends on it.

This is an excellent mystery, and it deals very well with the fear the permeated people of the Catholic faith, and the pain of watching their religion slowly disappearing.  How much more so, for those who have chosen to serve God, and their faith.  Life in a cloister during these uncertain times was difficult.  I was swept up in this well written and well researched novel. I was up all night reading this. Ms Bilyeau is absolutely on my writer to watch list, and I am excited to see what is next. 5 Stars

Date Posted: 3/3/2012 11:11 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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I finished reading The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart for the "R U Kidding Me" category of my challenge which was to read a h/f fantasy or alternative reality book.  I had recently finished The Crystal Cave for our February read-a-long and thought why not just continue to the next book in the series as it had been a favorite of mine years ago.  What luminous, beautiful writing that I think is reflective of Merlin's power as he truly comes into his own in this novel.  I also think that of all the "Arthur" books I have read and I have read a lot of them over the years, this is my favorite one relating to the actual relationshipo between the young Arthur and Merlin.  What a pleasure to read an old friend and re-discover the parts you loved and to find new insights as well.

Christa:  I do need some clarification on the last part of this challenge where I am supposed to read two choices from any course.  Must they be two choices from the same course or can they be one from one choice and one from another?  Don't want to cheat!

Date Posted: 3/6/2012 7:41 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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For two of my Extra Picks, I went to "past reading challenges" and read Genghis: Birth of an Empire & the sequel, Lord of the Bows by Conn Iggulden. The first one fit #63, Asia; and the second one #21, Continuing Saga.

I enjoyed both of these books - the first one slightly more than the second. The first book covers Genghis' youth, early development and the culture and manner in which a nomadic tribe lived in the land that would become Mongolia. The books are set in the the late 12th century, early 13th century. It has long been an opinion of mine that history should be taught more linear and less geographically. While Henry II was thinking through laws of justice and establishing courts where even the common man could seek redress from his grievances, Genghis Khan was living in a tribe to which total complete allegiance was necessary just to survive and mutton grease rubbed into the skin was a defense against the bitter cold winds.

And then our forward-thinking Genghis realized that to be strong, to defeat the common enemy, the tribes must unite. And, this he did. Really, unbelievable when you think about it. He united all the various Mongolian nomadic tribes, earned their allegiance, and moved the entire horde - wives, families, herds of sheep & oxen, their precious, valuable ponies, weapons, huts, (gers) and thousands and thousands of warriors across the Gobi Dessert and into the land that is now China. There was never a thought of leaving families behind because the idea of a town or city was completely foreign to them.

The second book begins when Genghis has become the Khan of all tribes and covers his adult years, ending with the fall of the great city of Yenking (Beijing).

They are fascinating books and I would recommend them.

Kelly

 

Date Posted: 3/9/2012 8:58 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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One of my random picks was "read a new-to-me author" from the 2009 challenge.  I read The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff, about a Jewish girl in Krakow, Poland posing as a Gentile and working as an assistant to the Nazi Kommandant.  This was a quick read with a  slightly different slant, but I'm not quite sure it was very believeable.

Linda

Date Posted: 3/10/2012 3:10 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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Guess Linda & I are both drawn to this course right now.

One of my random picks was the letter "M" ... which was a perfect spot to slide in A Murder of Crows by P.F. Chisholm (aka Patricia Finney). This mystery series features Sir Robert Carey, son of Henry, Lord Hunsdon, and grandson of Mary Boleyn. So, is Sir Robert a great nephew? or a cousin? to Queen Elizabeth? Regardless of Lord Hunsdon's actual paternity, they are a trusted and important family of the Royal court. This book is the 5th in the series and takes place in London. The previous books take place in Carlisle, in the Debatable lands between England & Scotland - a marvelous setting for all kinds of mischief!

I like PF Chisholm's writing style - her books are intelligent with great characters, well developed plots and well-researched backgrounds. I know we all get tired of the Tudors, but don't let that dissuade you. None of these books is actually set "at court." Rather, we just get the (sometimes dubious) benefits and privileges of having that connection. The characters in this book include William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe & Sir Robert Cecil who all have a role to play in solving the mystery of mistaken identity, a decomposed corpse pulled out of the Thames, and a con-game that involves selling the proverbial beachfront property in Arizona - in this case, gold-rich land in Cornwall.

Such fun!

Kelly

 

Date Posted: 3/17/2012 4:15 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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Another of my random picks was "a book set in the 1200s & 1300s" from last year's challenge.  I read Jack Whyte's wonderful novel about William Wallace: The Forest Laird.   I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  I liked the story, the characters, the writing, and the ideas and thoughts that this book made me think about. 

Linda

 

Date Posted: 3/19/2012 10:45 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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Another random pick - Letter G in title or author's name.  I read The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman.  This is a very unusual novel, told in a series of stories about the people of a fictional town in Massachusetts, beginning with the founding of the village in 1750 by four couples.  Succeeding stories and/or chapters are separated by a generation or two as the families grow, intermarry, move away and come home again.  Some stories are better than others, but all are interesting and necessary to the life of the novel.  The village is affected by the Civil War, both World Wars, the Great Depression, the hippie generation, Vietnam, etc. concluding in the late 20th century.  Quite a book!

Linda 

Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 4/11/2012 9:58 AM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 40,737
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I picked number 4 as it is our anniversary, and it is a new to me author

I finished

 
It is about Cleopatra's Daughter. It was quite good although I think I liked Michelle Moran's book Cleopatra's Daughter better.
 
Alice
Date Posted: 4/15/2012 11:15 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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For one of my Extra Picks, I am using The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss. While this could have fit one of several categories, I am using it for #4, New to You Author. I have never read anything by David Liss before and one of the reasons I really liked this book is because of the writing style and the character development. As I was finishing the book (in the middle of the night listening to the wind-pushed rain beat against my windows), I thought about how much I would like to have more of Ethan Saunders, Leonidas and Kyler Lavien.

This book is set in 1792 in the very new and fragile country of America and uses as its backdrop Hamilton's establishment of the Bank of the United States. It is a political story, mystery, love story & history lesson all rolled into one well-written, nicely developed and executed book. I will definitely be reading more of David Liss.

Kelly

 

Date Posted: 4/17/2012 4:04 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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For the Viva la Revolution category, I read The Spanish Bow, a story that takes place during the Spanish civil war and explores some big themes such as the power and meaning of art, friendship, loyalty, and truth.  This is a beautifully written, epic-like novel that spans the lifetime of the narrator, Feliu, who becomes a world-class cellist and reluctant political activist.  It's a complex story with damaged and flawed characters that come together during tumultous world events.  I believe I will think about this book for some time to come. 



Last Edited on: 4/17/12 6:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
hro
Date Posted: 4/27/2012 9:24 AM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2011
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When one of my random choices come up as "Read a book that is somehow connected to your birth date" (#76) I thought I'd gotten one that was going to require a bit of research and book searching. When I went to history.com I learned that on March 11, 1918 the first cases of the Spanish Influenza were reported. Guess what I had just read a few weeks earlier? This Time of Dying by Reina James, which is *surprise!* about the influenza epidemic. Here is my review:

“This Time of Dying” takes place in 1918 when England (and the rest of the world) was being ravaged by the Spanish Flu Epidemic. Henry Speake, an undertaker, becomes intrigued by the cause of the epidemic when he discovers the notes of a study on the illness that was being conducted by a man who died of the disease. Henry becomes friends with Allen Thompson, a schoolteacher, and the two find comfort in their relationship as their friends and families die.

The book is an interesting exposition on the cause and effect of the epidemic while also exploring the class distinctions between Henry and Allen. The execution of the story didn’t quite work for me, though. I was often confused by the cast of characters and chronology. The tone is detached, and there was really no climax to the plot and it just sort of ended in a sad quiet way. “This Time of Dying” was good, but could have been much better. I rated it 3.5 Stars.



Last Edited on: 4/27/12 9:26 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 5/6/2012 9:40 PM ET
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I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet for my book discussion group and it fits nicely into the random pick category, Letter H. 

It is 1986 and Henry, a newly widowed Chinese American, reminisces about his childhood in the 1940s and a young Japanese girl that he befriends, loves and loses.  Henry - as a child and an adult - is a wonderful character as are several supporting characters, namely the jazz playing Sheldon, and the tough talking but soft hearted Mrs. Beatty. The story illustrates in an accurate and non-judgmental way, America's treatment of Japanese Americans after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into WWII.  However, I found the book too overtly sentimental and far too easy to put down when the story line failed to propel me forward.  I gave this one a 3 (out of 5) star rating.



Last Edited on: 5/7/12 4:20 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
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