Monday, December 28, 2009

Under the Wire

Time to squeeze in the last four books of the year! Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was a debut novel. Jamie Ford writes of a topic seldom addressed in American literature: the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. The novel is a love story that spans several decades. I think it touched a chord with me as it reminded me of the intensity of first love. Henry Lee, the son of Chinese immigrants, falls in love with a second generation Japanese American. Against the backdrop of the prejudice spawned from the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Henry and Keiko form a life long friendship. I give this one two thumbs up because it made me smile.

Geraldine Brooks' A Year of Wonders had me up to the last chapter. And the epilogue. I am convinced that this author has the Stephen King syndrome: she just does not know when to stop. Anna Firth is a noble main character. She is strong, intelligent and still flawed. Inspired by the village of Eyam, Brooks writes about the year that a small town quarantines itself in order to prevent the spread of infection to its neighbors. The characters are all distinct and their examples of bad behavior and hard work are all believable. But then she writes that last chapter. And that epilogue. I would like to know if there was a fight with the editor over this one.

These next two are young adult novels. I believe I have mentioned that I am often and 'interactive' reader during SSR time..great role model, huh? Well, only one of these got a real response from me. Wild Girls was a nice book. Definitely a 'girl' book, this one would have appeal to the middle school reader. Twelve year old girls need to know that they are not the only ones who yearn for a place and to form strong relationships with their parents and others around them.

Incantation was an unexpected gem. This is the story of the Spanish Inquisition and I learned so much! As the reader follows Estrella through her daily chores, the reader feels truly immersed in this colorful time period. And the textile junkie in me enjoyed the references to her mother's dye business and colorful yarns she produced. I really cannot see this having a strong appeal to young adults as most will have no background knowledge of this time period, and I do think a bit is necessary to help them through it. In addition, the tortures suffered by Estrella's family may prove a bit much for the type of child who would actually read this one. But still, a good book.

So my reading for 2009 now draws to a close. I was able to read 31 novels this year, beating last year's total of 26. For 2010 the goal will be 35. Happy reading to one and all.

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