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January 11, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

And the winner is....

Laura!

Post a comment with your snail mail address (I won't approve the comment, so only I will see the information) and I'll get the book off to you on Tuesday. Enjoy!



Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Fiction
2009 Ballantine Books
Finished on 1/5/09
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
ARC - Due out on January 27, 2009




Publisher's Blurb

In 1986, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. The hotel has been boarded up for decades, but now a 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, memories take him back to the 1940s.

At the height of the war, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student, at the exclusive Rainier Academy. They forge a friendship—and an innocent love—that transcend the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family are evacuated 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.

Now Henry is trying to make sense of the past—to explain the actions of his nationalistic father; to bridge the gap between himself and his modern Chinese American son; to confront the choices he made many years ago. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable portrait of a couple whose story teaches us the power of forgiveness.

Jamie Ford is the son of American and Chinese parents and an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. An award-winning short-story writer, he lives in Great Falls, Montana. This is his first novel.

I received this book from the publisher back in August, but didn't feel compelled to pick it up until after Christmas. What luck that it was my first completed book of the New Year; it's a winner! I love the time period and location (a bit reminiscent of Gutterson's Snow Falling on Cedars) and especially enjoy coming-of-age stories, so this was right up my alley. The narrative is set in 1986, flashing back to the years between 1942 and 1945 when Henry and Keiko are in the fifth grade.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is bound to be a popular selection among book groups, particularly those in the Pacific Northwest. I enjoyed the story, although at times thought it read more like a young adult novel than general fiction. The writing is occasionally simplistic and I finished reading the novel without a single lyrical passage to share. And yet, I couldn't put this book down! I found Ford's book much more satisfying than Sandra Dallas' Tall Grass (another coming-of-age novel depicting the internment camps during World War II), particularly enjoying the references to Seattle's jazz history, including that of Oscar Holden.

Here are a couple of photos from the author's website. Go here to see more.



VJ Day in Seattle

I'll be anxious to hear what others think of this debut novel. If anyone would like my ARC, please leave a comment, stating specifically that you'd like to be entered in the drawing, and I'll pick a name one week from today.

27 comments:

  1. I specifically would like to be entered into the drawing. :)

    Hooray for it being a winner, Les, especially as your first book of 2009! I really, really liked Tall Grass, so if you liked this one more - woo! I think I'm in for a treat.

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  2. I was just eying this book on the list of new releases the other day. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it, Lesley. I will definitely be adding it to me wish list now.

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  3. I would like to be entered into your drawing -- I love the title of this book and the subject matter.

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  4. This looks wonderful--I adored Snow Falling on Cedars so I bet I would love this one too. Please enter me in the drawing for it. Being that I have lived in Seattle all my life this holds a special interest for me.
    *smiles*
    Kim

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  5. Hi Lesley! Happy New Year!

    Could you enter me in the drawing too???

    This book sounds right up my alley and if I don't win your copy I will be putting it on my list to get. Sounds very intriguing.

    Thanks for all of your wonderful reviews!

    love
    laura

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  6. I would love to be entered in the draw Lesley if it's open to Canada. Great review by the way. I've wanted to read this one since I first saw the cover a few months ago. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  7. Joy - Now, how did I know you'd be the first to comment? :) You are officially entered!

    Literary Feline - Do you want in on the drawing?

    Katya - You're in! Isn't the title great?

    Kim - There's no mystery to this book, as there was with Snow Falling on Cedars, but it's still very enjoyable. I would bet you enjoy the local references since you've been in Seattle your whole life. Got your name in the hat. Good luck.!

    Laura - Happy New Year to you, too! You can certainly join the contest. Your name is officially in the hat. I'll bet you find this to be a winner, too, since you know the area. Glad you enjoyed the review.

    Dar - I have no problem with shipping books to Canada, so you're in! Glad you enjoyed the review, although I think you were far too kind. I feel like I've lost my review mojo. Maybe I have too much going on and can't focus on the reviews as much as I'd like to. In any case, thanks for your nice comment.

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  8. Oh, yes, Lesley! If you don't mind, I would like to enter. I completely forgot! Thanks!

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  9. Glad this one got a thumbs up from you. I've got a copy here that I'll start sometime soon. I love the cover. Since I was such a lover of TALLGRASS, I look forward to this one.

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  10. I've had this on my wishlist since I first heard about it a few months ago. If it's open internationally, I'd love to have my name in the hat too. But either way I'm going to have to get a copy of this at some point. And you've made me want to read Snow Falling on Cedars again! It's been years since I first read it.

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  11. Thanks for the wonderful review Les! This one is on my TBR.

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  12. Literary Feline - You're in!

    Kay - The cover really is pretty. My copy, unfortunately, is pretty basic and lacks the gorgeous artwork. :(

    Nat - You're in! I don't mind shipping to Japan and I think you'd enjoy the book. I wouldn't mind reading Snow Falling on Cedars again, either! Maybe I'll nominate for my f2f book club.

    Teddy Rose - Thank you! Hope you get to it soon.

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  13. This is on my list, and so far I haven't seen a bad review of it. I'd love to be entered in your drawing! Thanks for giving it away.

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  14. Yay for starting off the year with a good book! Sounds like something I'd definitely enjoy so please throw my name in the hat! :)

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  15. So glad to see your positive review since I have a copy of this on the TBR stack! I'm looking forward to it.

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  16. Holly - I've thrown your your name in the hat. Stay tuned!

    Iliana - You're in! It sure is nice having a couple of winners so far this month. I'm lovin' my current read - In the Woods by Tana French. Off to go read!

    Tara - I can't wait to hear what you think. Move it up in your stack!

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  17. And the winner is....

    Laura!

    Post a comment with your snail mail address (I won't approve the comment, so only I will see the information) and I'll get the book off to you on Tuesday. Enjoy!

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  18. Dear Les,

    Thank you so very much! I am so excited!! Hopefully I can return the favor to you some day!!!!

    As I said before, Yipeeeee!!!!

    love
    laura

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  19. Laura - You're more than welcome. It went out in today's mail. Let me know when it arrives so I don't worry if it got lost, ok?

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  20. Congratulations, Laura! :)

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  21. Just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed this book also and linked to your review on my site: Random Wonder.

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  22. Les, I LOVED this one too. Here is the link to my review:

    http://bibliophilebythesea.blogspot.com/2009/02/33-hotel-on-corner-of-bitter-and-sweet.html

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  23. Diane - Thanks for the link to your review. Looks like you gave it a little higher rating than I did. I hope he writes more, as I'd like to see how he evolves as a writer.

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  24. I don't know how I missed your review when you wrote it, but somehow I did! I'm am two chapters shy of finishing this book and have really enjoyed it.

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  25. Stephanie - I can't wait to read your review!

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  26. Seeing this novel on your blog made such an impression on me that I knew it wouldn't be long until I picked it up myself. I'm so glad I did! It made me want to visit Seattle right away, which I've never seen before, and it made me feel such compassion for the families (let alone Henry and Keiko!). I listened to the audio tape as the book had far too long a hold list in our library, and the audio was nice...but, not my preferred method of reading a novel. Tonight one of my book club's is discussing it, and I'm looking forward to what they have to say.

    I didn't realize Oscar Holden was a real jazz artist; now I want to hear his recordings!

    Will you consider joining the Japanese Literature Challenge this June? ;) Not to put any pressure on you, or anything, I just love your thoughts. XO

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  27. Bellezza - Oh, you would love Seattle! My dad used to live in the city (first in a house, then a condo and then on his boat on Lake Union) and now lives just north of the city. It's gorgeous and there's so much to see and do. I love the combination of mountains, trees and water. Sigh.

    I didn't think I was an audio book fan, but I've listened to a few this year and am hooked! I think a lot depends on the reader and the type of book you're listening to.

    I plan to join the JLC this June. I've already got one book picked out (The Piano Teacher). I'm sure there are others I can find in my stacks, so yes! I'm in! :) xoxo

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