Author: Roberta (page 1 of 14)

#BookBeginnings The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Today we’re looking forward to starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

The Silent Wife: A Novel* by A. S. A. Harrison

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Sadly, this psychological thriller is both A. S. A. (Angela Susan Ann) Harrison’s first and last novel.  She passed away shortly after it came out.

Summary:   The Silent Wife is explores the dynamics of a marriage on the rocks.

First Sentences:

It’s early in September. Jodi Brett is in her kitchen, making dinner.

Discussion:

Wow, what a soft, low key beginning.The first sentence was so brief I added the second.

It does give the when and who right away, because Jodi Brett and her husband Todd are the main characters. The first two sentences may not be much of a hook, but I do like that the author has given us a lot of information with just a few spare words.

What do you think? Would you continue reading?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Let’s take a look at Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet* by Jamie Ford

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In Jamie Ford’s debut novel, main character Henry Lee discovers an artifact that takes him back to Seattle’s Japantown just before the beginning of World War II. He had been friends with a Japanese American girl who was sent to an internment camp with her family and he believes the artifact belongs to her.

Plot

The story moves back and forth between two timelines, one in 1986 and and one in 1942 (with a brief hop to 1945). Jamie Ford deftly intertwines the two until in the end they become one.

Characters

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet has a limited number of characters. The protagonist is Henry Lee, an American of Chinese descent. During the 1942 timeline he befriends Keiko Okabe, a girl of Japanese descent who considers herself to be American and doesn’t speak Japanese. Henry’s father serves as an antagonist. His father came directly from China and has a strong bias against the Japanese because they had invaded China during the World War II. Another antagonist is a bully from school named Chaz. Other characters from that timeline are his friend and protector, Sheldon, and a mentor of sorts, Mrs. Beatty.

In the 1986 timeline, Henry interacts mostly with his son Marty and Marty’s fiancee, Stephanie. Henry had recently lost his wife Ethel, which is in a lot of ways an inciting incident.

Setting

The physical setting is Seattle, shaped by the times. As Karen pointed out in her review, the hotel in the title, Hotel Panama, sets at the interface between Chinatown and the Japanese community. In 1942 few — other than Keiko and Henry — cross the border.

bitter-and-sweet-seattle-setting

Photo via Visualhunt

Discussion

The title is appropriate. It is a bitter tale because of the extreme racial prejudice that drives people apart, but it is also a sweet tale because of the young love that transcends prejudice.

The end the story holds no surprises, but wraps up in a satisfying way. It was a bit disappointing Henry didn’t solve the “mystery” of what happened to Keiko himself. That role fell on future daughter-in-law Stephanie and Marty. Perhaps Jamie Ford didn’t want Henry to seem disloyal to Ethel. In the 1942 timeline, he had been exceedingly brave to be with Keiko so it was surprising he was so passive in 1986, except when viewed in light of the personal cost of his wife’s lingering illness and death.

The historical part of the book is fascinating. I have read other books about the Japanese American Internment and have visited a site of one of the camps near my former workplace in Arizona. I knew some of the things, like that some of the Japanese Americans left the camps to fight in the war, but other details were new. People familiar with the history of the time will probably still enjoy it.

There were a few historical accuracy blips, but mostly from the later timeline. Other reviewers have pointed out that there weren’t computers or CDs in 1986, as mentioned in the hospital scene. It is interesting that the 1942 timeline seemed tighter and more accurate. I must admit I shy away from writing historical fiction because I know I’d find it difficult to remain true to another time. Readers of historical fiction are bound to find and point out those kind of discrepancies.

Overall, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes on a difficult topic in a meaningful way. Be prepared to be charmed.

Have you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 82. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison (2013) – Discussion begins July 24, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: Number 83 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

This post does not contain spoilers.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet* by Jamie Ford

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In Jamie Ford’s debut novel, main character Henry Lee discovers an artifact that takes him back to Seattle’s Japantown just before the beginning of World War II. He had been friends with a Japanese American girl who was sent to an internment camp with her family and he believes the artifact belongs to her.

Have you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

Join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ? Feel free to add a link in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 82. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison (2013) – Discussion begins July 24, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller

#BookBeginnings Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Today we’re starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challengeHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford for Book Beginnings on Fridays. Our discussion begins on Monday, July 10, 2017.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-jamie-ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In Jamie Ford’s debut novel, main character Henry Lee discovers an artifact that takes him back to Seattle’s Japantown just before the beginning of World War II. He had been friends with a Japanese American girl who was sent to an internment camp with her family and he believes the artifact belongs to her.

First Sentence:

Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel

Discussion:

For some reason this novel sounds very familiar to me, but I don’t think I’ve read it. I have read something similar about young friends separated when soldiers rounded up Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps. In that book, the Japanese family had a farm that grew strawberries. Anyone recognize it?

The first sentence didn’t excite me much. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether the Panama Hotel was actually in Panama or somewhere else (it’s in Seattle). I was also put off by the use of the word old, which seemed simultaneously ambiguous and insulting. Imagine my dismay when in the next paragraph the author uses the word “old” four times, although in different contexts.

“The old Seattle landmark was a place he’d visited twice in his lifetime. First when he was only twelve years old, way back in 1942 — The war years” he liked to call them. Even then the old bachelor hotel had stood as a gateway between Seattle’s Chinatown and Nihonmachi, Japantown. Two outposts of an old-world conflict — where Chinese and Japanese immigrants rarely spoke to each other, while their American-born children often played kick the can in the streets together. “

Have you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet?  Does the first line entice you to keep reading?

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion for The Bestseller Code Reading Challenge, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 82. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison (2013) – Discussion begins July 24, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Today let’s take a look at A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler from a writer’s perspective (the discussion started here).

This post contains some big spoilers.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This novel follows the lives of a Baltimore couple, Red and Abby Whitshank, and their family.

It is literary fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

Characters

Anne Tyler is known for her character-driven fiction, and there’s plenty of evidence of her forte in this novel.

She introduces the main characters in the first sentence.

Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.

It’s pretty clear that these three share main character status, rather than having a single protagonist. You could argue that Abby was the main character, but (spoiler alert) little of her back story is given compared to Red’s, and she dies before the end. Red isn’t a clear protagonist, either. If you had to choose only one, you could make a reasonable case for Denny, although it is often his absence that has the biggest impact on the family. He is also the character who has grown and changed the most by the end of the book.

Dialogue

Because she has won the Pulitzer Prize and because this is her twentieth novel, we’d expect that Anne Tyler’s dialogue would be superb.  That’s why it was surprising to find a glaring example of “maid and butler” dialogue on page 4. (As Brandon Sanderson explains, Maid and butler dialogue occurs when characters chat about details they would already know solely as a way to inform the reader. ) Abby speaks first and Red answers.

“Where was he calling from?”

“How do I know where he is calling from? He doesn’t have a fixed address, hasn’t been in touch all summer, already changed jobs twice that we know of and probably more that we don’t know of …”

Obviously Abby already knows everything that Red says, except whether Denny had mentioned where he was calling from.

The whole thing could be prevented by lopping off all but the first sentence.

“How do I know where he is calling from? He doesn’t have a fixed address, hasn’t been in touch all summer, already changed jobs twice that we know of and probably more that we don’t know of …”

Seeing this mistake in the light of the otherwise sparkling dialogue is kind of endearing.

Setting

With the exception of a trip to the beach, most of the action takes place in the family home in Baltimore. The house was built by Red’s father Junior. It is so central to the story that it becomes like another character.

 

Themes

Themes are important aspects of literary fiction. In A Spool of Blue Thread, the family has two stories that they tell and retell. Both are about a family member who waits patiently to obtain what he or she desires. In the first story Junior builds his dream house for the Brill family and then after a number of years convinces the Brills to sell it to him. The same thing happens when Merrick steals her friend’s fiance, Trey.  After she marries him, she realizes he wasn’t much of a catch. In a story that isn’t part of the family’s storytelling tradition, Linnie waits five years, until she is eighteen, before she leaves her family to find Junior.  (Perhaps that story isn’t repeated because Junior broke the law when they became lovers when Linnie was thirteen.)

Another theme is the women are the ones who choose their men in relationships. One of the family stories reveals that Merrick chose Trey, even though he was engaged to her friend. Once she decided, she single-mindedly won him over.  Abby chose Red over Dane when she spotted Red counting tree rings. In the earlier generation, Linnie decided that she wanted Junior, at a great cost to herself and largely against his wishes.

Plot

The plot is not linear, but goes back and forth in time.  In the conversation between Anna Quindlen and Anne Tyler in the back of the book, Anne reveals she intended to keep writing the stories of the family’s ancestors, traveling back through the ages. Eventually she grew tired of the ancestors, however, so she stopped with Linnie and Junior.

She also reveals that she is “hopeless with plots.” She lets her characters tell their stories.

Discussion

If you enjoy character-rich literary fiction about family relationships, this novel is for you. It is as warm and comfortable as a hand knit sweater.

The complex dynamics between characters feel realistic. The black sheep son, the closely-guarded family secrets, the conflicts, and the struggles of the children wondering how to best help their aging parents will resonate with many people. For example,  Junior’s battle with Linnie over what color to paint the porch swing is the kind of trivial conflict that emerges from deeper power struggles that are so typical for many couples.

Like a hand knit sweater, the novel does have a few flaws. The plot was the weakest part of the book. The extensive backstory of Linnie and Junior’s relationship seemed unnecessary and out of place, although to be fair it did add to the themes. The book would have been stronger if those sections had been condensed or even left out entirely.

Overall, A Spool of Blue Thread is the kind of novel you can wrap yourself up in on a rainy day.

Have you read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion starts.

The next book is number 83. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009) – Discussion begins July 10, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Number 84 A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.

This post does not contain spoilers.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This novel follows the lives of Baltimore residents Red and Abby Whitshank and their four children.

It is literary fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

Have you read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 83. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009) – Discussion begins July 10, 2017.

#BookBeginnings A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

It’s time to start the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Anne Tyler’s novel follows the lives of a Baltimore family, Red and Abby Whitshank, and their four children.

It is literary fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

First Sentence:

Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.

Discussion:

Someone recently told me that a novel should reveal who, what, when and where early in the first scene. Anne Tyler introduces who and when in the first sentence.

What do you think? Would you read a book that didn’t introduce everything right away? Do you think different genres might have different rules, such as mysteries giving less away than historical fiction? Do you know any examples where the author waited past the first scene to reveal setting, time, or a main character? Did it work for you?

Does this first line entice you to keep reading?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

Let’s take a look at our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel, from a writer’s perspective.

This post is likely to contain spoilers.

 

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When her husband of thirteen years leaves, Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match or more than her match?

This is one of the oldest books on The Bestseller Code challenge list, published in 1998.

Labelled as a high-tech love story, The Klone and I is a mix of humor and romance.

 

Characters

Compared to our previous book by John Sandford, this book has a paucity of characters. The main character is Stephanie. She lives with her two kids, Charlotte and Sam. Her ex-husband Roger and his new wife Helena (Stephanie calls her Miss Bimbo at first), pop into the story when they take the kids. Otherwise, Stephanie spends time with her boyfriend Peter Baker or his bionic clone Paul.

Although Paul’s name is intentionally similar to Peter’s because he is Peter’s clone, the similarity between the two names was confusing at times.

Dialogue

Because the author writes the story in the first person point of view, much of the dialogue is internal. For the first 100 pages or so, the regular dialogue is well-written and witty. Take this example where the dialogue goes back and forth like a tennis ball at a tennis match while the characters discuss playing tennis. Brilliant.

…”we’re playing tennis with him tomorrow.”

“What?” Charlotte shrieked at me as I tucked Sam and the dog in, and she followed me into my bedroom, where I’d almost forgotten she was still sleeping with me. “I hate tennis.”

“You do not. You played all day yesterday.” My point. But only for an instant. She was quicker.

“That was different. That was with kids. Mom, he’s so ancient, he’ll probably have a heart attack and die on the court.” She sounded hopeful.

After 100 pages, the writer’s tone changes with the introduction of the clone.

“I have a million things to do today, and I haven’t finished the paper,” I said sternly, as through that would dissuade him. Ever since Roger left, I had promised myself I would wear makeup every day and keep abreast of the news.

“It’s all the same crap that happens every day, every week,” he assured me unmoved. “People killing each other, people dying, guys making home runs and touchdowns, stock prices going up and down like yo-yos. So what? Who cares?”

By the way, Stephanie’s efforts to improve herself after her husband leaves are mentioned numerous times throughout.

 

Public domain photo via VisualHunt

 

Setting

Most of the book is set in an apartment in New York, with one spontaneous trip to Paris, and one summer vacation at East Hampton. Of those, only Paris sparkles, perhaps because Danielle Steel actually lives there for part of the year.

Discussion/Review

Before this challenge I had never read a Danielle Steel novel, but there’s always a pile of them at the friends of the library used book sales so I assumed she’s popular. On the other hand, the number of 1 and 2 star reviews for this title on GoodReads suggested not many people liked this one. I didn’t know what to think.

The first 100 pages of the novel were enjoyable to me. I read through them quickly, and laughed out loud a few times. It felt like a close BFF sharing the pain of the break up of her marriage and the pitfalls of dating while laughing in the face of adversity. Then the main character, Stephanie, meets a respectable man named Peter Baker in romantic Paris and everything falls into place. It’s a sweet, relatable story so far, but my writer’s mind is waiting for the mid-point reversal (the place where the writer surprises the reader with a twist to the story).

Kaboom! The reversal drops in the title character, a clone named Paul Klone who wears a “one piece leopard spandex jumpsuit” and does flips in bed. The farce starts when Stephanie doesn’t realize that Paul isn’t Peter. From there, the believability flounders to the point where the reader begins to laugh at the author instead of with her. What happened?

Looking into the background of the book, I discovered Danielle Steel’s son Nick Traina died September 20, 1997, the year before The Klone and I came out in 1998.  It’s probably not a coincidence this book isn’t her best.

Have you read The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

#BookBeginnings MatchUp Edited by Lee Child

This week we have MatchUp, the new collection of short stories edited by Lee Child for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

MatchUp*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

About MatchUp:

This book is a collection of short stories written by twenty-two members of the International Thriller Writers organization. Each short story pairs famous authors, one female and one male, and features the main characters from their respective thrillers.

Sandra Brown and C. J. Box
Val McDermid and Peter James
Kathy Reichs and Lee Child
Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry
Gayle Lynds and David Morrell
Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta
Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross
Lisa Jackson and John Sandford
Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice
Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille
J.A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader

A short blurb profiling the authors, explaining their process, etc. precedes each short story.

First Sentence:

When Joe Pickett set out that morning, he hadn’t anticipated coming face-to-face with a killing machine.

This sentence is from the first short story, Honor & …

Discussion:

Last weekend a friend and I went to a pre-release book signing sponsored by The Poisoned Pen bookstore. Laurie King (author of the series  which features Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes starting with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice) interviewed Diana Gabaldon. They talked about writing short stories. Some of the highlights:

Diana Gabaldon said she won’t be doing a signing of Seven Stones To Stand or Fall when it releases because she’s expecting her first grandchild around then. That’s why she was signing MatchUp now.

Although Seven Stones is supposed to be short stories, it turns out a short story (usually 18,000 words maximum) for Diana is 75,000 words, which is a full novel by most standards. There were a lot of jokes about this.

Her next book is titled Go Tell The Bees I am Gone. It’s in the works, but not completed yet.

She writes from midnight to 4:00 a.m. That is amazing, but I totally get it. In the early morning the world is quiet and there aren’t any interruptions. Well, except when I try to write in the early morning my cats go ballistic. They say, “Alright! Someone is up when we like to play!” Diana has a dog, but she says he stays quiet, too. Lucky her.

She says she includes bathroom breaks for readers in her stories. Too fun.

I could go on and on.

Have you read Diana Gabaldon’s books? Do you think you’ll read MatchUp?

 

#BestsellerCode100: Number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When her husband of thirteen years leaves, Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match or more than her match?  This is one of the oldest books on the challenge list, published in 1998.

Have you read The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? Do you think it deserves to be on the list of the 100 best? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

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