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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford’s, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is one of this years MustReads. Another historical fiction novel that makes a person stop and wonder how much is fiction and how much is history. The book takes place┬áduring one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history. It’s hard to imagine a novel that sucks you in about the internment of American-Japanese families during World War II but this one does. Mr. Ford touches on part of American history we should all know more about, but my belief is this is part of the US’s dark history that schools tend to skip over. Heartbreaking and warm, light and heavy, hopeful and hopeless all at the same time. When rating a book, I look at the emotional gamete and this one runs them all.

It’s all about a tender friendship between a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl who are both subject to prejudice and bullying. Their natural friendship, family and school life is meshed together in a great story. Jamie Ford does a fantastic job and weaving the past and present and bringing them together at the end. The story is set in Seattle, Washington, and is described in a way, I could almost smell the air.

My only disappointment was a bit of the timeline. There wasn’t really an internet support group to the local-everyday-people of America let alone home computers in 1986. (’96 maybe, the timeline could have been researched a bit more and I think pushing it ten years in the future wouldn’t have been a stretch.) I was a senior in high school in ’86 and there were things that the author portrayed that weren’t exactly spot on… Otherwise, this is a great read that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what we were thinking as Americans.

Although the book is a little slow to get going, I highly recommend it, push through the first few chapters and you’ll be hooked.

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Twain’s End by Lynn Cullen (BookReview)

Twain’s End was one of those books I picked up, put down, picked up, swore off, picked back up and couldn’t put down. My impression of Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain is forever skewed because of this novel. Its one of those situations I had to ask myself, how much of this is historical and how much is fiction. Apparently, Ms. Cullen’s did her homework, remember that old saying stranger than fiction? The documents and historical records show that much of this book could be exactly the way it happened.

The story is about Clemen’s secretary, Isabel; her devotion, love and relationship with him. It also highlights Mr. Clemen’s relationships with his his alter-ego, (Mark Twain) as well as his wife, daughters and other women in his life. Not to mention, their physical and mental ailments. The book is written well and gives the reader a sense of ‘being there’.

One thing a person doesn’t normally think about is the time period when the slaves throughout this country became free, the affect and impact it had on the families that had believed slavery to be nothing more than a way of life. Heartbreaking and tragic, the things Clemen saw from his father and the way those experiences shaped his life. How did children of this time period cope? Sam Clements didn’t fair well at all, his upbringing plagued his love and twisted him from the inside out. He really is a jerk, and the ending was all too real life. Painfully real.

Overall, this book has inspired me to start my own research for a historical fiction novel. It left me thinking of the stories that haven’t been told about this era, the way people had to cope and adjust. Lives like Mr. Twain’s all too often get sugar coated and turned heroic when the reality was right place at the right time (or wrong place at the wrong time), either way, Twain’s End is worth the read.