Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: Review and Giveaway

I have an admission to make. When I first got this book, I looked at the cover and liked what I saw. To me, there is something inherently romantic about rain and umbrellas, and a sense of innocence and possibility is also captured in this golden-hued cover. I am drawn to books that are pleasing to the eye, and this cover is lovely. I wanted to read it right away, and I did. But does this book live up to its cover?

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, published in 2009, is a New York Times bestseller, the debut novel of Jamie Ford. It's the story of Henry Lee, the protagonist, a 12-year-old Chinese American boy, who meets a pretty, 12-year-old Japanese American girl, Keiko Okabe, at Rainier Elementary School in Seattle. They're the only Asians at school, and are taunted by the other kids. Henry and Keiko work together in the school cafeteria at lunchtime, share canned fruit, and develop a special friendship, which turns into young love. (I've heard this criticized by other reviewers, saying they are too young, but I have friends from my own childhood who had first-loves at the young age of 12 or 13, so I know it's entirely possible.) From the start, though, there is a problem with their relationship.

"His father hated the Japanese. Not because they they sank the USS Arizona--he hated them because they'd been bombing Chongqing, nonstop, for the last four years. Henry's father had never even been there, but he knew that the provisional capital of Chiang Kai-shek had already become the most-bombed city in history."
~Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford

Henry's father, a Chinese nationalist, forbids his son to see Keiko, but Henry follows his own heart, which leads him to Nihonmachi, or Japantown, Keiko's home. The novel begins in 1986, outside of the Panama Hotel, with the discovery of the belongings of thirty-seven Japanese American families who were banished to internment camps during World War II. The Panama Hotel divides Seattle's Chinatown from Japantown, and is also significant as a meeting place in the story. This discovery at the hotel, and a painted parasol in particular, brings back Henry's memories of Keiko, who was evacuated with her family to the internment camps more than forty years earlier. Henry, now a widower (his wife, Ethel, has recently died of cancer), is in the midst of trying to mend his relationship with his son, Marty, and he also thinks about his past and Keiko. The book is told in the split-narrative, and is easy to follow because each chapter is dated as 1986 or 1942 (or 1945).

I don't want to say too much about the plot of this tender tale, because I hope you'll read it for yourself. Words cannot adequately express how I experienced this novel, how this book touched me, or how this story will remain with me. But I will say that I enjoyed it greatly, and learned about the Japanese internment during World War II, the racial tensions of the 1940's, as well as Oscar Holden and Seattle's flourishing jazz scene. Jamie Ford is quite a talented writer, and this book does live up to its cover.

Exciting news! The publisher is offering one copy of the book (the trade paperback version) as a giveaway (US/Canada only).
  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For an extra chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
Enter by 5 PM PST on Sunday, February 28. The winner will be selected randomly, and announced on Monday, March 1. Good luck!

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC and Random House for sending me this book. For more reviews of this book, visit the other stops on the Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet book tour. Please stop by again on February 10 for an exclusive interview with the author, Jamie Ford.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet counts toward Jennie's China Challenge.

55 comments:

  1. I would love to read this one. Please include me.

    dlodden at frontiernet dot net

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  2. I'm a follower.

    dlodden at frontiernet dot net

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  3. Thank you for entering my name in your giveaway!

    denny(dot)gill(at)gmail(dot)com

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  4. I am already a follower.

    Would love to win this book as am fascinated in books relating to WWII and Japan, China.

    harvee44 at yahoo.com

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  5. This book sounds wonderful - I can't wait to read it. No need to enter me.

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  6. Thank you for an excellent review. This would be a lovely, lovely read for me outside my normal "fiction box". Please enter my name in the drawing.

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

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  7. I've read so many good reviews -
    thanks for the chance
    msboatgal at aol.com

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  8. already a follower
    thanks for the chance
    msboatgal at aol.com

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  9. Great review!

    thanks for offering this giveaway! I am a follower.

    leenbeen2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  10. Uhm, when I was in high school, there were kids who got pregnant at 13! (though of course that's highly disagreeable) So yes, I wouldn't think this story's impossible. And besides, everyone has experienced being young at heart in some part of their lives :)

    This sounds like a lovely book Suko, and I especially like the setting. Thanks for the review!

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  11. I really want to read this book!

    reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

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  12. I'm a follower.

    reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

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  13. LOVED this book (no need to enter me) Susan...great giveaway though!

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  14. I just kind of skimmed your review because I still have this book to read but seeing that it touched you is enough for me. I'm anxious to get to it.

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  15. I bought this one as soon as I heard about it. Very excited to read it!

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  16. This sounds like a great book, but the author is a bit of a dork. Oh, wait, that's me. Never mind.

    Thanks for the lovely review, Suko.

    Best to everyone!

    Jamie

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  17. I am currently reading this book and I am loving it! Our book club is reviewing it tomorrow and I am getting excited to hear their thoughts.

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  18. No need to enter me. Just popping in to let you know I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

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  19. What a great review, Suko! I am so glad that this book touched you so deeply! I would love a chance to win a copy of this one, so please enter me in your giveaway!

    zibilee(at)figearo(dot)net

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  20. I've heard so many great things about this book. Please enter me!

    shereadsandreads(at)gmail(dot)com

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  21. This book is on my tbr list so I would love to win it!
    Thank you for the opportunity! Your review is terrific and only added to my desire to read this book!

    I'm a new follower.

    ~ Amy
    Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

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  22. Thanks for the chance to win!!!

    areallibrarian[at]gmail[dot]com

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  23. I would love to win this book!
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

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  24. I'm a follower.
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

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  25. Thanks for hosting this one. I've read so many good things about this one!

    michellemsherman(at)gmail(dot)com

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  26. I'm also a follower.

    michellemsherman(at)gmail(dot)com

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  27. And I tweeted it!

    http://twitter.com/michellesherman/status/8830822372

    michellemsherman(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  28. I want to read this book so much!

    alitareads[at]gmail[dot]com

    I'm a follower

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  29. I've read such great reviews of this book and your review really makes me want to give it a try.

    And I'm a follower :)
    samantha.1020@yahoo.com

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  30. I would LOVE this. Thanks for the fabulous giveaway.

    s.mickelson at gmail dot com

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  31. I would love the chance to read this book. Count me in, please! :0)

    Thanks!
    librarygrinch at gmail dot com

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  32. I would love to be entered! This looks like a great read.
    baileythebookworm at gmail dot com

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  33. I'd like to be included! tWarner419@aol.com

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  34. Thanks to all for your comments, posts, and tweets. Please stop by again on Feb. 10 for an interview with author Jamie Ford.

    More comments welcomed.

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  35. What a lovely, lovely review! Thanks so much. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it, and really appreciate all the time that went into reading and reviewing this book for the TLC tour.

    Oh! I'd also love to be entered into the drawing! I haven't had a chance to read this one yet. Thanks!

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  36. Sounds like a great read!

    unforgetable_dreamer_always(at)hotmail.com

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  37. this sounds fantastic, i've heard good things about it. Glad you enjoyed it and wonderful review! Its great when a book can impact the reader like that and leave a lasting impression.
    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

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  38. This is going to my wish list! It is such an unusual story and I really want to read it too!

    Thank you Suko, your review touched me too!

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  39. Thank you, Jamie and Susan, for your articulate insights and impressions. Susan skillfully and delicately got me intrigued and left so much for the reader to enjoy and discover. That in itself is a laudable invitation to a book experience. I have experienced threatening prejudice, due to fears from WWII, about having friends of Japanese descent. In that context, it has been a "bittersweet" experience to have a lovely, life-affirming, exceptional friend of Japanese background and to have known others through work and to have known a librarian who sent books to children interned at Myanmar. Jamie, I enjoyed hearing about your "research" in the interview with Susan as well as standing your ground about the age of the couple. These insights have added another dimension to my advance appreciation of your book. I am a follower, and I would love to be entered in the drawing for this book! Thank you both. slclary@gmail.com

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  40. I really like the idea of finding a lost box of pictures in the attic.. I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of this one since it came out. Thanks for the contest!

    teagirl1 at telus dot net

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  41. Twitted!
    http://twitter.com/bcteagirl/status/8979968839

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  42. I'm also one of those people that are drawn to a book based on their cover. The cover is beautiful. I noticed Jamie Ford's comment in the comment. Dorky indeed. He made me laugh :)

    vision.nguyen AT gmail DOT com

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  43. I'd love to enter!
    nataliew2(at)gmail(dot)com

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  44. I'm a follower too
    nataliew2(at)gmail(dot)com

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  45. Wow - this sounds like a fantastic book. It is definitely going on my TBR list even if I am not the lucky winner!

    I would love to be a part of the contest. I am a follower and my email address is laarlt78(at)hotmail(dot)com. Thanks for hosting another great giveaway!

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  46. I have been so busy writing my own book I've had no time to read..would love to win..then I would have to read it!!

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  47. This sounds great, I would love to read it. :)

    misusedinnocence@aol.com

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  48. I'm a new follower. :)

    misusedinnocence@aol.com

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  49. I'm glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did. I hope it's okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  50. Anna, I am honored that you've linked to this post.

    Thanks for all the comments, posts, and tweets. The contest is open until Feb. 28, and the winner will be announced here on the next day.

    ReplyDelete
  51. this is what to read on a cold snowy day,,thx for the contest,would love to win..
    thehighflyer3(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  52. Please enter me in this giveaway!

    familyhistree at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

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  53. I'm a follower.

    familyhistree at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

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  54. I tweeted:

    https://twitter.com/saemmerson/status/9662634209

    familyhistree at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

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  55. I have to agree with you Suko, that the cover of this book is quite alluring. It holds promise to a story of youth and hope and first love, and yes, love at 12 or 13 years of age is very much a real possibility and sometimes the only true love a person might ever experience in their lifetime.

    I so enjoyed reading your summary of Jamie Ford's book and may place a hold on it at my local library. I also may go out and buy a pair of rainboots. The latter reminds me of rainy day puddles and showering skies...streets nice and empty and open for wandering.. who knows what you might find?

    ReplyDelete

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