Saturday, June 17, 2017


Walking can be a great way to relax and to come up with solutions, or to be inspired in some way.  For author Steve Cushman, the idea for his new book, Hopscotch, published in 2017, started while he was out walking his dog, Suzy, about 10 years ago.  In the author's own words, here's what happened.

"A block or so away from my house, we came across a hopscotch board someone had drawn on the sidewalk.  Normal enough stuff as we have a lot of kids in the neighborhood.  But for some reason on this day I wondered what would happen if a hopscotch board was on the sidewalk of the hospital where I worked.  I'd been working in hospitals for over twenty years and had never seen a hopscotch board at one of them.  So I started thinking about how such a thing might affect people at the hospital, whether patients or staff.  That was the start of it, and then over the years I added characters and situations and a hopeful mystery until somehow it felt done and ready for the world."

Hopscotch tells a story through the (third person) points of view of the main characters, Dr. Jeffrey Boles, Emily, John, Stan, Mary, Rosa, and Metalhead Mike.  Dr. Boles is the first one to notice a hopscotch board drawn in chalk in an unlikely place, on the sidewalk near the entrance of Alfred Stone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he works as an orthopedic surgeon.  John, a janitor at the hospital, is asked to remove the hopscotch board, and he does (after hopping around on it a bit).  But after it's cleaned off, the hopscotch board mysteriously re-appears.

Emily, a young girl fighting cancer, Stan, a wheelchair-bound Iraqi War veteran, Mary, the wife of a man who's doing very poorly, Metalhead Mike, who has had a bad head injury, hospital staff, and others are drawn to the hopscotch board.  Each chapter is headed by the name of the character whose story is being told, making it easy to follow.  As you read you learn more about each character as their individual stories unfold. 

Hopscotch is heartbreaking at times, but it's also hopeful.  Although it's not labeled specifically as YA fiction, I think this absorbing novel will appeal to young adults, due to a format that makes it easy to follow, its shorter length, and to the focus on some younger characters and the childhood game of hopscotch.  As an "older adult", though, I enjoyed reading this book very much.  I cared about the characters, which counts for a lot.  The hopscotch board--a symbol of hope in a setting that's often associated with illness and despair--makes the characters smile, and it made me smile, too.  This childhood game provides a welcome respite from their cares and troubles.  The stories in this book are touching, and the hopscotch board is a silver lining that connects the characters and provides joy, hope, and simple fun.  This is a wonderful book! 


Every Saturday, Booking Mama hosts Kid Konnection, a fun feature that highlights books for children and young adults.  Many thanks to the author for sending me an advanced reading copy of his new book.

Thanks for stopping by!  Your comments are welcomed.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

United States of Japan

Published in 2016, United States of Japanby Peter Tieryas is an alternate history novel in which Japan has won World War II.  Last summer, I brought this book to Japan when we visited my daughter, Jasmine, who works as an English teacher there.  I only managed to read part of the book then, though, because we traveled around Japan quite a bit, and the book was in my checked bag during flights (so I read short stories instead on my phone).  There is so much to see and do in Japan!  We had a wonderful trip, and I posted many photos on Instagram. We spent a few days in Hiroshima, and I took this photo of the Atomic Dome Memorial, which is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Not surprisingly, United States of Japan is a best-seller in Japan, although Japan is a peace-loving nation (at the Peace Park Memorial in Hiroshima, you are immediately asked to sign a petition to ban nuclear weapons upon entrance).  There are numerous glowing reviews of this book.  I finished reading the book a few months ago, and although I'm not sure what I can add to this collection, I'm quite overdue to post something; the author has been remarkably patient with me!

Here is a very brief synopsis of the book, followed by my thoughts.

United States of Japan (USJ) is a successor to Phillip K. Dick's classic novel, The Man in the High Castle (1962).  USJ begins in 1948, and takes place in (various parts of) California, which is controlled by Japan. After a few chapters we jump ahead forty years, to 1988. Americans seem to worship their Emperor, although a group of rebels called the George Washingtons are fighting for their freedom. They distribute an illegal video game that asks players to imagine what the world would be like if the USA had won the war, instead of Japan.  Captain Beniko Ishimura's formidable task is to censor these video games, and to solve the mysteries of the revolutionaries, with the help of Akiko Tsukino.

This book kicked me out of my comfort zone.  Way, way, way out!  Although I've read many fictional war stories, from the very first chapter, this book is notably brutal and violent at times.  Peter (yes, we're on an informal, first name basis; I've read and reviewed a lot of his work over the past few years) did warn me about the level of violence in this book a while ago.  Still, it was definitely disturbing.  Secondly, I've read some science fiction (such as by Ray Bradbury), but I've not read The Man in the High Castle by Philip B. Dick. I've now at least read about it, and have learned that there's a 2015 TV series based on it.  USJ focuses on video games, and I must admit that I'm not a gamer; in fact, I've never played a video game (I do love to play Words with Friends on my phone).  In spite of all of this, USJ is fantastic, imaginative, and brilliant.  This exciting, fast-paced book held my attention at all times, and I think it would make an incredible movie.  It's a hard book to classify.  It's definitely multi-genre.  It could be described in many ways, as listed below.


(Qu'est-ce que c'est?)

 Science Fiction

War Fiction

and more 

While I was thinking about my review post for USJ, I emailed a question to Peter. 

If you could add, or subtract, one thing from USJ, what would it be and why?

PT:  If I were to add one thing, it would be that since I've written the next book in the USJ universe (it's a standalone novel and not a direct sequel), I know so much more about the world and I'd like to plug some of that information back in, especially related to the mechas and their history.

If I were to subtract? I would probably modify the dream sequences the characters have to make it a little more clear that this is the replacement for the I Ching from The Man in the High Castle and is meant to be symbolic of the subconsciousness connection to our own world.

Thank you, Peter, for your thoughtful responses, for the photo above of you and your wife, Angela, at an E3 with a Persona character, and for your tremendous patience.  I'm thrilled that you have written a new book, and look forward to reading it!

Your comments are welcomed, as always.  Thanks for reading! 

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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