Read This: Four for you

Looking for something good to read? Here are a few entertaining novels I’ve recently read:

Science Fiction: The Wind Up Girl

It’s the 24th Century in Thailand and gene-hacked food is owned by corporations and bio-terrorism is the norm. Enter genetically programmed slave-girl, Emiko, an obsolete Japanese sex-toy who runs for her life. Filled with mystery and plot-action, it’s a great read. When all hell breaks loose between the military, officials, con-artists, and unlikely heroes, it becomes a page turner. This would be an excellent film. It’s only a matter of time.

The Sense of an Ending

Julian Barnes wrote this 2011 Man Booker Prize winner and it’s a concept driven, not a plot-driven story. A modern British man reflects upon his life and the past friendships which profoundly affected him. It’s brief and full of rich wisdom. I liked it because the character sketches Barnes created were vivid and unsentimental. He captures the concept of time, memory, redemption, and forgiveness. It’s a novel where the characters seep into your skin like a British mist and leave a lasting impression about the meaning of life.

On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Henry Lee, a Chinese American boy, and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese girl become friends at an all-white private school in Seattle. After the December 7 Pearl Harbor attack, executive order 9066 issued the detainment of Japanese citizens. Families were escorted to military camps as prisoners until the end of the war. Henry risks the wrath of his racist parents and travels to Idaho to visit and court Keiko, for whom he has fallen in love. Ford created the historial climate and devoted his time creating characters and developing their friendships. He could have but did not jump on a soap box and lecture to the reader about policy or unfairness. He shared a teenager’s story about friendship and love and it was a beautiful story. My favorite of the summer reads.

The House Girl

Another historical fiction novel I enjoyed was the 2013 best seller by Tara Conklin. One narrator is Josephine, a house slave on a Virginia plantation during the 1850s who runs away. The other narrator is a modern NYC attorney, whose case involves reparations for the descendents of slaves. Carolina Sparrow’s research leads her to the story behind Josephine, the house girl. The split narration is a nice technique, but I do admit I liked Josephine’s history twice as much as the angst of ambitious Carolina Sparrow. I did enjoy Conklin’s descriptions and I liked the book despite the distractions of two unrelated characters.

What did you think of these novels?

25 thoughts on “Read This: Four for you

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  1. Cindy, I love book recommendations – thank you! I read ‘Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet’ several years ago and it has been one that I’ve recommended to others. I very much liked it.

    The others you’ve recommended – I’m unfamiliar with them but each sounds interesting! I’m putting them on my list of books to read. Are you on GoodReads? If so, I’ll look for you. I am currently reading William Styron (of ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and ‘Confessions of Nat Turner’ fame). The first book he published (age 26) was ‘Lie Down in Darkness,’ and that’s the one I’m reading. It tells the story of an extremely troubled family in Tidewater Virginia in the early – mid part of the 20th century.


  2. I read the last two because I love historical novels. We have a popular hotel and cafe here in Seattle that has been there since before the Japanese encampments. In the floor of the carfe is a window to the basement, where you can see the luggage and boxes that were left behind. Come visit Seattle and I’ll take you there! I read two of his other books. I think they all take place in Seattle.


  3. I totally agree with you in re The House Girl. I think that the split narrative technique can backfire sometimes. Have you read “Sarah’s Key,” about a Jewish girl in occupied France? There were two intertwined stories–the girl’s and that of a woman who is obsessed with the girl’s story. The woman’s story is nowhere near as interesting as the girl’s. The connection between the two is a little pat, and I think that the contemporary story detracted from the girl’s story, which is very poignant and hard to forget. It’s still a good book. There are very good examples of when this technique works–The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tam) and As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner), The Help, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings.” Do you like this technique in other books? Why do you think the authors’ write it that way? To fit more than one story in it or give one story different perspectives? It can be so jarring!


    1. You raise great questions, Barbara. The Help and I love Sue Monk Kidd–anyway, the split narrative. I did that with my first novel–I split the narrative four ways! In this new one I’m writing, again, four narratives. The advantage is you get to learn about the characters through the other one and each character carries the plot forward. The extra insight really helps develop characters. I love it.


  4. HA! Just saw that you are an author and that one of your books splits the narratives AND you teach Holocaust studies. In re your book, do you use split narratvies to give different perspectives of the same story? It can yield a well-rounded, three dimensional story.

    Your accomplishments are amazing!


    1. LOL. Too fun. Yes, it’s limited first person, so you get the protagonists thoughts and perseptions about the world. Everyone sees the world in different ways. For example, artists notice colors and texture and shapes far more than others. Other people hear the music in every day things. Others here the silence and can draw great meaning from the quiet of nature, etcetera. People’s experiences shape their outlook. A positive person v. a negative person looks at the world completely different. Nothing is more fun than for me to put polar opposites together and see what happens in a book.


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