Monday, February 27, 2012

The Baker's Daughter

I'm on a roll!  Yes, another great book.  It's such a good feeling when I begin reading and get hooked immediately.  And this book did just that.

It flips back and forth between 1945 Germany and 2007 El Paso.  Reba Adams writes for a magazine and interviews Elsie Schmitt Meriwether.  Elsie runs a German bakery in Texas, taking after her father who also owned a bakery in Germany.  The novel takes us back to the last year of WWII.  Elsie is engaged to a German soldier but secretly hiding a Jewish boy under the eaves in her bedroom.

Reba's fiance, whose parents came from Mexico, now works for the border patrol and is having a difficult time following the rules and sending mothers and children back to the hopelessness they had been trying to escape in Mexico.

Reba, herself, is trying to put her past and her father's suicide behind her. 

The novel is told through several different characters and even some letters written to and from Elsie's sister who is part of the Lebensborn Program.  I had never heard of this program in which good Aryan girls allowed themselves to become pregnant by Aryan soldiers to further the race.

Lots of threads to this novel but it isn't confusing at all. 

The writing is fresh and filled with the aromas of German breads and pastries.  It's beautifully poetic.  Sarah McCoy's metaphors and similes are perfection.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Descendents

I read many more books that are made into movies than I actually see the movies.  But I definitely want to see this movie...mainly because Shailene Woodley, who plays the part of the main character's recovering-addict daughter, is an amazing actress.  She's the star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a TV series I'm going through on Netflix.

I was also attracted to this novel because it's set in Hawaii and we spent a winter there about twenty years ago.  Just reading those Hawaiian names made me smile.

Matt King is a direct descendent of Hawaiian royalty and he has to make the painful decision of who to sell his inherited land to. 

He also has another heart-breaking decision to make.  His wife was in a boating accident and is lying in a coma.  He has to decide when to pull the plug.  In the mean time, he has to learn how to be a dad.  His wife had always done most of the parenting and, now, he must be a role model for his two daughters: Alex, learning how to live without drugs, and Scottie, his impressionable ten-year-old.

Great characters.  Great location.  Great plot.  I guess you can tell I loved this book!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Defending Jacob

How would you react if your child was accused of murder?

Andy Barber is an assistant district attorney.  He, his wife, Laurie, and fourteen-year-old son, Jake live in a Boston suburb.  One of Jake's classmates is brutally killed on his way to school and all the evidence points to Jacob.  He is arrested and his father puts all his efforts into defending him.

The reader is kept in the dark as to whether Jacob is quilty or innocent so it makes it easy to identify with his father, who will do anything to protect his son.  Unfortunately, his wife's emotions get lost in the process.

This is a disturbing novel but is compulsively readable.  I taught middle school for seventeen years so felt compassion for Jake who had been bullied by the boy who was killed.

I also have two kids of my own and a granddaugter.  Would I defend them as blindly as Andy Barber defended Jacob without any proof?

And how important is genetics in criminal behavior?  Andy's own father is in prison for murder.  Did Jacob inherit that gene?  Did Andy?  And does that matter at all?

This novel reads quickly but stays with you long after the last page. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Gosh, it feels good to be reading good books again

I fell in love with the title of this novel and then fell in love with the book.  Henry Lee is Chinese and has the proof; his father makes him wear an "I am Chinese" button.  It's 1942 in Seattle Washington.  Japanese are being evacuated to relocation camps.  Henry's best friend is Keiko, a Japanese classmate.

The novel flips back and forth between 1942 and 1986, when Henry, mourning the death of his wife, Ethel, sees on TV that the Panama Hotel has been sold and the new owner, in refurbishing it, has come across boxes and boxes of items hidden there by the Japanese before being relocated.  He looks for Keiko's things and opens the door to the past.

Beautifully written, this novel snatches your imagination right away and won't let go.  I loved it!