Tag Archives: Seattle

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Join Jamie Ford, author of the World War II historical fiction novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ballantine Books, January 2009), as he virtually tours the blogosphere in May on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!
 
 
Career-wise, Jamie went to art school in Seattle to become an illustrator, and ended up an art director/copywriter. He’s won an embarrassingly large amount of meaningless awards including 400+ Addys, 7 Best-of-Shows, and his work has appeared in Adweek, Advertising Age, Graphis and Communication Arts. He also had a commercial appear on an episode of The U.K.’s Funniest Commercials inspired by an embarrassing incident with a bidet that he’d rather not go into right now.
 
On the writerly side, he won the 2006 Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest, was First Runner-Up in the 2006 Midnight Road Reader’s Choice Awards and was a Top-25 finalist in Glimmer Train’s Fall 2006 Short Story Award For New Writers. He’s been published in The PicolataReview, and his fiction is online at Flashing in the Gutters and Fictional Musings. He’s also an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp.
 
Jamie’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet will be released by Ballantine–January 27, 2009.
On the personal side, he’s the proud father of two boys and two girls. Yep, it’s chaos, but the good kind of chaos.
For more information about the author or his work, please visit http://www.jamieford.com/

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
 
This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.
 
Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
 
Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.
 
MY THOUGHTS:
 
It is rare that I pick up a book and know from the first page that this book is destined to be in my list of all time favorites – that is exactly what happened when I picked up “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford.
 
I was initially intrigued by this book because of the historical aspect.  I used to be a history snob, especially when it came to historical fiction, but have recently found that these are some of my all time favorite books.  While there is definitely a strong historical backdrop, this book is about so much more.  Trying to summarize it may not be easy, but I’m going to give it a shot…suffice it to say it is a book you really need to read to thoroughly enjoy, and I highly recommend you do!
 

The storytelling is superb, as the author is able to switch from 1986 to the 1940s and piece together the life that Henry Lee has led.  I admit, I never paid much attention in history, but even if I did you are not subjected to a “lesson” such as this.  If so, I probably would have enjoyed it more.  We all hear the details of war and it doesn’t really affect most of us unless we know someone who lost their life or a loved one that was affected.  A book such as this helps to bring life to the people during this time, and helps you understand what they had to go through to try and survive.  Being white, I think that many other caucasians should read books such as these to fully understand what our fellow human beings have had to go through.  We are not discriminated against as much as some of the other ethic groups, and this author makes you once again realize how unfair this is.

.Keiko traditions, about the confusion between the Chinese and Japanese during a time when all Asians were being scrutinized about the war.  But, more than anything they bring back memories of  ancestral were left in the basement by Japanese families in the 1940s.   Henry is there for a different reason.  These aren’t just pieces of history to him, they are memories.  Memories of his life during the World War II era :as the only Asian boy in an all white school, about trying to fit in while still holding fast to his thatThis book is centered around Henry Lee.  In the opening pages, Henry is standing in from of the Panama Hotel, on of the landmarks in Seattle that has gone to ruin over the years.  It is 1986, and they are about to unveil some belongings that were recently discovered belongings

 
This book is going to be added to my list of top 20 books of all time.  It has everything I look for in a novel and more.  This is Mr. Ford’s debut novel, and I for one am looking forward to anything else this author has to say.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
 
WIN PRIZES!!!
 
HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEETVIRTUAL BLOG TOUR ’09will officially begin on May 1 and end on May 29. You can visit Jamie’s blog stops at http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/ in May to find out more about this great book and talented author!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors’ blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available.

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Rock bottom by Michael Shilling

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Once, the Blood Orphans had it all: a million-dollar recording contract from Warner Brothers, killer hooks, and cheekbones that could cut glass. Four pretty boys from Los Angeles, they were supposed to be the next big thing, future kings of rock and roll.

But something happened on the way to glory, and now, two years later, along with their coke-fueled, mohawked female manager, they have washed up in Amsterdamfor the final show of their doomed and dismal European tour. The singer has become a born-again Buddhist who preaches from the stage, the bass player’s raging eczema has turned his hands into a pulpy mess, the drummer is a sex-fiend tormented by the misdeeds of his porn-king father, and the guitar player–the only talented one–is thoroughly cowed by the constant abuse of his bandmates.

As they stumble through their final day together, the Blood Orphans find themselves on a comic tour of frustration, danger, excitement, and just possibly, redemption. 

If I was asked to use just one word to describe Rock Bottom I think the word I would use would be surprising.  For a novel that has been referred to as “raunchy, knowing, brilliant” using the word surprising is somewhat…surprising.  But, let me explain.

Rock Bottom chronicles the last day of a rock band called Blood Orphans.  At one point they were the next big thing.  This book is a comically dark, sometimes over the top look at what might have been as well as what is yet to come. 

As we are introduced to the guys in the band we find that each one, in his own way, is bitter, disillusioned, and praying for a quick end to this less than magical mystery tour.  But, something funny happens on the way to the last gig.  A strange set of events conspires to show each of them that even though all seems lost, there is a level of love and respect that wasn’t really lost, just misplaced somewhere along the road.  And while this was their last night together as band mates, it wasn’t their last night together as friends.

As I read this book I began to have my doubts that it could hold my interest.  Getting to know these self-absorbed underachievers almost didn’t seem worth it.  By the end of the book I found myself pulling for each one of them to come away with something positive that they could carry with them into the next stages of their lives.  I began to care.  How surprising.

Michael Shilling is a Lecturer at the University of Michigan, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing. His stories have appeared in The Sun, Fugue, and Other Voices. A recovering rock musician, he played the drums in The Long Winters, as well as numerous other bands in Seattle. Currently, he is working on a novel set in Victorian England.
 
Thanks so much to Miriam of Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to review this book!
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