Archive | June, 2014

What I’m Reading Wednesday

25 Jun

A Diamond is Forever.

It’s a familiar phrase, but one I never knew the story behind. Thanks to J. Courtney Sullivan’s The Engagements, her imagination has helped me to paint an idea of the woman behind the trademark line.

engageIn the late 1940s, Frances Gerety penned the signature line, A Diamond is Forever, a phrase that has lasted for decades to come. Two weeks before her death in 1999, Advertising Age magazine named the phrase the slogan of the century. And as we all know, the phrase is still very much in use today.

Weaving around Frances’ story as a young advertising copywriter are several stories spanning different generations all centered around one thing: a diamond.

First, we meet Evelyn in 1972. A woman married to her husband for 40 years after her first husband was tragically killed.

Next we meet James in 1987, a paramedic with a family who is trying to make up for poor past financial decisions.

In 2003 Delphine enters the story. The Parisian leaves her marriage behind for a love affair with a famous classical musician.

Kate enters the story in 2012. A modern and independent woman, Kate doesn’t understand why people choose marriage, when she’s perfectly fine with a verbal commitment from her partner and father of their child.

All of these stories center around romance, love, promise and a diamond. Sullivan develops each short story within the novel and subtly drops hints of how they are all linked together.

This novel was released last year and was named People Magazine’s top-10 books of 2013. It just recently made its debut in paperback. Reading it takes commitment as you read further into the character’s stories and navigate through the almost 400 pages. But it’s all worth it. There is sadness and there is tragedy, but there is always love. And some history about the advertising world, which I personally love.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

18 Jun

It’s been a few years since I read Jamie Ford’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which became a book I often recommend to book clubs or anyone looking for recommendations.

WilllowThe novel takes place in WWII-era Seattle and centers around a hotel that exists today. The historic Panama Hotel contains the last remaining Japanese bathhouse in the United States. A group of my friends tried to make a day trip to Seattle to tour the hotel and have some tea a few years ago, but it has yet to happen. We have since revisited this topic (hopefully you’ll see a post soon about said tour).

Four years later Ford released his second novel, Songs of Willow Frost, which also takes place in Seattle and includes scenes in Tacoma (253!), with a mention of Camp Lewis. It’s a work of fiction, but includes many historical landmarks, including the Wah Mee Club in Seattle, which is where Ford’s grandparents met as mentioned in the author’s notes.

Songs of Willow Frost centers around two characters: William, a 12-year-old Chinese-American orphan trying to piece together his past based on vague memories of his mother, and Willow (Liu Song), William’s mother, a young, talented woman who desperately tries to move on from a tragic past but is haunted by her misfortune.

The Reader’s Guide includes the question “Overall, do you think the story is one of hope and promise or suffering and sacrifice?” I mention this because for the majority of the novel it’s hard to find any glimmer of hope following the stories of a lonely mother and son, separated by circumstance and kept apart partly because of prejudice and old-world traditions.

This novel takes place during the 1920s-30s and includes a lot about the theater and movie scene in the Seattle-area with historical mentions of Chinese-American movie stars.

Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China to San Francisco in 1865. Ford grew up near Seattle’s Chinatown and his research and knowledge of the area is much appreciated by this Pacific Northwest reader.

Songs of Willow Frost is often times hard to get through, with so much heartache, pain and grief; but if you can make it to the last three pages, the reader’s sorrow is worth it in the end. I promise.

Who is your favorite local author?

Secret Book Delivery

10 Jun

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I love the feeling of finding the perfect gift. However, sometimes I’m so excited I found the perfect gift that I ruin the perfect surprise of blabbing about it before they even open it.

It’s usually around Christmas when I’m binge shopping for everyone on the list that the excitement increases of finding the best obscure and unique gifts. I found a way to feel that excitement more than just in December. A few months ago I started something that is equal parts fun and exciting: secretly ordering a book online and having it delivered to someone’s doorstep.

What better way to make someone’s day than by gifting a book they would enjoy? It’s not just any random book showing up in their mailbox, but a book about a genre they love or the latest release of their favorite author. It takes thought and research. And it takes keeping it a secret.

A few months ago I saw Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s memoir, Hope Runs: An American Tourist, A Kenyan Boy, A Journey of Redemption was about to release (Claire is known as the “woman who got the Pope on Twitter”). My friend Blaire and I heard Claire speak at The Justice Conference in Philadelphia in 2013. Since Blaire and her husband recently became licensed foster parents, I thought my friend would enjoy Claire’s book about her experience at a Kenyan orphanage.

Problem is, Blaire is also a book worm and buys books somewhat often. I gave her specific instructions to not buy a book in the month of April. Well, she did, but luckily not the one I had picked for her. She got a special delivery in the mail and a book to add to her to-read pile.

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I introduced my sister-in-law Tifani to Seattle author Sarah Jio, who then introduced Sarah to her book club. Usually I get the latest copy of Sarah’s book in her hands as soon as I can, but this month I was sneaky about it.

Sarah’s latest release Goodnight June came out earlier this month. I had it delivered to my SIL’s house where her sister-in-law is already in line to borrow it when she’s done.

See how fun this is? My friends and I always talk about the latest books we’re into and are always exchanging, borrowing and forgetting to return books to each other.

But a secret (or not so secret since I’m posting about it) book delivery adds another element to a book exchange. It’s spreads the love of reading. It just spreads the love.

We’re halfway through 2014 (yikes!) and soon we’ll be scrambling to make sure we bought Christmas gifts for everyone on our list. But before the craziness starts, slow down and think about what would make someone else’s day. And it will make yours.