Archive | July, 2014

Love Lost and Found at Grand Central

19 Jul

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I believe it was in January when I heard about Grand Central, an anthology of novellas of postwar love, reunion and heartache all centered around the iconic Grand Central Station in New York. I instantly pre-ordered the novel because the rock star lineup of authors includes some of my favorite historical fiction writers.

Sarah Jio. If you’ve been following this blog you know how much I talk about her and how I read anything she writes in less than two days because I can’t put it down.

Melanie Benjamin. Author of The Aviator’s Wife. I reviewed her bestseller last year when it was released and because of her I have a fascination with Anne Lindbergh.

Erika Robuck. One of my more recent favorites. The author of Hemingway’s Girl and Call me Zelda has such a colorful imagination in how she takes non-fiction people and places and crafts a magical story.

Karen White. I was introduced to Karen’s works when I reviewed The Time Between last year.

And this isn’t everyone included in Grand Central. Going into this book I thought it would be more about love found at USO dances with long letter correspondence. While there is some of that, this collection also includes stories of concentration camp survivors, a woman with ties to the Nazi Lebensborn Program and immigrants searching for a new beginning in a victorious America.

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Corbis Images

USA Today ran a great story recently about the authors and the inspirations behind their stories here.

When the book launched June 28, the authors glammed up 1940s style and celebrated at Grand Central. How I wish I could have been a part of that!

In an effort to read more of what I already own but have yet to read on my bookshelf, I have avoided purchasing books. I broke my 2014 New Year’s goal with this purchase, because I knew it would not disappoint.

If you’re looking for your latest beach read, or a book for a rainy weekend indoors, Grand Central will take you away to an era where there were scars but there was hope.

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What I’m Reading Wednesday

17 Jul

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Lisa See, one of my favorite historical fiction authors, recently released her ninth novel China Dolls (June 3).

You might recognize the author from her novel (later made into film) Snow flower and the Secret Fan. In her latest novel Lisa once again sheds light on a forgotten time in history. In China Dolls, Lisa writes of a trio of ambitious friends who wish to find success as performers in San Francisco’s China town’s nightclubs in the late 1930s. The Chinese and Japanese-American females battle prejudice, old traditions, gender inequality, and in the 1940s, WWII.

The novel follows each character’s story as Grace, Helen and Ruby fight for their chance to shine in the spotlight. But we all know what happens when your best friend is also your roommate — there will be drama, there will be arguments and there will be jealousy.

Many of the characters in China Dolls are fictional, but Lisa did incorporate familiar names from the Chinese-American nightclub scene during the era.

I am always in awe of the research Lisa compiles for each of her novels. I didn’t become a big fan after her big hit Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but it was after I read Shanghai Girls and the subsequent Dreams of Joy, I became a fan of not only the author’s prose, but also her extensive knowledge of China during a time that seems so long ago.

China Dolls was released soon after Jamie Ford’s Songs of Willow Frost was released. Both talented writers focus on Chinese stardom in the golden age.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

9 Jul

When I was classified as a young adult (the teen years) I was busy reading Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew and The Babysitter’s Club. Fast forward to my first year in my 30s and today’s YA literature is decorated with more intense high school drama laced with colorful language.

How times have changed.

Many of my book nerd friends are YA lovers. I’ve learned that reading one YA book leads to another YA book, and the vicious cycle continues on. While discussing a YA book at book club last month, my friend Moe suggested reading If I Stay and it was in my hands when I left her house.

The novel by Gayle Forman illustrates how life can change in just a single moment. What if our lives were on the brink of life and death? What choice would we make if we could choose?

It’s some heavy stuff for teens, let alone grown up readers. It’s a quick read you can finish in an afternoon and once you’re done you move right along to the sequel Where She Went. That’s the beauty of reading a book much later after its release. There’s no waiting to see what happens next.

And if that wasn’t enough of a reason to suggest you should check out Forman’s novels, If I Stay is coming to a theater near you this summer.

The novel is a perfect beach read, or just a sit out on the porch in the sunshine read. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest, has a lot of music and an admirable family dynamic.

And of course there’s love.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

2 Jul

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It’s hard to imagine what life would be like as a billionaire. Or even a hundred thousands-aire.

Thanks to debut author Kevin Kwan’s life experiences and colorful imagination, I caught a glimpse of how the rich of the rich live in “Crazy Rich Asians.”

The title sums up the novel perfectly. The novel is about Asians who are crazy rich. Not just fly first class rich, but more like buying a hotel after being snubbed by the racist manager rich. Hard to imagine right?

Kwan’s story centers around Rachel Chu, a New Yorker who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s “traditional” Chinese family. She has no idea of the money and status her boyfriend Nick comes from. Kwan entertains his readers with 500-plus pages of satire rich in drama, high emotion and lots of dollar signs.

This novel will irritate you. It will make you mad. It will frustrate you. And through the theatrics you will be silently cheering for Rachel throughout, because frankly she’s the victim in a high-society so exclusive and ridiculous that’s it’s even hard to imagine it really exists.

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A character map to help you keep track!

Oh, but it does. Kwan’s story of fiction is based on his own personal and professional experiences growing up and visiting the areas of Asia and Europe he writes about. His colorful characters are unforgettable, but because there are so many characters in this novel you might just forget who is who. Luckily, a character map is included!

The good news for fans of “Crazy Rich Asians” is that the story doesn’t end at the end of this book. Kwan is already at work on the sequel and his debut novel received a film deal, so soon we’ll see the outlandish characters who only talk about money come to life! Maybe then it will be easier to imagine being a billionaire.

If you like satire and you’re curious about how the rich live, I highly recommend “Crazy Rich Asians.”

On an unrelated sidenote, I am a fan of Kwan’s vintage specs!