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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

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 …

Overall Book Review:

Jamie Ford’s debut novel has all the elements that make for a successful and engaging read:  top-notch characterization, conflict, tension, star-crossed love, and hope.  Although it has a historical setting element, I would categorize it more as fiction than as historical fiction.  Readers who loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or The Help would probably also enjoy this book.

Perfectly named, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was a New York Times Best Seller back in 2009, but I just discovered it and I am so glad I did!  This book is one of the most rewarding adult reads I have picked up in a long time and it has restored my faith in the existence of meaningful adult fiction. An exquisite story with an honest ending, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was a delight to read and practically perfect!

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation; 10 derogatory names (racial slurs)

Violence/Gore: Reports of World War II battles, bombing of Pearl Harbor;  a few instances of bullying; a report of an adolescent being beat-up by another adolescent; a wagon ride with crash resulting in minor scrapes & bruises; a fistfight between two boys resulting in minor injuries.

Sex/Nudity:  A few instances of hugging, holding hands, and kissing.

Mature Subject Matter:

Racial Disrimination, Racial Prejudice, War, Death of a Family Member, Parent-Child conflict/relations.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Two children are sent on a “bootleg run” to pick up some alcohol.  Adults toast.  Adults smoke cigarettes.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!