Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand | Jorie's Store @ Amazon

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand | Jorie’s Store @ Amazon

 

Title: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author: Laua Hillenbrand, Narrated by Edward Herrmann
ISBN: 9781415962763
Length: 13 hours, 56 minutes
Publication Date: November 16, 2010
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Biography, History, Word War II History, Military History
Source: Harris County Public Library Digital Media Catalog

Goodreads

Reasons for Reading: I wanted to read Unbroken ever since I watched a “CBS Sunday Morning” segment about Louis Zamperini and Laura Hillenbrand. Soon after, I won a Nook Tablet and, thus, began my journey of requesting and re-requesting Unbroken until I finished it in 2014. I’ve checked out both eBook and eAudio of Unbroken from HCPL’s Overdrive.

Summary: Wild and crazy Louis Silvie Zamperini seemed unstoppable. His hi-jinx earned him a reputation in his hometown of Torrance, California while his amazing speed gave him a ticket to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He went on to become an Army Air Forces bombardier. He fought in the Pacific Theater. His bomber crashed in the Pacific Ocean in May, 1943. Many believed Zamperini and others on board died in the crash.

Unbeaten, Zamperini rose to the surface of the ocean and pulled himself onto a life raft. He and two other crew members survived the crash. The three floated, awaiting help. Ultimately, Japanese fighters discovered the castaways. The journey continues, testing an unbreakable spirit.

One Thing I Learned from this book: One real threat to humanity was the pseudoscience of eugenics, “the belief and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population” (Wikipedia, 2014).  To discover more, click on the following linked phrase – Eugenics – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

What I Liked: I liked Zamperini and his rough and tumble family. I easily slipped into his world as Hillenbrand set the scene well. I’ll admit this fits under the heading of  “stranger than fiction.”

What I Disliked: I wanted a little more between the last chapter and the penultimate chapter and the epilogue. As this may spoil the ending, I will not say anything more about the ending.

RR - Orange

Rainbow Rating: Orange – Restricted from those under age 17

A Few Notes: I finished reading Unbroken a short while before our hero’s passing in July. To see previous posts about the subject of Unbroken, check out the following links:

For more, check out the following sites:

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Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Reads – 2014 Edition


Asian Characters | morgueFile Free photos

Last year, I began recognizing various heritage months with a feature called Celebrating Authors. The inaugural section, Celebrating Asian – Pacific American Authors was a collaborative effort made by Candice P. of warmcuppatea. I managed to recognize two of my favorites – Jhumpa Lahiri and Amy Tan.
While this feature grew to include other author profiles, for 2014, I chose to showcase several books written by those of Asian and/or Pacific descent.
Just like Valentine’s and Easter, you can click on the covers, visit Jorie’s Store on Amazon, and shop for some great reading. Making purchases at Jorie’s Store funds future giveaways! 🙂
Samir and Yonatan  The Name Jar  Bindi Babes
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet  How My Parents Learned to Eat (Sandpiper Houghton Mifflin books)  Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
Never Let Me Go  Thousand Cranes  Girl in Translation
Interpreter of Maladies  The Piano Teacher: A Novel  The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics)
The Complete Persepolis  The Joy Luck Club  The Arabian Nights (New Deluxe Edition)
Doveglion: Collected Poems (Penguin Classics)  Monkey: Folk Novel of China  Millicent Min, Girl Genius
         

Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Ford, J. (2009). Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet: A novel. New York: Ballantine Books. 9780345505330

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford | LibraryThing

I glimpsed a favorable review of this book in one of those professional journals we’re expected to read at work. With my interest piqued, I requested Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet through HCPL.

The book alternates between two different time periods. In 1986, Henry Lee approaches the Panama Hotel in Seattle just as the new owner brings to light items which Japanese Americans stowed before their evacuation to the internment camps. As a recent widower, Henry’s reverie is jolted and he springs into action, baffling his grown son Marty.

The other time period is 1942, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Twelve-year old Henry lives under the thumb of his very Chinese father. His parents no longer permit him to communicate in their tongue, insisting he must speak English always. Henry is on scholarship at the white kid school and he works in the cafeteria. Here, he meets the lovely Japanese-American Keiko Okabe. Their bond transcends ethnicity as they enjoy jazz and folks that don’t look exactly like themselves.

I enjoyed this story for the most part. Ford brought Henry, Marty, and Keiko to life brilliantly. The Seattle Jazz scene also fascinated me. It’s also easy to see what motivates the characters, even Henry’s nationalist father.

My only snide remark regards Marty participating in an Internet support group in his grieving. . . in 1986! Say what? I realize Marty’s a smart guy but this is too much of a stretch.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good

Places : Seattle, Washington State, Idaho, New York City, China, Japan

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For more on Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, check out the following sites:

Janice Y.K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher


Lee, J. Y. K. (2008). The piano teacher: A novel. New York: Viking Penguin. 978-0-00-728638-6

I noticed The Piano Teacher numerous times while flipping through Publisher’s Weekly while at work. However, I didn’t have enough interest in it until I saw the book on Amazon’s “People who bought this also bought. . .” for another book I recently read (see Marie Arana’s Lima Nights) . Sure enough, this book was on the shelf at the library where I work.

Lee tells at least two stories. Initially, she begins with young English wife Claire Pendleton in 1952. She and her husband, Martin, come to Hong Kong due to his job. With nothing else better to do, Claire seeks employment as a piano teacher. When she’s hired by the wealthy Chen family to teach their daughter Locket to play piano, Claire becomes infatuated with the Hong Kong expatriate scene as well as developing kleptomania. Through all of this, she becomes the paramour of Will Truesdale, an English expatriate with numerous skeletons in the closet.

The other story Lee tells begins in 1941 Hong Kong with the dashing newcomer Will Truesdale and his tempestuous affair with Trudy Liang, an exquisite daughter of a wealthy Chinese man and a Portuguese beauty. Will sinks into Trudy’s glib  lifestyle – parties, dinners with her efeet cousin Dominick, parties with her cousin Melody Chen, going to the beach, etc. When there are nervous rumblings on the eve of World War II, Trudy appears ambivalent and Will plays along until Japan invades.

Lee alternates between these two story lines, ultimately showing us how the past transgressions color Claire’s present. Characters face all sorts of trials and decisions, costing them all in the end.

I found Lee’s writing quite colorful and even transcendent. I especially wanted to climb into my time machine and check out pre-World War II Hong Kong.  While I didn’t like most of the characters, I found them very human and multidimensional.

I also liked how Lee confronts issues of race, class, and gender. Through Trudy, she presents us with the reality of being “not Asian”, “not Caucasian,” but simply both. Her wealthy Chinese father’s status opens doors for his daughter. I was impressed also by Claire’s awakening to this as well. Here we have 2008 values quelled in a novel about 1940s-1950s Hong Kong.

Still, I didn’t like the construction of the story much. I felt as though I was bounced around in the beginning, stuck in the middle, and rolled around like a pingpong ball in the end.  I do recall that this is Lee’s first novel and I’m sure she’ll overcome this in future novels.

As a grammar geek, I must comment on my chagrin upon reading Trudy utter the non-word “anyways.”

Two out of Five Pearls

Places: Hong Kong, Macau, China, Japan, The United Kingdom, India

Word Bank: ablution, Amah, anodyne, avuncular, collusive, consular, gendarmerie, guipure, inculcated, lissome, OBE, qipao, prescient, sotto voce, Tai Tais, venal,

For more on Janice Y.K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher: