When a Chinese American man marries a white American woman in 1950’s California, no one thinks twice.  Move them to New Jersey, surrounded by a  multitude of races and nearby New York culture, add the turbulent ’60s and fights for equal rights, and you may have some uncomfortable bumps while America stretches and groans to contain a birthing revolution.  Move this family to a small South Dakota farming community, however, one that has no tolerance for change and revolution, and you’ve got yourself a problem.

May-Lee Chai’s memoir Hapa Girl: A Memoir is honest, humorous, and painfully straightforward.  Reading now what were the facts of their lives 40 years ago leaves the reader in wonderment over the ways of human nature and its oftentimes adverse reactions to anything different.

May-Lee’s family was caught completely off guard when their new South Dakota town didn’t accept them, treating them less than human.  As the pressures of a lack of acceptance and downright hatred bear down on them, the family begins to splinter apart.  Written with a transitioning America as the backdrop, Hapa Girl is not only a study of racism and bigotry, but a study on the well-written memoir.  Chai’s style is sincere, often sarcastic, always brutally truthful.  Its consistency of voice and effortless flow make Hapa Girl: A Memoir a must-read for the lover of memoir.

Not the usual carp(e) libris reviews-type title?  Maybe not, but I couldn’t resist.  I suppose it was the photo of those golden eyes on the cover that drew me in, and who says you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Certainly I have found oftentimes you can.  Because the story of Dewey is every bit as heartwarming as the darling tabby cat on the book jacket.  

Written by librarian Vicki Myron of Spencer, Iowa, the book Dewey tells the true story of an abandoned kitten dropped through the book return slot on a cold January morning.  He landed not only in a stack of books but in the heart of a whole town and how he affected the lives of many simply by being the right cat in the right place and time makes for a wonderful tale.  As Dewey’s notoriety spread, he became known all over the world.  This New York Time’s Bestseller is certainly a warm fuzzy that gives a prime example of how animals affect the lives of their humans.  

I told myself not to cry at the end.  I said, “Don’t be silly, now, you’re not the squishy dribbly type to use up a box of tissue over a cat you never met.” Yeah, right.  Dewey undid me, plain and simple.  I’d recommend this touching true story as a gift for cat lovers, book and library lovers, animal lovers in general.  It fits the bill for a perfect bit of heartwarming when the dreariness of the newspaper just won’t do.

Check Out Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

Library Cat” is set to hit the silver screen, starring Meryl Streep.

See Dewey in action in this old PBS bit:

PhotobucketCongrats to winner Susan!  You’ll have a lot of fun reading this one.  Sometimes memoirs are stranger than fiction.  Maybe that’s why I love them so much–the knowledge that the stuff you’re reading actually happened.  So is the case with Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith.  Probably the most unusual memoir I’ve ever read, Walking Through Walls takes you through Smith’s life growing up with a father who is an interior designer with powerful psychic abilities.  Smith’s father becomes more and more dedicated to learning about his gift, and while he uses his gifts to help and heal, his bizarre lifestyle sometimes gets the better of Philip.  After all, when your father’s a psychic it’s hard to get away with much.

Philip Smith’s writing style is nothing short of absorbing.  His ability to put his life into a smoothly flowing, engaging novel format makes this a fascinating read no matter what your beliefs on psychics and the paranormal.  The dialog is well written and convincing, and Smith holds nothing back–good or bad–when talking about his family.  These are just a few reasons this book gets the Goldfish Award.  The rest of the reasons?  Unless you’re psychic, you’ll have to read the book to find out.  

Here’s your chance to win a copy of Walking Through Walls.

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me what you think of the supernatural.  Do you believe in miracles?  Psychics? Aliens?  Be thoughtful with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Sunday, October 12, 2008, to enter.


I love reading and learning about Asian culture and its rich history. China certainly has no shortage of either! When you mix that with the genealogy of a family, you’ve got my interest. Growing up, I listened to my mother’s stories of our ancestors as she uncovered their secrets while studying our family tree. While there are no Chinese branches on mine, there is a wonderful Asian twist that has given me a lifelong fascination with the Orient. That’s why books like Sweet Mandarin always manage to grab me and hang on.

Sweet Mandarin is more than a true story. It is several true stories all woven into one amazing family history that is author Helen Tse’s. Starting with the story of her great grandparents, it works its way from generation to generation, giving a beautiful account of what makes her family unique. Helen Tse’s family history contains a long line of fascinating people who struggled to work their way out of difficult situations, regardless of what they were “supposed” to do. The story starts with a great grandfather who began his own soy sauce factory and the family that suffered the consequences of his success. The bulk of the focus is on the women in Tse’s family; strong, brave women who break the bonds of China’s traditions, all the while coveting their culture like a valuable pearl. Tse’s family boasts three generations of restaurant owners, all having stories that will inspire and entertain.

Sweet Mandarin is a book that will appeal to a very wide audience – men, women, even young adult. Will it ever appear on the silver screen? I wouldn’t be surprised, and I certainly hope to hear there’s a movie contract in the works. And I thought my family was fascinating…

Want to win your own copy of Sweet Mandarin?

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me a little something about your family history. (I promise I won’t tell.) Where are you from? Do you know your roots, or are they a secret? Have fun with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Friday, September 5, 2008, to enter.