Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Book Review: The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

Recently, Gail Tsukiyama came to our local library to talk about her new book (this one). I had read her first book back in my first book club - Women of the Silk, and I have never forgotten it. Set in the silk factories in China, and telling the stories of the women who worked there, it is my favorite kind of book - the kind where as you are engrossed in a fantastic story you can't put down, you are also learning something about some other culture or people.

I found Gail in person to be so charming and wonderful. As she talked about all of her books in succession, I realized that all of them sounded like they were my favorite kind of books! This latest one especially intrigued me: Set in Japan during the second World War, it is the story of a boy who dreams of being a sumo wrestler, and then grows up to be one - and his brother, who longs to be a mask maker for the Japanese Noh theater. Gail insists on educating you fully about the subjects of her books, so you will read lots of description about sumo and Noh theatre. Luckily, it's not like reading a dry non-fiction research book. She skillfully weaves this information into an engaging, richly characterized book about family drama, love and loss.

I admit that it took me a fair while to get into this book, and there was a moment early on when I considered not going further. BUT, I really do think that it's more of a statement about the harried nature of my life than it is about this book. I'm having difficulty finding relaxed time to read. I'm so glad I didn't give up on this one! I loved it, and look forward to reading all of her books I've missed in the interim between her first book and this latest one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

3 Reviews

I read this for our reading group at Cosmic Dog Yoga. I usually choose the monthly book based on something I've read about it. We've been getting kind of heavy lately, though, so I wanted to pick kind of a fun book. Dharma Punx did well a few months ago, and this seemed similar. NOT!! I hated this book! It was really nothing more than a few hundred pages of bragging about what low and pathetic morals you can have and still be considered a Zen master. Don't waster your time!

I've had Away on my list for some time and finally got around to choosing it from my list of 132 (ack!) books I want to read. It's written by a psychotherapist, and since I am one too, it always interests me to see their take on human nature. I read the reviews on Amazon and the negative reviewers seemed to think at some point, the book became unbelievable. I think there is some truth to it -- it's hard to believe that on person could have such terrible luck, year after year after year. But, we are so far removed (most of us) from the true immigrant experience and how difficult it really was to survive, that it might just seem unbeleivable to us. Even if not, it's fiction, people! I don't require total believability on the part of my fiction author friends. I liked the book and the characters - and while I probably won't pick it for the top 5 of the year or anything, it's definitely worth your time.

I just recently read a recommendation for Serena, and although I have about a gazillion books in line ahead of it, the review was so compelling that I picked it up right away. Rarely, if ever, have I read a book with such an evil, despicable main character that really worked. Usually, in this situation, I would say "I hate this character. Why do I even care what happens here?" I think it's very difficult to write a hateful main character and still keep your audience. To do it, you normally would want to draw your reader in with some redeeming quality, some reason to root for the character, even though they are bad. Ron Rash apparently felt none of this pressure. He has succesfully written about the most horrifying character ever, and still kept me reading voraciously late into the night. You won't be able to put this one down and you will be shocked until the very last page. Read it!