Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Buddha in the Attic

   Some of us will like this book .  Some of us won't.  Some of us will find this way of writing irritating, because there is no narrative.  Some of us will enjoy the content and will stick with the book.  Some of us will just drop the whole thing from irritation.  Some of us will want to discuss this book with friends.  Some of us will never want to hear of the book again.  Some of us will not enjoy this type of writing. 
  I was one! And the preceding paragraph shows how this book was written.

  "The Buddha in the Attic" was strongly recommended to me and I must admit that the subject matter is certainly interesting- picture brides brought from Japan to San Francisco a hundred years ago.    
  From their journey on the boat, wondering about their future life, to their wedding night, to the backbreaking work, to the birth (and sometimes death) of babies.  And then the treatment of the Japanese in the war.  Great content.
   But the style of writing did not work for me! 
  There were no specific characters and no plotline.  For some people, this was a creative method of presenting this history of Japanese picture brides.

  These same issues are dealt with in another book that I enjoyed-
"Honolulu" by Alan Brennert.
   There are several 'picture brides" in this novel, but Jin is the central character, taking the name "Regrettable".
  This novel has great character development. You can read about it here.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Anita Diamant

   In 2003, I read "The Red Tent" for a book club.  This is the review that I wrote then:
   This Jewish author is a fabulous storyteller!  The story is told by Dinah (Deenah) who says in the prologue; "I am so grateful that you have come.  I will pour out everything inside me so you may leave this table satisfied and fortified.  Blessings on your eyes.  Blessings on your children.  Blessings on the ground beneath you.  My heart is a ladle of sweet water, brimming over. Selah."
Dinah is the Biblical sister of Joseph and the daughter of Jacob.  This book gives a different perspective from the brief Biblical account.  It is a woman's perspective and it is fiction.
From the small details of life in Bible times to the catastrophic events, they are all woven into a spellbinding story- including Dinah's experience of her own death.  The introduction peaks your interest and the conclusion weaves in all the loose threads.  A deeply satisfying story!
"Blessings on your eyes and on your children.  Blessings on the ground beneath you.  Wherever you walk, I go with you. Selah"
It is a passionate and earthy story portraying the continuity and unity of women.

Anita Diamant
   Anita is an American author who has written 5 novels as well as 6 guides to modern Jewish practice.  I just read another of her novels, "The Boston Girl".  It has not been as popular as "The Red Tent" but there are still many good reviews.
   However, this is one of those times when I don't necessarily agree with the popular opinion.
   I found the book a disappointment.  

   Eighty-five-year-old Addie Baum is being interviewed by her granddaughter with the question: "How did you get to be the woman that you are today?"  The whole book is the answer to that question and it covers the years 1900-1985.
   It seemed like a recitation to me.  Growing up a Jewish daughter of immigrants in Boston, she had total recall of all the events, but the telling was too sterile for me.  I never really got into Addie's mind.  It was a portrait of one woman's life in a generation of women finding their way in a changing world.  Addie was spunky and interesting, but the events of her life were skimmed over and left me unsatisfied at the end.

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek

Jane Myers Perrine majored in English and Spanish during her university years.  She became a Spanish teacher and also an ordained minister.  Then she began to write and has written 10 books in the Christian romance genre.  
One of the main themes is matchmaking.  The setting in this book is a small town in Texas, where a young minister has arrived to take over the responsibilities of the local Christian church.  Three of the women in the church run the social life of the congregation and try to control the new minister, Adam Jordan.  Miss. Birdie even wants to decide on the hymns (all the old ones), and tell the minister when he needs his hair cut.  But the three ladies meet often to discuss who is sick and who needs help.  They would provide childcare, furniture, anything needed - always lots of fried chicken, cakes, bread, etc.
  I thought the focus would be on the minister, but there is a young Afghanistan vet who has lost a leg.  He falls in love with his physiotherapist, who has two young boys.  And most of the story is about him trying to get his hands on beautiful Willow.

   Two lovely covers for this novel.
There is a follow-up book called "The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek", where the church ladies work on getting a wife for the pastor.

A nice small-town story with interesting characters.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Seven Sisters: Book Three

The third book in the Seven Sisters series arrived and I read most of it at the beach.
You can read about the second book here.
Each book deals with one of the sisters, raised by a  multimillionaire in Switzerland.  When Pa died, each girl was given clues to her heritage.
The third sister, Star, is quiet and thin.  She has spent her life enveloped in the life of her sister CeCe.  They were always together.  Star could write but not speak well.  Her sister had dyslexia, but spoke loudly and clearly for both of them.  And so, it was difficult for both of them, having been co-dependant for the first twenty years of their lives, when Star attempted to make some space between them in order to search for her heritage in London England, specifically in a book store.  Star got a job there and, through the owner, Orlando, she learned the story of several generations of her biological family.  It included the King of England and the writer Beatrix Potter, oh, and she also met her biological mother. And, of course, she fell in love.
   Once again, there is great complexity to the long saga.  It continues to peak your interest in the adopted father, Pa Salt. Who was he, and how and why did he adopt these girls?
  I admire this writer for the huge task she has taken on.  There are so many themes and storylines, that as soon as I finish, I want to start again.  But... another whole year before the next book will be released!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The death of reading threatens the soul

This article in the newspaper caught my attention. 
The picture is very appealing, but I was also interested in the author.
Philip Yancey is a well-know author of books concerning spiritual matters. 
 Now he is concerned about the lack of reading.
Yancey believes that the internet and social media have trained the brain to read a paragraph or two and then start looking around.  He is speaking from a personal perspective.
I used to read three books a week.  One year, I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare's plays.  Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.  But I am reading many fewer books these days , and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work."
Explanation:  When we learn something quick and new, we get a dopamine rush-MRI brain scans show that the brain's pleasure centres light up.  E-mails satisfy that pleasure centre as well as Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat.
   My only experience in social media is this blog and e-mails.  I don't have a cell phone, even though it would be very convenient at times.  But, I am not willing to give up my personal space.  I do not want to be available every minute of the day.  I need time to think my own thoughts and, to be honest, I don't want to hear every detail of anyone's life.  People can find me if they need me.  I still find the house  telephone a disruption- especially when many calls are advertizing.  I need to find a way to turn off the ring.  It disrupts my plan of the moment.  That's why I love e-mail, where you can answer when you wish- or not!
   A 2016 Neilsen report discovered that the average person spends  more than 10 hours a day with media- radio, TV, and all electronic devices.  Not much time left for reading!
   It appears that discipline is more important than ever.
Bill Gates reads 50 books a year
Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks.
Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day.
Mark Cuban reads for more than three hours every day.
Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, reads two hours a day.
These busy people make time to read and so can we.  It's important!

"Books help define who I am". (Philip Yancey)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

"The Bookshop on the Corner" by Jenny Colgan

   What a cheery cover!  I  picked up this book while travelling.  I enjoy reading 'books about books'.  This book has been compared to "The Little Paris Bookshop" which I wrote about here.
  But I realize that I really enjoy non-fiction 'books about books' more than fiction- books like "Read for Your Life" by Joseph Gold.  The theme of books in a novel seems like a good thing, but doesn't necessarily make the book "a great read".

   Nina Redmond, 29,  was a librarian in England, who lost her job because the library "was going to compress the library services into the centre of town, where they would become a "hub", with a "multimedia experience zone" and a coffee shop and an "intersensory experience".  
   This caught my attention because I have complained about the changing concept of libraries.  Check it out here.
    Nina decided to follow her dreams and moved to Scotland, bought a van, and filled it with books that had been discarded from the library.  She would make her living selling books.
   A cute concept for the book but there were so many aspects that just weren't realistic.  I could never visualize this van, because it had a table and chairs, shelves of books and a chandelier.  At one point she mentioned "lots of families started to crowd into the van". And she drove this van from town to town.
   Perhaps the most unrealistic aspect was the effect on the town- "And as Nina looked around the little village in the sunshine, she couldn't help but notice something.  Everyone was reading.  People out in their gardens.  An old lady in her wheelchair by the war memorial. A little girl absent-mindedly swinging on the swings.  In the bakery, someone was laughing at a book of cartoons, at the coffee stand, the barista was trying to read and make someone cappuccino at the same time.  Nina was amazed.  It couldn't be- surely- that she had turned an entire town into readers.  It seemed that she had".
  Well, not only did she perform that miracle, but she also discovered a very poor family with a disabled mother, and she completely changed their future.  
  The title of this book in the U.K is "The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After".  Perhaps that is a better title?

   I do love librarians- here is a blog that I have written about unusual ones.  Click here.