Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms - Gail Tsukiyama

My mom has been telling me to read this book for years.  As usual, I should listen to my mother.  I am a big fan of Gail Tsukiyama and have a number of her books unread on my shelves.  I feel like I'm saving them for something, but I know I need to just read them and enjoy!  The Street of a Thousand Blossoms takes place in Japan mostly following the bombings of Hiroshima/Nagasaki during World War II.  The book focuses on orphaned brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji.  While Hiroshi follows his dream of becoming a sumo wrestler, the quieter Kenji gravitates toward the beautiful mask making of the Noh theater.  The story spans decades and follows the brothers through the lives in post-was Japan.  At times, this book was a bit too tragic for my tastes.  It seemed like sadness lurked around every corner - often, I felt, unnecessarily.  But, Tsukiyama tells a wonderful story about a family and brothers who find each other no matter how different their life paths and desires.  Definitely one of the best books I've read this year.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Echo Park - Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #12)

Because I keep reading these things out of order, I can't keep track of whether Bosch is about to retire, working through his retirement, or just coming back...but I already knew that something crazy was about to go down in this book because a later one I read kept referening the debacle that was "Echo Park."  In this one, Bosch is haunted by yet another cold case - this one involved the disappearance of a young woman twelve years prior whose body was never recovered.  When a serial killer about to be executed for his crimes confesses to the woman's murder and promises to lead Bosch to her body, he goes against his judgment and bites.  As with all Connelly's novels (and crime stories in general) - the first suspect is never the right one, and here we also know there is bound to be police corruption involved.  I enjoyed the cat and mouse hunt of this one, and even though I knew the serial killer couldn't be the real killer in the case Bosch cared so much about, I enjoyed the suspense of finding out who actually did it.  I really just never tire of these books!

The Boy in the Moon - Ian Brown

I shouldn't allow myself to read memoirs by parents of sick or dying children.  They just make me cry - though I suppose they also make me appreciate the health of my own child, and the time that we have together.  So, maybe that's why I keep coming back to them.  Ian Brown's son, Walker, lives with an extremely rare genetic condition that leaves him mentally and developmentally between the ages of a one to three year old, and in need of constant care.  As Brown journeys in search of answers, and perhaps even a cure, he faces some of the toughest questions a parent can ask.  Brown seeks out parents of child diagnosed with the same disease.  He buries himself in research on the mysterious affliction.  He watches and studies, and ultimately simply loves his son despite the constant challenges his son poses, and the question on many days of if his son will ever be able to understand or recognize the tremendous sacrifice Brown and his wife and daughter have made.  This is a deeply honest book - one that rages against an unfair world, while also finding blessings in the most unlikely places. 

Swamplandia! - Karen Russell

I am so behind on my blog updates...let's see if I can even remember what all these books were about...well, Swamplandia!, what can I say?  With an exclamation point in the title, I was expecting great things - and the plot premise sounds like something I'd really enjoy.  After a family that runs a swampland tourist attraction loses their mother (and star alligator pit wrestling attraction), business dwindles and the three children find themselves scattered to the wind and left to fend for themselves.  Ava, the youngest at 13-years old, is determined not make the family business profitable once again.  The story is at time heartbreaking and at other times whimsical and imaginative.  But, mostly, I found myself slogging through boring passages and fantastical stories that borderd on  the lame rather than the pleasantly quirky.  This book has received incredible reviews, but I think it's definitely a matter of taste (like most books, but my point is I don't think this one has universal appeal).  It's different and clever, but the writing didn't hold my attention.  Not quite worth the price of Swamplandia! admission.