Monday, September 27, 2010

'Memoirs of a Geisha- Review



Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 978-0-099-77151-7

Length: 428 Pages

Opening Line: 'Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that happened a long while ago, and I said to you, "That afternoon when I met so-and-so...was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon."

Review:

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have raved about 'Memoirs of a Geisha' by Arthur Golden, for a long while. So after a few years of reading this novel , I decided to give it a re-read to see if lived up to the last time.

'Memoirs of a Geisha' tells the story of Chiyo, a girl who lives in a 'tipsy house' with her sister Satsu, her father and ailing mother in a small fishing village called Yoroido, on the sea of Japan. Life is difficult for Chiyo and her poor family, so when her mother is on the brink of death, Chiyo's father decides to sell his daughters to a man named Mr Tanaka and Chiyo's life changes forever.

Chiyo is separated from her sister and taken to a okiya in Gion, with the purpose of eventually becoming a geisha. However, before she can earn the right to take lessons in dance, music and tea ceremony at the local school for Geishas, Chiyo has to endure hard work and brutal treatment by 'Auntie' and 'Granny', the two women who run the Okiya.

As if it wasn't enough, Chiyo has to live with Hatsumomo the chief Geisha, whose bullying and manipulating nature often gets Chiyo into trouble and even more debt, with Granny and Mother.

After finding her sister working as a prostitute in a nearby brothel, Chiyo attempts to run away with Satsu. Unfortunately, Chiyo ends up falling from the roof of a neighbouring Okiya and she breaks her arm, so Chiyo loses her sister forever. With no where to go, Chiyo is forced to return to the Okiya.

However things take a turn for the better, as a chance meeting with a man Chiyo calls 'The Chairman', changes Chiyo's perspective on the life that she has been cruelly thrust upon her. She becomes determined to become the best geisha she can be in the hope that one day, she will meet 'The Chairman' once again.

Through pure determination, Chiyo proves herself as a apprentice geisha and when she becomes a fully fledged geisha, she takes on the name of 'Sayuri'.

This takes the story onto Sayuri's quest to find the chairman and for Mameha, her 'sister' (a sort of geisha mentor) and her to rid Gion of the cruelty of Hatsumomo.

I probably haven't described this book as well as I could have, as there is a lot more to the story than that, but that is briefly what the novel is about.

However what I can say about this book, is that it is exquisite. The writing is poetic and I absolutely love the 'first person' perspective in this book. It's almost as if Sayuri is talking direct to the reader, which is, in my opinion, the best way to draw anyone into a story.

In fact when I was reading this, it was difficult to believe that this novel has been written by a man because, and I know this may sound a little sexist, but this novel had the 'voice' of a woman. I felt that the tone of this novel is so convincing, that it's like Sayuri herself is telling you her story.

Also what adds to the authenticity of the novel, is the detail that Arthur Golden goes into when talking about the traditions of Geisha. This novel almost reads as an 'A-Z of Geisha Tradition' and I found this element fascinating.

The plot is compelling, well balanced and I love the juxtaposition between the facade of beauty that the outside life of a geisha portrays and the brutal, cruel world that Sayuri experiences, inside the confines of her Okiya.

This novel is beautiful, sensual and absorbing. It's not often that I write a book review without pointing out some of the novel's faults but as hard as I tried, I couldn't find any.

So, if you want to be swept up in a story of beauty, culture and fantastic storytelling, I would definitely recommend this novel.

On another note, since reading 'Memoirs of a Geisha', I haven't heard of any other work by Arthur Golden. Does anyone know of any other Arthur Golden novels?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Recommendations

I love book recommendations. If someone suggests a novel, not only am I being drawn onto a path which leads me into discovering a new story, genre or author but also in some ways, it lets me into the mind of the person who recommended the book in the first place and what makes them tick.....does that sound a bit weird?!

So yesterday, I was pleased to receive an e-mail from Mike the writer of the blog 'Island Life:The Blue Island Blog', recommending that I read 'The House at Otowi Bridge' by Peggy Pond Church.

After receiving a good reaction from the readers of his blog and after reading a brief description of it myself, I thought it looked interesting. So I have ordered it and it's winging its way to me as we speak.


Then, later on last night when I was at my usual Friday night Intercambio group (where English and Spanish people get together to practise their English/Spanish skills, with the help of a drink or two!), the topic of conversation lead to 'Pillars of the Earth' by Ken Follett.

At the moment, the Spanish television channel Cuatro is airing an adaptation of the novel and everyone was raving about it. So I decided to watch the first episode and from what I could understand (which wasn't everything, being in Spanish, but enough to get the gist), I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to watching more of the episodes.

I am tempted to also purchase the novel, as I was told that it's much better than the programme, but as it's a brick sized novel I'm wondering if it would be too heavy going. So, this is where you come in.

Have you read 'The Pillars of the Earth' or any other of Ken Follett's novels? Do you think it would be worth embarking on such a huge novel? Also, if you have read 'The House of Otowi Bridge', I'd love to hear you thoughts on this.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I've won an award!


Yesterday, whilst surfing the net and blatantly not doing any writing as I should have been, I received a message on the blog. It turns out that Jo from 'The Book Jotter', has kindly given me a 'One Lovely Blog' award!

When I started the blog at the beginning of this year, I only thought that I would be blogging for a bit of writing practise. So it's nice to see that someone enjoys reading the blog, as much as I enjoy updating it. Actually, by receiving this award I feel slightly guilty, because I haven't been updating it as much as I intended to. However, I'm nearly at the end of 'Memoirs of a Geisha', so there should be a review on here shortly.

Anyway by accepting this award, there are a set of rules that I have to abide by. One of those is to pay it forward and award 15 blogs, that I think are high quality and entertaining, with a 'One Lovely Blog' award too. So here are the list of blogs who I genuinely think, deserve this award:

Wordstitcher

Being Joan

Clear your Heart

Fashion, Art and Other Fancies


Raising Ruby

StephTheBookworm

Backwards in High Heels


Hannah Stoneham's Book Blog

Harriet Devine's Blog

Fyrefly's Book Blog

My Castle In Spain

Notebook Stories

Papier mon Amour

Bibliophile By the Sea

A few of my favourite books


There were others that I could have added to the 15, but it was difficult to choose! However, if you are one of the lucky ones to have been chosen, then let me know if you accept this award by commenting on my blog, or if you have been awarded this before, then just feel free to comment on the blog. Then, it's your turn to pass this award on to any blogs you think deserve this award and you want you readers to know about!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Film Adaptations

I know that I keep going on about the 'Twilight Saga' on the blog, but after some persuasion from my readers this afternoon, I decided to watch 'New Moon', an adaptation of the second novel within the series.

Whilst I found 'New Moon' mildly entertaining (I personally thought that the first film 'Twilight' was a pile of rubbish), I couldn't help but feel frustrated at times. Why? Well, even though the film stuck quite closely to the novel, there were a few changes that made me want to shout 'But that wasn't in the book'!!! There were 2 additional fight scenes (put in for more excitement no doubt), event sequences changes/locations and even silly little things, like the change of title of the film which Bella, Mike and Jacob go and see at the cinema.

I know that I might sound a bit pedantic, but stuff like this makes watching films adapted from novels not as enjoyable because half the time, they don't translate as well on screen.

I think another reason that makes watching 'book films' annoying is that I find, that they never quite match what is in my imagination. When I read a book for example 'Twilight', my imagination fixes how certain characters look, act and sound. The 'Edward' and 'Bella' that are being represented in the films, aren't right in my opinion, because they aren't the 'Edward' and 'Bella' that has been formed in my head by the author. So when film makers try and bring books to life, they have to match the pictures in the mind and more than often, they never match it in my opinion.

In some ways, the imagination is much more powerful than the filmmakers because the imagination can create and intensify drama or horror, for example, stories such as 'Misery' by Stephen King. Having read the novel and watched the film adaptation, I felt that the book is a lot scarier than the film, because of the tension that my imagination created. At the end for example, the atmosphere and events which appeared in my head, whilst reading the words actually made me gasp in surprise, where as the film had little effect.

Now I'm not saying that film adaptations aren't good, I prefer the film adaptations of 'Lord of the Rings'and 'Captain Correlli's Mandolin' to the novels, but maybe, by film makers changing plots and characters within novels, isn't that in some way defacing a writer's work(even though I know that a writer consents to a film maker using their work) work, what do you think? Or do you think that film adaptations enhance what is contained within a novel? What are your favourite adaptations?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

'Guilty Pleasure Reads'- New Moon





Publisher: Atom Books

ISBN: 978-1-904233-88-6

Length: 497 Pages

Opening Line:

'I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the ones where you have to run, run till your lungs burst, but you can't make your body move fast enough.'

Review:

The next 'Guilty Pleasure Read' I'm reviewing is 'New Moon', the second part of the 'Twilight' trilogy.

When Edward Cullen, a vampire who controls his thirst for blood for hunting animals rather than humans; leaves Isabella Swan to save her from getting into any more trouble due to their relationship, Bella sinks into a deep depression which alienates herself from her friends and loved ones.

However, when she discovers that she can hear the voice of Edward in her mind during dangerous situations, she will stop at nothing to feel closer to him. So she buys a motorbike, an item discouraged by her father Charlie and asks Jacob Black, a boy living in La Push reservation, to help her to fix the bike in secret.

During this time the two become close, so close in fact that Bella has to make a decision about who she really wants.....Edward or Jacob? However, Jacob has a secret. When he is angry, he turns into a werewolf and this throws Bella into turmoil about where her loyalties lie, as the vampires and werewolves have been enemies for centuries.

When the death of one of Charlie's friend's leads Edward to believe that the funeral being held is actually for Bella, he travels to Italy, to annoy the 'Volturi', a sort of the vampire Mafia if you will, in the hope that he will be able to 'die' and be with Bella. However, when he decides against this method, Bella races against time to save Edward from walking into the midday sun and 'dying'. However that's not all. After saving Edward, the 'Volturi' get word about Bella and after an altercation between Bella, Edward and Aro, the boss of the group, they make Edward promise that Bella will be turned into a vampire and if not, then the group will do it themselves.

Of course, this is what Bella wants, however Edward isn't enthusiastic about the idea. So she holds a meeting to see whether or not the Cullen family will consent to her joining their 'family'. The book ends with Edward reluctantly promising to turn Bella into a vampire himself, to secure the safety of Bella and her parents but with the condition, that Bella marries Edward. Will Bella accept Edward's proposal? Can Bella have Edward but still be friends with Jacob, despite the hostility between the vampires and the werewolves?

Well again, I've probably given away too much as it is, so you'll just have to read this for yourselves!
I was a little disappointed with this book to be honest. It's more the first half of the book I had a problem with. It didn't quite match the intensity and subtlety that 'Twilight' did. The relationship between Jacob and Bella wasn't quite as convincing as Edward's and Bella, in fact the relationships between Bella and most of her high school friends, were more convincing in my opinion. I felt like Jacob was just a bit of a plot devise to try and spice things up a bit.

I also found Meyer's writing to be good, but a bit contradictory. I don't understand why Bella finds being in love with a vampire so easy to accept, but when she find out that Jacob has turned into a werewolf, she has such a hard time about it. It didn't quite sit right with me.

The other problem I have with this novel, is that it seemed that Meyer had simply recycled elements from other books and conveniently put them in her own novel. For example, she takes the idea of star crossed lovers killing themselves to be with each other, featured in 'Romeo and Juliet' and also the part in Italy when Bella is racing to save Edward, is reminiscent of a large portion of Dan Brown's 'Angels and Demons'. I felt that 'New Moon' should have been a little more original than that.

On the plus side, the pace was well balanced and I still enjoyed the later half of the novel, it was a lot more interesting than the first half, which was just a lot of teen angst in my opinion.

I enjoyed reading this novel, despite its flaws and will definitely continue reading this series even though at times, it is a bit silly.

On the issue of reading novels within a series, I have been wondering whether I should judge these novels as a whole or individually, what do you think? Can you see each novel in a series individually or do you reserve judgment until you have read them all?

Similar titles you may enjoy:



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the move .....again!

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog for the last week, because so much has been going on away from the blogosphere, that I've had no time to give you an update!

We have said goodbye to our visitors and also moved location again. As things at our own apartment are still unresolved, it was decided that we would find something a bit more permanent.

So currently, I'm in our new apartment and it's lovely. The area is quiet, in fact it's so quiet that it feels like we are living in a cul-de-sac in England (with obviously more sun!) and the apartment is spacious and light with a big balcony and outside courtyard, so there is plenty of reading space!

However the best thing about living in the new place, is that I have full access to my electric scooter, which means that I have the freedom to go out where I want, when I want and it's brilliant! I can go to one of the local ice cream parlours, for a tub of their delicious Tiramisu ice cream, or find an umbrella outside one of the nearby cafes and read my book.

Speaking of books, another great thing about the new flat, is that I have full access to my books and a fixed address to order some new ones, so hopefully, things can get back to normal in my life and on the blog......well, at least for the next 11 months until our rental contract runs out!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wish Lists

I haven't blogged for a few days, as I haven't been as book productive as I would like to have been. I would have liked to have finished 'New Moon' by Stephenie Meyer, but I've been busy with our visitors and also swimming (which may sound great, but I have been trying to overcome a major phobia of deep water over the last 2 years and have only just managed to relax and actually enjoy being in the water.)

However, I have been surfing on Amazon and compiling a wish list of the books I want to read in the future. They are as follows:

The complete box set of the 'Twilight' Saga- Stephenie Meyer,

'Of Mice and Men'- John Steinbeck,

'Started Early, Took My Dog'- Kate Atkinson,

'The Girl With Dragon Tattoo'- Steig Larsson,

'The Virgin's Lover'- Philippa Gregory,

'The Constant Princess'- Philippa Gregory,

'The Red Queen'- Philippa Gregory,

'The White Queen'- Philippa Gregory.

There is also a book, which I read a review of on another book blog and wanted to read. The problem is, I can't remember the name of it! I know that on the front cover, there is a girl with long hair, looking bit intense and the novel is rather thick and about the end of the world. If anyone know the name of this novel, let me know!

I should update the blog again shortly, but in the meantime, have you read any of the books on my wish list? What novels are on your wish list?