Book Review: The Translation Of Love By Lynne Kutsukake

Book Review: The Translation Of Love By Lynne Kutsukake

 

Blurb:

Against the backdrop of occupied Tokyo, a young girl searches for her missing older sister, who has disappeared into the world of bars and dance halls. In the process, her story will become intertwined with those of others trying to make sense of their lives in a post-war world: a thirteen-year-old Japanese Canadian “repat,” a school teacher who translates love letters from American GIs, and a Japanese-American soldier serving with the Occupation forces. An emotionally gripping portrait of a battered nation, The Translation of Love mines this turbulent period to show how war irrevocably shapes the lives of people on both sides—and how resilience, friendship, and love translate across cultures and borders no matter the circumstances.

General Thoughts:

To begin with, I loved the set up of this story. I would describe it almost as a collection of short stories that come together to illustrate a definite point (or message): that in the end, we as people, are all in this—the battle of life, the uncertainty of life, the struggle of life—however it can be described, together.

The story primarily followed that of the young school age girls, Fumi and Aya, as they learned to navigate and understand the world of Japan in the post WWII era. I loved seeing the different viewpoints of life from the two girls, who had very different early life experiences and backgrounds—Fumi, coming from a traditional prewar Japan society, and Aya, coming from a Canadian society as a Japanese immigrant.

As the two girls’ friendship grew through a common mission to help find Fumi’s older sister, their early life experiences became a roadblock at times as much as it eventually became a source of understanding and growth.

The search for Fumi’s sister eventually tied in the other stories of Matt, the Japanese American solider and Kondo, Fumi’s and Aya’s school teacher. Seeing these characters motivation to want to help, and at the same time, find meaning and make sense of a world broken by war, left me with thoughts of what it truly means to be human, to relate to one another, and ultimately love one another.

The only weakness I saw was there were areas where things seemed to drag a little. I feel the author spent a little too much time on things that really didn’t have much significance in the story, such as the scene when Fumi met the young teen girl. Perhaps the author wanted to further illustrate things that were going on in the post war era, but I felt she had made a lot of things clear early on.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story to those who are not only interested in historical fiction, but cultural fiction. I learned a lot about life in Japan after WWII, especially in terms of culture shifts and values. Also to those are drawn to somewhat emotional stories focused on the human condition.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. The story was beautifully written, in that, the author was effective in illustrating the world of Japan after the war, from the look and feel, to even the atmosphere. As I read, I could feel the culture changing and the frustration of having to assimilate. I could also feel the loss of a time gone by and the fight to hold on to whatever meaning was left. Other than a few slow points, it was a moving read.

Unordinary Being

Rock Face 2

Unordinary Being

This old life
It could never
It never satisfied
Perfect world
It was something
Something I could never hold

I want to go
I need to go home
Let me be this rare
Unordinary being
Sure I won’t fit in with this world
But at least I’ll have joy being
A simply weird girl

Soon I know
Life will lead me
To some other
Simply weird beings
Who learned in time to say
Good bye
To their old life
That never satisfied
To trying to create a perfect world
Which was something they could never hold

I want to go
I need to go home
Let me be this rare
Unordinary being
Sure I won’t fit in with this world
But at least I’ll have joy being
A simply weird girl

© 2017 C.A. Barnes

Book Review: The Invention Of Wings By Sue Monk Kidd

Book Review: The Invention Of Wings By Sue Monk Kidd

 

Blurb:

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

General Thoughts:

This is one of those stories that stayed with me beyond finishing the book in a positive way, which is sort of a rarity for me. The author was effective in rebirthing the Grimke sisters, Sarah and Angelina (“Nina”), and bringing the predominantly fictional character, Hettie, to life. As I read this story, I became immersed into their world, as if I was them, living during their times, feeling their frustrations, struggles, and internal and external prisons. With this alone, the author was prolific in building the world in which the story took place, and most importantly, the souls of the main characters, so that I, as a reader, could fully understand them and their desires, as if they were my own.

Within the main characters, Sarah and Hettie, though their position in life from the outside seemed to contrast clearly, they very much shared the same limitations. Neither one of them could be who they wanted to be or live as they wanted to live. They were confined by the social constructs of their time and were viewed less than human. Of course, Hettie’s position of a slave was much graver than Sarah’s position of being solely a woman, Sarah’s love and ultimate dream for Hettie could not be achieved by where she stood in society, so it was nothing short of inspiring, when she found the courage to get away from it all, to embrace the person she was told she could never be, and find a better ending for not only herself, but Hettie.

As I completed this story, I found the character of Sarah speaking to me the most. Sarah was that different and ambitious child with bold dreams that were crushed by those—her family especially, around her. For years, all this kept her in a box that prevented her from living the life she wanted, thus leading to a sort of depression. It wasn’t until she was able to get away from her environment that she was able to surround herself with others who shared her goals, eventually leading her to doing remarkable things. She is definitely someone I want to aspire to.

As for negatives, there is none with this story. The author’s writing style was vivid, full of life, and moving. At times, I forgot I was actually reading a book, I felt like I was there, living the lives of Sarah and Hettie. In short, it was a thought provoking and entertaining read.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story truthfully to any reader. Though this is historical fiction, the subject matter and the lives of Sarah and Hettie will touch anyone, especially those who are struggling to live out their lives in truth, be their true selves, be authentically fearless.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. For all the things I mentioned above: inspiring, vivid, moving, thought provoking, entertaining.

Grow

Sketch Sky

Grow

Go on and take a chance, who cares if you fail, who cares if you lose, at least you danced…

Realize you have all that you need, so much more than what your eyes can see, so what are you waiting for, I can see so many open doors…

Over these mountains, tall as can be dreamed, way under the crisp and clear dark blue seas

Across vast valleys, vibrant and healthy in jeweled green, up above the ethereal skies, holding dreams true and wild…

Wait no more, you’ve come so far, and it does show. I think it’s about time that you GROW~~~that you grow~~~go ahead, GROW.

Book Review: Blue By Danielle Steel

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Blurb:

Ginny Carter was once a rising star in TV news, married to a top anchorman, with a three-year-old son and a full and happy life in Beverly Hills—until her whole world dissolved in a single instant on the freeway two days before Christmas. In the aftermath, she pieces her life back together and tries to find meaning in her existence as a human rights worker in the worst areas around the globe.

Then, on the anniversary of the fateful accident—and wrestling with the lure of death herself—she meets a boy who will cause her life to change forever yet again. Thirteen-year-old Blue Williams has been living on the streets, abandoned by his family, rarely attending school, and utterly alone. Following her instincts, Ginny reaches out to him. Leery of everyone, he runs from her again and again. But he always returns, and each time, their friendship grows.

Blue glows with outsized spirit and an irresistible mix of innocence and wisdom beyond his years. Ginny offers him respect as they form an unusual bond and become the family they each lost. But just as Blue is truly beginning to trust her, she learns of a shocking betrayal that he has been hiding. Is it a wound too deep to heal, or will she be able to fight the battle that will make them both whole again?

General Thoughts:

I had great expectations from an author who is well known and a bestseller, so when I picked up this story I was looking forward to a great read. And I’m glad to say that is what I got.

Ginny’s, the main character, motivations and life are what instantly drew me to this story. In a funny way, I saw a part of myself in Ginny, someone searching for meaning, significance, purpose—all those important things, in a world that definitely possessed those, even if not so obvious. The author did an excellent job in navigating through Ginny’s thoughts, specifically the war that she constantly battled with inside. Ginny struggled to move beyond her tragic loss and that shaped how she felt about her life and future, and fueled her activities, which everyone around her couldn’t understand. Nothing mattered but what was external and beyond herself.

One might think that the beginning of the story and the introduction of Ginny is somber and depressing, but as the story progressed, it evolved into an inspiring and powerful example of how tragedy and regret can lead to something simply remarkable.

The story takes off when Ginny meets Blue. I loved seeing Ginny slowly transform from a person who didn’t care about her life and even if she lived, to one who looked forward to everyday. It was nice discovering bits and pieces of Blue and what led him to fall into the life Ginny found him in. With Blue having his own tragedy as well, the author was effective in piecing together the steps Ginny took to find justice and redemption for Blue. And that’s how I would sum up the book: a story starting from broken pieces—in this case people, Ginny and Blue, to slowly putting those broken pieces—people, together to make them whole.

I don’t have any true negatives about the story, the only thing I would say is the author’s writing style is very commercial. Coming from a person who has been reading a lot of literature based stories, sometimes sentence structure, placements, etc. threw me off, but I don’t know—I’m probably nit picking on this 🙂

Recommendation:

Yes, I would definitely recommend this story because I think it needs to be read. I believe a lot of people will see a little bit of themselves in the characters of Ginny and Blue, even if not directly. The important take away I had was although Ginny and Blue went through their own tragedy and loss, they didn’t give up on life. Sure in the beginning they may have felt like they should have, but by slowly understanding their tragedy and finding ways to restore their broken lives, they eventually were made whole and better.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. Great story and one that will soon not be forgotten. No true negatives, other than if you’re used to reading literature style writing, the commercial style of this story may distract you a little.

Where I’m Supposed To Be

bird sketch

Where I’m Supposed To Be

I am supposed to be
I was meant to be
No I do believe
That everything is here

I have to hold on
I have to stand tall
Even if I can’t move
I have to stay
I have to prove

That I am supposed to be
I was meant to be
Yes I do believe
That everything is here

I know one day I’ll see
My efforts reward me
When others flew on by
I held on with all my might

Before I wandered high
Before I wandered low
When others called it quits
I told myself oh no

Before I thought I should go
But I couldn’t move, so
I had to just hold on
To prove that I was strong

Soon others said I failed
But I didn’t listen
I would prevail
Soon others said just move
Stop stagnating
Stop being use…
Less
Less

Less.

Oh but no I am not
I am surely blessed
Soon I will move
When my Lord so does choose
To
Move
Me

I am where I’m supposed to be…

©2017 C.A. Barnes

Book Review: Wings Of The Wind By Connilyn Cossette

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Blurb:

Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.

Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.

Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage–for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love?

 General Thoughts:

This is the 3rd book from the author’s Out From Egypt series. If you are familiar with the new testament of the bible, specifically when God delivered the Hebrews from enslavement in Egypt, then you’ll understand the context in which this story takes place—right after the 40 year desert wandering before the Hebrews were to enter Canaan, the promise land.

With this in mind, though this story is completely fictional, I believe it brought more understanding and clarity to why the Hebrews spent 40 years wandering and why the Canaanites lost their land and pretty much perished. The strength of this story was in the main character, Alanah, who was the enemy to the Hebrews, although certainly not the villain and in fact became the ultimate hero by the end of the story. The author did an amazing job in showing Alanah’s transformation, from one of not understanding and reacting impulsively to the unjustified (as she thought) loss of her family, even to the point of inviting death to herself, to one of understanding and discovering the hidden love and blessings that God had for not only her, but even the rebellious Canaanites who refused to understand who God truly is.

The big take away I took from the story was about rejection and how there is no rejection in God’s heart for anyone, it is the individual who rejects and refuses to understand, thus facing the consequences. In the beginning of the story, Alanah struggled to understand the Hebrews and why they, especially Tobiah, would want rescue and protect her. She held stubbornly to the idea of rejecting the Hebrews because of what she thought they took away from her—her family’s lives, but later realized it was her family who gave up their own lives through rejecting and ignoring the warnings.

I’ve read and reviewed the second book from Connilyn Cossette and I have to say that she is a powerful writer with a vivid voice. Not only can she write an entertaining story that has hints of suspense and action, as this story did, but she’s effective in bringing clarity and understanding to real events in history. I definitely will be looking out for her next book.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this book to those who have an interest in history, especially biblical history and who are looking for stories that have a little bit of everything: suspense, action, vivid voices, and a strong message to take away.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. There were no obvious negatives. The story was easy to follow in that there was always something to anticipate from chapter to chapter. The author’s vivid voice made the characters, from primary to secondary, stand out. This was one of the few stories I read where I was sad to see it reach its end—I still was curious to see how Alanah’s and Tobiah’s life progressed in Canaan.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

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I Will Not Run Away

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I Will Not Run Away

I’ve watched the sky in all its sorrow

Dressed in their darkest grey

With no signs of tomorrow
I’ve felt their cool drops land on me
They weren’t enough to give me
Any bit of relief

I know I’ve let you down
You’ve watched me drift away
And sink to the ground
I know I’ve lied to you
Said I wouldn’t give up
Yet I did not stay true

It’s like I lost all hope, it’s like I ran away

Years passed like the moon and sun
Eventually I found the courage
To face the world
Knowing there was something to be won
Although doubt sometimes sneaked up on me
I knew soon I would claim victory

I know I’ve let you down
You’ve watched me drift away
And sink to the ground
I know I’ve lied to you
Said I wouldn’t give up
Yet I did not stay true

It’s like I lost all hope, it’s like I ran away

Time will bring us together again
This time around triumph will be the end
I won’t give up
I won’t look the other way
I’m saying this now, today
I will not run away…

I know I’ve let you down
You watched me drift away
And sink to the ground
I know I’ve lied to you
Said I wouldn’t give up
Yet I did not stay true

It’s like I lost all hope, it’s like I ran away

© 2015, 2017 C.A. Barnes

Forget Me

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Forget Me

If you remember me
I’ll remember you
And the good old days
That we once knew

Days when love was sincere
And I could count
On you to be here

Times when joy was not a lie
And I could feel you near
By my side

But if you say, you don’t remember
That person in me
If you say I was never a friend
But a foe you avoided constantly
If you say, you don’t remember
All those days
That once were true
And the happiness and laughter
That we once knew
If this is now our reality
Then I’ll forget you
Because you chose to forget me

© 2017 C.A. Barnes