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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

When I’m reading in the middle of the day instead of doing chores or writing, I know I’m in a good book. Here are some of the titles not necessarily current:

A Little Life (read it twice)

Little Paris Bookshop (read it twice)

Hillbilly Elegy

Barkskin

Smilla’s Sense of Snow (read it twice)

Shakespeare Saved My Life

The Underground Railroad

The Bell Jar (had read this in my youth..enjoyed it differently this time).

Am rereading Magic Mountain by Mann because of a funny story attached to this book. I organized  a book club for residents in the condominium where I lived in Honolulu over a dozen years ago. I began with Winnie the Pooh and it was a great success with a math professor, a chemist, a fireman, a high school teacher, a marine biologist, a micro-biologist among others. Other children’s classics followed and discussions were heavy with philosophy and the intellect along with our inner child, until the micro-biologist began to complain and insisted on Magic Mountain for our following month’s selection. So we did. I read the book and appreciated the introduction to this book.  No one showed up at our next meeting except for the micro-biologist and that ended my book club.

Hey, anyone for the Magic Mountain?

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You want me to read this story about a mouse poet? You must be kidding!

jr-1

Hmmmm…not bad for a mouse.. . although I think my poetry’s better.

jr-2

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It’s been a long time since I came across two novels so riveting and binding. I consider The Last Samurai a work of genius and so, in my mind,  the author must be a genius, too. A story of a single mother and her 3 year old who searches for his father. Mother uses the film The Seven Samurai as a backdrop to become her son’s male role model.So I had a hard beginning: After a chapter, I emailed friends to get this book. After a few more pages, I sent out another email retracting my email. Then Red suggested I read it like a poem and am sooo glad I did. This is a  brand new copy and look what I did to it. I gobbled it up like my last supper.

On a Red-eye to NY recently,  I was the only one reading, couldn’t put down A Little Life. I met a young man in NY quite by accident and when he began to tell me his story, I told him to read A Little Life because he is one of the characters. “Read the book”, I told him, “and tell me which of the characters you are.” I bought and sent him the book. Four young boys attend college in NYC, they form a friendship that will make you weep. They each pursue their dreams but their journey is one that will touch all your senses and emotions.And leave you stunned and reflective.

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swim book
This review is from: The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory (Hardcover)
The amazing part of this review is, author Checkoway emailed me to thank me for my review and we have even made plans to meet in Sacramento. I can’t believe this. I’m still flying high. To members of my book club, shall we select this book for our next round of titles and I assure you, I will invite the author to  join us over our monthly dinner.
Here’s my review:
I sent this email to all my nieces and nephews and to their children:
I highly recommend this book to all of you.
I see why my publisher recommended this book to me. I feel we all need to read this to see how it was with the Japanese Americans way before you and I were born. I also think people born on Maui ought to read this book, along with the non-Maui born residents, so they will appreciate and honor the history of that place.

It’s about Soichi Sakamoto, swimming coach who trained plantation kids to go national by letting them swim and practice in the ditches on Maui. Interestingly, I grew up with his name Sakamoto, Keo Nakama, and others mentioned in this book, yet they were in their prime before I was born so they had become legends by the time I could read. Then the story continues after Pearl Harbor. This is a touching part of our history if you are Japanese from Hawaii, Okinawan, Haole( Caucasian), or  just a human being. I’m sure you’re one of these…ha.
Sakamoto ended up at UH as swimming coach. Won’t tell you if his dream of sending one of the kids from the ditches to the Olympics ever became a reality.

In the book, the author mentions how people were named by their character. One swimmer was called Halo Hirose…pronounced hallow because sometimes he seemed to act as though his brain was filled with too much space.
Reminded me of how my own village Kapoho folks were also called. Our Uncle Jun was called Pe-lute, a Filipino word meaning throwing up from drinking too much. One man was called ke-sha…train in Japanese because his teeth protruded like the front of a train and these became permanent names. So one doesn’t have to be from Hawaii or from Maui to be able to find one’s own history in the story.

At the end, one is left with this feeling that one’s own humanity to another is still, why we are here.

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WordsworthPocket

Yes, please clear your book shelf for the 4th Wordsworth. He is arriving on January 11th. Poor Wordsworth, all his friends are hooked to their electronic gadgets. Can he bring nature and humanity back into the lives of his friends  with that “something” in his pocket? Or are they lost to becoming robots?

Pre-order at Amazon.com or Watermark Publishing at 1-866-900-BOOK or http://www.bookshawaii.net

Or ask for him at your favorite bookshop.

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allende

Thank you Isabel Allende, noted writer whose work is all on my book shelf. Her most current book, The Japanese Lover, was a page turner. There was only one section that led me to write to Ms. Allende. Here is the email sent to her agent:

 

Please inform Ms. Allende of one error stated in her book.
She stated that the Japanese Americans weren’t interned in Hawaii. Our neighbor was taken away in the middle of night.MPs searched our homes for all things Japanese. There were internment camps on Maui and Oahu and many were shipped off to camps on the mainland. I have helped to translate and publish a collection of their poetry written in Japanese in these camps. So for her second printing, she may want to make this correction.
Thank you for your attention.
frances kakugawa

 

The following day, I heard from Ms. Allende:

 

Dear Francés

Thank you for pointing out my error in The Japanese Lover. I will tell the publisher.

Warmly

Isabel Allende

 

Dear Isabel,
I have not been able to get my feet back to the ground after receiving your email. Thank you so much for accepting my input. I have bought The Japanese Lover for my publisher and other friends after being so impressed with your story. I will add your email to show off our correspondence.

Frances

 

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Dear Mr. King,

If you hate readers who sneak to the ending of your books first, you gotta hate me. I’ve echoed so many times that if a writer wants you to read the ending first, he or she would have placed it in the beginning or right in the middle.

But…but…it’s not due to my lack of respect for you as a writer, it’s because you have so artfully crafted your stories with such suspense and intrigue that I just had to skip to the ending.
I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t sleep, worried if the characters who became so real, would still be alive in the morning.

So what I’m saying is, it’s really your fault that with each of the books I’ve read these past three weeks, I had to cheat and find out the ending hundreds of pages prior to the end. Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers were spellbinding. As was Christine.
Your On Writing, a must read for everyone, made me feel we are now friends but will restrain from calling you Stephen.

Now, you have started on the next book, haven’t you, and you won’t be turning me into a Morris Bellamy, or would you?

Cheers Stephen…I mean Mr. King.

a devoted fan

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