Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Was I reading Haruki Murakami?




A few chapters into this book, I felt affiliated with the author, thinking she, too, is a fan of Haruki Murakami’s work. Then as the story begins to unfold, both characters are named Haruki. What? This confirmed my initial thought. Then the cat and quatum mechanics enter the story. Closer and closer to Murakami’s works and his inclusion of talking cats in many of his stories.

Story is told from two people’s points of view: Nao and Ruth in two different time frames.
Ruth’s world became too weird in the latter part of the story, quite not as believable as Murakami’s treatment of this concept of two sides of the world being separated by thin silk. Perhaps the author is a student of Murakami?

Totally enjoyed Nao’s world, immersed in Japanese culture. I’m not sure why so many Japanese words were used. Scenes of bullying, concept of hikikomori and her insights into Zen beliefs were a page turner but Ruth’s world seemed a bit contrived.   Murakami’s fans may find   Ozeki’s work so close to Murakami’s that they might enjoy the story.


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Is it my brain or is it the book?

My brain has been a source of worry these past few months because there are a dozen books I’ve purchased with bookmarks in the first third of each book.    I didn’t even finish the last two selections of my book club and they were no Nora Roberts.  Is this the first lunge into dementia?  Is my brain interfering with one of my great passions in life?  Or could the source  be poorly selected books?

I didn’t need a neurologist to tell me the slightly manufactured Frances truth. Mark Arax, Charles Pellegrino  and Linda Urbach took me through their books to the last page without long pauses to prove that those Amyloid Plaques and Tangles have not become uninvited guests. Not yet.

Linda Urbach’s easy to read novel, “Madame Bovary’s Daughter” led me to reread Emma Bovary by Flaubert.

Rereading  Pellegrino’s earliar books such as  “Dust”  itched me all over, but  taught me to look at our six-legged critters through different lenses. I’m reading his earliar published books (” Return to Sodom and Gomorrah”)  as I impatiently wait for his new edition of Last Train from Hiroshima, a book that changed my life drastically. Pellegrino, in my opinion, is a master story writer and has affected my writing deeply.  My review of Pellegrino’s various books are on my blog.

Mark Arax’s “In My Father’s Name” is a must read, folks, for story told and how it’s told.  His  friendship with William Saroyan as a youngster,  reminded me of the first adult book I read as a kid…My Name is Aram by Saroyan. Is it coincidence that Mark’s grandfather was Aram Arax?  “My Name is Aram” is now on my reading list. I added the following review on Arax’s book on Amazon.com. with slight editing.

A web of pure silk, July 5, 2012

By Frances H. Kakugawa

This review is from: In My Father’s Name (Paperback)

Between the pages of this excellent book, I sent quotations from Saroyan to members of the Northern CA Publishers/ Writers. Imagine having a personal relationship with Saroyan. To my writing support group of caregivers, I sent quotations from his grandfather who suffered from dementia. One reader called it a “capsule of humanity.”  To a former resident of Fresno, I bought this book for her birthday. And for myself, I ignored housework and other to-do lists long after I read the last page. Arax is a craftsman  of language;  he weaves different time and historical periods, people, places into his search to dignify his father. Life is not linear in reality and this is carefully presented in the telling of his story. I paused often to relish the use of language.  I sit here stunned over the ugly life that is part of  Fresno’s history and in awe how Arax turned his story into an art form. At the end, he was the one on the white horse.

So for as long as there are well written books out there, I won’t worry about my brain cells. They definitely know good writing when they see it.

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Breaking the Silence: A Caregiver’s Voice


Nevada City, CA (PRWEB) November 7, 2010

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. As part of its commitment to support such worthwhile causes, Willow Valley Press (http://www.willowvalleypress.com), publisher of the award-winning book “Dandelion Through the Crack,” proudly announces its newest book, “Breaking the Silence: A Caregiver’s Voice” by Frances H. Kakugawa. It is scheduled for release November 28, 2010.

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. The latest report from the Alzheimer’s Association, “2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” estimates there are currently 5.3 million Americans of all ages that have Alzheimer’s disease. This number is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years and potentially triple to 16 million by mid-century.

But Alzheimer’s affects more than just the victims. In 2009, an estimated 10.9 million family members and friend s provided a whopping 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or similar dementia. Providing this care is often unbelievably difficult and stressful. It can cause financial and employment problems as well as, significantly, physical and mental health problems.

The Alzheimer’s Association report stated that “Family and other unpaid caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia are more likely than non-caregivers to have high levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, slow wound healing, new hypertension and new coronary heart disease.”

Developing strategies and finding activities that provide relief from this stress and its complications are doubly important as these problems ultimately impact their patients too. One outlet that many have discovered is through journaling and poetry. Frances’ book, “Breaking the Silence” will be an important aid for this.

Frances Kakugawa was born in Hawaii in the village of Kapoho. Becoming a teacher, she taught in Hawai´i and Michigan, and lectured at the University of Hawai´i. Frances has authored nine books.

In 1997, Frances became the primary caregiver for her mother, Matsue, who had developed Alzheimer’s disease. Frances found that poetry and journaling helped her to manage the tremendous burden of care. This inspired her to start a journaling and poetry writing support group for caregivers through the Aloha Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The combined writings from her first sessions are incorporated into her book, “Mosaic Moon: Caregiving Through Poetry.”

Frances has now completed her newest work, “Breaking the Silence, A Caregiver’s Voice.” Building on her experience as a teacher and support group moderator, she has written a book that is a thoughtful and honest look into what caregivers face each day, and provides a real value for those who must cope with incredible pressure, anxiety, and difficult decisions associated with Alzheimer’s caregiving.

“Breaking the Silence” is a compilation of poetry, journal entries, and how-to advice. Frances weaves her own poetry and that of six other caregivers together, along with journal entries and advice for the novice poet. It’s a handbook for caregiving survival.

“Breaking the Silence: A Caregiver’s Voice” is currently scheduled for release November 20, 2010, to coincide with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. More information is available at http://www.btsilence.com.

About Willow Valley Press:
Willow Valley Press is a small publisher, located in Nevada City, California and has been publishing books since 1999. Willow Valley Press releases interesting books of all kinds: memoirs, autobiographies, local history, personal growth/self-help, firearms instruction, Vietnam-era accounts, business how-to’s, cookbooks, and humor.

For more information, contact Barry Schoenborn, 530-265-4705 or email info(at)willowvalleypress.com. http://www.willowvalleypress.com

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* Barry Schoenborn
Willow Valley Press

Email:For more information, contact Barry Schoenborn, 530-265-4705 or email info(at)willowvalleypress.com.

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This is my answer to queries about what I’m reading these days. Read on before you’re impressed about five titles in a month.

Fran’s Reading List for March

l. Game Change by Heilemann and Halperin
I became a little mouse scurrying around the candidates in our last Presidential election.
Listened in to private conversations not covered by the media, saw the dirt, blind spots, weaknesses and strengths of the candidates. I even entered the minds of the candidates because their thoughts are recorded. I read cover to cover without pause.

2. Last Night in Twisted River by John Irwin
This is a good book to be read in a cabin somewhere in the wilderness where there are no
other books in sight. It took patience to read the first half of the book. I hope to return to the
other half when I’m in a cabin somewhere. A 12 year old mistakes his father’s lover for a bear and shoots and kills her during a tryst.  It was a scene for belly laughs and I’m 99% sure Irwin meant for me to laugh at the irony.    Father and son  become fugitives. My favorite Irwin remains “A Prayer for Owen Meany.”

3. Animal, Plants, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
(Our Book Club selection for April)
After Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, this book seemed a watered down version of Pollan’s books. Those same concepts offered  in a light-hearted , sometimes drawn out, personal story of Kingsolver’s family living on a farm for a year. I didn’t finish book.
There are some interesting recipes.

4. The Light, The Dark, & Ember by JW Nicklaus: Read my review of this book on my Blog. Don’t take this book to the cabin with Irwin’s book.

5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: translated from the French
What a treasure of a find. I love the writing industry when I discover a book like this. Warning:  Maybe it’s because I’m Japanese that I’m savoring every word written, even rereading as I turn certain pages. In my view, the France/Japan cultures have renewed a strong bond. There are two voices: Renee, a short, ugly and  plump concierge at a bourgeois building in posh Paris and Paloma, a 12 year old resident of the building. Both conceal their
true selves from the world: delightful, honest, intelligent and totally amazing and poignant.  A  new tenant from Japan arrives ( the cavalry of one!) and he becomes a catalyst for change between the bourgeois and the working class. Skillful use of language and thought provoking.

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How to have an AHHH moment.

What is this Ahhhh moment. It’s that moment between the lst and last word of a haiku. It’s those moments  the haiku poet experiences before he captures each of them  with seventeen syllables.

I like to have an ahhhh moment everyday  and more often than not, I do.  And when I find the sun rising and setting day after day without such moments, turning each day into another ordinary day without notice, I know it’s time to intervene. How do I do this? By orchestrating, planning, creating, pulling, tugging and even conniving.

I received a book the other day. It’s a special book because the author is a new friend of mine. I leafed through the book  and set it aside. No, I’m not  going to read this now. I’m setting a special time for this.

The author will be pleased (or insulted) to know that I decided to take the book with me to my mammogram and bone density tests. I will sit in the waiting lounge, perhaps way beyond my appointed time, with one ear attuned to the calling of  my name. But it will be a pleasurable wait this time because I plan to read this book.

Ever since I made this  decision to read the  book at UC Davis Medical Center, it has been days of anticipation. Ah, I get to read this book on Thursday, I said over and over. I have another day to wait.

Well, Thursday is here. I got up this morning feeling I had a gift waiting for me. I’m off to my appointment with  book in hand.

You may want to join me.

Book title is: The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between by J.W. Nicklaus

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In 1945, I heard my parents discuss the death of their families in Hiroshima. A child, I didn’t know the significance of that day, a day that my ancestors were all destroyed.
I later wrote:


We cut the chrysanthemum
Off its stalk
And left it naked in the sun.
(from The Enemy Wore My Face,not yet published)

In 1989, Noriyo, a third grader from Hiroshima entered my classroom. Her grandmother, who was child during the bombing, was now dying from cancer. Her entire family moved to Hawaii on their  doctor’s recommendation: Go to Hawaii where it’s warm and sunny for the remaining year of her life.”  I wrote a poem for Noriyo:

44 Years Later

a dark mushroom cloud
follows me across the Pacific
into my classroom.

forgive us, Noriyo
for Hiroshima
and Nagasaki.
( from The Enemy Wore My Face, not yet published)

In 1995, Dr. Jiro Nakano edited and translated 100 tanka poems written by survivors (hibakusha) of Hiroshima in a book called Outcry From the Inferno. I was deeply honored to be one of the English editors.

In 2010, I read Charles Pellegrino’s The Last Train from Hiroshima.
Nothing, not the discussions in our kitchen, my poems, the editing I did to Outcry From the Inferno, nothing is more real than this book. A tanka by  Dr. Nagai, one of the survivors in Pellegrino’s book, is included in the Inferno book. One of the survivors bears the same name of my mother’s family. Mr. Pellegrino, thank you for the open wounds that will never be healed nor forgotten.

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