Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What I read in April 2013

Every once in awhile, Blogger completely screws up and I lose everything I write. That happened the first time I wrote this post, so I'm finally trying again.

This is my monthly recap of the books I've read and reviewed on my book blog. For full reviews of these books, click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden. In April, I read only two books--one I liked, and one I loved. You should also check out "50 reasons to be a bookworm"...not that most of us need any more reasons!

The Little Book, by Selden Edwards

I would give this historical time travel adventure a solid three stars, but I felt bogged down by some of the overambitious plot. Selden Edwards tackles fin de siecle Vienna, the life of Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler, World War II, Mark Twain, and Adolf Hitler...oh, and baseball and rock music and supposedly the beginning of the feminist movement, too.

Too-perfect Wheeler Burden is the protagonist
, who goes back to Vienna in the year 1897, where he falls in love with his grandmother and befriends his now-dead father. (Yes, he was in love with his grandmother...is that weird and creepy or what???) I enjoyed the descriptions of Vienna and the formation of Sigmund Freud's ideas and the rise of fascism in Europe...and I find it intriguing to consider: what would I do if I could change the course of the world by pre-empting an evil dictator's rise to power?


But the book also had some serious flaws. Many of the plot elements didn't seem important for the story. And what finally makes my head hurt in this whole time travel adventure is that we never really learn how they are able to time travel. This book was wildly inventive and wacky, and I give kudos to Selden Edwards for dreaming it up. Perhaps if he had worked on the book for fewer years and not tried to make it so full of meticulous research, I would have found it less frustrating.

A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being is the first full-price hardcover book I remember purchasing for myself, ever. As I wrote in February, Ozeki has long been one of my favorite authors, and I was thrilled when I read that she had finally published her third novel. She recently became a Zen Buddhist priest and clearly, this informs this novel. I found myself reading this book very slowly--it took me most of April to read, in fact. Ozeki is a poetic, lyrical writer. I am often drawn to her books because they feature Japanese or Japanese-American characters. This was no different.
 
Teenager Nao is living in Tokyo but spent much of her childhood in Sunnyvale, California. She is mercilessly bullied by her classmates and even her teachers. Her father keeps attempting suicide. The only bright spot in Nao's life is her 104-year-old great-grandmother, who is an anarchist, feminist, novelist Buddhist nun, who she calls Old Jiko. She decides to tell the story of Old Jiko's life in her diary. Ruth, a Japanese-American novelist living on an island in British Columbia, finds Nao's diary washed up on the beach. As Ruth begins reading the book, she becomes captivated by Nao's life and begins to care very deeply about what happens to her.

I loved so many things about this novel. So much of it was deeply sad, but ultimately, the novel had great redemptive power and spiritual meaning. I highly recommend it--A Tale for the Time Being will definitely be at the top of my book list for the year. Read my full review if you want to know more and see Ruth Ozeki's beautiful book trailer, set on the British Columbia island where she lives.

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