Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

  Memoirs of a Geisha sends you back in time to early twentieth century Japan, where Chiyo, our main character, and her sister have just been taken from their home, their father, and their very sick mother. Chiyo is sent to an okiya, a lodging house for young girls as they prepare for their future career as geishas. There she meets Pumpkin, Mother, Auntie, Granny, and the not-so-very lovable Hatsumomo.
  Studies and history have given us a very small sneak peek at what exactly lies in store for the life of a geisha, but I promise you, after you read this novel, you will come out of it knowing more about the life of a geisha than you'd ever imagine. In fact, you may come out of this reading experience knowing more than you'd like to know. Not only does this book teach you the beauty about Japanese life inside of a geisha's mind, but it shows you the painful truths of it as well.
  Believe me, there were parts of this book that made me cringe! This is not a fault of the author's, whatsoever, nor is it any reflection on the book itself. But some of the "blemishes" on the face of the geisha world made me shiver (and not in a good way). Although, I think that that was part of Arthur Golden's point. He wanted to show his readers the good and bad side of Chiyo/Sayuri's (whose name changed once she became a geisha in training) world, and he did a pretty dang good job of it.
  I loved this book. It left such of a huge impression on me, I couldn't stop thinking about it days after I had finished it. (I'll just skip over the fact that a certain favorite character of mine had a less-than-happy happily ever after...)
  Arthur Golden's writing was so magnificent, I felt myself being transported back in time to Japan each and every time I picked up my copy of the book. Memoirs of a Geisha is truly a treasure to behold (and I recommend it to every literary lover out there). I can't imagine anyone going through their book-loving life without reading this book.
  Even if you read Memoirs of a Geisha and dislike it, I guarantee that you will walk away from your reading experience with more knowledge of life than before. I truly believe that this is the kind of book that will help mold who you become as a person.
  It's just that good.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Meeting Anita Diamant at Newtonville Books/Review for The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Meeting Anita Diamant at Newtonville Books

  I fear that if I were to write everything positive and memorable about my experience meeting Anita Diamant at Newtonville Books, and reading her exceptional novel The Boston Girl, I would run out of space using up all of my emoticons and exclamation points for the day. (I try to stay professional, and rarely resort to text-speak on The Literary Connoisseur. I leave that mostly to my personal profile on Facebook. But sometimes an experience I have is just too good not to use exclamation points and emoticons.)

  I digress...

  When I moved from Florida up the coast to New England, my heart broke knowing that I had to leave my local Indie bookstore (and my bookstore family), the Vero Beach Book Center. I knew that my heart would long to be back with them, to see its bubble-gum pink paint, and to smell its rows and rows of new and used books. I knew that when I would come up to New England, I would feel the pull of being so far away from a book store I grew so fond of.

  But times change, and I had to start a new chapter of my life up north. (Although that won't stop me from visiting, so you haven't shaken me off yet, Vero Beach!)
  I'm not entirely sure how exactly I saw that Anita Diamant was on tour for her latest novel's release, The Boston Girl. But it must have been fate because where else was she coming to, but New England just an hour away from where I now live?
  A few clicks on my phone later, I discovered that Anita Diamant was coming to a bookstore in Massachusetts called Newtonville Books. I looked up the store, called them, reserved a spot, and played the waiting game.

  I thought, "Is it possible I'll be able to attend a book signing so soon after I move to a new town in a new state, and have the absolute time of my life that will ease the blow of leaving my favorite bookstore in Florida?" 

  While I can't say that exploring new bookstores in New England took away the pain of leaving the Vero Beach Book Center completely, I can say that in finding Newtonville Books, I now know that Indie bookstores all over legitimately hold the same magic that I cherished back in Florida. 

  The moment I walked into the store, I knew I was home. The employees welcomed me and my family with open arms, the store itself had the very essence of a safe haven which provided a comforting warmth that encircled my chilled bones, and of course, Newtonville Books smelled as it should; like books, security, and happiness. 
  I shopped, I explored, and I took lots of pictures of stunning Newtonville Books. The moment I stepped inside, I knew I would be back--many times. 

  Before we knew it, it was time for Anita to start her intro, her talk about her writing and her latest book The Boston Girl, and her Q&A with the audience. 

  Anita Diamant is so inspiring. I, and everyone else who attended, was entirely captivated by her words. But of course, if you read her books, you can tell just by reading them what an inspirational person she is. 
  After she did her discussion, it was time for her to sign books! 

  Needless to say, my first book signing up north, my first book signing with Anita Diamant, and my first book signing with Newtonvile Books was an event to cherish for the rest of my life. I cannot thank Ms Diamant and Newtonville Books enough for making that experience an exceptional one. (In fact, that event went so well that it gave me the courage to attend more since, so thank you!) 
  If you're in the New England area, please make a trip to darling Newtonville Books. You won't regret it! (Although your bank account might, because there are some treasures there you are going to want to splurge on.) 

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant:

  This is the story of Addie Baum, also known as The Boston Girl. Addie is a Jewish girl growing up in early 20th century Boston after her family emigrates there (somewhat unwillingly). Her parents are skeptical of America, but Addie and her sisters see it as the land of opportunity. 
  The Boston Girl is told by an eighty-five year old Addie, who is being interviewed by her grandchild about how life was for her and her family. A new land, a new culture, tragedies, lifelong friendships, explorations, adventures, and, against Addie's expectations, love. 
  Grab a cup of tea, find somewhere comfy to sit, and relax, as Addie tells her tale of The Boston Girl. 
  When I first read Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, I automatically assumed that nothing could possibly get better than that book. The Red Tent was so stunningly beautiful and breath-taking, it left an enormous impact on me that has only gotten bigger and better with age. (I think Anita Diamant's books just do that to you.) 
  Little did I know that The Boston Girl was going to have an even larger effect on me. 
  When someone asks me what they should read during their reading lull, I will say, "The Boston Girl." When someone asks me what the latest life-changing book I've read is, I'll say, "The Boston Girl." When someone asks what some of my favorite books in the entire world are, I'll tell them, "The Harry Potter series, The Fault in Our Stars, anything by Susanna Kearsley, Outlander, The Red Tent, and oh yeah, THE BOSTON GIRL." 
  If I could, I would buy an endless amount of copies of this book to hand out to everyone I know who loves to read. (And non-readers as well, for I could see this book getting people hooked on reading.) 
  When I finished The Boston Girl, I wanted to cry because it was over. It was such a beautiful story, and it was told so eloquently, I would be entirely satisfied with reading nothing but The Boston Girl for the rest of my life. 
  If what I've written so far doesn't convince you to read this book, maybe this will:
  Read this book. For the love of all of the books in the world, pick up this book and read it. If you want to know *my* kind of book, read this book. It's stunning, exceptional, addictive, wonderful, sad, funny, sweet, and it will fill you with warm fuzzy feelings by the end of it. 
  I will suggest The Boston Girl to anyone and everyone I know (and then some). 

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Dead Room by Stephanie Erickson

  322 years after the apocalypse, life as we knew it is demolished. Everything we've ever known, and everyone we've ever loved is gone. In fact, anything beyond the island is a mystery. Who knows what lurks on the mainland? Is it possible whatever wiped out humanity is still there, waiting for new victims to annihilate? Is there still a lingering virus that threatens to latch itself onto any living life form? Are there enormous beasts that rule the mainland and attack anyone who steps foot on their land?
  No one knows. All we know is that the island--our island is safe, and no one dares to leave it.
  No one, except Ashley and Mason.
  Ashley has stumbled across a secret of the island that will cause her more harm than good, because this secret shines a different light on the island's blessed elders...and not a positive light.
  Mason has been sentenced to death after being accused of murdering Ashley's ex-husband. After some thought, the elders figure that sending Mason off the island in search of a better life on the mainland may be a quicker way of sentencing him to his own death.
  Together, Ashley and Mason head off into the unknown in search of life, but what they find may be worse than they ever imagined...
  This book was incredible. Here I am, putting huge emphasis on the word incredible, because this book absolutely blew my mind. The Dead Room by Stephanie Erickson took me no more than two days to read, but I honestly would have given anything to have it last longer. The moment I finished it, I longed for more. (The only comfort I have that made this pain easier to take was knowing that there's a second book coming out next year.)
  The Dead Room had me gripping its pages so intensely, I'm almost positive I have permanent creases on the edge of my book from holding it too tightly.
  As of now, I have read everything Ms Erickson has published, and after a full examination of each book (obsessively reading and ignoring the world around me so I can delve deeper into her stories), I can honestly say that I think Stephanie Erickson's writing and stories are getting better.
  Her writing is like a fine wine; it only gets better with age. The more she writes, and the more of her stories you read, the more you fall in love with her work.
  Ms Erickson's books are indescribable. Her plots are so extraordinarily unique because she writes books that readers like me are dying to read. She has discovered a new corner of literature like an explorer coming across a cave full of diamonds.
  If you have not yet read a book by Stephanie Erickson, you are most certainly missing out.

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