Thursday, July 3, 2014

Letters from Skye

Today I finished reading "Letters from Skye" by Jessica Brockmole for the second time. When I read a book a second time, it means I will read that book several more times throughout my life. This novel holds a special place in my heart because I am living my own modern day life version of the characters' struggle.

David Graham is an American who receives a book of poetry written by an Elspeth Dunn while recuperating the hospital. He sends a letter of admiration that sparks a love story that spans into two World Wars and two generations. Through an epistolary novel Brockmole brings the beauty and pain of falling in love through writing alive.

Nearly two years ago, I received a message on Facebook from a young Indian man asking me how I was going about looking for a job in Japan. He had gotten my email off of JobsinJapan.com and searched for me on Facebook. I replied a few days letter and told him he could send me his resume and cover letter if he wanted me to look at them. We kept emailing letters to each other but never talked on Facebook after that. I knew he had fallen in love with me even though he tried his best to hide it with the words he chose.

Part of me loved him, but I refused to acknowledge it to myself as I left to start a new life in Japan in September of 2012. One of my friends knew I was starting to have feelings for him when I mentioned him several times. After all, I talk about horses not men!

We continued our emails for several months until I forgot to reply to one with my crazy Japan life schedule. Three weeks passed and when I did not hear from him I sent him an email asking why I had written to me.

We started talking on Facebook a bit everyday after that. He told me he loved me and wanted to be with me. I thought, perhaps, he was simply infatuated with me for some reason. Okay, honestly, I thought he was nuts since we hadn't even exchanged photos.

One night I called him and we talked for three hours. The second night I called him and we talked six hours. I've called him everyday since then. We began a relationship and even decided to marry before meeting in person. We started researching how we could be together and I soon realized we were in for a long, hard and convoluted path. To apply for a fiance visa, I would need to meet an income requirement in the USA to apply to sponsor him. So, I decided to leave to Japan to look for work in USA.

It has been one year now and I am still looking for work despite my best efforts. Pankaj has been patient through this whole process. We met in March of this year in India and we got along as if we were kindred spirits meeting after a long separation. He even took me home to meet his family, and he got his mother's approval for the "American girlfriend". The American girlfriend they believed would never come.

But I did. I traveled the 7,649 from Boston to Nagpur to meet him. He kept asking me write again like I used to. Just like how David Graham kept asking his "Sue" to start writing poetry again. This is what I ended up writing.

I never will write letters from Skye Island, but I will send him letters about my horse Skye.








Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published: Penguin, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5

As a writer, I often wonder what was it like to live in a different time period. What ideals, customs, standards and threats helped to weave together the life of an individual? While I am at home writing fantasy pieces my reading passion lies with historical fiction. My curiosity to know about the past and the people that existed led me to consume various historical fiction, biographies and nonfiction books over my lifetime. When an author successfully brings tears to my eyes I know they have harnessed the deepest emotions from the well of humanity.

Lina is fifteen and preparing to attend art school over the summer. She lives in Lithuania and the year is 1941. Her father is a successful college professor who does not return home one evening. A knock on her family's door changes her life forever. The Soviet secret police rip her apart her home, her family and her life. Lina sees horrors she cannot even comprehend as her family is sentenced to forced labor on a farm in Siberia. Unable to discover what has happened to her father, Linda embeds clues through her art hoping her father will see her drawings someday. She hopes her love for her family will keep her alive as she fights for her survival and those around her. Lina will come to know heartbreak so deep that the scars will remain open wounds for the rest of history.

Sepetys is a talented, fresh historical fiction writer. Her chapters are short and powerful infused with raw emotions some humans will never experience. The atrocities of the Stalin occupation in Lithuania tore open the hearts of those affected and bled their lives into history. Sepetys emotionally-driven writing will leave her readers contemplating how Lina found the strength to survive. She will make her readers wonder how much strength do they have hidden inside themselves.

(Book #2, 2014)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Review: Red River Stallion

Red River Stallion
Author: Troon Harriosn
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Published: Bloomsbury (Feb 2013)
Rating: 4/5

As 2013 came to an end my friend, Kim, and I found ourselves on the verge of change. Another year had come and gone and neither of us had made progress in our writing careers. Vowing we would we would work harder to get our names in print we purchased books that cold New Year's Eve. A couple of days before Kim had sent me a link to the Red River Stallion by Troon Harrison. One year ago, I read Harrison's novel The Horse Road which brought me back to my childhood days of reading Marguerite Henry's novels like "Misty of Chincoteague" and "King of the Wind". It was these novels that started my love for books, reading and writing. Now, twenty years later, I thirst to both read and write novels like Marguerite Henry's. I ordered this novel sitting in Kim's room as we talked about our dreams to become published writers.

Amelia Ottergirl Mackenzie is an orphan left to care for her younger half-sister, Charlotte, after their mother dies. The girls are half-Cree living the life of their mother's people near a trading post of the Hudson Bay. Amelia has seen her animal spirit guide in her visions, but has never seen any such creature in the living realm. One day, she is saved by the red stallion name Firefox and forms a close bond with him, even though he belongs someone else. Firefox is the dowry a woman, Orchid, is bringing to her husband across the Red River Valley. Amelia is drawn to follow the horse's travels and discover what happened to her Scottish father. She longs to find a place where she and Charlotte belong and a place where she can thrive in her new found love of horses.

Harrison is successful in giving historical details through both prose and dialogue in her novel. The language is beautiful, eloquent and gives the readers the imagery needed to envision the historical setting. Amelia's narrative is authentic and shows her maturity while retaining the teenage voice. Harrison has researched many historical and cultural elements and has successfully written an accurate portrayal of the view a half-Indian child might have. This novel is a must-read for horse enthusiasts or those that love strong female characters.

Horses are a creature symbolic of freedom and journeys. Harrison's novel is a tribute to this Native American belief and it is found in the words of every page. I hope readers will enjoy the journey this book takes them on.

(Book #1, 2014)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Reflections of 2013

Sorry, my dear blog readers! After promising I would continue to regularly post book reviews after October I failed in this task. I have read many books the past few months, but these books dealt more with  self-improvement techniques. This year has been hard for me looking for a job, losing my father, and maintaining a long distance relationship, but there were novels I read that helped me through it all. There were a few stories that seemed to reach inside my soul and take out the pieces of my heart. If was as if I could lay them out and look at them and how they were shaped, sharpened and even broken. How did they fit together? Where had I left some of the pieces? Were some of the pieces going to be found along the way?

To honor these books, I have decided to write a list their titles and only say they helped me on many levels. There is something about stories and writing that has always helped me through the hardest times in my life. I suspect, it's because every time I read a novel my soul learns something new about human truths and the human condition. Humans are always changing as their circumstances change and as they have new experiences. After all, are you not different now than you were last year, last month, last week, yesterday or even an hour ago? Have you not grown and changed in ways you never thought possible?

  1. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
  2. A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin
  3. Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
  4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  5. Catch Rider by Jennifer H. Lyne
  6. Dark World by Zak Bagans
  7. Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
  8. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki 
  9. Essay in Idleness by Kenko
  10. The Secret Circle #1-3 by J.L. Smith
  11. Wabi sabi: The Japanese Art to Impermanence by Andrew Juniper
  12. Spirit Princess by Esther Friesner
  13. Walking in the Dust by Trent Reedy
  14. Ink by Amanda Sun
Thank you for reading my blog! I will be posting more regularly again from now on. As for a reading goal for 2014 I have chosen a simple one: read all of Haruki Murakami's novels. This gives me an excuse to read Norwegian Wood again!

Purchased in Japan and waiting to be read  in 2014!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy
Author: Lisa See
Published: Random House, May 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5

This is my first book review on this blog since May. It's not because I stopped reading the last five months. Actually, I have been reading more this year than I did last year. Sometimes, I see abandoned blogs and I can now understand why this happens. In my case, my hiatus is over and I am back in the saddle.

Dreams of Joy is the sequel to See's Shanghai Girls and continues the story of Pearl and May and their daughter, Joy. After learning Aunt May is really her birth mother, Pearl embarks on a journey to China to discover herself. After all, her whole life has been a lie so why shouldn't she look for her father and join the Communist Cause? Pearl follows her daughter to the mother country she never thought she would return to. They each discover a past neither of them could fully make peace with in the United States. As Pearl tries to show her mother-love is as strong as a natural mother, she watches her daughter throw herself into the Communist Cause and all the repercussions it bring to their lives.

See is a natural historical fiction novelist. Through the voices of Pearl and Joy she conveys the opposing views of mother and daughter with equality rarely seen in most novels. She makes full use of her setting and characters to bring her readers into Communist China to see the fanaticism and horror it brought to China's citizens. Though the plot may seem a bit far-fetched at times, See was able to bring her novel to a natural and satisfying end. For readers who love historically accurate novels, I highly recommend  they read the story of Pearl, May and Joy as they struggle to find their true joys.


 (Book #10 for 2013)





Saturday, August 10, 2013

Waiting

I have been home for 52 days now. There are readers of this blog who have probably wondered why I never blogged about my life in Japan (or stopped blogging the last three months). I am a private person and I choose not to blog about my personal life very often. So, why did I not even write a blog about culturally significant things in Japan?

I simply did not want to. I decided to journal about my experiences instead. Those journal entries are for myself to read, remember and reflect upon in my later years of life.

While I was there I tried to learn as much as I could about Japan's equine culture. There were many weekends I spent at the racetrack or researching horse-related shrines, grounds, and musuems. I wish I could have gone to all of them, but life had another plan for me.

After eight months, my priorities had drastically changed. Sometimes, someone comes into your life in an unexpected way. You grow to love them so much, you have to make a decision that seems right for the both of you. My situation is a bit different from many couples I know. However, for the two of us, we are comfortable with how we came to be together. If anything, it is natural for us while others may see it as unbelievable. Someday, I will write about my story after I read a certain book.

Do I miss Japan?

Sometimes, but I know in my heart I made the right decision to return to the USA. After all, I had a plucky horse named Skye waiting for me.

And, yes, book reviews will be returning very shortly!



Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: The Fallen Angel Series (Books 1 & 2)

The Fallen Angel Series: After Eden (#1), Beloved Purgatory (#2)
Author: Katherine Pine
Published: 2011
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Christian Fantasy
Rating: (Overall) 4/5

As we moved into the age of the digital book readers have seen a surge in self-publishing. In the past, self-published books were looked down on as "lesser" works as they, perhaps, were not of publishable quality. With the invention of the kindle, nook, and iPad a plethora of published books are now available with the touch of the mouse or our finger. While some books should never see the eyes of any reader, I have had the pleasure to read The Fallen Angel Series.

After Eden

Devi's life has been anything but normal. Since her twin brother, Kai, was abducted when they were children she has felt like half of her is missing. Living a secluded life, except for the companionship of her best friend, Devi spends a lot of her time reading and vising the used bookstore. One day, she meets the new owner and Oz is anything but normal. He is a demon, a fallen angel, and his love for the girl born without a soul will destroy him.

Devi will give anything to have her brother back. Even if it means working with the angel who took him. She will do anything to protect Oz.  Even if it means, selling herself to another demon.

Beloved Purgatory

She loves a fallen angel, is guarded by an angel, protected by demons, and both heaven and hell want her. Devi cannot escape the fact she and her twin brother are the antithesis of each other. Nor can she forget her father who lingers in purgatory as punishment for his sin. The sin of killing himself.

Unable to accept the fate her father is suffering and the loss of her brother, Devi decides to makes a drastic decision. She will sell herself to the demon Forneus if it means she can bring her father's soul to rest, see her brother, and save her beloved Oz.

Pine's  plot is highly character driven and readers will feel the gripping emotions and hollow emptiness Devi struggles with. Oz is a three-dimensional character whose background, personality, and feelings have probably found him a circle of reader fan girls. Pine's use of Christian theology in her plot and characters is unique and effective for the story she is writing. This makes her novels stand apart from the plethora of angel/demon novels released by big publishing companies.

The first book left me wanting to read more. While  Beloved Purgatory was still enjoyable, I felt as if some of the writing had been rushed and I started to feel a bit distant from the main character. A couple of times I had to read ahead until I felt the the writing drawing me back into the story again. While this was slightly disappointing, I will be reading the third book in this series when it is released.



(Books # 8-9 for 2013)