Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Game of Thrones & A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin *****

So I'd heard about this series via Facebook friends who were either watching the show on HBO or reading the books.  Since I don't have HBO & I needed a good book to suck me in, I started reading A Game of Thrones. 
As you can probably figure out, I liked it.  I liked it so much that instead of reviewing it on here, I got the next book from the library & started in on that one.  As it stands now, I just picked up the third one, so I figured if I'm gonna ever get these boys talked about I better get crackin'!
Westeros is a large island nation that has been ruled by Robert Baratheon for the past 10 years.  He gained the right to the Iron Throne when he killed the heir in hand-to-hand combat with a war hammer.  If that sounds brutal, then you better not read these books.  Based loosely on medieval England, but with a lot of cool stuff like dragons, direwolves, & zombie folks that live in the cold wastes of the north, I've loved ever minute I've spent with my nose in these books.  The main characters are of the family Stark, lords of Winterfell & past Kings of the North.  Lord Eddard Stark has 5 children that Martin delights in messing with as he unfolds his tale.  Every time I think one of them will finally get a break, BAM! he throws some god-awful obstacle up against them again. 
These books are graphic in their depiction of violence & honest in how people lived in medieval times.  Most lives were ugly, brutish, & short.  But the drama & historic sweep of the novels are wonderful.
That's enough writing about it.  I've gotta start book 3!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka ****

I've never heard the radio play by Dylan Thomas called Under Milkwood performed, though I always wanted to after I read it.  I got interested in Thomas when I read some of his short stories back when I was in college.  Sometimes they annoyed me & I couldn't finish them, but other times they were so right that they are singed into my memory.  One short story in particular I will remember forever, but I haven't been able to find it again.  I don't know where I read it but it's one of those quests that will define my life--where is that story?
The Buddha in the Attic reminds me of Under Milkwood because of the way it is written.  You get to hear the inner voices of a group of people, a community, what they're thinking & how they're living.  Thomas wrote of a Welsh fishing village, but Otsuka writes of the community of Japanese picture brides that came to the US after the turn of the century.  I know it sounds very different, but for some reason it was rather similar to me.
I can't imagine how brave & scared those women had to be, coming to a totally foreign land to marry men they'd never met, men that they only had pictures of & letters full of promises.  When they got to our shores many found that not only were their new husbands not the men in the pictures, but they were desperately poor.  These women who hoped for a better life across the ocean found themselves in just as much hardship as what they'd left.  And through this book their voices speak again, about the women that started laundry businesses with their husbands, or started farming rented land.  Or worked as maids for the rich ladies of San Francisco, or became prostitutes.  You hear them talk of how they learned to love their husbands, or never stopped hating them.  Of how they were worked almost to death, & had to claw their way up the ladder of success.  You hear them mourn the loss of children & grow weary at the birth of yet another. 
You get to become part of their community for a short while, just as you became part of the fabric of Milkwood for a short while too.  But unlike Dylan Thomas' fictional village, the story of the women of Japan who came to America is real.  And it comes to a screeching halt when their homes, stores, businesses & farms are suddenly empty & abandoned.  It ends in 1942. 
A very good book.  It left me haunted by voices.