Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns (TLC Book Tour Review and GIVEAWAY!)



Forbidden love blossoms between a Japanese seventeen-year-old girl from a privileged family and an American sailor in 1957 Japan.  Naoko Nakamura’s marriage has been planned for her to the son of her father’s business associate, Satoshi. Naoko has other plans and has met and fallen in love with American sailor Hajime.  She tries to introduce Hajime to her family at tea, but they are horrified that she has brought home an American sailor. Marriage with the “occupiers” and the thought of a mixed-race grandchild is not something that Naoko’s family wants.  It is too late for their horror as Naoko is expecting Hajime’s child. Will Naoko be able to convince her family that she should marry her true love Hajime?

In the modern-day United States, Tori is with her father for his last days.  He mysteriously leaves her a letter that was returned to him from Japan where she learns that he had a woman he loved before her mother and he may have had a daughter.  Using her investigative journalism background, Tori travels to Japan to look for the woman her father loved. Will she find her, her sister, and what separated the two lovers in the 1950s?

I was fascinated by this novel.  The beautiful description of the outdoor wedding with the woman in the white kimono was lyrical and vivid.  It was the backdrop for the entire story as Tori struggles with her father’s story of the wedding and her realization that her father was married before meeting her mother, and with Naoko living it out in the past.  I always love learning something new with a novel.  I did not know much about post-WWII Japan and this gave me a vivid picture of what it was like to live in Japan during that time, and also gave me a picture of the bitter racism that was alive in both Japan and the United States for mixed race marriages between Americans and Japanese.  More horrifying was learning the fate of the children of such marriages or relationships. 

I enjoy stories with alternating narratives and liked how this one switched from the past to the present and tied the story together at the end. Both narratives are told from a first-person perspective.  I also really enjoyed the author’s note at the end which went over what was the real history of the novel and how it was put together.  The cover is beautiful.  Even my eight -year old daughter upon seeing it told me it looked “romantic” and she wanted to read it.

Favorite Quotes:
“What is truth but a story we tell ourselves.”

“There is only love.  Only truth.  And this is mine.”

Overall, The Woman in the White Kimono is an excellent historical fiction story with a compelling mystery.  I highly recommend it!

Book Source:  Review Copy for being a part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  For more stops on this tour, check out this link.




GIVEAWAY
Each stop on the TLC Book Tour will be giving away one copy of The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns. If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment on what interests you about this book.  Have you read any books or watched any movies about Japan after WWII? If so, what was your favorite?
 
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

 For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using random.org (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to addresses in the United States.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Monday June 24th!

Please make sure to check the week of June 24th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See


Title: The Island of Sea Women
Author: Lisa See
Read by:  Jennifer Lim
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 13 hours and 22 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster.  Thank-you!

The Island of Sea Women is a riveting 20th century family saga about forgiveness.  This novel / audiobook is destined to be on my top ten reads of 2019 list.

Young-Sook is a young Korean woman growing up on the island of Jeju which lies between Korea and Japan.  Her mother is the chief of their tribe of all-female divers.  Jeju is a matriarchal society where the women work all day diving for rare specimens from the sea to sell, while the men look after the children.  Young-Sook is a “baby diver” and is learning how to become a skilled diver like her mother when double tragedy strikes.  Helping her through all of life’s turmoil is her best friend Mi-ja.  Mi-ja is known as the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, but having Young-Sook and her mother’s acceptance helps her to navigate through her difficult life on the island as an orphan living with an unloving aunt and uncle.

As Mi-ja and Young-Sook grow older, they have remained close, but ultimately, they are driven apart.  What could make two such close friends become enemies?

The story also would flashforward to the future where an elderly Young-Sook is grappling with changes that have come to the island as one of the only haenyeo left.  While haenyeo used to retire at 50, there are no longer any young haenyeo and just elderly women that hold onto the tradition.  When an American family visits the island to ask questions about the past, Young-Sook has to face her demons and her choices.  Will Young-Sook be able to come to terms with the heartache of the past?

I loved the Island of Sea Women.  The women and their culture were vividly drawn in this novel.   The loved the characters.  The two parallel stories were beautifully woven together for a wonderful conclusion to this story. I didn’t know anything about this island, and my knowledge of the Korean War is very limited.  This helped to fill in the gaps for me. I’ll admit that one part of this novel had me loud sobbing on my drive to work.  I wonder what cars passing me thought?  It was horrifying, but the crux of the novel and beautifully written.

Narrator Jennifer Lim did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life.  I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook.

Overall, The Island of Sea Women is historical fiction at it’s best – heartfelt, riveting, and a great way to learn history that you may not know about otherwise.

How to Train Your Dragon Book 2: How to Be a Pirate by Cressida Cowell


Title: How to Train Your Dragon Book 2:  How to Be a Pirate
Author: Cressida Cowell
Read by:  David Tennant
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Length: Approximately 2 hours and 54 minutes
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com through Audible

How to Train Your Dragon is an audiobook series that entertains the entire family on road trips.  We were recently on a six-hour round trip for camping over the Memorial Day weekend and How to Train Your Dragon Book 2:  How to Be a Pirate was the family choice.  The story keeps all of the family entertained and David Tennant cannot be equaled as a great audiobook narrator with a voice for each character.  The sounds effects were great as well.  11-year old Daniel just likes saying “Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III.” I think Daniel wishes that was his impressive name.  The kids liked hearing more of Hiccup’s story of how he learns to be a Viking warrior and the antics of his friends and dragon, Toothless. The villain in this one has a memorable scene showing up in a coffin at sea and fooling them all for a while.  It’s overall a great book for a family road trip.