Book Review: Geisha – A Life

4-star

Title: Geisha- A Life

Author: Mineko Iwasaki, Translated by Rande Brown

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


NOTE:  This is a pre-scheduled post. I am still on vacation. Apologies in any delay in commenting back!  Thanks for visiting 😀

In my last post, I looked at the infamous Memoir Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden. Today, I look at the autobiography of the woman who inspired it all: Mineko Iwasaki. This book provides the Western world with a rare insight into life as a geiko of Gion, through the eyes of someone who once stood at the top of the flower-and-willow world.

Geisha-of-Gion

Karyukai means “the flower and willow world.” Each geisha is like a flower, beautiful in her own way, and like a willow tree, gracious, flexible, and strong.

Geisha-of-Gion-Likes

  • First and foremost, I loved how this book gives us an insight into the lives of geiko (the Kyoto term for geisha) in Gion Kobu, and it goes a long way to dispelling the myths surrounding their profession. Iwasaki revealed the intense training in all the arts, especially of traditional dancing, she underwent as an apprentice. I knew the all geisha and geiko studied hard, but having their day documented gave me a newfound respect for these artists.
  • As I’ve mentioned numerous times in this blog series, I adore Kyoto. This book gave me an insight to Kyoto of days gone-by, where the streets of Gion was filled with traditional shops instead of tourist souvenir shops. I also love the sense of history in sights that endured through time in Kyoto, such as the ever-present Kamo River, to the magnificent theatres of Minamiza and Kaburenjo. It makes me appreciate these sights more to know how much they meant to the people of Gion.
  • It’s a bit voyeuristic, but I enjoyed seeing the life behind the walls of ochaya and okiya, which I would never get to see otherwise. As you might know, geiko only entertain the wealthy and well-connected elites of this world. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for the pleasures of an ozashiki, I paid $10 for this Kindle ebook to whet my appetite instead.

Geisha-of-Gion-Dislikes

  • While I enjoyed the book when I read it, I found it very difficult to remember the content of the book due to the nature of its layout. Iwasaki jumps through life events at an irregular pattern, she would be speaking of her afternoon walks in clear details – then proceed to gloss over an important dance recital. The scenes changed at random intervals, it looks like the book underwent very little editing.
  • Iwasaki documents her life from the time she was three years old, and tries to convince her readers that she decided to leave her parents and become a geiko all on her own… AT THREE! She also details event from this period from her life with startling clarity – one that makes me wonder at the authenticity of these passages. I personally don’t remember anything from my life at three years old, let alone make a huge decision like choosing to be sold to an okiya!
  • It may be a cultural barrier, but I found Iwasaki’s attitude quite off-putting. She striked me as incredibly sheltered and privileged, yet utterly clueless. There’s a passage where she claims she does not fart. Another passage where she commands a junior member of the okiya to rub her feet, and feels no remorse for it. This finally culminates in a scene where she slashes the coat of her lover’s wife, holding more resentment for the woman than for his infidelity.
  • I also found that the writing was very sterile. The book was written as a defence to Arthur Golden’s misappropriation of geisha and their world. Iwasaki mainly showed the world how great she was as a geisha, we never got to see much of her struggles. I felt very disconnected from her.

Nonetheless, this book offers a unique insight into a part of the Japanese culture most people won’t have access to. If you’re interested in the karyukai, I would highly recommend this. I also recommend it to those who have read Arthur Golden’s book, to get another (more realistic) perspective on things.

Geisha-of-Gion-Sights

Yasaka Shrine lies nestled in the foothills of the Higashiyama Mountains, the chain that flanks the eastern border of Kyoto. The Gion Kobu, to the west of the shrine, is about one square mile in size. The district is crisscrossed by a neat grid of manicured lanes. Hanamikoji (Cherry Blossom Viewing Path) runs through the center of the district from north to south and Shinmonzen Street divides it east to west.

Higashiyama2
Nestled within the Higashiyama district lies some of Kyoto’s best preserved historical districts. Japan Trip 2014.

These are some of my favourites streets to wander in Kyoto, with wooden houses intermingled with shops peddling souvenirs to catch the enthusiastic tourist (I am totally one of those tourist, my home is still littered with a million cute things I have no use for). Be warned that these streets do get quite busy, so I advise an early morning or late afternoon visit! Meander through and ogle at fans, teapots, ceramic wares, traditional dolls, music boxes – you’ll be rewarded by free samples of tea and sweets along the way 😉

Kyoto3
An enduring symbol of Kyoto: Yasaka Pagoda

I love the sight of Yasaka Pagoda, widely touted in travel pamphlets and blog pages as a symbol for Higashiyama. It stands tall, a mark of history and culture against a backdrop of modern electrical wires and wide-eyed tourists.

Seasonal appropriateness is paramount. The canons of traditional Japanese taste divide the year into twenty-eight seasons, each of which has its own symbols. Ideally, the colors and patterns on the kimono and obi reflect the exact season, nightingales in late March, for example, or chrysanthemums in early November

Kimono

There are loads of kimonos to be seen in Kyoto, it’s little wonder – with rental shops being ubiquitous in the city. I couldn’t tell which wearer were native Japanese and which were tourist! I liked seeing personality it added to the hubub of people, and hey – it could hardly be cultural appropriation if the Japanese themselves endorse it?! I hear ladies get to ride Kyoto’s buses for free if they’re in kimonos. What are your thoughts on tourists dressing up in traditional garments of another country?

And in the canal is cold, clear water, water that comes down from Lake Biwa in the north. The water rushes through the canal as it flows towards the Nanzenji aqueduct. It courses through the aqueduct, past the miles of cherry trees lining the banks, and then down into the main waterway of Kyoto. It continues past the zoo and the Heian Shrine, runs along Cold Spring Avenue, and finally empties into the Kamogawa River, where it streams towards Osaka and out to the open sea.

Philosopher's Path2
Part of the mentioned canal, running through Philosopher’s Path
Philosopher's Path
Teddy bears fishing in a stream along Philosopher’s Path

This stream of water is ever-present in Kyoto, through the Kamo River, the Shirakawa stream, and in the canal that rushes pass Philosopher’s Path and its surrounding temple. My friends and I wandered aimlessly down Philosopher’s Path one quiet afternoon, discovering hidden temples along the way.

Due to our poor planning, we arrived at closing time and most places were deserted. We also did not know the name of most of the places we visited, and had to Google it when we got home (fail, I know, but the reverse engineering of our trip was sort of fun!). Philosopher’s path is a charmer, lined with arts and craft stores, such as the ones advertising via the teddy bears above! There also seems to be a small community of stray cats along this walk, I still wonder about the fate of these animals – and hope to see them again this year!


I hope you’re enjoying my recaps, I want to update them with more recent pictures when I am in Japan, but that’s pending on internet connection AND time 😄

Book Tag: Nostalgic Book Review Tag

Note: I am still on vacation, this is a pre-scheduled post. Apologies in advance for any delays in commenting back!

MoaG
Geisha Image from Freepik, other edits by me.

Thank you to the talented CW of Read, Think, Ponder for creating this tag and for tagging me! It allows me to revisit one of the most memorable reads from my high school days. It also fits nicely into the current Japan theme of the blog. There are also some photos from my trip to Kyoto last year at the end of this post!

How the Tag Works
In this tag, you will be reviewing a book you read three or more years ago (if you started reading less than three years ago, tell us about your first book). The best part: you will be reviewing the book purely from memory. I hope you all have fantastic memory (because I certainly don’t)!

Japan Book Blog Series: A Bibliophile’s Guide To Japan

Travel-Guide-Japan

As you might know, I’m taking a small break from blogging as I’ll be in Japan on vacation for three weeks! I am super excited for this holiday, especially as it’s my first overseas trip with my partner. I did not want to leave the blog completely abandoned – so I’ve decided to leave a couple of Japan related book posts scheduled. This is the first of them!

I am certainly not alone when I say that I love going to bookish location in new places. Yes, the books may either be i) the same as the ones I get back home OR ii) in a language I don’t understand – but that doesn’t take away my sense of wonder. Here are a couple of recommended bookish touristy things you could do in Japan! I’ve been to some of these, and plan to visit the others. I hope to update my posts with up to date pictures as I go along.

Also! My holiday will be well underway by the time this post is published, so I apologise for lack of commenting until I am back.Read More »

Guest Review: Lips Touch

3star

Title: Lips Touch: Three Times

Author: Laini Taylor

Rating: 3/5 stars

Series? No. Anthology.

Book Depository

Goodreads


NOTE: This is a prescheduled post. I am on holiday, so I will reply to all your comments when I get back mid-December! Take care 😀

This review is brought to you by the fantabulous Jeann of Happy Indulgence. I was crying to Jeann about I am falling way behind on my blogging schedule as I was going on holiday, so she kindly offered to write a review to help me out. THANK YOU JEANN!

LipsTouch

Lips Touch: Three Times shares three dark stories with us, of varying degrees of intricacy.

Lips-Touch-01

I can see why Goblin Fruit was the first one in the book, it slowly eases us into the highly imaginative brain of Laini Taylor. Kizzy is a girl who was plain and just wanted to be loved, so when a goblin posed as a handsome boy at her class, she couldn’t say no even when it was too late. It very much felt like a typical paranormal, but one with a dark and sad twist to it. It definitely felt very Grim, with the message of “be careful what you wish for”.

How then, had her knife come to be on Kizzy’s pillow, and her swan’s wing, torn feather from feather, in Kizzy’s room?

Lips-Touch-02

This was my favourite story of the lot, inspired by Hindi’s version of heaven and hell. There’s black magic here, curses, karma, and Indian mythology which was really fascinating. Ana is a wonderful character who was so sweet and careful, as speaking or singing will result in the immediate death of everyone within earshot. She was probably one of the most relatable characters in the book and I really liked her.

There are other ways of showing someone you love them, such as fetching them out of Hell.

Lips-Touch-03

The longest and most convoluted story of the lot, Hatchling explores the perspective of several characters, including a druj (demon) queen, another druj, a mother, and her daughter. I liked the story behind it, but having multiple point of views and a lot happening was too ambitious for the short story format. There’s a lot of flash backs and multiple perspectives which made it difficult to wrap my head around, especially with all these Eastern terms and mythology I just did not understand.

She was a girl and she was a queen and back in the mists she was a woman who had seized the moon from the sky and drunk its light so that she would never die. And she never had.


Laini Taylor has a whimsical imagination which successfully delivers some wonderful, twisted dark fairy tales all revolving around a kiss. I wish I prepared myself for the dark themes inside though, there’s rape, gore, cussing, kidnapping, death and more. While I’m usually tolerant of these themes, I was quite disturbed when out of the blue I stumbled upon “butterfly rape” and “swollen lips that wanted to eat humans”. Teaches me to think Disney before I read fairy tales….

With the exquisite, rich exploration and even combination of darker themes and different mythologies, this book kind of lost me at several places. Most would find this exciting and intriguing, but I was just confused half the time

Lips Touch: Three Times reflects my difficulty to connect to short stories, but it’s another example of Laini Taylor’s lush, beautiful and exquisite writing. Unfortunately I found it erred on the side of weird rather than whimsical at times, and it’s definitely more of a mature YA read rather than childhood fairy tales. The three fairy tales are incredibly unique and dark, based on mythology, folklore and Laini Taylor’s imagination which is an imaginative artform in itself.


Thank you Jeann for your review! I have to say, I am intrigued by the dark stories in this anthology, I’ll have to check it out.

Loved this review? Find Jeann at:  HAPPY INDULGENCE  //  INSTAGRAM  //  TWITTER  //  GOODREADS  //  YOUTUBE

Novella Review: Silently and Very Fast

Silentlly and Very Fast

5star

 Title:  Silently and Very Fast

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? No. Novella.

Goodreads

Book Depository


Note: This is a pre-scheduled post. I am currently preparing for my holiday. Apologies in any delays in commenting back!

After reading the excellent The Melancholy of Mechagirl, I wanted to finish and end my Japan Book Blog Series with tales from this collection. Catherynne Valente describes it best:

For foreigners, Japan is a Roschard painting… Everything looks like magic when you don’t understand it.

I am no exception, I look with Japan with a lot of expectations coloured by Western cultures and views. Nonetheless, I want this blog series to reflect the culture and traditions of the country as closely and respectfully as possible. As a foreigner, I will never truly understand it. I don’t want to exoticise, romanticise, or misappropriate in any way – but if I err, please, forgive me and give me a gentle nudge!

SilentlyandVeryFast Review

This following story is partly set in an alternate and futuristic Hokkaido. I’ve never been to Hokkaido, but I’ve never been to the dreamscape described in Silently and Very Fast either – both are places I wish to experience once in my lifetime (though the former is infinitely more possible than the latter).


Let’s start by setting something straight: I am going to be very biased in this review. Most voracious readers would find naming their favourite author a challenging task. Certainly, it’s no easy feat when there’s no shortage in wondrous worlds and talented writer who creates them. However, if you asked me, I would name Catherynne Valente within a heartbeat. For me, her mastery over words define lyrical and visual writing. The stories she writes pushes at the boundaries of conventional storytelling. Her proses colourful, dark, ornate – fairy tales of the modern age. She can create worlds, crumble expectations, and leave me thinking about her tales for days.

Silently and Very Fast lives up to my immense expectations of her writing. I read it as part of her The Melancholy of Mechagirl short story collection – it was the longest and most challenging of these stories, I thought it deserved a review of its own. While the story is deeply rooted in metaphysics and recurring monomyths, it was also endlessly creative and surprising.Read More »

Announcement: Hiatus

hiatus-2015

Hi guys! If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll be aware that I’m Japan-bound next week for a much needed vacation. I’ll be there until mid-December, and needless to say, I won’t be doing much blogging. Fear not, though, as I have a very exciting blog series I have scheduled while I’m away! I want to take you all on holiday with me: bookish style.

Over the next 3.5 weeks, there will be reviews & recommendation post on Japan-related books.  In each book review, there will also be photos of my adventures in Japan in relation to the book! I can’t wait to share my holiday with you guys through these book quotes and posts.

This is also a the reason why my blog schedule has been so sparse lately, I’ve been trying to read enough to prep for this series AND update the blog in real time. It was totally worth it though, these posts centre on two things I am very passionate about: Japan and books, so writing them was loads of fun. I felt like a fresh new baby blogger again.

For obvious reasons, I won’t be around much to comment and visit your blogs over the coming month. Apologies in advance, I will miss you all dearly!  If you want to be updated with my trip in real time, you can go and check out my twitter.

Take care, everyone!

goodbye

Book Review: Slasher Girls and Monster Boys

4-star

Title: Slasher Girls and Monster Boys

Authors: Various

Series? No. Anthology

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository


I started reading this around Halloween season, but only got around to finishing up the review for it now. Oops. The anthology was very strong, and it reminded me why I love the economy of short stories. An amalgation of some of the best voices in YA at the moment, the stories in here are all based on a novel, movie, or other creative work in the past. I had a lot of fun trying to figure out the origin story of these works.

SlasherGirlsMonsterBoys

The Birds of Azalea Street by Nova Ren Suma – 4 stars

I felt this tale was a strong start to the anthology, it was not outright scary, but certainly incredibly unsettling. In classic Nova Ren Suma style, this tale edges on reality and the unknown – with the ill-intentions of the living being far more upsetting than those of the dead. Written in her familiar lyrical style, this tale examines teenage girls in both their strengths and vulnerability when faced with a sexual predator. You’ll look twice at the birds outside your window in a different light after reading this.Read More »

Discussion Post: Who Am I Blogging For?

BloggingFor

In some ways, thus post is a continuation of the one I wrote last week regarding blog posts I enjoyed as a non-blogger. Writing it made me re-evaluate why I started and continue to blog. According to WordPress, this will be my 100th post on the blog, so I wanted to recap and review my own journey as a blogger. As with all my discussion posts, I don’t have a concrete answer – but would love to hear your side of things, too!

BloggingForMyself
It goes without saying that I blog for myself first and foremost. I initially started this blog as more of a book journal, one that I never expected or wanted anyone to read. It meant that most of what I wrote was book reviews, they were a way for me to keep track of the books I read. It also helped motivated me to read more books – I went from someone who read maybe 2 books a month to a crazed devourer of 4 books a week!Read More »

Hogwarts School Of Blogcraft and Bookistry: Divination

BBcreativity-Divination

Hello class,

This is the third class in our BBCreativityProject’s Hogwarts School of Blogcraft and Bookistry series.

Although people like Miss Granger may try to dismiss my classes as hodge podge instead of real magic – I’ll prove disbelievers wrong with these set of predictions today.

As 2016 quickly approaches, one of the questions on everyone’s mind is ‘Which books should I preorder?’. In today’s class, we’ll look at forecasting the future bestsellers that you should add to your shopping cart promptly!

The new year also brings a new crop of bloggers. Our class will tell you the rising stars you should follow as soon as possible!Read More »

Book Review: The Young Elites

4-star

Title: The Young Elites

Author: Marie Lu

Rating: 4/5 stars

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Goodreads

Book Depository


It feels like quite some time since my last young adult fantasy, and THE YOUNG ELITES certainly hits the spot. The book gets it right with its complex cast of characters and steady momentum. Although I wish the world building was more expansive, and that we got to see more facets to Adelina’s characters – it was still a promising start to a new series.

“Some hate us, think us outlaws to hang at the gallows. Some fear us, think us demons to burn at the stake. Some worship us, think us children of the gods. But all know us. —Unknown source on the Young Elites”

The-Young-Elites

I felt The Young Elites played with a lot of common YA tropes, and while it successfully subverted some of them with finesse – it also stumbled on others.

The Special Chosen Ones

“I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside. It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.”

In The Young Elites, a small portion of the population has been decimated and forever changed by a blood fever several years ago. It left the survivors marked by those special Mary Sue physical traits: hair in strands of sapphire and red, colourful skin disfigurement, impossible eye colours, or in Adelina’s case: a cascade of silver hair. While in other fantasy novels, these traits may be viewed as desirable or physically attractive. In The Young Elites – the cursed are named malfettos. They are marginalised and feared. The fever also gifted a smaller portion of its survivors with special abilities: whether it’s to call upon wind or weave illusions.Read More »