Thursday, February 4, 2010

Haibane Renmei~A Review

"To To recognize one's own sin is to have no sin. So, are you a sinner?"
-The Communicator
"But if I think I have no sin, then I become a sinner! "-Rakka
"Perhaps this is what it means to be bound by sin. To spin in the same circle, looking for where the sin lies, and at some point losing sight of the way out." -The Communicator

Haibane Renmei (灰羽連盟 lit. Ash Feather Federation) is a hypnotic story first drawn by Japanese author Yoshitoshi ABe. This is a 13 episode anime that follows the main character, Rakka as she finds herself in the world of Glie. I first picked up this show almost 7 years ago and has always been one of my favorites.
Rakka finds herself in Glie after dreaming of falling. It is a mysterious town, surrounded by an uncrossable wall. There are humans, regular residents of Glie. As well as Haibane, people with halos and wings. Rakka becomes a Haibane and soon learns that unlike humans, who dwell and live and die with Glie, Haibane eventually leave Glie. This "day of flight" is the most important thing a Haibane can obtain. The only people who can go past the Glie wall is the Toga, a group of hooded people who speak with hand symbols. The only person who can speak to the Toga is the Communicator, who is also the spiritual leader of the Haibane.
Ultimately this is a story of redemption, self realization, and forgiveness. This short show really asks a lot of questions with few answers. After watching interviews with the author I have found that he wanted the audience to find their own answers. This show is slow moving and not at all an action film! It relies heavily on dialog, art, and music to carry its themes. I won't spoil anything here! This show comes highly recommended and I hope you all get a chance to watch it! I prefer the Japanese audio to the English, simply because of the less corny voices.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Snow Flower & the Secret Fan~A Review

"I write to you. Please listen to me. Though I am poor and improper, though I am not worthy of your family's high gate, I write today to say it was fated that we join. Your words fill my heart. We are a pair of mandarin ducks. We are a bridge over the river. People everywhere will envy our good match. Yes, my heart is true to go with you."
I have always had a great liking for historical fiction. And a great interest in China. So this would almost be a hands down must read for me. This novel starts out with two girls, Lily and Snow Flower. Both of whom must go through the rigors of foot binding. They go on to be "laotong", translated by the author to be "old sames". Basically, friends who communicate in the secret language of women in ancient china called "nu shu". This book is written through the eyes of Lily in her final days. It follows her path through life, having her feet bound, learning nu shu, getting married, and having children. The very beginning of this book is the most interesting. Mostly because I had never researched the practice of foot binding. The author really does a good job describing the practice. The book goes on to describe Lily's life and how her foot binding and laotong have changed her chances at a better life.
This novel fell short in many ways for me. I knew it was a short novel, but I was expecting more substance. There really isn't much essence to the story. The main plot is about the friendship of Lily and Snow Flower, but I felt cheated out of knowing more about their daily lives. We know what their husbands do for a living, what their Mother-in-Law's general mood is, but that is about it. Really this could have been a meatier novel. There are also instances of heartache, loss, and death. I felt like all instances are glanced over. I do understand that many more people would die in these times. But I felt the characters fell flat in this way. With the death of a son, a sister, a daughter, wouldn't these mothers be more distraught? Also, I felt that Lily's hubris and falling out with Lily was heavy handed. I felt for Lily and was surprised at the deathbed confession of caring. I do not feel like Lily overcame her feelings of doubt and animosity.
Despite these downfalls, this still stands in my eyes as an interesting novel about the struggle of women. I do find the study of nu shu, foot binding and the idea of laotong to be very interesting. I myself feel like I have a laotong. The version of this book pictured above also includes writings from the author on why she wrote it as well as a section of discussion topics. If you are looking for an interesting, but short book club novel, make sure to pick this one up!

Guest Writer~tonight we bloom

This week author is tonight we bloom I really enjoyed the following poem from them on fictionpress.

I have yet to understand

contemplate willows-
hieroglyphic secrets on
ochre skin like thoughts my egyptian
hands can read and branches story-clad
from ere the time fireflies crooned in sanskrit.
and I have yet to understand
how they wear their emotions so lovely,
skulls turned inside-out for nature to
read and feelings contoured onto
boughs that cry when the
moon kills
the sun
forest sets ablaze.

This poem originally caught my eye because of its interesting formatting. I Really liked the poem for its imagery. It also has a very equal ending and beginning, both mentioning trees/forests. I have yet to create a poetry in the form of what I'm writing about and this poem really makes an interesting one! My favorite description in this was the "hieroglyphic secrets on ocher skin like thoughts my egyptian
hands can read and branches story-clad". Also from this author I really enjoyed Butterfly Boy. Please continue to write and good luck!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Death With Interruptions~A Review

"We here who cannot die await all of you who pass us by."
This book caught my eye from the first time I had seen it at my local bookstore. The plot follows a town that is never named as they struggle with the absence of death. The book begins with a hauntingly gripping first line;
"The following day, no one died."
This event causes confusion and chaos throughout the country. The dying linger and the families wait, tormented by the thoughts of trying to end it for them. Soon after this disaster they find that people can die if they are taken out of the country. The later half of the book focuses on how, once death returns, should be handled. People are notified by mail two weeks before they die that it will happen. The book also follows the narrative of death herself (she prefers the small d to D), as she tries to deliver one of these fated letters find their owner after it is returned to her.
The news of the absence of death shakes peoples faith, morals, and outlook on how they should live. It is a truly interesting book full of moral problems and questions how we look at death, the dying, and the living. Overall I felt that this book was full good topics to think about. The only thing that ever got to me while reading this book is the way the prose is written. There are very, very long paragraphs, sentences, and almost no markings for when people are speaking to one another. This made the book highly difficult to read. Even though it is a short book (238 pages) it took me more than a month to read. Most of this was caused by the way the book was written. I do believe that the style was intentional because of when they talk about the letter death sends the government. It is mentioned that it is in this same style as the books writing. I felt like the author intended the book to be narrated by death.
I think that this is a great book for book clubs and classes. There is lots of discussion material. Overall I felt like I had a great sampling of this authors work and hopefully get to read more of it in the future.

My Recent Absence

Sorry readers for my recent lack of updates! The last two weeks have just been crazy! I had a very bad cold and I really just needed to sleep it off. I will be posting again soon, until then, keep reading and have fun!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Lovely Bones~A Review

"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections-sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent-that happened after I was gone...The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future."
I picked up this work because of my interest in the upcoming Peter Jackson film. But I soon found that I cared far more for the substance of the novel than the imagery of the film. This book follows the narrative of Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old who was murdered. It mostly takes place after the murder as her narrative of what happens to her family because of her death. The author really spends time building these core characters, and tells a story that takes place over many years in a short enough span to not bore you. I finished this book in less than a day, it is a simple read.
This book spends a lot of reflective time in Susie Salmon's heaven. "Heaven" or the "In-Between" in this book is not a perfect place. Susie does meet other spirits there, but spends most of her time watching her family. There is plenty of emotion in this book. Her father is the most convincing character to me. He turns obsessive after he learns that it was a murder and falls into depression. He tries desperately to find her killer. My least favorite character in this book surprisingly, is the mother. She does end up leaving the family for a time. This plot line is not followed by Susie in heaven very much other to say that she works at a vineyard. This really hardened me to the character. Even though I disliked this character, the author did a good job making a believable person. Susie's ex-interest Ray also gets involved with Ruth, who seems to have "felt" Susie pass her. And is changed afterwards.
Overall, I really did enjoy this book. Even though it was a short novel and moved quickly I felt that I got my monies worth. If anything, the only disappointing parts of this book is the conclusion of the Ray/Susie/Ruth relationship. But you will just have to read to find out what I'm talking about. Also, the fate of Mr. Harvey, even though it is matched up to an earlier subject in the book, left me feeling like I needed more. As a bonus I bought the copy of the novel pictured above, it has a reading group guide in the back. I liked the questions and wish I had some other people to discuss this with!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Fountain~A Review

"He said that if they dug his father's body up, it would be gone. They planted a seed over his grave. The seed became a tree. Moses said his father became a part of that tree. He grew into the wood, into the bloom. And when a sparrow ate the tree's fruit, his father flew with the birds. He said... death was his father's road to awe."
Few movies have been as stunning to me as this one. And so I feel that I should share this one with you all because of the epic quality, storytelling, and stunning visuals. I saw this movie for the first time with my step-mother. We had only seen a few previews beforehand and weren't sure exactly what we were up for. I had lost my father a few years before viewing this film. Which I believe is part of the reason why I am so touched by this movie while others are so negative.
The story unfolds with Tom, a cancer researcher who is married to Izzy. Tom is avidly working on a cure for cancer, with help from his chimp test subject. Soon after you find out about his work you learn that his wife is in the late stages of cancer. She is writing a book that details a romantic story between the queen of Spain and a conquistador. She sends the conquistador on a search in the New World for the Tree of Life. This story unfolds while jumping between modern times/conquistador Tom/and a futuristic Tom who is travelling to a dying star. Or as we learn from Izzy, Xibalba, where the Mayans believed the underworld was.
Many people were lost in the myriad of symbols and time jumps that make up this film. But at the heart of it there is a story of accepting death. And not only for yourself, but for those people you love most. As you follow the story you can watch as Tom goes through the stages of grieving. This emotional quality is what made me watch this movie so many times. And to mention, I am a big sucker for symbolic imagery.
This is really a beautiful film, it has amazing visual effects and a wonderful soundtrack. If you don't like long, somewhat confusing story lines, weird Mayan priests, or bald men floating in outer space, skip this film. Otherwise, sit down, relax, and let the story unfold.