Posted by: istop4books | December 30, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2007

No true mess-ups in knitting this year, actually quite proud of the output and of my newly acquired sockmaking skills! Favorite knit: Matinee Sweater in apple green from the Debbie Bliss baby book. Least favorite knit: The Swing Coat from Oat Couture, the ecowool that I used is sagging a bit and the pattern was a pain in the neck to follow.

Books: will have read 81 books by December 31, which is double my last year’s total. Not bad. Sent out 27 RABCKS; received 11.

Favorites: The Caliph’s House, When the Emperor was Divine, The Painted Veil, Middlesex, Shadow of the Wind and Atonement.

Worst: Running with Scissors

runner up for worst: Sunrise on Kusatsu HarborSunrise on Kusatsu Harbor

Currently trying desperately to finish: Afrodita by Isabel Allende aprodita.jpgin Spanish and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare (in English :-))

***More on Sunrise on Kusatsu Harbor

As part of bookcrossing, the author of this book sent me a private email asking if I’d be interested in receiving a couple of copies, reading the book, and critiquing it on bookcrossing and I said sure because, well – I’d never been asked to do something like this for an author and it was kind of cool and the book sounded interesting.

I finally got around to reading the book and did so in one sitting as it’s almost a novella at a bit more than 150 pages. Ouch! Painful is the word that comes to mind.

A bit of background: The story opens with a young American couple who buy a video tape at a garage sale, plug it in expecting to see The Sound of Music, and instead recognize friends and ex-coworkers Mieko and Tori on the tape relating their life stories. Mieko and Tori were childhood friends living in Hiroshima, Japan in the 1940’s who expected to marry one day. Enter WWII and things change. Meiko was sent to do military service to Nagasaki, and Tori stayed behind in Hiroshima. Both their lives were affected by the blasts in very different ways and both wound up in the US for different reasons. It goes on from there.

and here’s my critique:

This is a very hard book to critique, but I’ll give it my best shot. The good: I really enjoyed the core story. Tori and Mieko were believable characters and I could feel their emotions, pain, desperation, anger, rage, resignation. Two young witnesses to an event that defied description, that became survivors. Perhaps were it not for Mieko’s rage, he would have succumbed to depression; were it not for Tori’s love and strength, perhaps she would not have made it.

The bad: the pain is not fully dealt with; were I to lose my entire family, no matter how resilient I was, the pain would permeate my life for many years. I felt this was only treated superficially.

The ugly: The outer layers of the story baffled me; Gary and Carmen’s opening few pages seemed cliched and irrelevant: the references to being poor but happy were a bit sappy and didn’t lend anything to the story. In fact, after the first paragraph, had I been at a store just browsing, I would have put down the book because of the cliches.

The writing style is succinct, which I like, but lacks subtlety, which I don’t. It didn’t allow the reader to discover and unpeel the layers of character and personality, but rather told us what to think about each character or situation. Case in point: pg 34 referring to Dr. Akiyama: “he was mean and hardened due to the work and frustration he faced every day.” The story would have benefited from a bit of expansion imho.

Lastly, the whole AIDS twist was unrealistic.

I enjoyed parts of the story, read it in one sitting and really wanted to know how it would end — so there is a great book trapped inside some poorly edited writing.

The author read my critique and immediately fired off another PM thanking me for my comments and defending the 3 editors who worked on the book. It was a bit bizarre and without revealing the entire story very difficult to explain how the author said I had missed the boat and that the main core of the novel was not the story of Mieko and Tori, but of Gary’s prejudice. I went on Amazon and looked at the comments (mostly from fellow bookcrossers and most of them positive) and they all saw the same thing. Hmmmm….. where that leaves me I’m not sure.

What this book did do, of all things, is make it all the more clear that it is harder than hell to write a good book, and extremely easy to critique it once written. I can only hope that if I ever lose my mind and sit down to write, my editors will be ruthless (and honest) and that I’ll listen to the critique with an open mind.

Needless to say, if anyone would like to read and critique this book, I have two copies and one of them is yours for the asking, I’d be happy to mail it out to you.



  1. Ouch!! I guess I definitely won’t waste my time on Running with Scissors;-) Dan Maloney, author of Sunrise on Kusatsu Harbor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: