Chronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that is...moreChronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that is only hinted at, yet I saw at least the broad strokes of an entire life in just those few words. There is no main character and the book is told collectively. (NOT a direct quote) "We came from Japan. We left our remote farms. We left our lives in Tokyo. We left our fishing villages. We cried as we left our families. We left happily, vowing to never look back." Listening to this on audio, the style bothered me a bit at first. It's so freaking repetitive! I do not do well with anything repetitive. Once I did settle into the narrative, I saw the beauty of it. In about four hours, I was a part of the lives of what felt like hundreds of Japanese women, each with her own story.
The book starts with the young women on the boat, uncertain of their futures and their husbands. They've never even met the men they're traveling halfway around the world to marry. Then there's early married life, children, life as an immigrant, and, in the early years of WWII, life as a "traitor." It was sometimes heart-breaking but always thought-provoking.
Samantha Quan narrates beautifully. I've not been a big fan of Carrington MacDuffie's straightforward narration in the past but it worked very well for her small part in this book.
I might have rated this higher in print, despite the excellent narration, simply because I could have skimmed over the seemingly endless, "We came from"s and "We gave birth in"s. In whatever format you choose, this is an excellent little book and I do recommend it.(less)
Ceony Twill has put herself through magic school in only a year when most people take two. She's a smart girl and she's hoping that her magic will be...moreCeony Twill has put herself through magic school in only a year when most people take two. She's a smart girl and she's hoping that her magic will be based on metal. She wants to design weapons and machines and things that matter. Instead, she gets paper. Boring old, get-it-wet-and-it-falls-apart paper. She's crushed. She hopes there's been a mistake. But the powers-that-be say that a balance must be kept so they assign a certain number of students to paper because, let's face it, no one is volunteering for it. Ceony resignedly sets out for her apprenticeship with Magician Emery Thane.
Once she gets there, she settles in well enough. Thane is a kind teacher and a talented magician. So when his ex-wife shows up and literally steals the beating heart from his chest, Ceony decides she has to save him. She sets out with her few learned paper magic skills to face the ex-wife, an Excisioner whose magic is based on manipulating flesh.
This sounded promising but it also sounded like it could go very wrong. One of my friends loaned it to me, saying, "You'll love it, I promise." For two people who are confirmed bibliophiles, our tastes don't overlap very much so I was still a tad worried. I should have had more faith. I enjoyed this immensely.
I was a little unsure of Ceony at first. She seemed to think that she was just too good to be a paper magician. But honestly, I would feel the same way. What can you do with paper? Fold it into an airplane and hope to poke someone in the eye? It turns out there's much more to humble paper than I thought. Once Ceony settled in and set out on her quest, she slowly grew on me and I was firmly in her corner by the end.
I liked Emery from the start. He has a paper skeleton as a butler. He gives Ceony an unimaginably thoughtful gift after her first day as his apprentice. There are glimmers of a sense of humor. As Ceony literally navigates the chambers of his heart in her effort to save him, we are shown his good moments, his bad moments, his strong moments, and his weak moments. He really comes to life on the page. And I really, really liked him.
The plot is pretty tightly focused on Ceony and Emery, but the glimpses I caught of this larger world were fascinating. I've shelved the book as steampunk even though I can't point to any specific steampunk elements. It just had that feeling.
I'll definitely read further books in the series. If you enjoy fantasy or steampunk at all, give this one a try.(less)