January 30, 2017

Recent Reads

4. The Polar Bear
For some reason Goodreads does not have this listed under the author of The Blue Whale, but it is her. This is the next book in the endangered animals collection picture books for wee ones, and I really liked The Blue Whale so picked this one up.

Just as in the first book, the art in this one is beautiful. The text however, while factual and informative, does not have the flow of Whale. It's almost like the author couldn't decide whether to keep this a picture book, or make it more interesting to older (8-12 years) readers, and in doing so, some of the magic is lost. Still, it's worth getting a copy for little readers to see how they feel. They will certainly learn some cool things about Polar bears with this beautiful book. I certainly did. Rating: 3 stars.

5. Watson and Holmes - A Study In Black
In this retelling Holmes is a P.I., Watson is an Afghanistan war vet, now medical intern, and 221B Baker Street is located in Harlem, New York. I enjoyed the updated version of this duo, and the gritty, urban setting. Holmes sometimes talks in old-timey speak which does not make sense, and is no where as quirky as the original. Watson, though is great. I didn't love the art in this graphic novel, but do plan on reading the next installment to see how the story unfolds. Rating: 3 stars.

6. Silence
Book blurb: Father Rodrigues is an idealistic Portuguese Jesuit priest who, in the 1640s, sets sail for Japan on a determined mission to help the brutally oppressed Japanese Christians and to discover the truth behind unthinkable rumors that his famous teacher Ferreira has renounced his faith.

This is translated from the Japanese by William Johnston.

Since Scorsese is about to release a movie adaptation of this novel, this moved up my TBR pile. I'm a fan of Jesuits in [Insert Sceanrio]. Scenarios include, but are not limited to: Space, Japan, Africa, the Vatican, etc. This book is a Jesuits in Japan story.

If you are new to the history of said scenario, the forward by the translator is well worth the read, and I learned things I did not know. However, while I am fascinated by the premise of the story, I did not love it, and I really expected to. Maybe because I've read several really fantastic books on Japan, and this one while interesting, is not one of them.

The story unfolds via letters written by Father Rodrigues, and there-in lies the main problem with this story. We only get his point of view, and it's not enough. There's this huge gap between what he sees and experiences, and what we the reader get to read. There's quite a bit of repetition, and the writing is choppy (though, that could be the translation). This is a brutal time to be a Christian in Japan, and the horrors are real, but only seen from a distance by this reader. What I really liked was the exploration of the sense of silence, in particular the silence of God in the midst of all the horror. I also really liked the exploration of Christianity in the "swamps" of Japan, and how the Japanese interpreted Christianity. I wanted more of that. More theology, more philosophy, more of the dialogue between Rodrigues and Ferreira. I found these themes the most interesting parts of this story, and because of that I'll round up my 2.5 stars rating to 3.

I'll be curious to see if the movie adaptation explores more with these themes. Meanwhile, if you have yet to read Shogun (which has a side plot with these exact themes), I'd highly recommend moving it up your TBR list. Rating: 3 stars.

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