Thursday, April 21, 2011

Joyner's DreamJoyner's Dream by Sylvia Tyson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Joyner’s Dream by Sylvia Tyson

published by HarperCollins Canada, 2010

Joyner’s Dream is a multi-generational story of a family bound by love of music, especially for a fiddle called Old Nick.

At the other side of the moon, the family struggle against a curse, or ‘Joyner’s malady’: a natural aptitude for thieving, and fate that deserves to the family a narrow path towards troubles.

The story begins in England in 1780; continues in Halifax, Nova Scotia, beginning of twentieth’s century; and eventually in Toronto, nowadays.

Each book’s chapter tells about a member of the family, who best shows the ‘marks’ of the family.

“As for myself, having been a diligent and enthusiastic collector of books since first I learned to read, it seems to me that there exists an overabundance of tales chronicling the lives of the high and mightily in which ordinary folk like us serve only as colourful backdrop, comic bumpkins or faithful retainers.”

Another theme of Joyner’s Dream is the strong desire in the family’s members to create a history of the family, beyond the chains that tie them to the ‘ordinary folk’.

In other words a desire for a continuum that could be destroyed by the fate intended for this family. Although it is clear from the start that it is in vain.

In my opinion Joyner’s Dream needs a good work of screaming, many parts are described just as a list of events while other parts are very gripping for the readers.

Beth Joyner and George Fitzhelm’s stories are the best of the book: both are living human beings (beyond the paper); because they accept, they fight, with and against the family’s dark side. The History, in these two chapters, is not just glued to the characters as in other chapters, but comes together with Beth and George’s stories.

Who is interested, can listen to Joyner’s Dream’s songs on

I received this free e-book from NetGalley.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mushishi, Vols. 8/9/10Mushishi, Vols. 8/9/10 by Yuki Urushibara

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Volume 8


Ginko is rescued by a man under the influence of mushi. The man works day and night without rest. The parents of the man had found a pond of milk when they were poor and without nothing to drink.

The mushi who transforms the blood in milk is called Chisio: it “forces the host in sleepless work gathering nourishment for it. And Chisio builds its own strenght.” (page 43)

The man: “My body … is what it became by drinking my mother’s blood.” (page 42)


“On the mountain in late winter …

when are heard …

low-pitched, tiny, murmuring sounds …

quickly and all at once …

the mushi of spring awaken.” (page 49)

This time the mushi is called Oroshibue: “the whistling sound of a cold mountain wind in winter.” (page 218) Oroshibue helps the mountains with the winter’s migration.

Ginko notices that “the mountain is … closed off.” (page 60), it seems that the mountain is going to die. “The winter mushi can’t migrate?” (page 61)

But Ginko found that the Koki are healing from their wounds inside the bog, so the mountain wasn’t going to die.

Koki is nutrition for Oroshibue, so it steals from Ginko his Koki

and eventually “Winter fails. The mountain laugh. The fields are dressed in rich green.


The title refers to those water channels that are hidden by the trees and greenery.

A girl and her friend are bound each other: they know their thoughts without talking.

Ginko: “There is a deep channel between you and that person.” (page 94)

“They say there are paths that nobody can see … (paths) between the minds of people.” (page 95)

“What causes this … are mushi that are working at our command. Kairogi (waterways) … that’s what they’re called.” (page 96)


A girl forecast the coming of the rain.

The girl: “I only came to foretell the coming of the rain. Do you think any human has the power to make it rain?” (page 143)

A mushi called Amefurashi: “ Normally they float in the sky. … But … as sunny days continue and the air begins to lose its moisture … they come close to the earth … and take the form of runaway water.” (page 169)

Ginko tells to the girl that the mushi Amefurashi is inside her: “stealing the moisture away from your body. They rise into the sky and gather the rain above you.” (page 170)

The girl: “Then I’ll find a spot on Earth … and plant some roots. … I’ll walk with the rain … and like the clouds … I’ll drift along.” (page 175)


A brother kills his own brother, but mushi …

“They’re mushi that take the corpses of animals and breaks them down until they’re the consistency of mud.

When a living thing steps into the mud, it spreads the spores around.” (page 182)

Volume 9


A child takes the body of another child, when she is old remembers of the other child and wants to go ‘home’.

“Just about dusk … especially when there’s a sunset like today’s … She says ‘going home’ … and she tries to leave the house.” (page 10)

“Something gets sucked out of the world at sunset … and something else appears. There’s a creature called Omagadoki.

The people who get sucked in by it … see the form of a shadow with non one to cast it.

And if that shadow is stepped on or somehow comes underfoot … they are bodily sucked in by the Omagadoki, and are exchanged for someone else.” (page 26)


Ginko is traveling on a ship when he hears a boy whistling: the boy is calling Torikaze to make wind and move the ship.

Torikaze means bird wind.

Ginko already knows this mushi called Torikaze, so he tells to the boy not to whistle a night.

Inadvertently the boy whistle during the night, so doing he recalls another mushi called Yobiko.

Yobiko: “They build nests by making holes in the rocks on the sea-shore. The wind blows through the holes making a whistling sound, and they gather at the sound.” (page 72)

Yobiko first causes the sinking of the ship; and after, at home, the boy is followed by Yobiko that makes holes everywhere.

Ginko intervenes and acts as the Pied Piper of Hamelin.


A child could be kidnapped, so her parents ask for help to Ginko. Ginko thinks that the child, although invisible, is living in the house.

The child, attracted by the stars sparkling in the well, has fell into it. “... crystal clear water … where an infinite number … of stars live.” (page 134)

“the source of life called the light flow … hits the well … and sparks are created.” (page 136)

The child falling in the wall has gone to the other side of the sky and can not come back.


A mushi called Uko lives in the body of a child. He has webbing on his hands.

Uko “infect the corpses of people who have drowned in the water. … they can revive the person.” (page 148)

“... the sea, the river … the rain and the clouds … are all the same?” (page 185)

The story tells about the liaison between mother and his child. An ancestral element, the water, explains the origin of life and the connections between living being.

The mother: “You’re here. I can find you everywhere.” (page 186)


This story tells about Ginko as a boy.

“The master is the personification of the ‘nature’ of things.” (page 204)

Ginko can not become the master of nature, he can just live inside the nature.

“The entire world as a whole … is your home.” (page 204): Ginko is immersed in a bed of grass.

Volume 10


Ginko had saved a baby wrapping him with a special clothes. Because of that, the baby grew up strong and incapable to control himself. The clothes is made of a special thread: only mothers can see this special thread. It shows the bond between mothers and sons.

“That thread is what we mushishi call Yoshitsu.” (page 36) Yoshitsu means fairy-stuff.

The mother inadvertently picks up Yoshitsu from the baby, but suddenly the baby looses vitality. The father of the baby prefers to separate the baby from his mother.

So Ginko has to save the boy draining Yoshitsu from him, but the medicine doesn’t work.

The last chance is the mother of the boy: only the mother can see the thread, and free the boy from Yoshitsu.


A man ate a seed that looked like a plum. But it was a mushi called Satorigi (means: understanding tree). When the man finds a Japanese cedar cut down, he walks on the tree’s roots and seems his feet turned into the wood.

Satorigi shelters inside trees, when it senses the tree is in danger, Satorigi gives off a flower and after a fruit. Inside that fruit is stored all of the tree’s memory.

“... a tree stood on this land. And spread its branches high and wide. And without change, it quietly watched over … the ever changing creatures that were born and died beneath it.” (page 97)


“Night. Suddenly you’re hit by the smell of flowers … and it brings back the thread of a memory.” (page 99)

A man is victim of a Kairo, it’s a mushi “that puts out a smell like flowers to lure in bugs … it takes the creatures, it traps and put them into a strange loop of time.” (page 131)

The man repeats infinitely his life’s story.

The story suggests the idea of life as circle, or just acceptance of the temporary (Wabi).


Ginko meets a girl who he thinks is a master of nature.

After some time Ginko meets a man: he is the girl’s brother. The man explains to Ginko: she “... had grass growing from her head from the day she was born.” (page 166)

In the mountains there are ‘fertile places’ called ‘light flow’. (page 175)

“in such places, the mountains need a ‘master’ to take care of things. … Those who have been chosen to be masters … are born with … grasses growing out of their bodies.” (page 175)

Ginko: “Now … I’d better be on my way.” (last page - ‘Curtain closes’)

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ShibumiShibumi by Trevanian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“It was ironic to realize that the destruction of the world would not be the work of Machiavelli, but of Sancho Panza.” (page 137)

Shibumi (1979) is a novel written by Trevanian (Rodney William Whitaker).

Nicholai Hel, the main character, was born in Shanghai. His mother is a deposed member of the Russian aristocracy. Nicholai’s adoptive father, Kishigawa, is a general in the Japanese Imperial Army. Kishikawa teaches to Nicholai about the concept of Shibumi.

Shibumi (noun) - Shibui (adjective): one doesn’t tire of a shibui object but constantly finds new meanings and enriched beauty.

“Shibumi has to do with great refinement underlying commonplace appearances. … Shibumi is understanding, rather than knowledge. Eloquent silence. … In philosophy, where shibumi emerges as wabi, it is spiritual tranquility that is not passive, it is being without the angst of becoming … And in the personality of a man, it is … Authority without domination?” (page 77)

Wabi-sabi represents a Japanese point of view, or aesthetic: the main principle is about the acceptance of the temporary.

When Kishikawa has to join the Japanese army in Manchuria, Nicholai becomes the pupil of a master of Go. So Nicholai learns to play Go.

“Go is to western chess what philosophy is to double-entry accounting.” (page 165)

Kishigawa is captured by the Russian, to avoid the trial Nicholai kills his adoptive father. Soon Nicholai is captured by the Americans and held in jail, where he is tortured.

During his imprisonment Nicholai retains his sanity studying the Basque language. In jail he also develops a sense of proximity: he manages to feel people near him, although in darkness.

After three years Nicholai gains freedom becoming a spy in the US Intelligence Service. Nicholai asks for the names of those who tortured him as payment for his service .

Nicholai becomes a skillful killer, and in his fifties he retires in the mountain of the Basque country, living with his mistress, Hana, in a shibui way.

Nicholai becomes an expert in caving, accompanied by his best friend Le Cagot.

“This most primitive nightmares involve falling through the dark, or wandering lost through mazes of alien chaos. And the caver - crazy being that he is - volitionally chooses to face these nightmare conditions. That is why he is more insane than the climber, because the thing he risks at every moment is his sanity.” (page 235)

Nicholai’s existence is interrupted by the arrival in his castle of Hannah, the niece of a man who saved Nicholai’s life.

Hel, Hana, and Hannah: three hs, surrounded by another h: hate. And facing hate, shibumi; or, better, they are side by side.

Although Shibumi resembles a spy story by John LeCarre`, the background and suggestions of the story expand the espionage ambit, such as fights between powerful organizations.

Trevanian tells also about ways of life (shibumi), cultural anthropological (Basque People), and Anti-Americanism sentiment (Nicholai leaves Japan, protesting against Westernization of Japan; remembering the same idea of Yukio Mishima).

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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save HumanityThe Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save Humanity by Andy Andrews

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

David Ponder is an ordinary old man who is summoned by the archangel Gabriel to lead a meeting.

“With a serious nod, Gabriel began:

- You are at a turning point, he said

- You, the human race, are balanced on a precipice, and He is not pleased. … now the Travelers are being convened with an opportunity to avoid what seems to me, the inevitable.” (page 32-3)

The most influential leaders of the past history are gathered around a table to discuss ‘the one principle that will save humanity.’

“What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway to ward successful civilization?” (page 71)

The Travelers in charge for the Answer are: Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Eric Erickson, King David, George Washington Carver, and Joshua Chamberlain.

The Final Summit is my first reading of Andy Andrews, so my opinions about this book could be incomplete.

I was disappointed since the start of the book because, although the ingredients were ‘high level’, the result is poor.

Reading the praise for The Final Summit, I was expecting a story stuffed with ideas, suggestions, and quotations from historical characters.

I was also expecting a bit of fantasy.

The style of the book suggests the idea kind of brainstorming meeting for insurances’ sellers, so motivational purposes are far from this book. The final answer ‘that will save humanity’ seems hanging over there, and so …

It is not just double-entry accounting.

I advise to reread hagiographies books, where ‘examples’ and suggestions comes from real life.

Booksneeze has provided me with an Arc of this book.

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