Geisha, A Life, by Mineko Iwasaki

No woman in the three-hundred-year history of the karyukai has ever come forward in public to tell her story -- until now.” 

Geisha, a LifeTitle: Geisha, A Life
Author: Mineko Iwasaki
Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Release Date: September 1, 2003
Format: Hardback

Source: Goodreads
Rating: 3 Stars

"Many say I was the best geisha of my generation," writes Mineko Iwasaki. "And yet, it was a life that I found too constricting to continue. And one that I ultimately had to leave." Trained to become a geisha from the age of five, Iwasaki would live among the other "women of art" in Kyoto's Gion Kobu district and practice the ancient customs of Japanese entertainment. She was loved by kings, princes, military heroes, and wealthy statesmen alike. But even though she became one of the most prized geisha in Japan's history, Iwasaki wanted more: her own life. And by the time she retired at age twenty-nine, Iwasaki was finally on her way toward a new beginning.

Geisha, a Life is her story -- at times heartbreaking, always awe-inspiring, and completely true.

Whenever I tire of reading about straight, white female protagonists in pointless love triangles with supernatural douchewaffles, I turn to Historical literature. After having read, and somewhat enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha, I heard about how Mineko Iwasaki, the main source of inspiration for the novel, was upset with how Golden had portrayed life as a geisha, and had endeavored to write a memoir on her own experiences. I have to say, I can definitely see major differences between the two pieces of literature.

I should probably mention up front that Geisha, A Life reads more like an autobiography than a memoir. The writing is incredibly dry and lacks the emotion truly needed in order for me to successfully connect with the characters. The intricate world Iwasaki shows us is fascinating, and while my interest kept me reading on, I couldn't bring myself to really care about the people she describes, herself included.

That said, I could certainly see some similarities between this biography and Arthur Golden's novel -- if you asked me to grasp for straws... Memoirs of a Geisha is supposedly based on this woman's life. Very, very loosely, in my opinion. Most of the events in Golden's book seem to be highly embellished and what I like to dub "Hollywoodized" for Western consumption. Realistically, aside from a few major details, the two books have little in common.

One aspect I enjoyed was learning the intricacies of everyday life as a geisha in Gion Kobu. While some might find the lengthy descriptions of dance, tea ceremonies, and proper etiquette to be tedious, the part of me that loves immersing myself in other countries' cultures found it absolutely intriguing.

I also appreciated the time Iwasaki took to dispel the "high-paid prostitute" myth surrounding the geisha's work. Of course, it was not uncommon for a woman to engage in physical relationships with some of the clients they entertained, but only after years of continued patronage and loyalty from those men. It was seen as a sort of complicated dance between the two parties, and only ever if the woman was of age and willing to submit to a mutual relationship. Very much unlike the conditions sex workers would have faced in the "red light" district at that time.

One downside, however, was the massive amounts of unexplained information constantly being thrown at us. Because the text is originally written in Japanese, some words cannot be translated to English, given that they have no equivalent substitute. Therefore, I spent quite a bit of time looking up these words online and it made the flow of the book a bit too choppy for my tastes.

Overall, I found Geisha, A Life to be, if not emotionally fulfilling, than at least an intellectually poignant read. I truly feel like I have learned at least a little more about an incredibly important part of Japan's history, and I would strongly recommend this memoir to those who enjoy a bit of a culture shock every now and then. 

Blogger/Wordpress Template Giveaway

I would love to design the layout of my blog, but alas, I am not as savvy with HTML or CSS as I would like to be. I'm sure I'm not the only one facing this dilemma, so as a little treat, I'm giving away any custom Blogger/Wordpress Template of your choosing, as long as it is under $30 (USA dollars). 

 Personally, my favorite site to find amazing templates for great prices is Etsy. For example, this is the one I use for Gemini Perspective.

 blogger blog template - the hannah template

  • The template can be from any site on the web, as long as I deem it safe to use my credit card information. No sketchy websites please!
  • The deadline is October 5th, 2013. After that, entries will not be counted. 
  • Your blog must be centered almost exclusively on books. I would say 80% book reviews/discussions/etc, to be fair.
  • This giveaway is international. Obviously, since the entire process will be done electronically, you can live anywhere in the world and still participate!
  • You must be 18 years or older (or the legal age of adulthood, depending on your country), or have a parent's permission to enter. 
  • Picking up entries for something you have not done will count as an automatic disqualification. Likewise, you may only participate using one account and one name. (This happened on my last giveaway! I will check!) 
  • I will email the winner and post a notice on this blog the day the giveaway ends. If you win, you have until October 8th to respond with the template of your choice. If given no response, I will choose another winner. 
  • If you are chosen as the winner, I will work out the details concerning your template customizations (header, information, etc) before I place the purchase. Once I receive the template, I will then email the code and instructions to the winner.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stacking the Shelves #09

Stacking The Shelves, hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Ink (Paper Gods, #1) Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2) Girl in Translation 
 Thirteen Reasons WhyMadame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution 
I purchased these from, which is an extension of Ebay where you can buy used books for almost nothing. If you haven't heard of it, I highly recommend buying books from there, because it's basically one of the best things ever. 

Exit the Actress Burn for Burn (Burn for Burn, #1) 
Bought at Barnes and Noble, because I physically cannot go into a bookstore and not spend money, apparently.

What's on your shelves this week? :)

Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you've ever heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn't win.” 

Tiger LilyTitle: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: Young Adult, Fairytale Retelling

Publisher: Harper Collin's Children's Books 

Release Date: July 3rd, 2012
Format: Kindle

Source: Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

What you see is certainly not what you get with this unique twist on the classic fairytale, Peter Pan. Told from the perspective of the girl with the raven feathers in her hair, Tiger Lily is the gritty, raw, real side of Neverland. This book tells a story of first loves and painful heartbreak, and shows there is so much more to fear than growing old and dying.

I truly sympathized with Tiger Lily's character. Believed to be cursed, she is cast out by her fellow tribesmen; always on the outskirts and never fully trusted, even by her friends. Quiet and strangely intense, she is feared by all who surround her. Only Tinkerbell, her always vigilant companion, understands her longing to be accepted. Therefore, it only makes sense that she would fall for the boy lurking just beyond the shadows, equally as lonely as she.

The relationship between Tinkerbell and Tiger Lily really changed my opinion of the jealous, catty pixie we are shown in the Disney film. Despite being unable to speak to one another, their relationship still spoke volumes to me. Tinkerbell was so fiercely loyal and protective of her self-appointed charge; it gives you an entirely new perspective as to why she was so hateful towards Wendy in the original fairytale.

This is not the Peter Pan in your bedtime stories. This Peter is broken, and wild, and far from innocent. And you just can't help but fall a little bit in love with him, the very same way Tiger Lily did. I enjoyed watching their friendship unfold, as unlikely as it was, into bittersweet romance and eventually, heartbreak. These two are a perfect example of how the best of intentions can go horribly, horribly wrong.

Anderson keeps our attention with unique twists and compelling explanations for some of this classic's most iconic characters. Captain Hook isn't so much a villain as a sad, tired old man who was unable to slow time. Angry at the world, he turns his rage to the only outlet he knows: Peter Pan. Meanwhile, Smee isn't the bumbling, yet lovable first mate we know him to be. Each character was complex and entirely human in ways that truly astounded me.

A lot of what I get from Tiger Lily is the idea that there is a definite grey area when it comes to "good" and "bad". Everyone is a set of circumstances. The point is that anyone is capable of anything, but we so badly want to believe that the bad things in our life aren't our fault and the good things are, and we want to believe that it’s the other way around when it comes to other people.

The story is told from the POV of Tinkerbell, which I found to be interesting, if not entirely successful. While this style of writing gives us a wider scope into the world of Neverland, I feel like we lose so much more of Tiger Lily's thoughts and feelings than if the story had been told from her perspective.

Honestly, this was not what I expected to read when I picked up Tiger Lily, but I'm not disappointed. Not in the least. Jodi Lynn Anderson has managed to take one of my favorite fairytales and flip it on its head, and the story that she has created still has me reeling, even to this day.

Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters

Each week, The Broke and Bookish host a Top Ten Tuesday based on a certain bookish topic. Other bloggers are able to participate and post their own lists, and if you are interesting in learning more, click here.

This week’s topic is Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters

1. Magnus Bane from the Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
Not only is he an amazing secondary character, but Magnus might just be one of my favorite literary characters of all time. I'm super excited that Clare gave him his own little spin-off, and it also doesn't hurt that he was portrayed by Godfrey Gao in the movie, either! (Seriously, go see it if you haven't already. He walks around pants-less. It's great.)

2. Brimstone from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I feel like there are so many sides to this character that we didn't quite get to see in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I haven't read Days of Blood & Starlight, but I'm hoping we see more motive behind Brimstone's actions in the books to come. 

3. Iko from Cinder by Marissa Meyer
I think we can all agree that Cinder's spunky robot sidekick truly makes reading this book that much more enjoyable. I mean, those one-liners! 

4. Kazuo Kiriyama from Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
One word: sociopath. And absolutely, positively terrifying. Kazuo is definitely not someone I would want to go toe-to-toe with in the Battle Royale arena.

5. Rue from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Oh Rue... what can I say that everyone else hasn't already said? 

6. Teeth from Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
I didn't know I could like a bratty, magical, gay fishboy as much as I did, but Hannah Moskowitz apparently made it possible.

7. Tik Tok from Tiger Lily by Jodi Anderson
Tik Tok lived the way he pleased, dressed the way he wanted, and embraced Tiger Lily's differences, even when he disagreed with her choices. And I love him for that.

6. Everyone in the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Literally every character had a purpose, whether we were supposed to like them or not, and I applaud Rowling for the ability to write such a vastly diverse cast of characters.

Who are your most memorable secondary characters? Are they similar to mine?