Book Review: The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw — An Important Candle Illuminating Goodness in Our Dark World

Hi everybody! Today is the last day of November, so I found it timely to share my review of The LAST Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw. She is such a sweet and amazing person, and it is my honor to be reviewing her debut MG historical fiction novel. It is an amazing work of fiction, and one that everyone–not just children–need to read. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Last Cherry Blossom

Following the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this is a new, very personal story to join Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden fom its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

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5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free signed finished copy of this book from the author for review consideration. This will not affect my review in any way.

The Last Cherry Blossom means a lot to me as an American and as a Filipino. As I’ve learned more and more about World War II as an American student, it is very easy to villainize people in the Axis powers and in the Soviet Union. Many times, it’s true and justified—the Nazis and fascists of Germany and Italy executed millions of people they deemed “inferior” while the communists of Russia killed and deported many more in their atheistic, paranoia-filled, and anti-intellectual society. As the Japanese invaded countries throughout the Pacific, including my birth country the Philippines, they committed many heinous crimes from raping thousands of “comfort women” forced into sexual submission to sending Koreans to working in hard-labor mines. The Japanese brought about the infamous Bataan Death March that went through the province me and my dad’s side of my family is from. This review is in no way condoning what they did to millions of people around the Pacific, and I condemn their actions during the Great War (from the Bombing at Pearl Harbor to the Balloon Bombs that have caused many American casualties).

However, The Last Cherry Blossom–based on the true story of the author’s mother who endured through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath as a child–is a glimpse into the life of a young Japanese girl during World War II, one that shows that the lives of the Japanese weren’t that much different than the lives of the Americans. It was very surprising to see the Western (even American) influences in their culture, from business attire to hairstyles to even the popularity of jazz music. (I couldn’t believe it myself! Japan was more Western than we would have thought.) The enemy is truly not as different from us than we think. That’s one reason that makes this novel one that needs to be read to all children and taught to all students. This is a story that needs to be told. Artificially, it may seem like the ordinary life of a girl going through some family troubles during World War II, but it’s not just that. It’s a book filled with Japanese culture and history, one that will give readers a better understanding of the world around them and the world before them. It truly has enlightened me and changed my view on Japanese life in World War II. Certainly, I have learned a great deal from The Last Cherry Blossom, and it has made me view World War II in a different light. It has made me wonder things like, did citizens know the atrocities their troops committed in foreign lands? Did they know what the Germans and the Italians were doing? What was their propaganda like that villainized America? (I will say that a lot of what we did during World War II was not justifiable, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans, the racist propaganda, and the Korematsu decision.)

The most effective thing about this novel is how the story structures around the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. As readers, we know the inevitable is going to happen, but the author leads us to love the characters more and more—leading us to dread that tragic day of August 6th, 1945, with every passing chapter. With every triumph and failure that Yuriko endured, I found my heart slowly and slowly not being able to handle my fearful anticipation. I knew her city was going to get hit with the bomb, and that added another layer of suspense and scariness. Surprisingly, the moment the atomic bomb hits still was very unexpected. It was heartbreaking. It was horrifying. It was perfectly executed. It truly depicted how one moment life was normal and the next mass destruction ensued, and it shocks you back into the reality that your life could end at any moment. As an American student, you are not really taught about the effects of the atomic bombs—but being able to witness it as if it were first-hand was horrifying yet enlightening. It is a powerful testimony to the urgent need for every nation in the world to abolish nuclear weapons. If Fat Man and Little Boy were that bad, imagine the destruction wrought about by current nuclear arsenals around the world comprising of nuclear missiles and hydrogen bombs. We need to know how horrible this kind of destruction is because it might happen to us, and by reading a book like The Cherry Blossom, we can become convinced why we must strive for world peace.

The Last Cherry Blossom is truly one of the most beautiful, most chilling, most real books I’ve read this year. I would even go as far as to consider it one of the best written novels I have encountered. (For reference, its writing rivals that of Salt to the Sea, and that was a beautiful book.) This book is very important and very relevant in today’s society, a society where nuclear annihilation remains a looming threat in our near future. Certainly, Burkinshaw’s debut novel is a candle illuminating good into the world. I believe it should become a classic that will withstand the test of time.


About the AuthorKathleen Burkinshaw

Kathleen Burkinshaw is a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college, and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja.  Kathleen enjoyed a 10+ year career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has presented her mother’s experience in Hiroshima to middle and high schools, as well as at education conferences for the past 8 years. She has carried her mother’s story in her heart and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything.

Website | Creating through the Pain (Blog) | Twitter | Facebook


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“In our lives we must experience both beginnings as well as endings. It is like the season changing after the last cherry blossom falls.” — Kathleen Burkinshaw

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Tempests and Slaughter Blog Tour: Review — How It Reinforces My Love of Fantasy!

Hi guys! I am super excited to be a part of the Blog Tour for Tamora Pierce’s newest book Tempests and Slaughter, which released just a few days ago! You do NOT want to miss Tamora’s newest novel, which includes not only an action-packed story you don’t want to leave but also an exclusive poster you can find only in the first printed edition. The poster is beautiful and features a quote by the author, which you can find out what it is on my Bookstagram account. Go check it out!

TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER (1)


About The Book:Tempests and Slaughter

Title: TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER

Author: Tamora Pierce

Pub. Date: February 6, 2018

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Pages: 480

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonAudibleB&NiBooksTBD

Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

Act fast! The first printing of the hardcover includes a collector’s edition poster!


5 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to Rockstar Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a finished hardcover in exchange for a review for the blog tour! This will not affect my review in any way.

When I first realized how thick this book is–a whopping 455 pages–I first felt overwhelmed. Considering how I had only a week to finish this book (I received it two weeks ago, but I write blog posts on the weekends), I did not know whether I was going to finish it or not. However, once I started Tempests and Slaughter, I became hooked. The further I went into the novel, the more attached I became with the characters and the storyline. It’s as if the book became a part of me, for I carried it with me everywhere and I jumped into the world of Carthak when life became tough. I felt like I grew as a person alongside Arram, Varice, and Orzone. As I write this review, I’m realizing how much I miss the Academy and everyone from the Masters to the Mages to the Gladiators.

Continue reading “Tempests and Slaughter Blog Tour: Review — How It Reinforces My Love of Fantasy!”

My September Reading Re-Cap!

 

Hi guys! I’ve been less active lately last month because school has been super busy, and I mean, super busy. This past week was mid-terms week, which definitely was full of cramming pages and pages (I mean eight 30-page chapters for AP US History) of information from colonial, revolutionary, and republican American history to genetics, organic molecules, and cellular respiration and photosynthesis in AP Biology. I’ve also had an audition, a concert, a festival, and a field trip lined up these past few weeks. Yeah, I’ve been really busy, which is why I haven’t blogged as much in September. BUT, I have read quite a few books last months so I have some great reviews and posts out soon!

September Re-Cap


5 Stars

Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski

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4 Stars

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

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The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis

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The Star Wars Rings by Tomas Pueyo Brochard

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In Case You Missed This Month’s Posts

September 1st – Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour: Top Ten Quotes from Stalking Jack the Ripper

September 3rd – My August Reading Re-Cap!

September 4th – Middle Grade Author Nancy J. Cavanaugh Talks About the Process of Writing Her Latest Book – Elsie Mae Has Something to Say

September 11th – Exclusive Interview with Debut Sci-Fi Author Scott Reintgen, Author of Nyxia

September 16th – The Lunar Chronicles (Books #1-#3) by Marissa Meyer – Book Review! (Cayli)

September 18th – ARC Review: This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis

September 25th – E-ARC Review: Submerge by Tobie Easton


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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My August Reading Re-Cap!

Hi guys! So my first month of school has just gone by! Whoo, what a ride! Currently, I’m on a 5-day break for Labor Day, so as I write this, I’m trying to get some needed rest and relaxation (and productivity). Junior year is definitely becoming really stressful right now, so I’m going to be reading and blogging less. Actually, even though the blog stats have decreased a bit lately, the two-posts-a-week schedule works so great for me so I’m not too stressed to make so many posts a month. Because I’m reading less, there will be less books on my reading re-cap, but I am going to include my posts from throughout the month in case you missed it! Hope you enjoy!

August Recap


5 Stars

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

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Submerge by Tobie Easton

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4 Stars

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me by Carrie Ann DiRisio

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This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis

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Goodreads Continue reading “My August Reading Re-Cap!”

Brooding YA Hero Challenge: All About Music! – ARC Review: Starswept by Mary Fan

Hi guys! This week’s Brooding YA Hero Challenge is “All About Music,” and the best book to write about is one that I loved so much and is dear to my heart: Starswept by Mary Fan! This was the first ever ARC I was sent from an author/publisher for review, and I’m so happy to be able to review it and feature it for the Brooding YA Hero Challenge of the Week!


About the Booka0258-starswept-8002bcover2breveal2band2bpromotional

Some melodies reach across the stars.

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Starswept will be released on August 29th from Snowy Wings Publishing!

Goodreads


A 5 Star

Disclaimer: I received a signed ARC in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review at all.

Overall Thoughts: This is the first book in a while that will receive a 5 stars from me! I am truly “swept” away by Fan’s debut book. I literally could not put it down because it was so stunning! It definitely exceeded my expectations, and this is a series that I want to continue so much! There is literally nothing wrong with this book; I can’t think of anything against it. Plus, I felt such a very close personal connection because it revolved a lot around music, and music makes up a very influential part of my life. Incorporating music and the music school inside the book is ingenious! I just want to give the book a very big hug because the main characters share the same love of music and the arts as I do. I just didn’t want it to end!

Continue reading “Brooding YA Hero Challenge: All About Music! – ARC Review: Starswept by Mary Fan”

My June Reading Re-Cap! (My First Re-Cap!)

Hi guys! June has been a wonderful month full of reading, and I managed to get 14 books! I’m so surprised that I read this much! It’s a new record! Now, I’m going to try to do a new bit on the blog, which are re-caps (or wrap-ups as some people call them). I just like the name “Reading Re-Cap” so that’s what I’m calling them. I’m going to organize each of the books I read over the past month by star ratings along with a synopsis and a mini-paragraph of my feelings! Hope you enjoy my first ever re-cap!

Note: The lowest rating I’ll give to a book I finished is a 2-star. That just means that it’s “decent” enough for me to survive the entire thing. I only reserve 1-stars for DNF’s that I just do not like and recommend at all. 5-stars are new favorites, and 4-stars are really enjoyable books. 3-stars are pretty average or neutral.

NEWS UPDATE: I’m going to be moving over to posting two times a week on Mondays and Fridays, which will switch between reviews, interviews, guest posts, and discussions. I’m planning on doing a monthly reading re-cap the first Sunday of the month, with a monthly discussion sometime during the month. Cayli and Kelsey will post whenever they can, and please look out for their posts, too!

Reading Recap June


5 Stars

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Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait, by Fr. Leo Maasburg (Abridged)

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Starswept by Mary Fan

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The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop


Continue reading “My June Reading Re-Cap! (My First Re-Cap!)”