The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
I loved this book and I knew I would. It is set in pre-, mid-, and post-WWII Japan which gives an insight into the lives of the people at that time. You experience with them the pride in their country, the lives lost to war, the fear and hunger as it became clear Japan was fighting a losing battle, the terrible attacks on the people at the height of the war, and the rebuilding after their surrender. Amidst all of this is interwoven the stories of two orphaned brothers, raised by their grandparents, as they become adults and follow their dreams.
There are references to their gods and ancestors in the afterlife, but what can you expect from those who don't know the Lord? It was true to the likely lives and experiences of that culture at that time. There is also a gay man who thinks back (in a vague way) to his lifestyle choice in the past but doesn't live that way in the story. He has a chance to marry a widowed woman whom he loves and to be father to her daughter, but passes because deep inside he feels he is gay.
Overall, this is a book I would recommend anyone read.
Mr. Darcy's Daughters
I wasn't sure I was in the mood for a nineteenth-century-set English novel when I first picked this one up, but I've vowed to work my way down the stack of books in my room and it was next in line. As I began reading I found it refreshing to immerse myself back in Elizabeth Bennett's and Mr. Darcy's world, even though they were in Constantinople and never seen in the book. The jolt came about a third through the book when the main heroine Camilla is found to be engaged to a "sodomite". Yup, another gay guy. This time in nineteenth century England. His character is taken off to Italy in shame when it becomes known in social circles, along with his hunky Italian manservant.
Aside from that, I'd give the book 2/5 stars. The writing is decent, the story a little rambling, and the oldest sister exasperating. I felt that the author tried a little too hard to model her characters after the Bennett sisters. Clearly, not everyone agreed- or cared- as Ms Aston was given free reign to write yet more sequels. If you're looking for something to equal Pride and Prejudice, don't waste your time. If you like light, no-brainer reading from Old England, this is your book.
From a Christian perspective, I find it alarming that this book has sold so many books and is still readily available as a best seller. It is about spirituality, not religion, and eagerly mixes Christianity, Islam, and New Age beliefs. As for the writing, it isn't great. The only reason this book is popular in the least is that it isn't rigid in it's interpretation of spirituality, and the lost will be drawn to a wide open road to redemption. The underlying message of the fable is to follow your dreams, which a Christian can make a Godly case for (try reading Cure For the Common Life by Max Lucado). Trust me here, don't waste your time on this book.