Book Review | Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

killing commendatore book cover.jpgAt over 680 pages, this tome may be daunting, but the story is well worth your time. More like Murakami’s earlier writings, specifically The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the WorldKilling Commendatore is a real winner. The basis of the story is a painter who has recently separated with his wife, goes to live in the mountains as caretaker for the remote residence of another famous painter. Once a diverse cast of characters is introduced, the plot takes a surreal dive into a literal pit the painter is drawn to unearth in his back yard.

Murakami’s signature writing style will have fans smiling from the beginning of this book. The novel includes ample twists and turns, and the author does a fabulous job of weaving together many themes and plot lines. Magical realism works so well as a binding agent for these various subjects. While not all long-time Murakami fans may have enjoyed his last few publications as much as the oldies, this serves as more of a return to his writing roots and is sure to entertain the critics. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Killing Commendatore, may enjoy Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun (2017).

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Book Review | Be Mindful and Stress Less: 50 Ways to Deal with Your (Crazy) Life by Gina Biegel

be mindfull stress less cover This little book is packed full of tips and tactics aimed at a YA audience for being mindful and stressing less. The book’s tips are certainly helpful and it offers an accessible introduction to mindfulness that would be applicable to readers of any age. While the chapters are very short, making the book easy to pick up or put down, as a whole it may be a bit more of an undertaking for a teen than the author intended. Lots of acronyms are included that list out processes for dealing with certain situations, but it could be hard to keep them all straight. Likely, this book could be used as a type of handbook to be referenced in various stressful situations. A helpful appendix also spells out a list of which processes may be helpful to individuals “actively working with a disability” (p.199). Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

For further reading, adults dealing with or overcoming trauma may appreciate the insights offered in To Lose the Madness : Field Notes on Trauma, Loss and Radical Authenticity by L.M. Browning (2018).

Book Review | So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam by Karin Esterhammer

so happiness to meet you cover.jpgAfter the recession hits their Los Angeles family hard, Karin, Robin and their adopted son Kai move to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Though they’ve touristed there before, the story of becoming residents in a district where they are the only non-natives is eye-opening. While Robin is able to secure a job teaching English, Karin is left to home school Kai, do freelance work and take care of their home while befriending the neighbors.

Esterhammer’s background in writing makes this book a delightful read. Feelings, humor and challenging situations are shared with great insight and tact. The memoir is a very entertaining and quick read, with frequent chapter breaks, making it easy to pick up and put down. It would be especially appealing to those who love to travel and/or experience other cultures. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway. *Fans of So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam may be interested in Songs of the Baka and Other Discoveries by Dennis James (2017). 

Book Review | If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

This is an interesting collection of 11 short stories involving Indian Americans. Recurring topics include interpersonal relationships, family business, sexual relations, and cultural perceptions, among others. Most characters seem to be in their 20’s to 40’s and dealing with issues present in everyday life. While the narrators could be from any background and experiencing their issues, the stories are injected with an Indian flavor that makes the book stand apart from other similar works.

Easily digestible, each tale has a specific focus and voice. While none of the stories is particularly uplifting, each one does hold the reader’s interest and create a curiosity for what is to come. Clearly, many of Patel’s cultural insights come from personal experience, which he is able to share in a way that makes the characters relatable. This book is recommended for fans of ethnic fiction, realistic short stories, or those looking for a quick read while in transit. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating. *Fans of If you See me, Don’t Say Hi, may enjoy A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma (2017).

Book Review | The Story of a Marriage by Geir Gulliksen

story of a marraige cover.jpgOriginally published in Norway as Historie om et ektenskap, The Story of a Marriage introduces married couple Jon and Timmy, and focuses on the effect of Timmy’s extramarital relation with Gunnar. As neighbors, Timmy and Gunnar are able to frequently participate in physical activities like running and skiing together. At first Timmy denies any romantic interest in Gunnar, but as they spend increasingly more time together, she is unable to deny that her feelings have changed. Jon, as a stay at home dad and author, is left with too much time to reflect on their relationship and identify fears he has about their crumbling romantic future.

Gulliksen has created a searing portrait of an unbalanced marriage. As he tells the story from the husband’s perspective, it is made clear that this in not an entirely reliable narrative point of view. The imbalance in the couple’s thoughts and feelings is palpable and, as their relationship devolves, so is the emotional pain. Readers with a failed love story of their own should be able to relate to the text on multiple levels. (It does involve sex, so if that’s a trigger, maybe avoid.) Overall, well written book. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating. *Fans of The Story of a Marriage, may enjoy Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016) or The Only Story by Julian Barnes (2018).

Book Review | Damselfly by Chandra Prasad

damselfly cover.jpgReminiscent of Lord of the Flies, Prasad’s latest YA novel details the events of teens surviving a plane crash on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean. The high school fencing teams from an elite East Coast boarding school were in route to a competition in Japan when their private jet went down. As they learn to utilize the island’s resources to survive, they are simultaneously threatened by discord among themselves and an unknown enemy who wants them gone on threat of death.

Damselfly is an easy text to jump into. The story proceeds at a good clip, focusing mainly on the plot. While the cast of characters is not very likable, they aren’t off-putting enough to discourage the reader. Prasad includes social issues such as racism, eating disorders, mental health and environmentalism, perhaps making this text more relevant today than Golding’s classic. It could serve as a quick read for an adult seeking adventure, or be used in a teen book group to generate discussion. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

Book Review | The Only Story by Julian Barnes

the only story cover.jpgAt home on summer leave from university, Paul joins the tennis club where he is paired with Susan for a mixed doubles tournament. Despite her being married and his mother’s age, the two hit it off and before long are involved in an affair. Recounted by Paul, the memories provided are pieces of their love story, which spans more than a few years. Of course, as many love relations do, this one has its thorns.

The Only Story is a great read. Paul’s tone is intimate and direct, drawing the reader in from the first page. The story flows quickly, delving into his relationship with Susan. Barnes’s choice to use the second person narrative style works well and serves to engage the reader mentally. Readers with a failed love story of their own should be able to relate to the text on multiple levels. This piece will be especially of interest to those whose partners have had addiction issues. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of The Only Story, may enjoy Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016).