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 | The Slave by Anand Dílvar

slave coverOriginally published in Spanish as El Esclavo, this English translation is set for publication in January 2018. The Slave, our narrator, finds himself in a coma after an accident. Trapped within his mind, unable to move or blink after a debilitating accident, he endures a range of emotions, eventually discovering a guide within himself. Though the plot may sound similar to Johnny Got His Gun, it is quite a different tale.

This book is on the unobtrusive end of self-help books. The idea is that through reading the book, you’ll join the narrator in his discoveries that help to “free” him from the guilt, blame, anger and other negative emotions experienced. It provides a way of coping with or reacting to stimuli in a more focused and proactive manner. The book is not clearly labeled fiction or non-fiction. It works as a novella in that it shares an experience with the reader in a somewhat engaging way. I could see how some people might benefit from ideas shared within, but to me it was just a quick read with nothing very profound or enlightening.

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 in the giveaway.

Book Review | Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

men without women.jpegIt’s always exciting when your favorite author comes out with a new book. Last month, Murakami’s newest collection of short stories, Men without Women, was released in the US. With seven stories included, this book was a quick read. Versions of some stories had previously been published by The New Yorker or Freeman’s. As the title suggests, these tales share a similar thread: men without women. The men are affected differently by their lack of women in each story, and Murakami uses the circumstances to share interesting insights about love, relationships and matters of the heart.

Though certainly not a happy, feel good book, it was an enjoyable read. Murakami’s signature style is evident and comforting, like an old friend. The stories jump right in and hold the reader’s attention. The characters are anonymous enough to be relatable for many readers, yet developed and well-rounded. Manageable section lengths make the book easy to pick up and put down. This book most reminded me of Murakami’s previous work South of the Border, West of the Sun. It is more of a return to the quality of the author’s earlier works than some more recent publications may have been. Highly recommended for long time Murakami fans, those who enjoy a short story, and those looking for insights into matters of the heart. It’s new now and there are likely to be several holds, but check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Men without Women, you may be interested in This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012).

Book Review | Brussels Noir edited by Michel Dufranne

What a fun, quick read this book turned out to be!

Brussels Noir is comprised of 13 short stories divided into three categories. Stories range in length from about 15-30 pages each with varying themes and styles. While reading them, I found myself laughing and crying as the authors really have done a great job here.

As for the noir title, I’d say it’s best not to go in with too many expectations. More than typically noir, I found the stories to simply focus on some of the darker aspects of life. The surreal section of stories was especially impressive and would certainly appeal to fans of magical realism.

I’d definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy short stories with a slightly macabre leaning, fans of Haruki Murakami and readers looking for a travel-themed read. Check it out from your local library.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the authors/editor/publisher for participating.

Book Review | The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

nakamura gun.jpegTranslated from the Japanese, The Gun is a noir story following college student Toro. On a rainy night Toro discovers the scene of a suicide in his neighborhood while heading home. After short consideration, he decides to take off with the gun and not report the incident. The gun becomes his focus, a new companion whose affection he wishes to earn. This attention grows into an obsession as Toro convinces himself that he must use the gun as it was meant to be used.

Nakamura’s writing style in this text is very distinctive. He focuses on the plot above the development of characters, of which there are only a handful. The noir writing is concise and without much feeling, as are the events and characters. The book is a quick read, very easy to follow, with only a few repetitive instances. It would appeal to crime fiction, noir or Japanese literature fans. Ultimately, there seems to be a message the author wishes to convey with The Gun. Check it out from a library near you.

This text was originally published in Japan in 2003, but not translated into English until 2015 by Allison Markin Powell. It was the winner of the Shinchō Prize for debut fiction in Japan. 

Book Review | The Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz

mountains of parnassus.jpegPublished in Polish in 2012, The Mountains of Parnassus was completed by Nobel Prize winner Milosz in the early 1970’s. Though the novel is classified as science fiction, it is dystopian fiction and currently quite applicable. The book is broken into seven sections and introduces the reader to four distinct characters: an astronaut, a cardinal, an exiled man and a struggling man. Each character has a very different story, which allows for wider reader appeal.

The quality of the writing in this book is excellent. Milosz has set some feelings in words in a very touching way. Some of the characters were easier to relate to than others, and their stories combined well to form the novel. It is a quick read, more of a novella that can be read in a few hours. The text is thought provoking and considering when it was originally written, brings to mind the foresight seen in the writing of Ira Levin. This English translation is expected to be published on January 10, 2017.

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

Book Review | The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi

book cover the storm by Akiko Miyakoshi

The Storm is about a school age boy excited for a weekend trip to the beach. When a storm threatens to ruin the family’s plans, he dreams up a solution.

I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway. It is the new (April 2016) English language translation of the Japanese story published by the author in 2009. I was impressed with the hardcover’s physical quality when it arrived. The story itself was just alright. As other readers have mentioned, the drawings are of more interest than the plot. While the story could maintain the interest of a small child, it’s not interesting enough for an adult to really want to reread it. Though there isn’t much text, it wouldn’t be a great beginner book for learning to read because of some difficult words. Although not aimed at older children, they may possibly gain inspiration from the many detailed drawings. Check out this new release from a library near you!