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 | Malafemmena by Louisa Ermelino

malafemmena

Malafemmena is a collection of Ermelino’s short stories, some previously published, focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations. The sixteen pieces are of varying lengths and take place at different times, on different continents, over the past few decades. From women crossing borders abroad, to drug fueled relaxeés on permanent holiday, to the delusional and victimized, Ermelino has incorporated tales for all depraved readers to relate to.

Ermelino’s distinctive writing style is both easy to read and picturesque. The reader will be able to envision two naked women described sharing a bed in a rented room in India and other scenes. Tastefully written, some of these stories are particularly thought provoking. Though sex, drugs and violence are incorporated into the stories, none of them are overdone. Some of the character’s delusions are quite impressive, and some of the stories are much better than others. This book is a quick read, great for commute or travel. Check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | Mexico : stories by Josh Barkan

mexico stories josh barkan.jpgMexico is a collection of twelve short stories by Josh Barkan. The book’s characters come from various backgrounds and the stories are not connected other than that they all take place in Mexico. Protagonists include US expats and Mexicans, ranging in age from children to older adults. Themes dealt with include religion, interpersonal relations, gang violence, power struggle, cancer and corruption, among others. While some characters are coming of age, others are changing their ways after a life’s work.

This book is well-written and started out strong, but petered out a little as it continued. That said, each story is thought provoking and works well on its own. The themes and perspectives offered were interesting, but something to pull the reader in and keep his attention was lacking. Because of the format, some characters were not as well developed and harder to relate to. Barkan has incorporated violence tastefully into these stories, which range in length and make the book easy to pick up or put down. This book would appeal to those interested in experiencing a slice of life in another culture from various points of view. Released in January 2017, you should be able to check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance uncorrected proof 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 | The Mermaid Girl by Erika Swyler

IMG_6921.JPGThe Mermaid Girl is a short story about a lady who was the mermaid in the tank at the circus. She grew up traveling from town to town until a man fell in love with that underwater girl. She suffers from terrible headaches after leaving the circus and starting a life on the east coast with her partner and two young children.

This book was much shorter than I had expected, just 36 pages. For a short story, it was decent. Mermaid Paulina is fairly well developed, however the other characters are flat. While the writing style is clear, the text breaks often and shifts time frames without much notice, making it seem disjointed. Perhaps this story will be of much more interest to readers of Swyler’s 2015 novel The Book of Speculation, as this is the prequel. While it’s unlikely that you will be able to find this book at your local library, you can buy a copy here for 99 cents.

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

Book Review | How to Ruin Everything: Essays by George Watsky

how to ruin everything cover watskyI was late in hearing about this release from one of my favorite Hip-Hop artists. How to Ruin Everything is a collection of 13 essays by Watsky. These essays are not reminiscent of traditional essays and the book reads more like a collection of true short stories about events in Watsky’s life. The stories are all around 20 pages and fairly easy to digest. The topics range from Watsky’s childhood education, to his travels in Spain and India, through epileptic episodes and to his poetry and hip-hop tours in the US. Some essays are more interesting and memorable than others, but all are well written.

Due to the varied topics of the essays, readers should be able to find something of interest in this book. Watsky fans will enjoy personal details the author shares during the stories. This said, the book took me longer than expected to get through. I found myself wanting to take a nap during a few of the pieces. Though I was glad to finally finish it, I’d give it a solid 3/5 stars and recommend it as a way to pass time during public transit. Check it out from a library near you! It is dedicated to librarians =] A special thanks to Goodreads Giveaways for bringing this book to my attention, even though I wasn’t fortunate enough to win a copy.

Book Review | The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

book cover the strange library by haruki murakami english edMurakami followers are psyched about this month’s English release of illustrated novella The Strange Library. Previously released in Japan in 2005 as Fushigi na toshokan, the work was a revised edition of 1982 story Toshokan kitan. At just about 100 pages, this book is really a bedtime story for adults. The story follows a student to the public library. He’s looking for some books about tax collection in the Ottoman Empire when the librarian refers him to a research room that he hasn’t previously heard of. Upon entering the room, he’s greeted by an eerie old man who fetches the books he’s after, but then imprisons him deep in the bowels of the library.

Long time Murakami fans will be delighted with the return of the sheepman from the “Trilogy of the Rat”: Pinball, 1973, A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance. More recent fans will appreciate stylistic similarities and textual magical realism or surrealism. This book will get you laughing. Though this story could be thought of for children, it may also make them afraid of the library or older librarians – beware. Check to see if this book is available at a library near you. After you’ve finished reading it, hop over to the New Yorker’s page to read Murakami’s short story Scheherazade that they published in October.