Book Review | The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya

More than surreal, this collection of almost otherworldly short stories are sure to open your eyes wide with the unexpected. I offer a one sentence introduction for each of the 11 tales.

The Lonesome Bodybuilder: A woman working at a department store decides to pursue bodybuilding.

Fitting Room: A retail clerk goes to excessive lengths attempting to find the perfect garment for an unusual customer.

Typhoon: A youth at a train station takes cookies from a stranger who doles out strange predictions about umbrella-wielders in a typhoon.

I Called You by Name: A woman in a business meeting is completely unable to pay attention when she perceives a bulge she thinks may be moving behind a curtain in the meeting room.

An Exotic Marriage: A woman and her husband begin to resemble each other as their marriage progresses and they lose themselves.

Paprika Jiro: A market is repeatedly terrorized by a strange tribe of invaders who may or may not be real.

How to Burden the Girl: The girl next door cries tears of blood and is attacked by a rival gang members, some of whom are killed and buried in the forest behind the house.

The Women: Women challenge their partners to duels and take them to the riverbanks to fight it out.

Q&A: An advice columnist shares truths during a final interview prior to her retirement.

The Dogs: A woman living in solitude on a mountain befriends a pack of wild dogs who encompass her as she sleeps standing up.

The Straw Husband: After taking his wife running, a man made of straw berates her for her careless attitude about his fancy new car.

While some have compared this Motoya collection to writings of Haruki Murakami, I’d have to call the connection slim. Though a few of the stories do bring thoughts of Murakami, for the most part this collection is much farther out there. Though a few tales may leave the reader bewildered, some do provide some food for thought. The book is a quick read and would work well for entertainment while commuting. Check it out from a library near you!

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Book Review | To Lose the Madness : Field Notes on Trauma, Loss and Radical Authenticity by L.M. Browning

to lose the madness cover.jpgIncorporating beautiful photographs from her travels to the Southwest, Browning’s mini-memoir focuses on her experience with post traumatic stress disorder. To Lose the Madness reveals events that led up to Browning’s breaking point and discusses ways she tried to work through her trauma, ultimately explaining what it all meant to her. Without asking for sympathy, this account lays undergone hardships bare for the reader in a manner the author terms “radical authenticity”.

More of an essay, this memoir reveals a very personal struggle. It conveys the idea that not all trauma can be worked through or simply left behind. Browning stresses the importance of being able to carry one’s trauma with grace. Readers who have experienced similar losses or attempted to overcome their own mental health issues will certainly be able to relate to many of the passages in this text. It is a well-written, thought-provoking, quick read. 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.

The Polygamist’s Daughter : a memoir by Anna LeBaron

lebaron daughter cover.jpgBased on her experiences as one of more than 50 of Ervil LeBaron’s children, The Polygamist’s Daughter relays Anna’s life story from it’s beginning growing up as a cult member to her exit from the cult as an adult. The book recounts many of Anna’s specific memories about activities that she was involved in as a youth, as well as her emotional and spiritual journey into adulthood. The first part of the text focuses on her difficult time living with a type of host family in Mexico. Next she moves often in the US between Colorado and Texas as she attends school. Finally, she breaks away from the cult and finds God and a family of her own.

As a memoir, this book serves as a keyhole looking back on another time. The recounted details were mostly interesting and kept the story going. Times in Mexico and unconventional activities provided the best insights in this text. Though the book flowed decently, adjectives are often overused and result in frequent repetition. The repetitive sentences also appeared in several chapters, making the book ultimately seem more like a YA text than an autobiography. A shorter, more direct book may have been a better choice. The religious emphasis is quite heavy in the book’s second half. This book would appeal to those interested in polygamy, religious coming of age stories, or Christian non-fiction. 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.

Book Review | Twig by Madelon Phillips

twig_coverProtagonist Mattie is 18 years old at Twig‘s beginning and about to enter her third marriage. She has cold feet about marrying a man old enough to be her father, but is hopeful that love will grow between them. Mattie’s dead-set on becoming a mother, having already suffered a miscarriage during one of her previous marriages. During the novel, Mattie deals with the ups and downs of marriage and moves with her husband Glen to California. Flashback chapters offer background story that help the reader understand her strong character.

Phillips has crafted a very fine novel in Twig. The story jumps right in and grabs the reader’s attention from the beginning. Her writing style is very easy to read and maintains a good pace. The book is a coming of age tale and women’s fiction novel told as historical fiction, which keeps things interesting. Phillips does a good job balancing her themes, allowing focus to shift to different points of interest for many readers. This book would appeal to fans of women’s fiction, historical fiction and those interested in novels about family or conception problems. Unfortunately, this book isn’t yet in libraries, so you’ll have to purchase a copy to read, ebook available on Amazon.com for $2.99.

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.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Twig, you may be interested in The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky (2017).

Book Review | A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe

loving faithful animalSet in Australia, A Loving, Faithful Animal shares the stories of a members in a disjointed family dealing with issues. Sisters Ruby and Lani spend a good deal of time outside the home. Their father, a sometimes abusive, Vietnam Veteran lives there, but often leaves for indeterminate lengths of time. Sometimes bruised, when not tracking down her husband in seedy bars and motels, their mother prefers an escape that involves living in her memories. Lani’s promiscuous habits and other poor decision making mean young Ru is often fending for herself.

The writing in this book is impressive, but clarity is sometimes lacking. Rowe’s use of the informal “you” in addressing Ruby made the story easy to jump into. However, coupled with chapters devoted to alternating family members, it created an additional layer to process. Each character’s section emphasized different aspects of the family’s shared story and all the sections came together well to make a whole. Readers who want the whole story spelled out will find problems with this format because there are several gaps left in the narrative. This book would appeal to fans of artful or raw fiction, especially those interested in reading about dysfunctional families. It is set to be released in mid-September, soon you should be able to place a hold on it 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 in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Loving, Faithful Animal, you may be interested in Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (2017).

Book Review | Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

29567845At the opening of Spaceman of Bohemia, protagonist Jakub is leaving Prague on a solo mission into space to collect cosmic dust. Leaving behind his wife Lenka is stressful for him and it’s not long before she runs away from being the “astronaut’s wife”. Jakub quickly grows weary of his alone time and makes friends with a giant spider-like creature he encounters aboard the ship. Coupled with alternating chapters from Jakub’s youth, the book is an existential voyage of an engaging nature.

For fans of the surreal and thought provoking, this debut novel would be a solid choice. A limited cast of characters and concise writing style make the text easily digestible. Some of the “flashback” chapters are a bit slower moving, but overall the book flows well. References to places in Prague will be appreciated by travelers. Spaceman of Bohemia is definitely literary fiction, not science fiction. 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.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Spaceman of Bohemia, you may be interested in The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia (2005).

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).