Words of Asia | Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Haruki Murakami is probably the best known Japanese authour in the Western world. He has written many contemporary works of literature which include both novels and short stories, as well as works of nonfiction. He has also translated many well known books into Japanese. Currently he resides in Japan with his wife, Yoko. His latest book to be translated into English is the novella, The Strange Library which is available now in stores.

colorless

Where Does it Take Place?
Mostly in Japan, as Tazaki travels back to his home town, Nagoya from Tokyo where he currently lives in order to confront his former friends.

What’s it About:
When he was in high school, Tsukuru Tazaki was friends with four other students, Akamatsu, Oumi, Kurono and Shirane. The five of them were inseparable, however, Tazaki eventually left to go to university in Tokyo the others stayed in Nagoya. Then one day all four of his friends cut him off without any explanation, and while hurt he never explored the issue further. Years later, in his mid-thirties Tazaki is encouraged by his girlfriend Sara to find his former friends and get an answer so that he can finally move on with his life.

My Thoughts:
While I have read a few of Murakami’s short stories, I never got around to reading any of his actual novels. However, when I heard about the premise of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage I was immediately intrigued. I think my reason for this curiosity was because I wanted to see how Murakami would tackle the issues of friendships as they evolve, change and as people grow apart. As expected, he does a fantastic job and as always his writing is flows so well that it feels like a well constructed symphony. And while I haven’t read the original version of the novel, I believe that Philip Gabriel did a good job with the translation of this book.  Also one of my biggest worries with this book was that things would be left unresolved by the novel’s conclusion, thus I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up being fine with how the novel ended. It was neither neatly tied up nor was there a lot of loose ends by the novel’s conclusion. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was my first Murakami novel, and it definitely won’t be my last. In fact, I hope to pick up Norwegian Wood sometime this year.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Books that are more quiet and somber, and that focus more on a character’s journey of self discovery rather than solving the major mysteries. Also, if you are a fan of Murakami’s other works and are used to/don’t mind endings that are slightly open-ended.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Authour:somediffer
Sandy Hall
Format:
Trade Paperback, 272 pages
Publication date:
August 26th 2014
Publisher:
Swoon Reads
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“I like the idea that we’re getting to watch their lives without them knowing. And I know that might sound voyeuristic and weird and pathetic, but it also makes me happy. And I don’t have a ton of that kind of happy in my life at the moment, so let me enjoy some damn Starbuck customers falling in love!” (p. 57)

Have you ever had, in your group of friends, two people who seem made for each other although they still haven’t gotten together? You know that couple that’s not in reality a couple, that has you almost screaming, “Just hook up already!” This is what happens in Sandy Hall’s A Little Something Different. Lea and Gabe are two college students who just have that chemistry that every person in their lives can spot And while I was worried that the romance would have been shoved down my throat and the characters would be too pushy when it comes to getting together two people who don’t have chemistry, I was impressed that this was not the case. Lea and Gabe are extremely sweet together and I could not help but also ship them similar to everyone in their lives does.

There are several things that A Little Something Different does well, for instance, even based on the cover and the synopsis you can already tell that this will be a sweet love story. I loved that it took place in college instead of high school and that Lea was a freshman. This made me a bit nostalgic for my days as a freshman at university for the reason that I was definitely similar to Lea in that I was a bit shy, and I loved to write and similar to her, I was fortunate enough to have friends who were always pushing me to go outside my comfort zone and meet new people.

However, my favourite aspect of this book was how it was a love story told from multiple perspectives. We never essentially get to observe Lea or Gabe’s point of views nonetheless we get acquainted with them more through the interactions they have with the other characters. My favourite perspective was the creative writing professor, as she was just so cool and I can definitely picture myself also pairing up students in my mind if I were a teacher. Which I found hilarious even though it’s a bit weird and kind of crazy. I also liked the parts where the story was told from Lea’s friend, Danny’s point of view. Having Danny have the final say in the novel was just beyond wonderful.

On the other hand, there were the two points of views that I felt did not work too well. These were the parts told from the bench’s perspective as they came off as a bit condescending, and Hillary, who got on my nerves since she had an extremely, ridiculous sense of self entitlement. I also felt the conflict or rather what was keeping Gabe and Lea apart felt a bit out of place, especially near the final pages and the resolution fell a bit flat for me even if I was fond of the conclusion.

All in all A Little Something Different is an extreme fluffy and utterly adorable read and if that’s what you feel like you need at the moment then this book is a must read. Not only does it have a cute romance but it also has a remarkable cast of unique characters who also provide a strong and stable support system for Lea and Gabe as they slowly find their way to each other.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Mystery Monday | The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is a sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly and sometimes monthly review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (and on occasion thriller) genre that we are currently reading and our thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what we should read and review next.

Authour: longway
Louise Penny
Format:
Hardcover, 373 pages
Publication date:
August 26th 2014
Publisher:
Minotaur Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“Armand Gamache considered himself more an explorer than a hunter. The goal was to discover. And what he discovered could still surprise him. How often had he questioned a murderer expecting to find curdled emotions, a soul gone sour? And instesd he found goodness that had gone astray.” (p. 3)

In her last book, How the Light Gets In it appeared that Louise Penny had written a satisfying conclusion to her series. The conclusion of that book felt sort of like the conclusion of her series therefore I was surprised to find out she had further books coming out in her Inspector Gamache series and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The Long Way Home occurs shortly after the events of How the Light Gets In. Gamache is now no longer “Inspector” Gamache has retired in the village of Three Pines with his wife, Reine-Marie. Though content, Gamache is still somewhat restless and I liked how this book explores the concept of trying to find peace and how can we move forward in life after experiencing something incredibly life changing. After all it’s not just the character of Clara, who seeks Gamache’s assistance to find her husband that is in search of something although Gamache also appears to be in search of something.

What I loved with reference to The Long Way Home was that we get to travel back and visit the characters of Three Pines again. Penny has created such a wonderful, unique and even magical set of characters that live in the village and it is always a pleasure to check in again with characters such as Myrna, a former psychologist turned bookstore owner in addition to Ruth, an award winning poet and her pet duck, Rosa. Furthermore I liked seeing a confident Clara in this book, after all that has happened to her I like how she now takes charge of things even if it veers on the edge of being a little bossy at times.

However, while it was lovely revisiting the characters of Three Pines, my favourite thing regarding this book without a doubt was seeing Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir working together again. Having been on opposing sides in the previous book, it was wonderful to see the old team together. The two of them settled back nicely into their old dynamics despite the fact that Gamache is retired and their relationship is slightly different than it was.

Like all of her other books, The Long Way Home is an extremely emotional and powerful read. I recently had a conversation with an elderly woman on why we both love the books in the Inspector Gamache series. And I came to the conclusion that it’s probably for the reason that the books focus on the human psychology of the characters which in itself is a truly fascinating thing. This is why I appreciated the fact that in the, The Long Way Home, we gain more insight into the character through the glimpses into his past and his parents.

The Long Way Home is an excellent book for those who are unfamiliar with the series to start with, although if you start with this book don’t be surprised if it causes you to go back and read all of the previous books in the series. In addition, I will continue to stick with this series as I am extremely curious as to where Louise will take her characters next.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Graphic Novel Review | Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Authour:sisters
Raina Telgemeier
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 197 pages
Publication date:
August 26th 2014
Publisher:
Scholastic
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I first was introduced to Raina Telgemeier’s work when I met her at TCAF a few years ago. It was there that I learned about her graphic novel, Smile and having worn braces for almost half of my life I could relate to the main character in that book who also needed to get braces. So when I heard that there was going to be a sort of sequel to Smile, I was excited to go back to reading her work. This time around, in her newest book Sisters she writes about the relationship between sisters and having an older sister myself, I could relate to some of the things in this book.

As always Raina’s artwork is adorable, however as I have an advance reader copy of her graphic novel, there are only a few pages in colour with the rest in black in white. The final copy will be completely in colour and while I think the artwork is lovelier in colour, I don’t mind the black and white pictures as I am used to it having grown up reading manga (Japanese comics). Additionally in this case I felt that having illustrations that are mostly black and white made me focus more on the story I was reading. The story itself, which follows Raina, her younger sister and her mother on a road trip captures the sibling relationships quite well to be honest. Coming from a family of three with two girls and one boy who is the youngest there were some similarities that I found in the sibling dynamics that Raina’s family had with mine. In fact, if you ask my sister, she’d probably say I was quite emotional and grumpy as a pre-teen and even as a teenager.

Another aspect I love about this book which I find is a common theme in much of Raina Telgemeier’s work is her talent for finding the humour in otherwise serious situations. This is one of element that I love about her storytelling style, and it is what draws me to her work time and time again. That and the fact that she tells stories that are realistic and messy, just like real life, not everything is solved to everyone’s satisfaction and relationships and friendships are never perfect.

Altogether I liked her graphic novel Smile slightly more, but Sisters is still a nice read and I’d recommend it for not just kids, but also to anyone who has or had a sort of “complicated” relationship with their siblings growing up as they can definitely relate to the story. As well, tweens and maybe even teen who are fans of Raina’s other works will probably enjoy this book too as it touches upon serious family issues and topics but present them in a way that’s accessible to everyone especially young readers.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Mãn by Kim Thúy

Authour:Mãn
Kim Thúy
Format:
Hardcover, 135 pages
Publication date:
August 26, 2014
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“I had all of eternity because time is infinite when we don’t expect anything.” (p. 133)

Honestly, I knew approximately a year ago from today that Kim Thùy’s Mãn was to be translated into English, hence for all of 2014 I was eagerly anticipating its release even though I originally only knew two things with reference to it: one that it had references to food in it and two that it was by Kim Thùy, however those two were more than enough for me to wish for to have the book in my possession. However when the English synopsis for Mãn was released and I discovered that the book also had a love affair, I became wary as I don’t tend to take pleasure in reading books where there is cheating. Fortunately, after hearing numerous amazing things, I decided to give caution to the wind and pick it up.

Mãn is not only the title of the book, but also the name of the protagonist, a Vietnamese woman who enters into a marriage that is arranged by her “maman”, the woman who raised her as her own daughter. The marriage, though it is not what westerners would consider a “love marriage” is a peaceful one, and for some time Mãn is content with her life in Montreal, assisting her husband run his Vietnamese restaurant. Eventually, as Mãn starts to open up and develop an identity outside of her family and gain some renown for her cooking, with the assistance of her friend, Julie and later Hông, she starts to desire more in life and this slowly leads to her love affair with another chef who is also married.

One of my favourite elements in this novel is the portrayal of female relationships. From Mãn’s relationship with her “maman” to her friendship with both, Julie and Hông, I adored how positive the relationships were. These women were both supportive and fiercely protective of each other which is always pleasant to read. Additionally, I liked how similar of her previous book, Ru there are allusions to the Vietnam War and how it impacted the Vietnamese people. In particular the flashback to one character’s experience of being separated from their family and thrown into a jail that had such horrid conditions was absolutely heart wrenching. I am acquainted with various people who have personally experienced a similar separation from their family, and even a few people who met their relatives for the first time only after both the North and South became united. And while I do not believe anything justifies an extramarital affair, I suppose there was one positive consequence of Mãn’s affair, which was that it encouraged her to become an extra loving and affectionate mother to her children. It also helped that the affair was only a minor though significant piece of Mãn’s story.

All in all, Mãn was a book that I without a doubt enjoyed more than I initially thought. It was a short but emotionally powerful, in addition to being a somewhat romantic book which is reminiscent to Kim Thùy’s previous book, Ru. Once again Kim Thùy has managed to sweep me away in both time and place thus making it feel like I was standing right there beside the characters in her book. Reading Mãn was an experience I would describe as akin to the feeling I have after finally eating banh xèo (the Vietnamese crêpe described in the book that Mãn makes), after craving it for a long time; I felt satisfied although I still have room for more.

20140824-110708.jpg
Making bánh xèo, this one isn’t actually for me, as it has bean sprouts in it.
One finished product, ready to eat!
One finished product, ready to eat!

“At that precise moment, I knew that I would always remain standing, that he would never think of making room for me beside him because that was the sort of man he was, alone and lonely.” (p. 10)

If you like this book, you’ll love: Ru by Kim Thùy

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Blog Tour | Depth of Field by Chantel Guertin Book Review

unnamed

Authour:depth
Chantel Guertin
Format:
Trade Paperback, 195 pages
Publication date:
August 12th 2014
Publisher:
ECW Press
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“…life doesn’t always unfold the way you think, the way you see it. There are layers. I hold my camera up and start snapping. Focusing not on the obvious, but on the unexpected, on the layers. Changing my field of depth. ” (p. 177)

A while ago, I put down Chantel Guertin’s Depth of Field as one of my Waiting on Wednesday picks, and was immediately contacted by the publisher and asked if I would like to be on the blog tour, which of course I wholeheartedly agree to.

In her YA debut, The Rule of Thirds we are introduced to protagonist Pippa Greene, who is a smart, quirky aspiring photographer who is dealing with a personal tragedy that still affects her through the anxiety attacks she has. We get introduced to her life, and her family and friends and we follow her as she develops a romance with her crush. However the first book left many unanswered questions which paved the way for a sequel, Depth of Field.

To start off, what I liked about Depth of Field is that it puts Pippa, who has matured a bit since the first book into a situation where she is completely out of her element. This time because of the distance she no longer has her best friend, her mom or her boyfriend to always go to when she needs help or advice. This forces her to meet new people while getting to know one particular character better. Depth of Field’s biggest strength is that it does an excellent job of expanding on the first book, giving answers to unanswered questions about Ben and about Pippa’s family while still being an enjoyable read that can be picked up even without having read The Rule of Thirds. However this brings me to what I was not a fan of in the book, and that is the whole love triangle from the first book being revisited. After watching and loving the romance develop between Pippa and her now boyfriend in the in the first book of a series I was excited to get back to the couple, only for the love triangle that had died in the first book to re-emerge in the second book. And while learning about Ben was supposed to make me feel sympathetic to him despite his actions in the story I still was not feeling it though I did think seeing his back story fleshed out his character a tad more.

Overall, Depth of Field was a quick read and while it was enjoyable, I felt it was not as strong as The Rule of Thirds. That being said it was just as emotional of a read as the last book, in fact the scene where we find out the real story of how her family came to be near the end made me cry as it was sweet and touching. And while there is still another book after this one, given the ending of Depth of Field, I am not quite sure I will pick up the next book even though I am curious as to how it will all end. This is mostly for the reason that I am worried about how the whole love triangle will be handled as I would hate to see one guy killed off or turned into a jerk suddenly to get rid of him as an option. Nevertheless, if you like a nice, fast realistic summer read, and if you like photography you should definitely check out either The Rule of Thirds or Depth of Field or both. However if you’re looking to read the first book first, check out this link here as the entire first book will be online for the summer.

And if you’re interested in reading this book, the publisher has generously given me an extra copy to give away. So if you live in Canada, and are interested in winning the book just click on the link below to be redirected to the contest page. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Blog Tour | Depth of Field by Chantel Guertin Book Review

unnamed

Authour:depth
Chantel Guertin
Format:
Trade Paperback, 195 pages
Publication date:
August 12th 2014
Publisher:
ECW Press
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“…life doesn’t always unfold the way you think, the way you see it. There are layers. I hold my camera up and start snapping. Focusing not on the obvious, but on the unexpected, on the layers. Changing my field of depth. ” (p. 177)

A while ago, I put down Chantel Guertin’s Depth of Field as one of my Waiting on Wednesday picks, and was immediately contacted by the publisher and asked if I would like to be on the blog tour, which of course I wholeheartedly agree to.

In her YA debut, The Rule of Thirds we are introduced to protagonist Pippa Greene, who is a smart, quirky aspiring photographer who is dealing with a personal tragedy that still affects her through the anxiety attacks she has. We get introduced to her life, and her family and friends and we follow her as she develops a romance with her crush. However the first book left many unanswered questions which paved the way for a sequel, Depth of Field.

To start off, what I liked about Depth of Field is that it puts Pippa, who has matured a bit since the first book into a situation where she is completely out of her element. This time because of the distance she no longer has her best friend, her mom or her boyfriend to always go to when she needs help or advice. This forces her to meet new people while getting to know one particular character better. Depth of Field’s biggest strength is that it does an excellent job of expanding on the first book, giving answers to unanswered questions about Ben and about Pippa’s family while still being an enjoyable read that can be picked up even without having read The Rule of Thirds. However this brings me to what I was not a fan of in the book, and that is the whole love triangle from the first book being revisited. After watching and loving the romance develop between Pippa and her now boyfriend in the in the first book of a series I was excited to get back to the couple, only for the love triangle that had died in the first book to re-emerge in the second book. And while learning about Ben was supposed to make me feel sympathetic to him despite his actions in the story I still was not feeling it though I did think seeing his back story fleshed out his character a tad more.

Overall, Depth of Field was a quick read and while it was enjoyable, I felt it was not as strong as The Rule of Thirds. That being said it was just as emotional of a read as the last book, in fact the scene where we find out the real story of how her family came to be near the end made me cry as it was sweet and touching. And while there is still another book after this one, given the ending of Depth of Field, I am not quite sure I will pick up the next book even though I am curious as to how it will all end. This is mostly for the reason that I am worried about how the whole love triangle will be handled as I would hate to see one guy killed off or turned into a jerk suddenly to get rid of him as an option. Nevertheless, if you like a nice, fast realistic summer read, and if you like photography you should definitely check out either The Rule of Thirds or Depth of Field or both. However if you’re looking to read the first book first, check out this link here as the entire first book will be online for the summer.

And if you’re interested in reading this book, the publisher has generously given me an extra copy to give away. So if you live in Canada, and are interested in winning the book just click on the link below to be redirected to the contest page. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.