Double Happy New Year!

I celebrated the change of the new year twice–lucky me! Once in Tokyo, and then once somewhere over the Pacific. Japan is 17 hours ahead, so we left at 5pm on New Year’s day Tokyo, but arrived at 9am on New Year’s day in the US. It feels a luxuriously long–and sleepy–start to 2016. Continue reading

Time Reading Program: A Sword in the Stone

Sword in the Store

Cover illustration by Alan E. Cober

This copy of TRP’s The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White arrived in my mailbox just as I was starting to read H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. It seemed serendipitous to say the least, as I did not know prior to ordering it that T. H. White was a character in Macdonald’s story. I thought it was the perfect follow-up and launched straight in… Continue reading

Three Shorties

I’ve read several short books in recent weeks, three of which are in formats that I hardly ever read. Two of them were graphic novels, and the other was a very slim book in verse.

SkimSkim, words by Mariko Tamaki, drawings by Jillian Tamaki

I have been a huge admirer of Jillian Tamaki’s work ever since I saw the three covers she embroidered for the Penguin Threads series (Emma, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty). So when I saw this graphic novel illustrated by Tamaki and written by her cousin, Mariko, I had give it a go. Continue reading

Other Worlds

The SparrowUnusual for me, I’ve just finished two books with sci-fi/other worldly themes that took me from the past and present and dropped me off in nearly the same places in the near future, 30 or 40 years from now.

The first book is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell which I consumed in audiobook format. I avoided this one for a bit, despite the great reviews I read about it, because I’m not particularly interested in literature that deals with theological themes. But the premise of this book is interesting: after discovering beautiful music coming from a distant but relatively neighboring planet, a contact party, funded and organized by the Jesuits, is sent to the planet to make contact with the singers. How the seven members of the mission (not all of them Jesuits) came to be chosen to go and what happened to them is told in a series of flashbacks after Father Emilio Sandoz, the only survivor of the party, returns to earth in terrible physical, mental, and emotional condition. His hands have been grotesquely mutilated but it is his mind, emotions, and faith that have suffered even more. The first half of the book is ultra suspenseful as Russell builds the background for the mission before she reveals just what happened to Sandoz and his comrades. And what happens to him and his friends is pretty horrifying, once all revealed. Continue reading

How true is A True Novel?

a true novelI have never read Wuthering Heights. But after finishing A True Novel by Minae Mizumura and reading that it was a retelling of WH, I took a short cut and watched the Masterpiece Theater version of the classic to get an idea of how the two compared, at least plot-wise. A True Novel is a retelling of WH, albeit set in Japan and with a Japanese sensibility. However, the entire retelling is also framed within a uniquely Japanese literary genre of the I-novel and “plays” with the historical interest Japanese writers have had in distinguishing between a “true novel” or an “I-novel.” Continue reading

He Said She Said: 1Q84

1q84Earlier this summer my husband and I decided to both read 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. He read the book in Japanese, the language of its composition, and I read it in English translation. We were interested in comparing our impressions and seeing what, if anything, we could discover about how a book reads in the original vs. translation. Though he has declined to blog his impressions of the book himself (spoiling my best laid blogging plans), I will summarize his thoughts based on our conversations.

He said: Continue reading

Catching Up

The last month has been one of the most hectic ever. My husband was offered a new job and suddenly, we are moving to another state this summer. It’s been a mad frenzy of getting the house on the market, traveling out of state to find a new home, packing, cleaning — all while still working and, oh yeah–reading too. But not getting much blogging done, nor will I likely over the next few months. For this summer of upheaval and change, the mini-review is going to be the way to go.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the light we cannot seeI try to avoid buying every hot new title, but I am nevertheless frequently curious to take a peek to see if it might be worth the hype. So I’ve taken to requesting books like this from the library. Usually there are several hundred requests before mine. When I get an email that the book is waiting for me, it’s like a nice surprise. Continue reading

Hawks, Cats, & Grief

Is there anything more frustrating than losing a draft? I had just finished a long post, inserted images and was set to hit “Publish” when some kind of demon overtook my computer and all seems to be lost. Oh the frustration! So here I go again…

H is for HawkI snagged the last copy of H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald from a local bookstore and began reading it immediately and had a hard time putting it down. Part memoir, part liteary analysis, part history, Macdonald writes about a period of intense grief after her father dies unexpectedly. During this period and as a way to process her emotions, she decides to train and fly a female goshawk that she names Mabel.

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From New Zealand to New Guinea: Euphoria

EuphoriaThe same day I finished The Luminaries I picked up Euphoria by Lily King. In just the first chapter I was struck by how intensely dissimilar the two novels are: The Luminaries being all about plot, puzzles, and tricky literary conceits. Euphoria, on the other hand, is textural, lyric, and utterly transports you into a different place, time, and perspective. The opening pages slammed me so fast and hard into the hot, humid, stinking, feverish head of the main character Nell that I quickly realized even more how little The Luminaries was a character driven novel.

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The Greatest Book I Didn’t Understand: The Luminaries

The LuminariesI wasn’t going to read The Luminaries. After its spike in popularity following the Booker Prize, I saw a dozen or so reviews of it and was intimidated by references to it being “intricately plotted” or offering “dazzling complexity.” One blogger suggested to not worry about what was going on until after page 400, then it would start making sense. Another took copious notes to keep track of the shifts in perspective, plot, clues and characters. The setting of the New Zealand gold rush did not particularly interest me, and descriptions of the astrological ordering of the book sounded unnecessarily arcane. At a humdinging 800+ pages, I swore not going to read it for popularity’s sake. No, no thank you.

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