Lilisin in 2019

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Lilisin in 2019

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Editado: Dez 26, 2019, 10:03am

Hello 2019 Club Readers!

Officially fully settled (have finally bought a sofa that will arrive in February) in Japan and my life, it seems I am back into reading mode. 2018 proved to be a record reading year for me at 30 books read: 13 books in English, 10 in French, and 7 in Japanese. I even got past 100 messages on my thread! That's a first! Now just to get better at writing reviews -- work was when I used to LT and write reviews but now I'm too busy at work to do anything but work, so LT'ing definitely fell on the wayside. But with my schedule and the amount of free time I have I know I can ready twice my 2018 reading most likely however I admit I would need to start some good habits and learn how to not waste time online when I could be doing something more productive. As I work on that we'll see how things go in 2019. In any case, as always, I'm happy to be among by fellow Club Readers with whom I have spent so many wonderful interesting years.

So far in 2019:
1) Yoko Tawada : The Last Children of Tokyo (aka The Emissary)
2) Philip K. Dick : Ubik
3) Ling Ma : Severance: A Novel
4) Meghan MacLean Weir : The Book of Essie
5) Margaret Atwood : Alias Grace
6) Michel Faber : The Book of Strange New Things
7) Naomi Alderman : The Power
8) Tarjei Vesaas : The Ice Palace
9) Sandrine Collette : Nothing but Dust
10) Laurie Foos : The Blue Girl
11) Larry McMurtry : Lonesome Dove
12) Tara Westover : Educated: A Memoir
13) Anna Kavan : Ice
14) 椰月 美智子 : しずかな日々
15) Keigo Higashino : Salvation of a Saint
16) John Wyndham : The Day of the Triffids
17) Ursula K. Le Guin : The Lathe of Heaven
18) Pearl S. Buck : The Good Earth
19) Sheila Heiti : Motherhood
20) Jules Verne : La chasse au météore
21) Donnie Eichar : Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident
22) Yu Miri : Tokyo Ueno Station
23) Yuko Tsushima : Territory of Light
24) Tomoka Shibasaki : Spring Garden
25) Yoko Ogawa : The Memory Police
26) Claudia Dey : Heartbreaker
27) Richard Lloyd Parry : Ghosts of the Tsunami
28) Hiroko Oyamada : The Factory
29) Margaret Atwood : Oryx and Crake
30) Oyinkan Braithwaite : My Sister, the Serial Killer

Books read in 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009

Editado: Fev 21, 2019, 3:11am

I picked up some fantastic sounding English-language books while I was back in the states for the holidays. There were a few more I wanted to purchase but unfortunately they weren't out yet. I even bought two books in hardcover (despite my dislike of hardcovers due to space constrants and general unwieldlyness) since I was so eager to read them! Hopefully having these books on my TBR pile will help me have a great start to 2019 as my fresh purchases helped me off to a good start of reading in 2018.

Pearl S. Buck : The Good Earth
Tarjei Vesaas : The Ice Palace
Laurie Foos : The Blue Girl
Larry McMurtry : Lonesome Dove
Yoko Tawada : The Last Children of Tokyo
Tara Westover : Educated: A Memoir
Meghan MacLean Weir : The Book of Essie
Donnie Eichar : Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident
Ling Ma : Severance: A Novel
Anna Kavan : Ice
Philip K. Dick : Ubik
Ursula K. Le Guin : The Lathe Of Heaven
Margaret Atwood : MaddAddam
Margaret Atwood : The Year of the Flood
Margaret Atwood : Oryx and Crake
Margaret Atwood : Alias Grace

Then there is my current TBR pile in Japanese that I'm excited about as well. Some of these I tried to pick up in 2018 but they were above my reading level so I had to put them down to save for later but the pile is still full of prospective fun.

美智子 椰月 : しずかな日々
リョウ 朝井 : 桐島、部活やめるってよ
ナツ 葦舟 : ひきこもりの弟だった
健治 小杉 : 父からの手紙
深月 辻村 朝が来る
瀬尾 まいこ : 強運の持ち主
有希子 本谷 : 異類婚姻譚
登美彦 森見 : ペンギン・ハイウェイ
奈都 宮下 : 羊と鋼の森
糸 小川 : ツバキ文具店
ゆり子 麻宮 : 敬語で旅する四人の男

All of this plus more in English, Japanese and French and I should have quite a reading year ready for me. Also need to get through all the manga I bought and collected last year without reading. 2019 should also see me getting a new bookcase to accomodate all these great tomes!

Editado: Jan 25, 2019, 12:46am

In my attempt to review the books I read as close as possible to the reading date, here are my thoughts on the first book I read in 2019. However, I'm going to have to cheat with "my" first review of the year.

1) Yoko Tawada : The Last Children of Tokyo (also known as The Emissary)

I'm going to send you to this review by LT member bookishblond who has written the review that I want to write but can't seem to write. Perhaps I'm out of practice with writing reviews or maybe too much time has already passed since reading the book but here is that review.

The Emissary is set in a not-so-distance future version of Japan, where eternal life has basically been achieved (i.e. everyone lives well into their hundreds and remains strong and able-bodied) but the upshot is that all the children are weak and unhealthy and age so quickly that they are all dead before they're twenty. This future Japan has also completely shut down its borders; travel to and from foreign countries has ceased and trade is a thing of the past.

The two main characters are Yoshiro, a former novelist, and his great-grandson Mumei, whose teeth have fallen out and who can barely walk, but still has such joy and a zest for life that his great-grandfather has completely lost. "Mumei may be frail and gray-haired, but he is a beacon full of hope: full of wit and free of self-pity."

The back cover (see the quote above) makes it sound like this book is about Yoshiro's constant state of worry over the state of Japan and his feelings of marvel at his great-grandson's innocence in the face of such calamity (a very Japanese theme). But it's just as much a book about an imagined dystopia that is all too real to its readers. The Earth itself is collapsing; fish from the polluted oceans are so contaminated as to be inedible. Tawada's Japan has adopted a nationalistic, isolationist policy: foreign words and ideas are banned. Bread that originated in Germany is rechristened with a Japanese name, and English words and phrases like "overalls" and "one, two" are taboo so that younger Japanese do not recognize those English counting words. In today's political climate, this extreme behavior is familiar.

A chilling and even (very) interesting parable but not quite a must-read.

Every word review reflects my similar opinion including the last line. A short read that can be done in two hours that will give you pleasure but at the end won't provide a true lasting impression. The translation by Margaret Mitsutani is well done but you can tell the places where she had to really work hard to provide a proper English translation.

I want to send out a warning because I fell into this unfortunate trap. This book has two titles, The Last Children of Tokyo, and The Emissary. I thought The Emissary was a sequel to Last Children so I bought both and unfortunately was in no longer a position to return the extra book upon realizing they are the same book. I don't know if it's a case of US vs UK edition or perhaps Last Children was deemed too long a title so was re-marketed as The Emissary but I'm quite annoyed that I now have two copies of a book I wasn't transcended about. In any case, fair warning to those who still wish to read the book.

Jan 14, 2019, 8:41am

>3 lilisin: Urgh, I hate when they do different titles! Maybe you can sell one off, or find someone to do a book swap with, or something?

>2 lilisin: Yay Le Guin! I actually just did my list of last year's favorites, and included Lathe on it! For some reason a lot of people seem to dislike it, but I honestly don't get that, I thought it was just as amazing as, though perhaps a bit different style from, her "usual" writing. I found it really intriguing and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jan 14, 2019, 10:16am

>2 lilisin: I am looking forward to your thoughts on The Ice Palace; I found it lovely and bewildering. Lonesome Dove was a title I was super excited to find at a used bookstore, I had been on the lookout for a long time. And yet, a few years later I still haven't read it. I enjoyed the MaddAdam trilogy on audio. The first two books are better than the last, imho.

Jan 15, 2019, 2:17am

>4 .Monkey.:

I'm hoping to trade it with someone else once the opportunity arises. Certainly don't want to lose the money I paid for it! At the very least it could become a gift for someone.

This would be my first Le Guin so as I'm not familiar with her other writing I have nothing to compare this too so maybe that means I'll also like it as well. This was my first time browsing throught the science fiction section of the bookstore so I chose this one as it seemed the least "out there" and since I had heard that her writing is quite "literary".

>5 ELiz_M:

Yes, I'm super excited about Ice Palace as well. Maybe it'll be a February read? I must admit that although I've purchased Lonesome Dove its length is daunting and the fact that it is a western is daunting. It has been so long since I've been in the mood for a very American read and as I am a mood reader I think I'll have to just sit down with this one and say "ok, time to read you". I'm sure I'll be writing my thoughts on the Atwood books soon!

Jan 15, 2019, 7:02pm

2) Philip K. Dick : Ubik

Although I have certainly read science fiction before (Atwood, Orwell, Bradbury), this was my first time actually wandering into the science fiction section of the bookstore. Since I do enjoy science fiction movies, I thought it would be fun to try something out of my literary fiction comfort zone. With this author I didn't want to go with his most famous Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as I've already seen the movie based on the book, and I didn't want anything too out there in terms of plot so I chose Ubik which felt a bit like a Kobo Abe plot. However, without all the comments on Japanese society woven within.

Ubik is about Runciter, head of a corporation of anti-precogs who are hired to do some work to neutralize some precogs who have infiltrated another organization. Upon arriving to Luna, Runciter and his team are sabotaged by a bomb attack and Runciter is gravely injured. On the brink of death Runciter's team rushes him off to a memoratorium in Switzerland where he is to placed in half-life, an area between life and death where people can be brought back to consciousness to the extent of being able to communicate via "brain waves". However, once Runciter is placed into half-life, and the company is placed under his second-in-command Joe Chip, Chip and the Luna team start to see images of Runciter everywhere, from the faces of coins to advertisements in random brochures, and their world starts to regress back into the past. It is up to Joe Chip to figure out what is happening and discover what this mysterous Ubik is.

It's a very interesting book that had me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. Having watched movies like Inception and Shutter Island and such, it became quite obvious what was going on but the author made it incredibly gripping within a very imaginative world. Although I'm not used to reading books just for plot without any sort of social commentary, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I'm not sure how lasting an impression it will have on me by the end of the year but for a great book to read in one sitting like you would enjoy a movie, I really enjoyed this. (And until I read more sci-fi to give me a means for comparison, I'm giving this a neutral 3 stars as a note on its entertainment value.)

Next up on my sci-fi adventure will be Ursula Le Guin whom I'm also looking forward to.

Jan 15, 2019, 7:31pm

>3 lilisin: I don't know if it's a case of US vs UK edition

Yep, The Last Children of Tokyo (UK) / The Emissary (US). I hate that practice. Too bad that you cannot swap the book for something else :(

And have fun with your SF journey :)

Jan 16, 2019, 7:59am

>7 lilisin: Welcome to the world of science fiction

Jan 17, 2019, 12:44pm

>7 lilisin: fun review. I’m not a scifi reader either but I would like to read PKD, and I love the Bladerunner movies.

Jan 19, 2019, 6:43pm

>7 lilisin: I am perhaps unreasonably amused that you "didn't want anything too out there in terms of plot" and yet chose Philip K. Dick, because he definitely seems like one of the more out-there SF writers to me! Although I haven't read Ubik yet. In any case, I'm glad your first venture into the SF section worked out for you! If you like social commentary in your fiction, Ursula LeGuin is an excellent choice, although I don't know if The Lathe of Heaven has anywhere near as much as some of her other stuff. (It's been a long time since I've read it.)

Also, count me as another one with a copy of Lonesome Dove sitting dauntingly unread on the shelves.

Jan 19, 2019, 7:06pm

I read The Ice Palace several years ago and loved it. I’ve since purchased several other books by Vesaas for my Kindle, but haven’t gotten to them yet.

Jan 19, 2019, 7:51pm

It's been a while since I've read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? but I found it very different from the film. Enough so that I'm not suprised how often people have to point out that Blade Runner is based on it... I probably wouldn't have known otherwise...

Jan 19, 2019, 8:51pm

>11 bragan:

Ha! I was actually thinking that while reading the synopses to his other books. Some of them were so abstract I thought I should start with one of his easier ones. Yes, I'm very much looking forward to Le Guin. I've heard so many talk about her, even non SF readers, so I thought it was the perfect moment to pick up one of her books. They didn't have a huge selection of her works at the bookstore so I decided to go with a cover buy.

And it sounds like we might need to do a Club Read Lonesome Dove group read at the sound of all the people who own the book but haven't read it!

>12 arubabookwoman:

I'm thinking I'll get to the book in February and am very looking forward to it!

>13 Lunatyk:

Oh really? I still want to wait on that book as even when I was reading Ubik, images of the Blade Runner movie kept flashing by although those quelled by the end of the book.

Jan 20, 2019, 5:02pm

I would join a Lonesome Dove group read. No copy collecting dust, but every time I see the title somewhere I think to myself, I really should read it.

Jan 20, 2019, 6:11pm

>15 dchaikin: Ditto. And copies are all over used bookstores, library sales, street vendors, etc.

Jan 23, 2019, 11:35pm

>15 dchaikin:, >16 lisapeet:

I will maybe consider setting up a group read when I decide to read it or maybe I can just announce it on my thread and people can join me if they'd like. I'll keep you guys updated.

I've read two more books and will start with posting my thoughts on one of them, the third book I've read this January.

3) Ling Ma : Severance: A Novel

Candace Chen is the last person to join a group of survivors outside of New York City. For the rest of the world Shen fever has rendered people "fevered": a state that breaks people down to a non-violent form but whom are left to live the rest of their lives repeating some mundane task that once had meaning to them but without any remaining brain function to realize it.

As Candace and the group of survivors head to Chicago to make a home out of a shopping mall, we come to learn of Candace's story and why she was one of the last people to leave the city.

This is not just a standard dystopic tale. It's a story that finds ties between the fevered and the once living; are they so different? Aren't we all just repeating basic mundane tasks on a regular schedule in guise of our jobs and hobbies? The book tackles the topic of capitalism, immigration, adopted homes, romance in the new age, while giving an interesting glimpse of how capitalism is the only thing fueling our everyday lives.

This was a very interesting book and other than one out of place reference to Schwarzenegger during an uncomfortable love scene, Ling Ma's writing is entrancing and avoids, and even satires, the typical melodic sacchinine references to NYC. However, I wish she had pushed the satire and the reference to our capitalist word a bit further because in the end this book took what was supposed to be just a dystopic backdrop but unfortunately became the main focus of the story.

Still a highly recommended book for a great page turner with very interesting ideas.

Jan 24, 2019, 10:38am

I'm very pleased to see that my library has both Severance and Ice Palace on Kindle. Looks like I'll be following your thread very intently.

Jan 24, 2019, 2:50pm

>17 lilisin: Severance sounds good, has me worried I have this fever (as I run the gerbil wheel).

Fev 5, 2019, 7:12pm

I read The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas over the last two days and it's GORGEOUS! I'm so glad I saw your mention of it.

Fev 5, 2019, 8:25pm

>20 auntmarge64:

That is exciting news! I'm so glad you picked it up thanks to this humble little thread of mine. And considering my last two reads were and my current read also feels kind of meh, I look forward to reading something considered gorgeous. :)

Fev 5, 2019, 10:32pm

And now I've gone and ordered a copy of Vesaas's The Birds. What have you started?

Editado: Fev 6, 2019, 7:19pm

>22 auntmarge64:

I've completed three books since my last posted review:
4) Meghan MacLean Weir : The Book of Essie
5) Margaret Atwood : Alias Grace
6) Michel Faber : The Book of Strange New Things

Essie, I really quite enjoyed but the other two I'm a bit meh about. I didn't not enjoy reading them but they're hardly memorable to me. I will have to write my thoughts out more to parse through them but I can't do that till I have access to a computer again as typing out a review on my phone sounds like a painful time.

I'm also currently reading The Power by Naomi Alderman which has a very interesting premise but I'm a little curious about the execution. I'm about a third of the way through it so I will keep my thoughts till I've made it to the end but so far I'm hesitant on what my thoughts will be on this one as well.

I think when I'm back home (I'm traveling currently) and I have access to my TBR pile again I'll read The Ice Palace as I was hoping to read that in February anyway.

Fev 7, 2019, 10:14am

>23 lilisin: I look forward to hearing your thoughts on The Power.

Fev 13, 2019, 11:12pm

I now have four books I need to talk about but I'm going to start with the most recent, the one I finished last night, since it's so fresh on my mind.

7) Naomi Alderman : The Power

Mentored by Margaret Atwood, Naomi Alderman's book envisions a world where women suddenly have control of an electrical pulse within their bodies leading to a role reversal from a patriarcal society to a matriarcal one. Following the point of view of four characters, we see how they either come to take control over this new world or simply learn to navigate it, in anticipation of their final reunion within the climax of the book.

I really wanted this book to become a favorite but unfortunately I thought the book, despite having an excellent premise and abundant with ideas, lost its focus and got jumbled in the execution. Alderman's book is really a book within a book, where a meta Naomi Alderman is discussing a colleague's book with him. This colleague has decided to write a historical account of the cataclysmic event of The Power and has thus brought together historical documents and images of historic relics to present his idea of what happened.

This historical book is the majority of the book as a whole and is unfortunately the part that gets lost in execution. By switching view points between the characters Alderman tries to create a sense of chaos and urgency but ends up, I feel, tackling too much, and losing the historical sense of the event.

We end up with a purely fictionalized version of events that kind of makes you roll your eyes at the more violent and grotesque events which is the opposite of what Alderman wants to do. She, in my opinion, wants the reader to identify and feel pity for the men who are now undergoing what women have undergone for centuries. But Alderman exagerrates the events to such an extent that it felt like an editor had come in with a huge Sharpie making notes like "carnage! we need more carnage! readers won't understand if you only have one rape scene, put in 30!"; "don't just pull at the reader's heart strings, crab them by the balls and really tug!".

Atwood's influence on the work is front and center and unfortunately it made me only wish that Atwood had written this herself. I'm sure I would have really felt the horror then without it having to be spit on me.

I did enjoy the last few pages because Alderman really does have great ideas and an obvious witty intellect, but even the last pages felt more of an explanation of what you were supposed to have gotten out of the book just in case you didn't get it while reading.

Yes, I get it. I got it.

Basically it felt like if The Handmaid's Tale had been rewritten to satisfy (or make a mockery of?) a young adult audience.

Anyway, is it still a worthwhile read? Yeah, sure. Will I 100% recommend it to people to read? Probably not.

Fev 14, 2019, 11:55pm

5) Margaret Atwood : Alias Grace

On the topic of Margaret Atwood I also recently read Alias Grace. The book is about a doctor who has come to talk with the famous murderess, Grace. Grace was imprisoned for the murder of her employer and his mistress along with another man with whom she is rumored to have had an amorous relationship. Strangely though, Grace has no memory of the actual moment upon when the event happened and as the only living witness she is the only one who can unlock the mystery as to whether she is actually innocent or not.

It all sounds like a fascinating story but I admit that if it weren't for the fact that I had 10 hours a day to read for a few days, I don't think I would have made it through this book. The entire time I just couldn't understand why Atwood chose to write this book. What is the point? What is she trying to say? Yes, there is insight on the time period, how women are perceived, the failings of eye-witness reporting, etc. but I still didn't see the point. And the breakdown of the doctor wasn't all that surprising either and yet also felt a bit forced. It didn't help that the story isn't linear so we know from the beginning that she may or may not have killed her employer. And the lead up to her explaining the situation just didn't keep my interest.

So all in all while Atwood's writing is exquisite in this book, I just wasn't engrossed in the book as I had hoped to be and unfortunately this book will not remain with me after time has passed. Truly unfortunate as there was certainly an aspect of the book that I enjoyed but when compared to The Scarlet Letter, which Alias Grace is very much influenced by and wishes to expand on that book, it just didn't have the staying power and influence that I realize I wanted.

Fev 15, 2019, 3:35am

>26 lilisin: shame - it's quite a while since I read Alias Grace, but I seem to remember I really enjoyed it. Some of Atwood's novels have lost my attention at points, but this one I remember racing through.

Editado: Fev 18, 2019, 3:34am

8) Tarjei Vesaas : The Ice Palace

A captivating little book.

Siss and Unn are drawn to each other in that type of friendship where each other's nothing becomes your everything and you know you've been brought together to protect that nothing. Even though Siss and Unn never got to discuss what that nothing is (although we as a reader understand); the following day after finally officially meeting, Unn dissapears. When a search party is unable to find Unn, Siss has to deal with her emotions as fall turns into winter, and winter turns into spring.

In this book the words just slide along the ice walls of the pages. A strange first chapter that shows the pull between Siss and Unn but that really talks about nothing and everything; followed by the draw of the ice palace as Unn slips through the fissures in a very beautifully described chapter; then the burying of Siss's emotions when the snow comes. Every chapter's story and emotions are magnificently mirrored by the descriptions of the weather.

Recommended two hour read. Perfect for anyone in a slump who is in desperate need of mysteriously lyrical prose.


What a terrible review but I've lost my ability with words. Just read the book.

Fev 19, 2019, 11:39pm

I'm currently reading a book about life in Argentina's Patagonia which has put me in the world of the gaucho, so I'm thinking the next read will have to be Lonesome Dove to continue the western feel that I'm very much getting a kick out of.

Thus I created this thread which features Lonesome Dove as an impromptu March group read. Hope those of you who commented on my thread earleir can join me for this read.

Fev 20, 2019, 8:01am

I've heard similar reviews about The Power which is why I haven't read it despite being interested in the premise.

And I loved Alias Grace. I'm a sucker for any book with a strong sense of time period and interesting/complex female character.

I also have a strong interest in Scandinavian literature and The Ice Palace has really stuck with me. I also liked The Birds by the same author.

I'm considering joining the group read of Lonesome Dove. I've been meaning to read it for a long time.

Fev 20, 2019, 10:07am

>30 japaul22:

Yes I'm interested in reading more by Vesaas but his books certainly aren't easy to get a hold on. As for the group read I sure hope you join us!

Fev 20, 2019, 10:21am

>29 lilisin: Lonesome Dove is a lovely book. It's huge but there's so much heart in it and so much going on that I really enjoyed it.

Fev 21, 2019, 1:46pm

>28 lilisin: I enjoyed this review, for what it’s worth

>29 lilisin: Lonesome Dove - I’ll comment on the thread

Editado: Fev 21, 2019, 9:51pm

9) Sandrine Collette : Nothing but Dust

A quote on the cover states as follows:

A combination of a South American Western and a noir, Nothing But Dust has airs of Faulknerian tragedy in full Argentinian heat. A vicious circle of cruelty and redemption, written with complete austerity.

I haven't read any Faulkner but I have read Marguerite Duras and this book is the crushing and brutal tone of the family in The Lover, but instead of Indochina we are on the Patagonian plains in Argentina. Rafael is the youngest of four sons, born right after the disapperance of the father, and is thus subsequently terrorized by the oldest twin brothers as if he were at fault. He finds no safety in the skirts of the mother as she is even more cruel, reigning over her family as harsh as the Patagonia environment reigns over her ranch. The beauty of the book comes from the beauty of the landscapes and the movement of the horses over it as they herd in the sheep for shearing. The rest is terrorizing, cold, cruel, and brutal, and even as Rafael tries to bring home hope, it leads to a brutal climax as we are reminded that in Patagonia our time here is temporary and once we leave there will be nothing but dust.

A stunning little gem translated from the original French. And the translation is fantastic. Much recommended.

Interestingly enough this book was winner of the Landerneau Prize for crime fiction but I'm not understanding why it won under this category. Either the crime fiction genre has changed dramatically but I felt this is really just a very dark, noir, literary Western. It's really putting me in the mood for the Lonesome Dove group read coming up very soon!

Fev 22, 2019, 1:19pm

>34 lilisin: hmm. Musing on Patagonia landscapes. Your post caught my imagination.

Mar 18, 2019, 4:41am

11) Larry McMurtry : Lonesome Dove

Having finished this on Thursday night and finally having gotten off the lingering book coma it gave me, I can finally write down some brief thoughts.

This book will probably become my favorite book of the year; I was engrossed from start to finish and couldn't stop thinking about it when it wasn't right in front me. If that's not sign of a wonderful story and wonderful writing, I don't know what is.

McMurtry's mastery of humor, sense of timing with plot developments, ability to describe landscape and conditions until you can feel the dust on your own nose, is nothing short but amazing. He doesn't rely on cliches in the genre and never falls to the temptation of having action that has to continuously outdo the previous scene to keep a reader's interest.

How he managed to create characters with such a rich backstory you would think that he had written the prequels before. Such a marvelous journey and I am ordering the other books in the Lonesome Dove world as soon as possible.

Mar 18, 2019, 9:10am

>36 lilisin: It’s one of my favorite books ever. I knew you’d love it.

Editado: Mar 18, 2019, 1:16pm

>36 lilisin: I'm so glad you loved it. But the sequels are apparently not of the same extraordinary quality of the original, so take that for what it's worth.

Mar 26, 2019, 10:03am

Hi - thought you might be interested in this:

Have you read any Yu Miri?

Mar 26, 2019, 11:33pm

>39 wandering_star:

I've read this article as it has been floating about the Japanese-English translation peeps I follow on Twitter and the book has caught my eye before but I have not read it yet and I didn't know anything about Yu Miri until this book came out. But I read for so long the post-war authors that I'm only recently -- thanks to finally being able to read Japanese relatively properly! -- coming into contemporary authors but finding I'm really enjoying the contemporary Japanese authors. So much great work out there that needs to come out in translation.

Are you thinking of reading this one soon?

Mar 27, 2019, 12:11pm

It does look interesting - but I'm trying not to buy too many new books. I don't know how long I will hold out though!

Abr 2, 2019, 2:52am

>37 NanaCC:

It's looking like we all loved it! I'm not a re-reader in general but I see myself rereading this one someday in the future!

>38 RidgewayGirl:

I feel like the sequels will be more simple adventurous fun compared to Lonesome Dove which was also making commentary on the harshness yet beauty of the American West. But I also get a real pleasure out of reading pure adventure (think Dumas and Verne) so I still think they will still provide the right level of reading joy I'm looking for.

>41 wandering_star:

I looked for the original Japanese version in the big bookstore near me but they didn't have it in stock so I'm going to have to look for it elsewhere.

Editado: Abr 2, 2019, 3:10am

Finally some reprieve at work so perhaps I can go through some backlog.

10) Laurie Foos : The Blue Girl


I think that's the only real reaction I can get from this book.

The mothers stand by unable to move while one of their daughters has the courage to save the drowning blue girl. No one knows who the blue girl is nor where she comes from but she has a propensity for drowning, and the mothers have secretly been visiting her home to feed her moon pies made from their secrets. As the mothers' secrets become more plentiful, the blue girl becomes more gluttonous for the sticky marshmallow cream filling, and the daughters start to find suspicion in their mothers' behavior.

It's a book full of magical realism about these three mothers and how they came to live along this lake, a lake that attracted them like it attracts the summer tourists, but for some reason when fall comes, the tourists leave while they stay behind.

A story about the common doubts and regrets that comes from living in a small town I was intrigued by the premise but felt the writing to be juvenile, restrained, and even afraid. It didn't help that the story shifted perspective between the three mothers and their three daughters which served as a handicap so that the author wouldn't actually have to develop the relationships and setting more deeply.

As someone else mentioned in another thread, I'm finding a lot of these contemporary reads rely too heavily on this shifting perspectives trope and it mostly hurts, rather than aids their story. Also, was this story to be YA? With the writing level it felt YA, but the topic would have been stronger had it been a purely adult book but having both the point of view of both the daughters and the mothers scrambled the feel.

While some reviewers talk about the "haunting scenery" and find the book "compelling", I know I'll forget I ever read this book.

Abr 2, 2019, 3:29am

6) Michel Faber : The Book of Strange New Things

This book is a neutral one based on one thing: the book is marketed heavily as a love story but for me that was the least interesting and least convincing aspect of the story.

Peter had a troubled background of drugs and homelessness but was able to turn his life around through religion, and the love of his wife, Bea. Deeply in love they are separated as Peter has accepted a mission: to act as a missionary on another planet. As Peter finds himself tested with his mission on this new planet, Bea is left behind as the world seems to fall apart -- natural disasters, riots, plagues -- and their love is tested as Bea starts to feel Peter pulling away.

So yes, the story is framed as a love story, I admit that. But it was so unbelievable with Peter being such an unlikeable character that the book comes about more as a story about what happens to men when they are given power. And with Peter, his power is the ability to manipulate the natives on the planet via the teachings of the Christ.

But here is where the book is actually very interesting.
Unlike a typical mission, Peter is not sent to beguile begrudging natives into believing in Christ. Instead it turns out he was requested by the natives to be taught the teachings from the Book of Strange New Things (the Bible). The natives, ironically enough, have the most pure thoughts about Christ, without the sins and temptations and war that has followed man. So you have Peter, who is a great sinner himself, being faced with what his religion is actually supposed to be. And with this we get to follow his relationship with the natives as he loses himself in this world and learns more about this fascinating culture. So while I mentioned earlier that he is given this great power of manipulation, he interestingly becomes dispossessed of it by stronger characters.

So I quite liked the book in this aspect. But in terms of the "most romantic love story EVER!!" aspect of it I was highly unconvinced. To be honest the love story all quite felt like good riddance to me.

In any case, a strange curiosity of a book that certainly had me turning the page and while irritated at many aspects of the book, still had me reflecting on the benefits and danger of teaching religion to those who don't understand it.

Abr 2, 2019, 11:13am

I hadn't heard that The Book of Strange New Things was supposed to be a love story when I read it, and I really enjoyed what Faber was doing, both in regards to examining faith and how he upended the usual man interacts with aliens story. Faber is a thoughtful and imaginative author.

Abr 2, 2019, 8:09pm

>45 RidgewayGirl:

I think he was definitely successful in what you mention. But I still remain neutral as I enjoyed the book but at the same time remain a bit irritated and can't figure out what kind of reader I would recommend this book to.

Abr 2, 2019, 9:31pm

>44 lilisin: Hm, that description makes me think of Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow.

Abr 4, 2019, 4:40am

I'm doing so well on getting through the TBR pile I created over the winter holidays. It's the best feeling to buy a book and then immediately read it. And it's so much less daunting to have a short pile of less than 20 books than to look at a TBR backlist of 100s. Seeing the obvious effect of your dwindling TBR piling is so motivating.

12) Tara Westover : Educated: A Memoir

If you're going to hang out with the Westover family, it's best to wear a helmet.

All in all a good memoir that kept me reading but unfortunately I still know nothing about Tara herself, only about her family. She has written nearly 400 pages about her life and yet I feel like I know nothing about her. Why did she write this book?: As revenge towards her family? To teach people about survivalist life? To teach about Mormonism? As a simple means to release her burden onto others? I couldn't quite get it. She educated herself but what has been brought to the reader?

Things almost seemed too extreme and with too many gaps in the narrative a lot of it became hard to believe. I understand that not everyone's upbringing is peaches and cream like mine and some people just go from one layer of hell to another, but she keeps discussing her father's mental issues and possible bipolar personality and yet never really examines her own. When she has her mental breakdown during the PhD, like most things in the book she just seems to miraculously get over it but never tells us how.

In any case, yes, I liked the book in general and her family is fascinating in a terrifying way, but I still don't understand why I read this book. It's a curiosity.

Abr 10, 2019, 5:03am

>48 lilisin: You've got me really thinking about this again that I didn't cover off in my review. As you say, what is the purpose of the book?

I thought it was going to be a book about becoming highly educated against the odds, but it was primarily a book of vitriol against her family. I was also expecting it to be about Mormonism, or living with survivalists, but these inconsistently ebbed and flowed in the narrative, and her father acquiesced on so many things the kids wanted to do so I felt I could never fully wrap my arms around that part of the story (which is a shame, as I'd liked to have learnt more about both). So was it instead a story about living with violence and mental illness?

I feel that a mix of things in her background screwed her head up, but in her own mind she's not clear about precisely what so she takes equal parts of selective memory and poor-me syndrome and creates her own inconsistent narrative and conclusions. I strongly suspect that she's also outgrown her provincial family and their way of living since she's expanded her own horizons, but that's hard to admit as those feelings of embarrassment reflect back on her, and instead she wants other people to blame.

The title of the book is misleading - I think it should have been called 'Resentment'.

Love the opening line to your review: If you're going to hang out with the Westover family, it's best to wear a helmet. Brilliant.

Editado: Abr 11, 2019, 4:09am

>49 AlisonY:

From the blurb and marketing I also thought it'd be a heavy book about survivalists which I was quite looking forward to as it's nothing I've read before. But really the only survivalist aspect of her family was the creation of extra supplies. They weren't off the grid, nor were they fully intolerant of modern conveniences. In fact, having both families coming from relatively normal families, I was more interested in learning how the parents came to become what they were. Especially Tara's mother as she seemed to just play along with her husband's delirium rather than actually believe in it. At least until the end. But at the same time, by the end Tara was starting to especially break down so her observance of her mother could also be a figment of her breakdown.

And again, three siblings ended up getting PhDs which means that Tara isn't the unique little unicorn that she is marketed out to be.

I haven't watched any interviews with her but I feel like I actually wouldn't enjoy being around her. Based on her writing alone she seems to have quite the better-than-thou attitude mixed with what-did-i-do-to-deserve-this resentment that makes for quite a difficult paradox of feelings.

In any case, the more I think about it, the more I distrust the book.
Wasn't there an uproar over James Frey and his Million Little Pieces a long time ago? I feel this is that.

Abr 11, 2019, 4:23am

>50 lilisin: possibly, although I feel that Westover's story tends towards embellishment rather than abject lies. Frey, from memory, had 1% truth in his book, 99% complete made up fantasy.

Maio 29, 2019, 8:09pm

13) Anna Kavan : Ice

I have no idea what I read but it was very interestingly written. Our narrator goes chasing after a glass girl as ice starts to take over the landscape leading to broken villages and a desperate population. However, every time the narrator finds her the glass girl dies, only to be taken away again by the warden who seems to have a hold on her. As the story progresses and the ice starts to come at the world more quickly our narrator gets closer and closer to the glass girl only to discover her hatred for him and what he has done. She fears him, hates him, wishes nothing to do with him for at his touch she dies again.

It's a strange and pulling story best read in one sitting to really let yourself get immersed in the world but at the end of the day I'm still not quite sure what I read. Kobo Abe, my favorite author, is also just as difficult a read if not more difficult but his observations on the individual in society is more readily appreciated. But perhaps I can say that because I'm very familiar with the intricacies of Japanese society.

With Ice however I had to read about the author's background to sort of understand the meaning of the text but even then I missed out on a few it seems.

Looking at the blurb on the back of the book:
In a frozen, apocalyptic landscape, destruction abounds: great walls of ice overrun the world and secretive governments vie for control. Against this surreal, yet eerily familiar broken world, an unnamed narrator embarks on a hallucinatory quest for a strange and elusive “glass-girl” with silver hair. He crosses icy seas and frozen plains, searching ruined towns and ransacked rooms, all to free her from the grips of a tyrant known only as the warden and save her before the ice closes all around. A novel unlike any other, Ice is at once a dystopian adventure shattering the conventions of science fiction, a prescient warning of climate change and totalitarianism, a feminist exploration of violence and trauma, a Kafkaesque literary dreamscape, and a brilliant allegory for its author’s struggles with addiction—all crystallized in prose glittering as the piling snow.

I seem to have missed out on a few of these ideas. The book's world is being enveloped by ice but is the backdrop enough of a means to declare the book a warning of climate change? The warden, as a character, is he enough to represent a warning against totalitarianism? A feminist exploration of violence and trauma: yes, okay, this one is here but is it a feminist exploration or just a simple exploration? As for the author's struggles with addiction, unless you mean the choppy sea way of writing, I'm not sure I saw this theme but perhaps I would have to have read the author's earlier works to see how her addiction changed her writing style.

In any case, not an easy book and while the writing and the setting still haunts me, I think I'm getting more out of the book now that a few weeks have passed than I did while reading it. It seems the ice cold setting described in the book and the desperate search through the ice for the glass girl was the real impression left in me as the themes suggesting to me by the blurb I found no connection to. And reading it was a struggle. Once I put the book down I had no desire to continue.

A strange one. Has any one else read it?

Maio 30, 2019, 1:26am

>52 lilisin: I wish I could say for sure that I had. I can remember seeing it in a library in Australia 50+ years ago, and may have borrowed it, but if I actually did so and then read it, I know even less than you about what I read. Anyway, I've wishlisted it.

BTW have you seen the cover image that came up for that touchstone? From the Popular Library US edition. And the blurb line "A man ..a woman ... a world that has succumbed to

Maybe Popular Library didn't know what they had read either.

Maio 30, 2019, 3:57am

>53 haydninvienna:

The touchstone brings me to the cover I specified and I don't see the one you mention under "other covers" but if you do get to the book (again?) please let me know what sense you've made of it.

Maio 31, 2019, 8:39pm

>52 lilisin: I haven't read it but I have it. I picked it up because I think my husband is a fan, but it's sitting around on my bookshelf still.

Editado: Jun 1, 2019, 12:33pm

>52 lilisin: Yes I have read Ice. Anna kavan here is a link to my review. I seem to have compared it to the film Last year at Marienbad - one of my all time favourite films.

It was a strange book, but at just 150 pages and lots of mystery it packs a bit of a punch.

Jun 2, 2019, 8:46pm

>56 baswood:

Interesting review and does seem to mirror my review in a way although you found the mystery intriguing while I found it a little bit puzzling. However I think we agree on the strong parts of the book. In any case, an interesting read, but probably not one I would recommend. Best to leave it to those who stumble upon it themselves as I did.

Editado: Jun 19, 2019, 12:06am

Hello everyone. I'm still here! A little update perhaps?

I was reading a lot at the beginning of the year as I sat by dad's bedside in the hospital and then to escape the feelings associated with his death in February. The cancer was sudden and we only got two more months with him although I was able to be by his side as I came home from Japan to be with him. Reading proved to be a great and much needed escape.

I also decided to take a break from my orchestra after our most recent concert in April as the sense of responsibility associated with going to rehearsal every weekend had exhausted me alongside with the family issues. Now I have been able to fully relax on the weekends and make every free moment a good one. I've been surrounded by amazing friends and enjoying focusing on sports again and riding my bicycle to and from work on the beautiful sunny days we've been having.

Since reading Lonesome Dove, which was the perfect book at the perfect time with the most perfect story, my reading has languished as I tend to read most when I'm stressed and need to escape, and now I've found again a nice balance to my life so no need to escape in other worlds when I'm enjoying mine.

My mood has recently shifted to wanting to read in Japanese again so I've been voraciously reading comics and see myself shifting to novels again soon. I have a lot of exciting books waiting for me in my Japanese TBR so I'm looking forward to this greatly especially as some look to be perfect summer reads.

In the meantime I went to France for two weeks in the spring (although the weather was horrible and felt more like winter) and had a lot of fun scavenging the bouquinistes by the Seine (although I got ripped off by the ones near Rue du Bac -- I always forget those are the most expensive; the best bouquinistes are right across from Notre Dame). I picked up:

Jules Verne :
Robur Le Conquérant
Le Sphinx des glaces
La Jangada
Les Indes noires
La Chasse au météore
Deux ans de vacances
Michel Strogoff
Face au drapeau
Un drame en Livonie
Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine
Emile Zola : La Bête humaine

And then I got the following from the bookstore in the Bon Marche which I really enjoy the way they set up their displays.

François-René de Chateaubriand : Voyage en Amérique
Akira Yoshimura : La guerre des jours lointains
Futaro Yamada : Les huit chiens des Satomi
Yiwu Liao : Des balles et de l'opium
Shi Nai-an : Au bord de l'eau

Bon Marche was also a great success in the fashion department as my best friend joined me in Paris and as her maid-of-honor I went ahead and scouted the Bon Marche for wedding dresses before she arrived and ended up finding her dress on the first try!

Next up I got a package from Amazon for some English language books that I'm also really looking forward to, including the other books in McMurtry's series featuring Augustus and Call, and then Keene's memoir to commiserate his recent passing.

John Wyndham : The Day of the Triffids
Larry McMurtry : Streets Of Laredo
Larry McMurtry : Dead Man's Walk
Larry McMurtry : Comanche Moon
Sheila Heti : Motherhood: A Novel
Claudia Dey : Heartbreaker: A Novel
Donald Keene : Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan

Motherhood is also a book I've had my eye out for a year already, so much so that I pre-ordered it and then when it came out nothing happened (I thought at least an email would come from Amazon) so when I made my order for the other books I ended up with two copies of the book. Fortunately a friend here in Japan would also like to read it so I'm giving her the other copy.

In any case, that's my update. A mix of news but please don't worry about me as I'm doing quite well. Hope to read and review some books sometime in the near future!

(I haven't bothered to check any of the touchstones so there might be some incorrect ones.)

Jun 19, 2019, 4:13am

>58 lilisin: Very sorry to hear of your father's passing - sounds like you've had a tough year.

It's interesting that you turn to books when you're stressed. I'm the complete opposite - when I'm stressed I can't settle myself to concentrate on reading at all. Perhaps something non-fictional that I can dip in and out of, but novels I can't get into when my head's fried.

Looks like you've picked up some great titles in your recent book hauls - look forward to reading your reviews.

Jun 19, 2019, 4:22am

>59 AlisonY:

Grad school was when I read Don Quixote and The Count of Monte-Cristo and The Three Musketeers back to back one summer due to the stress and needing a good story to procrastinate from life with. It seemed the longer, the better. It's like I either need pure stress or a vacation on a beach where there is nothing to do but tan and read to get me to read a book. It'd be nice to read a bit in the middle of all that. :)

Jun 19, 2019, 6:26am

>58 lilisin: I’m sorry to hear about your father, and that you’ve had such a stressful start to the year. It seems as though you’ve found a way to cope that suits you. We all deal with these issues differently. Enjoy your new books.

Jun 19, 2019, 6:39am

>58 lilisin: Sorry to hear about your dad, but nice to see that you are finding a nice balance again.
I can see you've made serious purchases! Lots of prominent French, Japanese and US authors! Enjoy your free time and I'm looking forward to reading your reviews whenever you have the time and the willingness to post them.

Jun 19, 2019, 9:50pm

It's not an easy thing, to lose a parent. I'm glad you were able to be there. Lonesome Dove would be an excellent book for that time - it's so immersive and things keep happening and there's so much humanity in those pages. Take care of yourself and I'm glad to hear you're doing well.

Jun 19, 2019, 10:43pm

So sorry for your loss. The death of a parent is always devastating in some way. Happy you seem to have ways to cope.

Jun 20, 2019, 7:56pm

I am sorry about your father. It's good to hear that you were able to be with him at the end. Being far away from family at times like this is the worst thing about living overseas.

Jun 21, 2019, 2:00am

I'm sorry to hear about your father's death, Lilisin. I'm glad that you had the support of your friends, and that you picked up plenty of books to read this summer!

Jun 21, 2019, 5:29am

>58 lilisin: Condolences on the loss of your father. I'm glad to hear you're doing well.

Editado: Jun 25, 2019, 7:35pm

Thank you everyone for the warm thoughts. I'm just reading my comics (actually reading every day!) for now hoping to ease into reading novels again soon. Also anxiously awaiting the end of rainy season here in Japan so that I can go to the beach. So far it's warm enough to go to the beach but we've only been getting sunny blue skies during the week while everyone is at work and the weekends have been all day rain. In the meantime that means spending a lot of time at the climbing gym working on some upper body strength. I can finally do a chin up! A great feat! Also starting back up my violin lessons next week after taking a two month break from the violin. I'm super rusty and yesterday my dirty practicing lead to a headache so I feel bad for my teacher having to hear me but it'll be good to get back on the violin again.

Set 2, 2019, 11:23pm

As I mentioned in my last update I have been spending my days reading manga in Japanese. My TBR pile has ballooned to such a ridiculous level that even if I read at a pace of one manga per day, it would take me nearly a year to clear the pile. So I have been doing just that, reading at about that pace to try and clear through some series. It has been fun and it's been good to actually read what I've been buying instead of just imagining myself reading.

I've had a wonderful late July and August full of amazing summer activities including a three day weekend in Taipei (which I absolutely loved) and another three day weekend where I escaped the large city of Tokyo for the countryside of Fukui prefecture in Japan. I ended up spending three days at the beach with a friend and exploring his hometown while socking up the wonderful feeling of windows rolled down in the car with my arm poking out to enjoy the warm summer wind on my skin; a feeling I haven't felt since leaving Texas for Japan.

For the shinkansen ride to and from Fukui I decided to finish up a book I had started the previous summer but never finished (for no reason).

14) 椰月 美智子 : しずかな日々 (Quiet Days)

Life is not a drama. It's just something you fill with watermelon, and friends, and catchball in an empty field. It's those quiet days that define your memories and you.

By the same author as my favorite in Japanese book from last year, Michiko Yazuki once again explores the theme of adolescent boys and the innocence they should maintain. Eda is a 6th grader being raised by a single mother who has never known what it is like to have friends. At the start of the spring semester he meets a group of boys and finally starts to find a place for himself. During summer vacation, however, his mother announces that she is moving to another city to start a shop with her friend. Not wanting to lose the life he has just created for himself they decide that Eda will live with his grandfather.

As the summer progresses with bike rides, fish keeping, summer homework and vegetable picking with his grandfather, Eda begins to feel what adolescence is supposed to be like even as the physical and emotional distance from his (irresponsible) mother increases. Told from the point of view of Eda as an adult we never learn much about his adult self but we can feel his sense of nostalgia for those simpler days, those days where nothing happens but that's exactly what life should be.

A lovely little book perfect as one of those easy summer reads that takes you back to those special moments in your childhood (but that I'm fortunate to continue living) although not as strong as the previous book I read by the author, 14 on the Horizon.


I leave for Fiji in less than two weeks where I plan to swim and read all day so I'm excited to see what books come out from it. Last time I had my beach vacation in the Philippines I ended up reading 4 books so crossing my fingers for equal success! Think I'll bring some English books and maybe a good summer feeling Japanese book.

Set 24, 2019, 7:52pm

Just got back from a wonderful 10 day vacation in Fiji where on top of island hopping, snorkeling, swimming with reef sharks and manta rays, soaking up the sun, meeting other friendly solo travelers and quickly becoming friends, hermit crab racing, and also lots of little naps soaking up the wonderful sun, and watching every variation possible in a sunset, I also managed to read 5 books. What a perfect vacation it was.

Keigo Higashino : Salvation of a Saint
John Wyndham : The Day of the Triffids
Ursula K. Le Guin : The Lathe of Heaven
Pearl S. Buck : The Good Earth
Sheila Heiti : Motherhood

Out 16, 2019, 3:52am

I just finished a book this afternoon and I was about to start the next one when I decided that nope, I'd like to first talk about some of the books I've ready recently. Otherwise I'll continue to come up with excuses as to how I have no time to write about what I'm reading.

I read five books while on vacation in Fiji. I purposely chose thin books that could be read in a single day or two days and books I felt I could be immersed into with a good page-turning story or atmospheric setting. Two of the books I read are reviewed below with the following three books to be reviewed later.

15) Keigo Higashino : Salvation of a Saint

My first book I chose was a mystery thriller. This is my second book by this author with both being within the same series -- series in the sense that a particular character is continuously present even if the books don't build off each other (as far as I'm aware).

Higashino has created the perfect crime -- a woman's husband dies from poison and she has the perfect motive but she's hundreds of miles away when he dies so how could she do it -- and the book is all about how the detectives figure out how she did it, if she did it. It was certainly page turning as any good mystery should be but unlike his first book that I read, The Devotion of Suspect X, the way of killing is given to you right away with another major clue continuously mentioned so there is a huge lack of surprise compared to the other. It's more of a "will the murdered actually get away with the perfect crime" kind of book which still makes for an entertaining read but hardly memorable for me.

16) John Wyndham : The Day of the Triffids

The next book I read was this classic scifi which followed a different story that what I was led to believe in the blurb and that made the book even better. Triffids have arrived on Earth in mass and humans have managed to enterprise the triffids for commercial production. However, one day an event in the atmosphere causes the population to go blind, creating a mass panic, and a means with which the triffids can use to take the upper hand.

It turned into a story about how dependent we have become on what we consider our strengths and how quickly these can be stripped away from us: sight, status, class, societal rules and laws. When society has fallen apart how much of it should we try to build up again. How quickly will we have to descend before we can be rebuilt.

Lots of great insight and a final lesson in how humankind is so swift to try to do this and that, ignoring the real terror that lurks around the corner.

21) Donnie Eichar : Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

This is the book I finished this afternoon and of which I read the majority of in one day as I just couldn't help turning the page. The Dyatlov Pass Incident is an incident that occurred in February 1959 in the Ohal Mountains of Russia where 9 young university students mysteriously died while hiking. They were found 100 yards from their tent, with no shoes and no jackets, one girl with a missing tongue, and three with blunt force trauma to the head. What happened that day has remained a mystery as the case closed with no conclusion as to what happened to the group. Did they see something they weren't supposed to see and were thus murdered? Is there a major Russian government conspiracy behind their deaths?

Eichar interweaves the narrative between the 1959 deaths and following recovery mission, and his own errand to Russia as he tries to solve this decades-long unsolved mystery. The gripping nature of the book comes from knowing the brutal end of these students and yet trying to pick up clues as to their deaths with Eichar as he retraces their steps. We actually feel like we can save these students if we can just solve the case before they set up their tent for the last time. Peppered with actual photographs from their cameras, seeing the smiles on their faces and imagining their tight camaraderie adds to the dread you feel as you know each page you turn brings you closer to their end.

I really enjoyed this one and am happy with Eichar's conclusions.

(Photos of the students' bodies are not included in the book but they can be found via a Google search and that certainly added an extra element to the book for me.)

Out 16, 2019, 7:41am

That last one sounds grim but very intriguing. Did he come to a fairly certain conclusion then, or was it left open?

Editado: Out 16, 2019, 7:51pm

>72 AlisonY:

I felt he came to as certain a conclusion one can make according to science and considering there are no witnesses to the event. It at least wasn't left open.

Out 16, 2019, 8:31pm

Reading holidays are the best! Fijian sunsets sound amazing...

Out 24, 2019, 8:43am

And now I've read another two books and so I'm really really running behind with writing down my thoughts. It's unfortunate I couldn't write down my thoughts nearer to the date of reading as I've already forgotten character names and places, and I've already forgotten what I've really wanted to say about these books. Nevertheless, here are three more reviews that might be riddled with errors and strange grammar.

17) Ursula K. Le Guin : The Lathe of Heaven

This was another scifi I took to Fiji to accompany the Triffids, and my first taste of Ursula Le Guin, whose name I decided I had now heard too many times to ignore. It's a book about Orr, a man who tries to take his life to escape his dreams. He is assigned to a psychiatrist, Haber, to whom he asks for a means to get rid of his dreams. Why is he afraid of his dreams? Because what he dreams, comes true. The psychiatrist has a machine that helps the patient reach a dream state that is open to manipulation from the outside. But when the psychiatrist sees changes happening based on what he has suggested, he comes to see his patient as a means to change his life and the world around them. The psychiatrist believes himself to be doing this for the greater good of the world but as he can't control how the patient interprets his suggestions, the results are not exactly as he expected. As Orr and Haber fight over control of Orr's dreams, the world quickly enters a more chaotic state and it's a wonder how Orr will find a way to upright things as they were.

A truly fascinating concept backed up with wonderful writing that makes you question what it means to change the world for the better good. Is there such a thing as an ideal world and is it our moral responsibility to try to create it if we have the means to do it. Can you create an ideal world based on one's person's perception of the definition.

One flaw is that the characters aren't as fleshed out as they could be so you really are relying on the pacing of the book but it's a good page turner.

18) Pearl S. Buck : The Good Earth

This book. This book. I have finally read it. The number of times I've passed my mother's bookshelves with it starting at me, waiting for me to pick it up despite the dust that has accumulated. I finally bought a fresh copy and knew that the only way I would end up reading it was if I placed it in my limited TBR pile for Fiji and what a success that trick was. At least, a success in terms of getting me to read it.

In terms of the plot, it's a story I've read, and seen, so many times that although superbly written (kudos to Buck for managing to write from the perspective of a male Chinese farmer), and written in such a way that you could almost think you were reading a Chinese legend, I just didn't find myself as enamored with it as I might have been had I read it 20 years ago at the beginning of my Asian journey. But that doesn't diminish the fact that it is a wonderfully crafted story about a farmer and his rise from poverty with his wife by his side.

20) Jules Verne : La chasse au météore

I love dipping into a Verne every once in a while. It's always an adventure with the most perfect doses of humor.

This adventure focuses on two families, one headed by Mr. Dean Forsyth and Doctor Sydney Hudelson. The two men are great friends and their children are even engaged to marry one another until one day where they both discover a meteor in the sky. This discovery leads to a fracture in their friendship and a threat to the engagement as the two men battle each other on the right of discovery. As their rivalry becomes heated, and the townspeople start to take sides, and the newspapers start to print their opinions, it is discovered that the great meteor rotating about the earth is actually made of gold and with this discovery a new battle begins. Will the wedding ever happen and is there anyway to settle this great dispute about what could lead to owning the greatest fortune on earth?!

This book shocked me with the most fascinating beginning, like stepping into a western: the old types of majestic westerns where the characters don't even speak but a tense music follows their actions for the first 10 minutes as they feel the intense heat on their brow under their cowboy hats. The scene of Seth Stanfort trotting his horse down the Exeter Street back and forth waiting for someone we have not been introduced to yet is a scene that will remain with me for me.

And as quick as Stanfort's entrance is, so is his exit, until Jules Verne craftily joins all his characters together in a moment of adventure, humor, and cleverness.

Already wondering what my next Verne will be!

Editado: Out 24, 2019, 9:40am

19) Sheila Heiti : Motherhood

This book deserves not to be grouped with other reviews and is a book I want to spend more time talking about.
It's a book way out of the realm of my typical reads. A book I would never had picked up on my own at a bookstore had I simply glanced it on a shelf. It took a booktuber to make me notice it.

What was it about this book that made me decide to pick it up? It was a curiosity. A curiosity to see if Sheila Heiti could manage to capture my feelings. You see, the book is about a woman in her 30s who is trying to cope with the idea that she might not want to have a child. The narrator is a writer, with a boyfriend she believes to love, and a life she seems more or less content with. But she can't shake off the feeling that she is supposed to be doing more, to be producing more, or maybe is supposed to be producing.. something. She spends the book using coin-flipping to help make decisions when questioning her relationship with her boyfriend, her friends, her unborn potential child, her mother, and to herself. She debates whether she is deceiving everyone, just herself, or if she is the one being deceived. It's a constant back and forth between trying to convince herself that she wants a child, or that she should want a child, and right when she decides she does indeed want a child she goes right back to wondering if this is her decision or the decision society is making for her.

It's a story about indecision, desire, contradiction, obligation and it's all done with a blatant honesty. There are no romantic notions, the sex is blunt and the narrator's back-and-forth can get tiring but that's what makes the book a success.

Because I am also a woman in her 30s who is trying to cope with the idea that I might not want a child. And this book captures my feelings in more ways that I can say.

Saying that you don't want a child can seem like a simple enough decision but in all honesty it's a decision encased with indecision, and fear, and hesitation, and shame. It's hard to look at your friends and understand their excitement as they get pregnant and have children. It's hard to understand why you could care less about having a baby placed in your arms. I never in my youth had a desire to name my future children and as an adult I never got the warmth of emotion that accompanies many women when they see babies. Some babies are cute, yes, but that is rational statement I am making. If a baby is legitimately cute, then I can't rationally deny its cuteness just because of my lack of maternal affection. But I can't pretend that all babies are magically beautiful and innocent and pure just because they are in a state of baby-ness.

Some readers criticized the narrator's wallowing and inability to make a decision and her wishy-washy-ness but Heiti captured that feeling so tremendously well. I have also tried to change my mind due to my circumstances, make excuses as to why maybe now I don't want a baby but obviously I'll want one in the future because of course that should be my innate desire as a woman. I've tried to persuade myself that I didn't want a baby because I was too young too married, I wasn't yet on the right career course, I didn't have enough money to provide for a child yet, I didn't have the right partner. Maybe once I found the right man, I would want to have a child with him. Even if I didn't necessarily want a child myself, if the man I loved did, maybe I could do this thing for him. Maybe love would make me want to have a child.

See? It's so easy to come up with excuses.

Then the narrator reflects on her relationship with her mother and wonders if something in that relationship might have led to her lack of maternal instinct. She notes how her mother also seems to be more occupied with looking out for her own mother than she did her own child. It's a culture of looking back instead of forward, the narrator seems to conclude. And from that I looked at my own family and noticed a similar pattern. My grandmother admits that she was never born to be a mother, despite having had four children. She did because that's what one did back then. It was a product of the times. But she really wished she could have stayed wild longer, stayed unmarried longer. My grandmother once even told me that if she had been born in my generation she would have fun with men, an option not available to her. My own mother has always complained about her mother's lack of motherly attention.

Now, I didn't lack in motherly attention as my mother was an amazing woman but in my eyes she was amazing for so many more things other than just being a mother. It was my mother's intelligence, charisma, intelligence, strong sense of self that made me idolize her. But my mother also has never been one to dote on others' children. She loved her own children of course but never really cared for others. She has never requested grandchildren and certainly has never really expressed an interest in becoming a grandmother. Only in the last month have we discovered that my brother is going to have a child, her first (and quite possibly only) grandchild, and as we discussed our future travel plans she said that she guessed she'll have to go visit the kid at its birth to support her son.

So my mother having been such a tremendous role model for me, was her lack of interest in babies also conditioned in me? Is this reason I seem to just not care.

Such thoughts this book guided me through it almost seemed like the book was written for me and that's why I was captivated by the book. Even if the writing style was a bit more experimental and "contemporary" than I tend to like my books, the message was powerful.

The other day I had an appointment at the gynecologist's office. The five years had passed on my IUD and it was time to get it replaced. I spent the last year questioning my IUD. Should I get a new one? If I do, should I keep the same five year one? Maybe I should get the the three year one. Maybe I should switch back to a non semi-permanent option? The question is, why was I asking myself these questions? It was all a way to ask myself do I want a baby? Do I want to prepare myself for maybe having a baby?

That night after the appointment (I did decide to stick with the same IUD), I had a dream. I was looking at a male figure, my partner, and looked down at my arms and saw a baby. I smiled and tucked the blanket under its arms. Then I placed the baby down to my left, engaged in conversation with a woman to my right, and when I looked back to my left, the baby was sinking into a mud hole. And I just watched as it sank and sank and sank, the mud enveloping its small body.


Nobody looks at a childless gay couple and thinks their life must lack meaning or depth or substance because they didn't have kids. No one looks at a couple of guys who have been together forever, love each other, are happy in their work, have chosen not to have kids, and probably still fucking, and pities them; or thinks that deep down inside they must know they're living a trivial and callow life because they're not fathers. Nobody thinks that! ... It's only straight couples people have these feelings about -- how empty their lives must be. No, actually, it's not even the man -- people look at him like he got away with something. It's just the woman -- the woman who doesn't have a child is looked at with the same aversion and reproach as a grown man who doesn't have a job. Like she has something to apologize for. Like she's not entitled to pride.

Out 28, 2019, 6:55am

>76 lilisin: Thanks lilisin for this very personal and thorough review. The book sounds really interesting, and a subject that has haunted me for some time. I am not in my 30's anymore and I have made the choice to have children, but tried to make it a conscious choice, not something that society would dictate to me. I am still not clear why I took this decision, and regularly wonder if it was the right decision (although not regretting it).

So your review strongly resonates with me. What did this book brought you in the end? Did it help you in the process of thinking this through? or comfort you by making you accept your back and forth? I guess there is no right decision per se, just a decision and each of us has to deal with the consequences of it, whatever one decides. We are lucky to be in a position to decide, born in a country and a time when we have options, and I think I am not the same mother because I feel I chose it than I would be if it had been imposed to me.

Great quote by the way, that illustrates well that gender equality is not yet a fact. (Although I am not sure I agree with it. The de facto sterility of a gay couple and the French debate around “the right to have kids” shows how gay and lesbian couples also have a social pressure around what is supposed to be a meaningful life and how children are a necessary part of it).

Out 28, 2019, 11:41am

>75 lilisin: Three books that are on my radar to read at some time, interested especially in the Jules Verne as it is one of his lesser known works. Thanks for your reviews.

>76 lilisin: Wow! Motherhood really spoke to you. I do sympathise with your difficulty in coming to terms with a decision that you perhaps will not have children. My wife and I do not have children as even in previous relationships we have both made conscious decisions that children were not for us. Now having retired from work and obviously too old to have children ourselves we have no regrets. Most of our friends have children and now grandchildren and so we are looked on as being just a little odd I think, but Oh the freedom we have more than compensates.
I do understand how difficult a decision it is for a woman in her thirties in having to cope with the pressures to do what other people are doing. I am pleased that you have found a book that rehearses the arguments with you. I believe that everybody is different but at least in the most civilised countries there is now a choice.

Out 28, 2019, 8:44pm

>76 lilisin: Excellent review and comments.

Out 28, 2019, 9:05pm

>76 lilisin: That was a great review. If you're interested in the author at all, she has a good interview on the Longform podcast

Out 30, 2019, 8:41am

>76 lilisin: I so identify with the comments you made about struggling with the question of whether to have a child. In my late 20s/early 30s when several friends had kids, I was curious about the process of being pregnant, but knew I didn't want to care for a child on my own. Luckily my family didn't provide pressure to marry or have children (and my brother helped out by having 4 grandchildren.) And I didn't have a strong desire to have a child. I don't regret my decision, but it's one I think many women struggle with.

Editado: Out 31, 2019, 11:04pm

>77 raton-liseur:

I am not in my 30's anymore and I have made the choice to have children, but tried to make it a conscious choice, not something that society would dictate to me. I am still not clear why I took this decision, and regularly wonder if it was the right decision (although not regretting it).

How interesting that even after having children one can still ask oneself these types of questions.

What did this book brought you in the end? Did it help you in the process of thinking this through? or comfort you by making you accept your back and forth?

I don't know if I can say that it brought me something or that it helped me through my own issues. I feel more like it was able to express very well the process of going through these issues and it was nice to have it in writing. I have still have not made a decision because I'm not even sure there is a decision to be made yet. I've been single for nearly 7 years now so it's not even an issue I need to decide on right now. Granted, a friend of mine couldn't find herself a partner but wanted a child so badly that she ended up going through a sperm donor to have her child, but I know that if I were to have a child, I would definitely want it to be a with a solid partner, at the very least.

Even my brother whom I mentioned in his review, he wanted children but was with a girlfriend who did not. Only now after having passed 40 years of age did she finally make the decision that she wanted a child.

So I know I still have time to make a decision (or not).

Great quote by the way, that illustrates well that gender equality is not yet a fact. (Although I am not sure I agree with it. The de facto sterility of a gay couple and the French debate around “the right to have kids” shows how gay and lesbian couples also have a social pressure around what is supposed to be a meaningful life and how children are a necessary part of it).

Sheila Heti is a Canadian author and I feel the book is very much entrenched in North American values so I don't know what a European audience would think about the book. I don't know any gay couples in person who have or are in the process of wanting children so I am not well versed in the social pressures they might be under.

Editado: Out 31, 2019, 11:27pm

>78 baswood: through >81 markon:

Thank you for your kind comments and for sharing your own experiences.


I think it's interesting to note that the person on LT who reviewed the book immediately after I did absolutely hated the book. Reading their review I definitely understand the points they come up with in terms of the writing style, the unlikeable main character, the flat side characters. I was able to look past these things to look deeper into the emotions being presented in the book which is why I feel I got a better read out of the book.

Nov 1, 2019, 7:28am

>82 lilisin: Thanks for your answers and insights. You make me feel like reading this book, I might look at the French translation when it comes out. I agree with you: it's nice, even if a book does not help you per se, that at least it formulates what is in us, but not that clear yet.

And pondering on your thoughts in >83 lilisin:, I guess some times, depending on how close you are to a character's preoccupations, you can get something totally different from the book compared to another reader's experience. I have felt that when a book is praised by lots of people and I just can't understand why (it just doesn't speak to me), or, less often, the contrary.
It's complicated: a book has to be read at the right time, but the right people. Good books might be the ones rich enough to speak to people with various preoccupations at various times!

Nov 4, 2019, 4:02am

>76 lilisin: just to add my tuppence to the discussion on to have kids / not to have kids. I have two kids, and started my family at age 34, but I definitely was not one of those women you refer to who naturally cluck at other people's babies. In fact, I was so not into other people's kids that when I told my family I was pregnant the news was met with stunned, open-mouthed gasps from my parents and sisters.

I remember that the decision to start trying for a family felt huge. I didn't have this natural sense of 'readiness', and was terrified of every part of it and of making that leap. I continually debated whether it was the right time in terms of my career, or where we lived, or things we wanted to do as a couple. In the end I learnt there will never be the 'right time' - things will always have to give in some shape or form.

What made us decide to go for it? I think simply the fact that we felt we had ticked the boxes on most of the things we'd wanted to do together as a childless couple, so we were ready for that 'sacrifice' of things we would no longer be able to do so easily with children. We enjoyed a good few years together without children which was important for us, and in that time travelled extensively, stayed in cool places, partied hard and were suitably selfish and indulgent with our spare time.

When I had my first child I was amazed that I felt a type of love so powerful and different to anything I'd experienced before. I really enjoy being a mother, although I won't deny it's also tough and challenging at times. We definitely lead a very different type of life to our childless friends, but different seems to be the right word - neither one is better than the other.

My point is simply don't let only a lack of natural broodiness be a sole decision-making factor. I still have no interest in other people's babies / kids ('family' hotels with kids running about everywhere remain hell on earth to me), but I have plenty of love and affection for my own two. Despite doing pretty well in my career, they are without a shadow of a doubt the best thing I ever did.

Nov 5, 2019, 1:51am

>85 AlisonY:

Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing your experience.

The concept of "the right time" was definitely discussed in the book and is certainly a topic I've encountered before. It's only natural that there can be no right time for something that can so dramatically change your life.

As for the rest of your comment, you are similar to my mom (although my parents had my older brothers in their twenties) who was not maternalistic to other children but was certainly a wonderful mother to her own while also having a nice career she was able to create for herself.

Nov 6, 2019, 1:51pm

As I’m catching up from so far back, I’m just reading about your father. I’m sorry for your loss and glad you moved on from it well.

Terrific review of Motherhood. I have two kids and kind of grew up assuming that’s what I would do, so never asked the pertinent questions - or never asked them with the sense of really considering them... only with sometimes a longing for how peaceful (and less expensive) life could be without them. (Would it really be so? I’m not sure.) I’m always entertained when studies show that people without children tend to be happier. Anyway, the book sounds difficult and excellent and thought-provoking. Real life is another thing, of course. Enjoyed all the posts you have inspired.

Nov 6, 2019, 2:11pm

>87 dchaikin: A couple of years ago, I've seen a study saying that:
- people who are in the process of trying to have children are happier than those of the same age who don't plan to have children.
- people who actually have children at home are less happy than those of the same age who don't have (as you stated above).
- Older people who have grown up children are happier than older people who do not have children.

So overall, children make you happier, but before they arrive and after they've left. I let each of us jump to the conclusion they see fit...

Nov 6, 2019, 2:45pm

>88 raton-liseur: that’s very entertaining.

Nov 29, 2019, 3:05am

A flurry of purchasing and reading. I've been finding myself roaming the English language section of bookstores here while waiting for friends and coming out with little bundles of books. Fortunately the books I have been choosing are novella size allowing for quick bite-size reading leading to fast turnaround. No more TBR piles for me! Just a review pile.

The first three I bought as a bundle are Japanese novellas which all ended up being relatively enjoyable reads but ultimately not very memorable. In fact when I try to remember the three books I usually can only remember two out of the three and every time I leave out a different title.

22) Yu Miri : Tokyo Ueno Station

Japan is known as a clean country with impeccable environments, not even a single leaf, and upstanding citizens but as the government pushes this message to the tourist industry in time for the 2020 Olympics and continues to build new train stations, and hotels, and stadiums, it ignores those it had to push out of the way to do these things: the homeless in the parks. (Not to mention the residents who would have preferred keeping some of Tokyo's charm instead of having to look at yet another glass skyscraper with the same stores you can find down the street at the other glass skyscraper.)

This book is about one of those homeless, a man who resided in Tokyo's Ueno Park who has died and now reflects on his life as he watches the people who visit the park. He walks us through how he came to be at Ueno Park, a typical Japanese man who left his life in the countryside to go to Tokyo to provide for his family. As most men in this state, he manages to make enough money to send to his family but at the sacrifice of his own time with them. His children grow up without him getting to know them, and he is as much a stranger to his wife as she is to him. At the death of his son, he starts to break down wondering what this life was all for.

It's supposed to be a book about contrasts: the dead versus the living, the riches of the emperor in contrast to the meager belongings of the homeless, the forgotten countryside versus the thriving city. And it's all done well and the message is important. But was the book memorable for me? I can't say it was. And the mentioning of the tsunami just seemed like Miri really wanted to mention the topic but couldn't figure out where so she just stuck it in at the end.

People are loving this book and claiming it to be one of the best translated books of the year. I leave it to other readers to decide.

23) Yuko Tsushima : Territory of Light

This book -- in my opinion best purchased in the lovely Penguin Modern Classics version instead of the new more expensive, hardback US edition -- I preferred over the above. It is about a mother who comes to live in a new apartment with her young daughter after separating from her husband. The new apartment in bathed in a warm light providing an almost virtuous air to the rooms and gives hope to the young mother towards a new life of love and a new beginning in life.

However we are never told the reasons for the separation but we are made to believe that the mother was right in leaving her husband and we start to root for her. But little by little we see insights into her true personality and start to see her real character as a drunk and someone who needs a man in her life to give it meaning. And soon she starts to turn a blind eye to the poor behavior her daughter begins to exhibit.

Eventually the virtuous light of the apartment proves too bright for the younger mother as she descends towards a path that is destructive both to herself and her daughter.

The author is apparently the daughter of the famous author Osamu Dazai and she carries his talent with words. The book is beautifully translated and although overall it won't be the most memorable book I've ever read, I did enjoy the language of the book and I appreciated the imagery in the book and the topic that not all mothers are motherly.

24) Tomoka Shibasaki : Spring Garden

Next was this 2014 Akutagawa Prize winner. The book focuses on the last residents of an apartment complex that is to be sold in two months most likely for tearing down to build a new complex. One resident is particularly fixated on the house and its garden next door. The house used to be owned by a couple, celebrities in the art world, whom had published a book of photographs from different parts of the resident. As this resident pulls in our main character into her fixation with the home, the two become friendly as they discussed the ebb and flow of homes in Tokyo. For in Japan, a house you used to walk by every day on your commute can the very next day be an empty plot of land without any warning. And as soon as you spot this bit of emptiness it is hard to remember what the house that was there used to look like. Then it becomes a question of whether a new single family home will be built or if the land will become yet another expansive complex. The story weaves behind this idea of changing landscapes, changing lives and the coming and going of people. Are you a person who will leave a mark on those behind you; are you a house that will provide a home to those that come after you; or are you slated to become an empty piece of land that no one can remember, fated to be replaced by something new that itself will be torn down again down the line.

In terms of the message of the book I liked the idea of reflecting on this ebb and flow but I wasn't so inspired by the book itself. But a nice book to read for a long train ride to the countryside as you glance out the window and watch glimpses of people's lives speed past.

Nov 29, 2019, 3:58am

I've been in a nonfiction mood lately and have my idea on getting the following titles.

Jon Krakauer : Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
Jon Krakauer : Into the Wild
Richard Lloyd Parry : People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up
Robert Macfarlane : The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
Dave Cullen : Columbine

These are very recognizable books and now just seems like the right time to finally read them. I'm a little hesitant about Into the Wild as I quite disliked the movie but I feel like I would maybe like the book better.

I'm also interested in the rugby team crash in the Andes but I was hoping to get some advice from anyone who might have read these. If I had to choose one of the two which should I read. I feel like the book written by the actual survivor would be the better choice but the original publication of the event was also such a huge hit. I'm quite torn but I wouldn't want to read both, especially not back to back. Any recommendations? (Although usually when I ask for recommendations no one ever replies.)

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home

Nov 29, 2019, 11:53am

>90 lilisin: Thank you for the reviews. My library has a number of Yuko Tsushima and Tomoka Shibasaki on its shelves. I'm tempted. Only twenty years to go before retirement, and then I'll be able to read all day long...

Dez 2, 2019, 3:01am

>92 Dilara86:
They are short books (not even 200 pages) so maybe you don't even have to wait till retirement!

Dez 2, 2019, 4:25pm

>91 lilisin: I read Alive years ago. I’m not sure if it would hold up. It has a little of a pr aspect to justify (necessary) cannibalism. I don’t remember it as a book to read for the writing. But it left a good mark on me anyway.

Hope the nonfiction is a good draw for you and hope you like Into the Wild if you get there.

Dez 3, 2019, 9:26pm

>91 lilisin: Alive is one of the first big hardcover adult books I ever read, pulled off my parents' shelves when I was 11 or 12 and just devoured. I was one of those kids who always turned to "Drama in Real Life" whenever we'd go to visit someone who had Readers Digest in the house, though, so I couldn't say how it would hold up now. But I have a vague recollection of being just thrilled.

Dez 6, 2019, 2:39am

27) Richard Lloyd Parry : Ghosts of the Tsunami

This nonfiction book recounts the aftermath of the March 11th tsunami in the Tohoku area of Japan in 2011. Although every bit of the tsunami was disastrous and every story deserves to be told, Parry focuses on one particular elementary school where 74 out of the 78 students and 10 out of the 11 teachers in attendance that day perished in the waters. Parry interviews the grieving parents as they try to figure out what happened that day and as they navigate the road that lies ahead of them.

Because one cannot criticize the topic of the nonfiction book as that would be cruel and really there is nothing to criticize, I have a few thoughts on the book itself. Trying not to sound macabre I thought the book could have used more pictures. The pictures that are included aren't very clear, and aren't labeled leaving you to guess what some are showing, and often show up 20 or so pages before the picture is relevant to the text. Parry also includes pronunciation guides that unless you have an English accent, are incredibly unhelpful and merely serve as a distraction especially when some names get a pronunciation guide while others don't.

Otherwise this was a well written account of that day in the eyes of a few. It's exactly what I expected to read from such a book and nothing more, nothing less. I think Parry also was good at remarking on Japanese protocol and culture without interjecting his own opinion.

A recommended read for anyone interested in the topic.

Dez 11, 2019, 3:57am

26) Claudia Dey : Heartbreaker

This book takes place in a settlement somewhere in the depths of Canada, far away from civilization. The year is 1985, we think, at least it has been for a while now. The settlement is a self-called cult but there is nothing really behind the meaning of that word. Really the book is about the people who live in this settlement and their relationship to each other. Particularly in relation to one member, a woman who arrived out of the blue, stumbling out of her car with bruises and blood on her body. She marries into the settlement and has a family but one day she just walks out the door and disappears.

Told through the eyes of her daughter, a boy, and a dog, the story behind her coming and going is slowly unraveled. While I can strangely think back to the novel fairly fondly, I actually struggled making it through this book. I really had to push myself through it, motivated only by its shortness. It's main fault I find is unfortunately the beginning. The book revolves around a mystery and logically the narrative becomes clearer as we read on, but the writing at the beginning was so heavy-handed that I struggled to turn the pages. I found myself rolling my eyes at the attempts to shock the reader with the choice of language and imagery. But I did enjoy the latter half of the book so it wasn't a total loss.

Basically, a read recommended to those who are intrigued, but it's one of the those books I would put in the hands of just a select few.

Dez 12, 2019, 3:42am

25) Yoko Ogawa : The Memory Police

On an unnamed island objects have begun to disappear. Not stolen, not lost, but erased. Erased from memory. How? One day the residents will wake up to a strange feeling as if something doesn't belong. When they discover what it is, like roses, they swiftly gather all the offensive objects to dispose of them, the petals to wash down the river until every scrap of evidence is gone. From that moment they will no longer recall what a rose is. The object and word simply... vanishes.

The Memory Police are tasked with making sure that residents are properly disposing of these objects. And with capturing those residents who seem to be retaining their memories. Our protagonist, a writer, takes it upon herself to conceal her editor, one of these residents who can't forget. While the scale of the missing objects increases both in frequency and in importance, we witness a beautiful relationship form between our protagonist the writer, the editor, and the old man who lives in a boat. The editor works hard to help the writer and the old man remember but is it a lost cause and will the Memory Police come in and take him away to be forgotten as well.

It's a fascinating and emotional page-turner that allows the reader to get from the book what they feel the book is about. It could be about the concept as simple as memory loss, perhaps due to old age or to dementia. It could be an allegory to horrible atrocities like the Holocaust when a whole cast of people were taken to be forgotten. It could show a parallel to Japan's revisionist history in which it tries to rewrite dark marks on its past to make them seem less like the evil party. Or it could be about our modern society getting lost in what is sold and marketed to us, having us forget the little details that make life interesting or beautiful.

I really had a great time with this one in its various interpretations. Highly recommended.

Dez 12, 2019, 12:02pm

>98 lilisin: This one keeps showing up on "best of" lists that come out at the end of the year. Thanks for the review - I'll be looking for a copy now.

Dez 12, 2019, 3:13pm

>97 lilisin: I loved Heartbreaker, though at first glance I didn't think I was going to--it seemed a little self-consciously quirky (though the language didn't bother me). But as I kept reading it absolutely grew on me. That weird voice was so effective.

Dez 17, 2019, 6:30pm

28) Hiroko Oyamada : The Factory

This is the author who's book The Hole I've been dreaming about translating since I first read it a few years ago. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the English-speaking crowd, I was beaten to the translation and The Hole will be out in 2020. I had absolutely loved the book so I hope others get theirs hand on it when it comes out (soon!).

In the meantime I read the English translation of The Factory which I similarly enjoyed. Oyamada has a way of taking every day encounters and life transitions, and adds a dose of surrealism and whimsy to them. While The Hole is about a woman moving into the countryside with her husband, The Factory follows the perspective of three people who become employed by the factory, the largest employer in the area. The factory is located on its own campus with barber shops, cinemas, dorm rooms, family rented homes, and restaurants of every food you could want. No need to ever leave!

We follow our narrators as they enter their new job and go through the routine as required by the factory. One ends up working as a paper shredder with endless piles of paper, another as a copy editor with documents that seem unrelated to any department of the factory, and the third works as a moss expert who has an all access pass to the factory grounds and no bosses, left with the task of creating a green-roof system for the factory; a task that could easily (and should) be outsourced to a company with actual expertise in this domain.

The days and years go by and the three perspectives wonder about how they got to where they are, what qualifies them to do the work they do, and what is the mysterious force that drives them to come in every day.

And as we explore the factory grounds with the pantless forest streaker, the strange black crows that don't seem to exist outside of the factory grounds, and the strange giant human-sized rodents that live in the sewers, we start to wonder what the factory actually is.

A great whimsical read about the routine behind the daily job grind. I'm so glad this author is finally being introduced to the English-speaking audience.

Dez 28, 2019, 10:43am

>28 lilisin: Another one for my wishlist. My library doesn't have any of Hiroko Oyamada's novels yet, and only Ana (Hole) seems to have been translated into French in any case, but I'm hopeful that The Factory will be available in a couple of years...

Jan 6, 2020, 3:21am

29) Margaret Atwood : Oryx and Crake

This one I would like to review as a series in 2020 once I finish the next two books. I'm about 60 pages away from finishing book 2 and plan on starting book 3 soon after.

30) Oyinkan Braithwaite : My Sister, the Serial Killer

My mom came into town for the winter holidays and as she hasn't been able to read much this year due to emotional circumstances, I got her this as a fun and light travel read as we went around Shanghai and Taipei. It was a perfect and very quick read so even I managed to read it within our travel dates.

The book is about exactly what the title suggests and along with the catchy plot, it also manages to give the reader time to think about sister/family bonds, duty to family, male/female power dynamics, along with catching commentary on Nigerian state of affairs when it comes to the police and police jurisdiction. In terms of characters the sisters were also quite enjoyable to follow especially when it came to internet social etiquette in terms of dead ex-boyfriends.

All in all a fun read but amusingly light-hearted despite the killings. I think this will be a memorable read and a read I would recommend to others even if it isn't necessarily a five star level read in terms of writing and plotting skill.

4) Meghan MacLean Weir : The Book of Essie

To make sure I finish reviewing all the books I read in 2019, here is the one book I never got to reviewing from back in January, despite really enjoying the book.

It's about Essie who is in a conservative family that happens to have its own reality show on tv. Her family is the pride of the town and its viewership, and is often commended for its high moral stance on virtuosity and good family values. However, she is carrying a secret that could pull apart the family and destroy the pedestal it has been placed on. And the thing is, she wants to destroy it.

I have to say I absolutely loved this book. If you know of or followed the Duggar family at all during its heyday on tv, you know what this book is about and you can figure out the secret and you can figure out the dirty business going on behind the camera. I was a regular viewer of the Duggar tv show not because I admired them or wanted to be them or wanted to praise their way of living but admittedly I found them to be a very likeable family. They carried the perfect face for the camera and the girls and boys were always smiling and admittedly it was refreshing to see such a good-doing family especially when other reality shows were constantly showing people screaming at each other and creating drama.

But when the Duggar family started falling apart and its dirty business started to come out in the media, there was no surprise there either. And while I admired the good nature of the family, there was always a desire to want to help the daughters from becoming slaves to their uterus. The episode where the son got married and his first kiss was the kiss at the altar was a moment I couldn't take my eyes off as it was both remarkable and yet disgusting and I felt bad for both the wife and the husband and their wedding night.

In any case, this book is almost an exact copy of the Duggar family and while the ending ends with a nice happy finish as I believe this book is marketed to a younger audience, I still very much enjoyed it and was happy with the overall read.

Definitely a recommend from me.

Jan 7, 2020, 1:32am

This year turned into a very different reading year for me. I read very much out of my comfort zone and ended up reading primarily in English when usually I like to split my reading between French, English and Japanese reads. But this year I very much needed stories where I could easily turn the page.

I read 30 books overall, 24 authors for the first time, including several debut novels. I read a large amount of books published in 2018/2019 which is also very different from my usual. Another interesting tidbit was I read a majority female authors: 20 female to 8 male authors.

I ended up reading mostly books from Japan, Canada and the US with only 6 out of 30 books happening in another country.
I either would read several novels in a row or take a long break between reading. Basically I started strong and ended strong with the middle summer portion being devoted to reading manga instead of novels.

I had a very interesting mix of nonfiction, contemporary fiction, sci-fi, dystopia, and the odd little historical fiction here and there.
I was also very good this year about reading the books purchased having completely cleared a few of my TBR piles including all my American purchases and some English-language book purchases bought in Tokyo. This a trend I would very much like to include in 2020. Basically, if I buy it that means I'm reading it next, no pile-making. If I'm not sure I'll read it next the book can go on my wishlist for a later date.

I'm certainly not a goal-creating type of person but in 2020 I would very much like to read primarily in French and Japanese after I finished clearing the last few English TBRs I have. My French is slipping hard and these three weeks with my mom and only speaking in French has shown how much my French has slipped in just a year. Reading only in English is too dangerous so I definitely need to have French books. Then of course, to make sure I'm getting continuously better at Japanese, I need to keep reading instead of being satisfied with just maintaining my level.

So it will be interesting to see what happens in 2020. I'll be creating my 2020 threads very soon!

Jan 7, 2020, 1:04pm

Nice conclusion to a very interesting thread. I am looking forward to your 2020 thread!