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review 2018-08-19 17:40
If Cats Disappeared from the World
If Cats Disappeared from the World - Eric Selland,Genki Kawamura

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

An enjoyable read with an important message about the value we give to life, what we do with our lives, and what we’d be ready to sacrifice to extend them. Confronted to the prospect of dying very soon, in the next few months if not the next few days, the narrator is offered a bargain by the Devil itself, and a tempting one at that: for each thing he erases from the world, he gets to live one more day. Which quickly raises a lot of questions and conundrums, because if it’s worth earning more life time, it has to be a sacrifice… but if we sacrifice too much, is it worth keeping on living?

The chapter with the talking cat was well done, too: first because of the cat’s voice, second because he was very… feline (those bipeds never understand anything to cats, do they?), and third due to his selective memory, something that was sad, but also a reminder that we don’t know how animals think, and what we take for granted may not be what is important to them.

I did find the story too predictable, though, in that the message was obvious from the beginning, and completely expected considering the type of stories it usually goes with. There’s no real twist, nothing I didn’t see coming, and no ‘revelation’ either, if this makes sense—other novels on a similar theme already did it, and this one doesn’t go far enough with the associated tropes to rise above them all. (I also think that the Devil imposing choices about what to make disappear removed the possibility of things going awry because of the narrator: ‘he made me do it, so it’s not my fault’. I prefer when my protagonists make their own mistakes, and then atone for / learn from them.)

3.5 stars.

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review 2018-07-18 18:44
Good, if somewhat dated, overview of America's war in the Pacific and Asia
Eagle Against The Sun: The American War With Japan - Ronald H. Spector

In the 1960s Macmillan began publishing a series entitled "The Macmillan Wars of the United States." Written by some of the nation's leading military historians, its volumes offered surveys of the various conflicts America had fought over the centuries, the strategies employed, and the services which fought them. Ultimately fourteen volumes were published over two decades, with many of them still serving as excellent accounts of their respective subjects.

 

As the last book published in the series, Ronald Spector's contribution to it serves as a sort of capstone to its incomplete efforts. In it he provides an account of the battles and campaigns waged by the United States against Japan in the Second World War, from the prewar planning and the assumptions held in the approach to war to the deployment of the atomic bombs that ended it. In between the covers all of the major naval battles and island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific, as well as America's military efforts in the China-Burma-India theater. He rounds out his coverage with chapters discussing both the social composition of the forces America deployed and the complex intelligence operations against the Japanese, ones that extended beyond the now-famous codebreaking efforts that proved so valuable.

 

Though dated in a few respects, overall Spector's book serves as a solid single-volume survey of the war waged by the United States against Japan. By covering the efforts against the Japanese in mainland Asia, he incorporates an important aspect of the war too often overlooked or glossed over in histories of America's military effort against the Japanese, one that often influenced developments elsewhere in the theater. Anyone seeking an introduction to America's war with Japan would be hard pressed to find a better book, which stands as a great example of what Macmillan set out to accomplish when they first embarked upon the series.

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review 2018-06-17 11:07
An ultra-noir novel for lovers of beautiful writing and dark subjects that probe the human psyche
Return to Hiroshima - Bob van Laerhoven

Thanks to the author for providing me a paperback copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Baudelaire’s Revenge some time ago and I was fascinated and intrigued by it, so I did not think twice when the author told me he had published a new novel. Van Laerhoven’s work has won awards, been translated into several languages, and he has a unique voice that stays with the reader long after finishing the book. I don’t mean the stories and the plots of his books are not interesting (they are fascinating), but the way he writes about the historical period his stories are set in, and the characters he follows and analyses are distinct and unforgettable. His words are, at once, poetic and harsh, and they perfectly convey both, the utmost beauty and the extremes of cruelty and dejection that can be found in human beings.

When I reread my previous review, while I was preparing to write this one, I realised that much of what I had written there (apart from the specifics about the plot and the characters) applied also to this book. The author once more writes historical fiction, although this time it is closer to our era. The main action takes place in Japan in 1995, although, as the title might make us suspect, the story also goes back to 1945 (and even before) and towards the end of the book we have scenes set in that period, with all that involves.

The story is mostly narrated in the third person from the points of view of a variety of characters, a police inspector (who has to investigate the murder of a baby, a strange attack at a bank with a large number of casualties, and a bizarre assault on a tourist), a female photographer, a young man and a young woman members of a strange sect, a strange man/God/demon (who is more talked about than actually talking, although we get access to his memories at some point). There are also fragments narrated by a woman, who is in hiding when we first meet her, and whose identity and mental state will keep readers on tenterhooks.

Apart from the mystery elements and from the bizarre events, which at first seem disconnected but eventually end up by linking all the characters, I noticed some common themes. Families, family relationships, and in particular relationships between fathers and sons and daughters, take centre stage. The inspector’s search for his father and how that affects his life, the young woman’s relationship with her father, at the heart of the whole plot, the photographer’s relationship with her father, another famous photographer, and her attempts at finding her own identity as an artist… While some characters seem totally amoral (perhaps because they believe they are beyond usual morality), others are trying to deal with their guilt for things that they did or did not do. Some of the characters might feel too alien for readers to empathise with, but others experience emotions and feelings fully recognisable, and we feel sad for some of them at the end, but relieved for others. The claustrophobic and pressured atmosphere running against the background of the atomic bomb and its aftermath are perfectly rendered and help give the story an added layer of tension and depth.

This is a book of extremes and not an easy read. Although the language used is lyrical and breath-taking at times, there are harsh scenes and cruel behaviours described in detail (rape, drug use, torture, violence), so I would not recommend it to people who prefer to avoid such kinds of reading. I’ve seen it described as horror, and although it does not easily fit in that genre, in some ways it is far more unsettling and scarier than run-of-the-mill horror. This novel probes the depths of the human psyche and its darkest recesses, and you’ll follow the author there at your own peril.

I wanted to share some samples I highlighted that should not provide any spoilers for those thinking about reading it:

Books protected me from reality. I remember them as a choir of pale shapes, sometimes hysterical, other times comforting, vividly prophetic, or disquieting, like a piano being played in the dark. I’ve always been convinced that stories influence the mind: they haunt regions of the brain where reason has lost its way.

This one I find particularly relevant to this book (and I think most writers would know perfectly well what it’s getting at):

“Writers are like God. They love their characters, but take pleasure in the suffering they put them through. They torment themselves through the puppets they create and in the midst of the torment they discover a sort of rage, the rage you need to create. There’s a lot of sadomasochism in the universe and literature has its own fair share.”

Here, one of the characters talks about how she feels when she is depressed:

Her malady gave her the impression that the buildings and the people she saw were nothing more than pixels of energy bundled together by an insane artist who could shift around the worlds inside him like pieces of chess.

This ‘ultra-noir’ novel, as the blurb aptly describes it, is an extraordinary read, but is not a book for somebody looking for a typical genre thriller with slightly twisted characters. This is far darker than most of the thrillers I’ve read. But don’t let that put you off. As I said in my previous review of another one of the author’s novels, ‘if you’re looking for a complex and challenging historical novel and don´t shrink from dark subjects, this is a pretty unique book.’

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review 2018-04-05 17:51
Unter der Mitternachtssonne | Keigo Higashino
180404 Unter der Mitternachtssonne
Autor: Keigo HigashinoTitel: Unter der MitternachtssonneÜbersetzerin: Ursula GräfeGenre: Japanischer KrimiVerlag: Tropen, [10.03.2018]Kindle-Edition: 721 Seiten, ASIN: B0789GTMVNauch als HC erschienenhier: Leseexemplar vom Verlag via NetGalley.de gelesen auf dem Kindle Paperwhite und über die Kindle-Appklick zu Amazon.de

Inhaltsangabe (Amazon):

Ein zwanzig Jahre alter Mord. Eine Verkettung unlösbarer Rätsel. Ein Detektiv, der entschlossen ist, das dunkle Geheimnis zu entschlüsseln.
Osaka, 1973: Der Pfandleiher Kirihara wird ermordet in einem verlassenen Gebäude aufgefunden. Der unerschütterliche Detektiv Sasagaki nimmt sich des Falls an, der von nun an sein Leben bestimmt. Schnell findet er heraus: Ryo, der wortkarge Sohn des Opfers, und Yukiho, die hübsche Tochter der Hauptverdächtigen, sind in das Rätsel um den Toten verwickelt. Beinahe zwanzig Jahre lang versucht Sasagaki mit zunehmender Verzweiflung, den Mord aufzuklären, in dessen Netz sich Täter, Opfer und Polizei verfangen haben. Bis über alle Grenzen hinaus, bis hin zur Obsession.

Meine Meinung:

Japanischer Krimi mit Detailreichtum

 

Nachdem ich die Japanische Literatur für mich entdeckt habe, ist Keigo Higashino zu einem meiner Lieblingsautoren geworden. Ich bewundere seine Art zu schreiben sehr. Obwohl ich einer völlig anderen Kultur entstamme und noch nie in Japan gewesen bin, fällt es mir immer wieder leicht, mir Situationen, Orte und Menschen vorzustellen, die er so detailreich beschreibt. Zudem liegt bei ihm der Täter nie auf der Hand, seine Krimis sind geradezu wie ein Origami angelegt. Man sieht entweder das fertige Kunstwerk vor sich und hat keine Ahnung, wie der Künstler aus einem kleinen Stück Papier diese Figur gefaltet hat – oder ein quadratisches Blatt Papier und eine Anleitung zum Falten. Es kommt bei einem Anfänger jedoch jedes Mal etwas anderes dabei heraus, und man kann die ursprüngliche Figur manchmal nicht einmal erahnen.

 

Die Ermittlung eines Mordes umfasst in diesem Kriminalroman nahezu 20 Jahre. Und es liegt keineswegs an unfähigen Ermittlern, sondern eher daran, dass es keinerlei Spuren gab, fast jeder Befragte etwas zu verheimlichen hatte und daher Dinge für sich behielt oder beschönigte.

 

Nach und nach wird die Lebensgeschichte eines Mädchens erzählt, von der Schülerin bis zur Geschäftsfrau. Sie ist wunderschön, liebenswürdig, hilfsbereit und geht ihren Weg. Doch scheinen immer wieder Menschen, mit denen sie in Berührung kommt, von einem Unglück heimgesucht zu werden.

 

Die Personen sind sehr detailreich beschrieben, die Handlungen nachvollziehbar, der Roman äußerst spannend, und so fällt es schwer, ihn aus der Hand zu legen, obwohl das Thema kein ganz so aktuelles ist, denn die Geschichte nimmt ihren Anfang im Jahre 1973. Die damalige japanische Hackerszene Ende der 70er/Anfang der 80er Jahre ist wichtiger Teil der Entwicklung. Mehrere Handlungsstränge sind hier verwoben und bilden am Ende ein perfektes Bild.

 

Mir hat das Buch wirklich sehr gut gefallen, ich gebe daher die volle Punktzahl von 10 Punkten.

buch_u_027

Zitat:

Junzo Sasagaki verieß den Bahnhof Fuse und ging entlang der Schienen nach Westen. Es war bereits Oktober, aber noch immer sehr schwül. Dennoch war der Boden so trocken, dass ein vorüberfahrender Lastwagen gewaltige Staubwolken aufwirbelte.
Kapitel 1, erste Sätze

180404 Unter der Mitternachtssonne1

 

Bücher des Autors:

 

 

Unter der Mitternachtssonne: Thriller - Keigo Higashino,Ursula Gräfe 

Source: sunsys-blog.blogspot.de/2018/04/gelesen-unter-der-mitternachtssonne.html
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review 2018-03-02 00:00
United States of Japan
United States of Japan - Peter Tieryas Rating: 3.5 stars

The Eye of the World is a massive book so I decided to read this alongside it. The contrast between the genres made reading multiple books so much easier. Additionally, I got this book from Humble Bundle a while back and I’m glad I decided to read it. I really liked this book and I would have given it a higher score if it wasn’t for some things that bothered me. First, the things I liked.

I love the alternate history setting. I’m very fond of speculating on alternate history events and while WWII alternate histories aren’t my favorite- I’m from the Philippines- I liked the portrayal of an alternate United States. There’s this overarching theme of paranoia. There’s a lot of paranoia in the Empire from the secret police to loyalty to the USJ and to the Emperor. One of the characters pays lip service to loyalty but doesn’t actually appear to be truly loyal, while the other was loyal to the point of being zealous. I also liked how chapters were structured by time. You can read about events both in the present and the past which makes for pretty good exposition in my opinion. It’s showing, not telling. The overall worldbuilding with a sort of cyberpunk, futuristic 1980s the USA ruled by Japan was very intriguing if a bit lacking. Which brings me to the things that made me give this book a lower rating.

The worldbuilding wasn’t enough for me. I enjoyed reading about the world but there are some parts I found confusing and thought could have been explained better. There are parts where the worldbuilding was great and there are parts where I felt like it was lackluster. I also wish it had more descriptions. A lot of people don’t like overly descriptive books, but it’s something that I like in science fiction and fantasy. The world building alone wasn’t what bothered me, though. The characters felt flat and one-dimensional. Ben was pretty flat all throughout. It didn’t seem like he grew as a character and he stayed the same throughout the book. What depth there appears to be in his character were shown in the past segments but the present parts were lacking. Akiko’s character development felt haphazard and rushed towards the end when for the majority of the book, she was shown to be serious and a zealous officer of the USJ.

So, do I recommend this book?

If you like sci-fi, alternate histories, and giant killer robots, then the answer is yes.
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