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review 2018-06-15 15:54
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World / Haruki Murakami
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Alfred Birnbaum,Haruki Murakami

In this hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular (and controversial) fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect. What emerges is simultaneously cooler than zero and unaffectedly affecting, a hilariously funny and deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.

 

I’m not sure what to say about this book, beside the fact that it is not really my cuppa tea. Not that I disliked it, I often found it amusing and I easily read to the end, no arm twisting necessary. But it certainly wouldn’t encourage me to pick up more of this author’s works.

It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of things, the chapters alternating between two narrators. Both story lines felt a bit odd to me, despite my love of fantasy fiction. But it was interesting in its nonconformity to traditional fantasy plots. Neither narrator is really very heroic, none of the women are portrayed as serious love interests, the reasons for the adventures are largely undefined, plus there is very little wrap-up at book’s end.

Interestingly, none the characters have names—they are referred to by title (the old man, the chubby girl, the librarian, etc.). Which I guess makes sense, as I assume that they are all parts of the same brain! At least it seemed to me that the point of the book was to explore the idea of the unconscious and how it interacts with the conscious mind.

Pluses? Unicorns! Even if they were kind of sad and decrepit unicorns, they were still unicorns. And who doesn’t love enemies like the INKlings who worship a large fish with violent tendencies? Also, the narrator’s fondness for the librarian. Good taste that.

Book number 287 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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text 2018-06-03 23:57
Fantasy Flights June Meeting - Urban Fantasy
Shadowshaper - Daniel José Older
Owl and the Japanese Circus - Kristi Charish
Zero Sum Game (Russell's Attic) (Volume 1) - SL Huang
Drink, Slay, Love - Sarah Beth Durst
Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes

The librarian usually sends out links for each months topic. This month, her links include an article titled something like "what is urban fantasy" that only says it's a marketing category and a list of "where to start" that has more male authors than female authors. I, just, I don't know, ya'll. If I were introducing someone to UF, I'd probably talk about the use of noir tropes in contemporary fantasy settings, broken vs unbroken masquerades, and Carrie Vaughn's theory, "these books are symptomatic of an anxiety about women and power." But, sure, here's a dude saying it's meaningless marketing and a list of mostly dudes to read.

 

The other big UF reader in the group is going to be out of town for this one, so I'm trying to psych myself up to deal with a room full of guys all talking about Harry Fucking Dresden. 

 

I'm also bounding myself by recommending in-progress series or stand alone books. A few months back, one of the members asked for recommendations for completed UF series that weren't PNR, and I want to avoid repeats. Okay, he didn't say PNR, he asked for books that weren't all about vampire sex. So at least one person may have some non-Dresden. . . take a deep breathe, Saturdays, you don't want to start another fight in book club.

 

Whatever. I love this genre. 

 

Shadowshaper - Daniel José Older. So far this series has 2 novels and 3 novellas and is dynamite. The protagonist is an artist who discovers her legacy includes channeling spirits into physical forms. She makes her graffiti come alive. Yeah, that's right, I talk all that shit and then start off with a book by a man.

 

Owl and the Japanese Circus - Kristi Charish. Action packed with an unlikable heroine, this series follows an antiquities thief and her vampire hunting cat through endless poor decisions and explosions. I adore that she isn't good with weapons and doesn't have powerful magic abilities. I just recently finished the 4th installment, and the heroine is consistently a train wreck.

 

Zero Sum Game (Russell's Attic) (Volume 1) - SL Huang. Fast paced, plenty of violence, and her magic power is being really good at math. Do I need to go on? 

 

Drink, Slay, Love - Sarah Beth Durst. A teenage vampire gets stabbed by a unicorn and finds herself able to go out in daylight. Her family decides to enroll her in high school so she can lure teens back to the rest of the bloodsuckers. This is a lighthearted, almost rom-com book that is exactly as much fun as my first sentence indicates.

 

Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes. The protagonists are all human in this not-quite police procedural where strange murders point toward incomprehensible motives.

 

 And I think I'll stop there. I really want to add about 10 more books. We'll see where the night leads.

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review 2018-04-15 03:03
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit - Nahoko Uehashi,Cathy Hirano

The last time I read and reviewed this book was back in 2010, when my posts included spoiler-filled synopses that were as long or longer than the reviews themselves. I figured that a new review was in order, especially since my opinion of this book has improved.

After Balsa, a female bodyguard, rescues young Prince Chagum from drowning, she finds herself being roped into being his protector. Chagum is believed to be possessed by the same creature that once caused a terrible drought. It's thought that the drought will be averted if Chagum is killed, so the Mikado himself has ordered several assassination attempts against him. Chagum's mother, the Second Queen, enlists Balsa's help to save him.

While Balsa attempts to hide Chagum and keep him safe from his pursuers, she also seeks out several friends in the hope of figuring out what's going on so that she can somehow both save Chagum's life and prevent the drought.

The first time I read this book was, I think, too soon after having seen the anime. They're both good, but the time I spent noting similarities and differences to the anime made it hard to judge the book on its own merits (yes, I know the book came first, but my first exposure to the story was the anime).

Balsa makes me wish more than the first two books in this series had been translated into English. She's a great character - an experienced and talented warrior with an intriguing past. In general, the book had some nice gender role reversal, with its female stoic warrior character and male healer interested in the spirit world. There was a hint of potential romance between Balsa and Tanda, the healer, but it was handled in a very low-drama way. Tanda was a little frustrated at Balsa's lack of desire to settle down, but it never got to the point of wrecking their friendship.

The "found family" aspect involving Balsa, Tanda, and Chagum was nice. I enjoyed that restful period of the story before everybody had to worry about Chagum's safety again, and it was nice to see Chagum becoming more comfortable and confident in his life as a commoner.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the way the setting and its history mattered. This was very much a story about how knowledge is lost or changed over time. Near the beginning of the book, readers get the history of how New Yogo was founded, but it's entirely from the perspective of the Yogoese, who are currently the area's dominant ethnic group. Later on, readers get more sides of the story - the secret history that only the Star Readers know (which is, again, Yogoese history) and Yakoo stories.

The Yakoo were the people who originally lived in the area where New Yogo was founded. (Supposedly they fled out of fear when the Yogoese peacefully tried to contact them, and I think the Yakoo side of the story agreed with this or at least didn't refute it, but I don't buy it.) They'd lost much of their culture and traditions, and what was left was sometimes mixed with Yogoese culture to an uncertain degree. It gave me shivers to think how close everyone came to not having the knowledge they needed during the chase at the end of the book.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed rereading this. I haven't read the next book in the series yet, but I'm now looking forward to it even more.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2018-04-09 21:42
Blog Post #1
I Survived #8: I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011 - Lauren Tarshis

Hey, I'm Ty Laughlin from Riverview Jr./Sr. High School. I am really into fantasy and realistic fiction. I really tend to gravitate to WWII books. Those are my favorites. Although it is nonfiction, one of my favorite books from the WWII topic is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken is about a former Olympian who is drafted into WWII. He then crashes in the Pacific Ocean and is taken by Japanese soldiers to multiple concentration camps. Louis (the main character) just tells his tough story of the struggle through WWII.

 

The novel that I am currently reading is I Survived: The Japanese Tsunami. I know, it seems a little bit below my grade level, but it is a good book. I have kind of just started the book, so I cannot really say that, but it is better than I already though it would be. The main character, Ben, is visiting his Japanese Uncle's house in Japan. There is obviously a tsunami coming, but I do not know if Ben will survive. I can still probably predict that Ben will survive because this series does not really seem like the type of novel that would have the main character die. Right now, the author's style has not really been reveals as I am only 17 pages into the book. I can say that the transition from the first chapter into the second stood out to me greatly. In the first chapter, they revealed the climax of the book by talking about the tsunami, and how it "made Ben feel as if he was getting wrestled by the water, and beaten badly." (Tarshis 3). This really stood out to me because I thought that ruined a little bit of the book for me. It took the thrill of the climax away. I hope it does not ruin the whole book though. So far, I think that this book will be okay, except for that little part that I mentioned at the end. I can't wait to finish it!

 

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review 2018-04-09 17:18
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life - Francesc Miralles,Hector Garcia-Molina,Marisa Martinez Abad,Heather Cleary

There's a point of intersection between what you love, waht you are good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for and that's Ikigai, and I'm still not sure what mine is. It's something I really should think about rather than yearning for something more in my life, and maybe it's in my hobbies rather than in my job but I really should try to find something in my life that feeds my soul.

Comes across as a bit pat and simplistic but interesting and food for thought

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