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review 2017-12-28 19:37
Not Simple (manga) by Natsume Ono, translation by Joe Yamazaki
not simple - Natsume Ono

I’m not sure how to summarize this story, since so much of it counts as spoilers. I suppose I’ll start at the beginning. A young woman named Irene wants to run away with her boyfriend but is afraid that her dad will find them and literally kill her boyfriend. She then comes up with an idea that immediately qualifies her as a horrible person: pick up a random homeless guy, convince her dad’s goons that he’s her boyfriend, and run off with her boyfriend while the goons beat the homeless guy half to death. It seems like a great (horrible) plan, until she learns that her random homeless guy, Ian, is actually same same guy who convinced a family member of hers not to run off three years ago.

Unfortunately, a misunderstanding results in Ian lying on the ground, dying from a gut wound. Ian’s friend, Jim, tells Irene that he plans to turn Ian’s life into a book that will be coming out in about a year. The rest of the manga is Ian’s life up to this point: growing up with an alcoholic mother and cold and dismissive father, trying to keep his promise to his sister so that he can see her again, and then walking across the US searching for his sister after she disappears.

I read Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso several years ago. I wasn’t a huge fan of it the first time around, but it grew on me after a reread. I’ve always wanted to try another one of her works, and this one-shot seemed like a good place to start. I vaguely remembered it getting some buzz when it first came out.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be almost unrelentingly depressing. Ian was written as being very innocent and pure, no matter what sorts of horrible things happened to him. All he wanted was to be with the one person he loved and who loved him back, his sister. When this turned out to be impossible, he sought out other people who’d been good and kind to him...and the universe stomped on him yet again until finally even he couldn’t take it anymore. The horribleness of it all bled into his friend Jim, if the rumors about his fate after the publication of his book were true.

There’s a massive amount of child abuse in this story:

neglect, emotional abuse, child prostitution, and incest.

(spoiler show)

It sometimes came up in such an offhand manner that I found myself wondering if the things I had thought just happened really had. Ian kept taking absolutely horrific things in stride.

I can’t even say this ended on a bittersweet note. Yes, it stopped at a slightly happier time in Ian’s life, but readers had already been told that that was all going to fall apart in the next 3-5 years. I wanted a do-over, with Jim telling Ian “that stuff that happened to you wasn’t okay, and I know it can’t be undone, but we can try to make some good memories from here on out.” Instead, I feel like the mom and her “you should never have been born” speech won out. And wow, her words still make me angry. She spent years heaping punishment on people she should have been trying to help and protect.

In the end, this manga just pissed me off and left a bad taste in my mouth. Not Simple bent over backwards to hurt its characters - the bit with Ian's sister's boyfriend was both cruel and difficult to believe. I also wasn't a fan of this on an artistic level. Although I know some people love Ono's unusual style, it doesn't work for me. I’m at least glad that I got this via the library and didn’t pay for it.

 

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

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text 2017-10-21 13:53
OT: The #metoo campaign

This past week I've read about the #metoo campaign. It's depressing reading. Today I found out that one of our most famous singers is in fact a rapist and also a person who takes advantage of his position to silence his victims. I don't know who it is, and that's really unsettling. It might be one of my favorites. The victim said (anonymously) that every time a friend sings along to one of his songs or even just plays it, she gets a flashback to that night and she can't say anything about it.

What I really wanted to mention was the fact that my mom, sister and I have never (or at least almost never) been targeted. My mom has lived a relatively fun and varied life. She's travelled a bit, worked in different professions and had lots of friends. Back in those days people were clearly better brought up. Or she's been lucky and met only decent people.

My sister and I didn't grow up in such a time. Girls we went to school with were probably targeted like these women that I've read about in the media over this past week. But not my sister and I. And - it may not come as much of a surprise to my readers - we've lived very sheltered lives. Most of the time we just sat at home and read our beloved books. We're simply not very outgoing.

After reading all this depressing stuff, it hit me. Does it really have to be this way? Do you have to stay inside the safety of your own home to be respected as a human being?

Source: crimsoncorundum.dreamwidth.org/182145.html
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review 2017-09-07 17:26
The Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn
The Bird Eater - Ania Ahlborn, Peter Berkrot

After starting out with a nasty murder by a boy with a maniacal grin, I was expecting The Bird Eater to be so much better than it actually turned out to be.

Twenty-one years after the chilling events in the opening scene, Aaron returns to his dilapidated and reputedly haunted childhood home hoping to heal his freshly broken life. Apparently his therapist advised him to do so despite the fact that he witnessed a murder in the house and he’s currently struggling with depression, borderline substance abuse, separation from his wife and the death of his young son. Yep, being all alone in a murder house will surely cure his woes. I hope he didn’t pay that person too much for the shitty advice. 



The problem for me with this story was Aaron and all of the other main characters. Aaron was a broken man and remained that way throughout the story and, quite honestly, his self-loathing exhausted me and the way the book was written kept me from feeling his anguish. There was a disconnect between Aaron and I which kept me from feeling much of anything. Aaron reconnects with his childhood friends and his childhood love and I found that so bizarre and unbelievably frustrating that I nearly have no words. I mean, 21 years have passed, he was 14 freaking years old when his world crumbled and this Cheri person is still carrying a torch for him?!!! 



Dayam, even I gave up on Corey Hart after a year and moved on with my life when he didn’t show up to whisk me away and I was in luv. 



Reality should’ve kicked in for Cheri at some point in those 21 years!

And did I mention that Cheri is also MARRIED to some poor schlub who works his bum off so she can buy nice things and she’s ready to toss him away because her grief ridden true love has returned!? Cheri thinks she can fix Aaron. Ugh, Cheri was a weak, pathetic excuse for a character and only managed to suck any enjoyment out of this story for me. Aaron’s other childhood friend is a supposed ghost hunter but doesn’t do any ghost hunting in the local haunted house. WTF is going on with these characters?!

Whew, glad that’s out of the way. There were a few things I enjoyed; the creep factor, the crazed Birdboy, the atmosphere and the slow build (to a lame reveal) but obviously this is not a book I would ever reread. 

It’s getting 2 ½ stars because I am bothered!

 

This book will fulfill my Ghost square.

 

 

 

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review 2017-01-12 19:11
A Little Depressing Life by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life: A Novel - Hanya Yanagihara

*I am so behind with my reviews :(  I actually finished this in December. Good thing I took notes!

 

If you’re feeling a little too thrilled with your life and need to tone that shit down a bit then this book is the one for you. It’s basically 700+ pages of pain and anguish and intense self-loathing. Are you ready?

 

This is the tragic story of a broken man named Jude and his closest friends. Jude is a man surrounded by people who love him deeply but alas love never seems to be quite enough to help him completely overcome his horrible past. Jude’s early life was one of devastation. I’m not going to rehash any of the horrible things that Jude experiences in his childhood. I had to suffer through it all, bit by bit, as it was slowly doled out throughout the course of the book, so if you want to know what happens you’ll have to do the same! Just know that it never gets too graphically gross and it easily could’ve gone there.

 

I see lots of people calling this tragedy porn and such but I don’t feel that way but then again I’ve been reading dark fiction for far too long. Read for yourself something like The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum (which was based on a true crime) and you’ll see what I mean. This story deals more with the inner turmoil and lingering trauma of those earlier cruelties and how they’ve shaped Jude into the person he is in his adult life. It’s not entirely believable, especially the final tragic childhood event, but it’s a compelling character study nonetheless. Still, it is not a book I will ever wish to revisit. Honestly, if I hadn’t been listening to it on audio, I have no doubt that I would’ve DNF’d it because was way too long for my personal liking and I didn’t have the deep emotional cathartic release that everyone else has seemed to have experienced. But, you know, I have cats.

 

 

I persevered because I listened to it on audio and I can listen to almost anything if I am enjoying the narrator and the story isn’t completely deplorable. Oliver Wyman narrated my version and he did justice to the work and kept me hooked even through the sloggy, meandering bits. His voice oozes emotion and was calming to me for the 32+ hours he was in my head telling this sad, sad story.

 

Yes, you read that right. Thirty Two + hours!

 

It was a grueling exercise in self-torture and there aren’t any truly happy moments in this entire book. They are all tainted by Jude’s sorrow and inner torment. With that said, I didn’t think it was the most tragic story ever told as I’d been led to believe and I am disappointed that it didn’t break my heart. I was kind of looking forward to that. Perhaps all of the “it’ll break you” talk beforehand left me with too high expectations or perhaps it was because I forecasted too many of the reveals long before they were revealed? At any rate, I give the story 3 – 3 ½ stars and the narration 5, settling on an uneasy 4.

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review 2016-11-03 22:20
The Year of Ice - Brian Malloy

I don't even know what to say about this one.

 

Kevin, to be completely honest, is a jerk. I know he has his reasons and sometimes he's funny and relatable. But other times he's just a complete asshole and I didn't like him. Come to think of it, pretty much everyone is an asshole at some point in this book.

There's no romance at all, and although I appreciate that it was a much more complex coming of age story, I really wish there was a romance. Kevin could use some happiness. (For the record, I kind of ship him and Tommy).

 

Tl;dr version- I didn't particularly like this, and I wouldn't recommend it. It's not a bad book by any means, in fact at some parts I did enjoy it. But overall I wish I'd read something else.

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