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review 2019-01-16 18:50
Christie-esque? Hardly.
Murder at Mt. Fuji - Shizuko Natsuki

Ugh.  If I believed the publisher's hype that this is among the best that Japanese crime fiction has to offer, I'd be done with Japanese crime fiction here and now.


Natsuki knows how to write "atmosphere", but how she could ever have become (according to her American publisher) "one of Japan's most popular mystery writers" is utterly beyond me.  And while I do believe that Natsuki really was trying to copycat Agatha Christie, all she produces is an overly convoluted plot and a novel brimming with inconsistencies.  From egregious scene continuity issues to essential information being gathered "off stage" by teams of policemen elsewhere, to characters behaving purely as the author's plot sequencing and writerly convenience dictates (with little to no regard for, and repeatedly even contrary to what should have been both their inner and their outer response to events), to a clichéd "woman facing off against villain during dark and stormy night" final scene, the novel abounds with things that either should have been weeded out in the editing process or should have prevented it from being published altogether. 


Worst IMHO, however, are the police, who


* let a family -- all of whom are suspects -- merrily go on living in the very house that constitutes the crime scene without having cleared the scene first (thus affording the suspects plenty of opportunity to tamper with the scene ... which promptly happens),

* give press conferences in the very building that constitutes the crime scene (again before the scene has been cleared -- allowing for the reporters to further muddy the scene),

* allow the suspects to be present at those press conferences (oddly, without a single reporter showing any interest in approaching the suspects -- instead, the reporters wait until most of them have finally departed to Tokyo, to then fruitlessly stalk the premises from outside at night),

* reveal every last scrap of information -- including and in particular things only known to the police and the culprit(s) -- to the press,

* and involve a civilian who only a day earlier had still been one of the suspects (and should actually be charged with conspiring to conceal a crime / as an accomplice after the fact) in an ill-conceived, risk-prone, and promptly almost fatally derailed scheme to entrap the killer.


Oh, and did I mention that -- though I can't comment on the substantive details of the Japanese legal provision central to the plot (which gets cite-checked to numbing point in the final part of the novel) -- Natsuki's research, if any, on the legal issues that I can comment on is seriously off as well?  (Which, in turn, may actually explain the otherwise inexplicably stupid behaviour of one particular character.)


Well, I guess at least I finally get to check this one off my TBR ... and check off Japan on my "Around the World in 80 Books" challenge.



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text 2019-01-16 15:27
Reading progress update: I've read 217 out of 279 pages.
My Criminal World - Henry Sutton

running about a 3.5 rating, depending on the ending (tonight, after work).

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text 2019-01-16 03:58
Reading progress update: I've read 197 out of 279 pages.
My Criminal World - Henry Sutton

not perfect - I have some issues with the style - but it’s been good fun so far. well...fun, but unsettling, too. I need to read all of it to truly know how I feel. can’t tell if there’s a big twist coming up, or how much more of the “novel within a novel” is going to be presented, given how disrupted its author, David, is at this point.


’The Sergeant’s Cat’, and Cyril Hare’s When The Wind Blows, next.

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review 2019-01-16 00:46
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World - Shannon Hale,Vitale Mangiatordi,Dean Hale
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

This one is kind of tricky for me to review. There were things I really liked and things I wasn't such a fan of.

Overall, I think the book was good. I recently read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power and loved it because it was super duper awesome. I fell in love with Doreen Green and her amazingness. So I was very excited to see that there was a novelization of her adventures and it was written by none other than Shannon Hale, the author of the Ever After High: Storybook of Legends book series, which I also love.

Then I got this. It wasn't bad, it just didn't reach my exceptions. There were definitely good things. I really liked Ana Sofia's character. I think the authors did a good job of incorporating various aspects of deaf culture into the text (ASL, hearing aids, music, lip reading). I was a little disappointed Ana Sofia could "read lips" like almost every deaf character in mass media, but I think they did a good job showing how it isn't an easy task and not a perfect system. I also thought it was good how Ana Sofia called out misperceptions about deafness in the book. 

But then there were things that were not so cool. For one thing, I was super confused why Tippy-Toe's sections were the only ones in first person. The other sections were in third person. Was Tippy-Toe supposed to be the narrator of the whole thing? I listened to the audiobook and they used different narrators for some of the sections, so even if that were true, it would be super confusing. The footnotes were funny, sometimes annoying and disruptive, but overall they were a good addition that definitely felt like something Squirrel Girl would do.

There were a few times where the narration just did not make sense. Like the whole carjacking scene. How it the world did she open the hood while standing on the hood? I realize she has unbeatable squirrel powers, but I don't think being able to move through solid objects is one of them. And then how did the carjacker keep driving when said hood was up? That scene totally threw me out of the narration because it was so confusing. I had to listen to it again and it still bugged me. 

I also felt that sometimes the book got a little dark. There are dangerous things and fight scenes that happen in the graphic novel, but the cutesy, colorful artwork and hilarious dialogue helped brighten it up. Without the visuals, the book was kind of creepy and weird. Tippy-Toe's sections felt especially gritty. And what was with all of the cute animals in danger? Seriously? Trying to poison dogs and squish squirrels? Are you kidding me? Unnecessarily dark, especially for a Squirrel Girl book. 

So overall, I thought it was good, but some things just didn't seem to ring true for Squirrel Girl. I loved the comic because it was a funny spin on a superhero adventure. This was a decent book, but not one of my favorites.
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review 2019-01-15 20:30
Daba's Travels from Ouadda to Bangui by Makombo Bamboté
Daba's Travels from Ouadda to Bangui - Makombo Bamboté,George Ford

Like apparently most of the people who read this book, I read it for my world books challenge and wasn’t particularly impressed. It seems to be aimed at middle-grade readers (ages 9-12), and recounts the childhood experiences of a boy named Daba as he leaves his village in the Central African Republic to attend school in a larger town and spends his vacations traveling around the country with friends and relatives.

As you would expect, this is a quick and easy read that even includes some illustrations. It’s a pretty gentle story, including adventures such as attending a boarding school and tagging along for a crocodile hunt. However, it is disjointed, prematurely ending events that could have been exciting if fully-developed – like the crocodile hunt, which gets less page time than a neighbor telling the boys a story – and including more episodes than fit comfortably within its brief page count. It does little to immerse the reader in Daba’s feelings or experiences; in the second half of the book, he seems to fade into his group of friends, who are indistinguishable in personality and experiences (except for the French pen pal who somehow is able to fly to a Central African Republic town alone and spend the summer wandering from village to isolated village with the local boys).

Daba grows older – the book appears to cover a couple of years – but he doesn’t really have struggles to overcome or seem to change or learn more about life. At times, knowing the story to be based in some way on the author’s childhood, Daba’s portrayal even comes across as self-aggrandizing: a star pupil, always cool and confident, beats adults at games, liked by everyone except for one classmate who’s condemned by other children and adults alike. Meanwhile, for adult readers, the language is perhaps too simple, and some of the events are eyebrow-raising or could use more explanation (the pen pal trip, Daba’s being awarded a scholarship to study abroad without any apparent effort from him or consent from his parents, etc.).

At any rate, this isn’t too bad if you’re doing a world books challenge – Daba travels around his country, giving the reader a sense of the landscape and the culture in the places he visits, and quick reads are always valued for big challenges – but those searching for diverse books to give to the children in their lives would be better served looking elsewhere.

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