Mailbox Monday 10/8/15

It seems like winter has returned with a vengeance here! Still, it was a good excuse to trek around some bookshops for National Bookshop Day on Saturday. Of course I bought several books, but first, what actually arrived in the letterbox this week…

Thanks to Hachette Australia, Penguin UK and Goodreads and I had two parcels last Friday! From Hachette was Sophie Hannah’s new book, A Game for All the Family. This looks to be a standalone book rather than part of the Spilling CID series, which is no problems because Sophie’s books are always twisty turner thrillers. This book is about Justine and her daughter, who move out of London to a new life. Justine thinks her life will be much easier until she’s told her daughter’s best friend doesn’t exist and then scary phone calls start…

Nina Stibbe’s fiction debut Man at the Helm
is about Lizzie and her sister who move to a small English village. Their mother sticks out amongst the residents, so the girls hatch a plan to find a man to marry their mother – with hilarious results.

Now for my own spoils. This is my haul from National Bookshop Day.

I’m sure Judy Blume needs no introduction. Her new release, In the Unlikely Event, is about Miri returning to her hometown, but not for good reasons. It’s to commemorate events back in the 1950s when events tore a community apart but through it all, they learned strength and love.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll introduces us to Ani, a woman you would love to hate. Ani finally has her chance to tell her side of the story from an incident years ago – but can she keep up her perfect demeanour?

Michael Robotham is back with his latest thriller, Close Your Eyes. Joe O’Loughlin is drawn into a new case, a double murder, after a media leak causes public ire. But as Joe finds a link with other attacks, those closest to him will also find themselves in danger.

I tracked down a copy of Haruki Murakami’s Wind/Pinball, two novels released officially in English for the first time. The story is about the narrator and his friend Rat, first during a break at university and then after he moves to Tokyo. The novels are published back to back, each with a gorgeous cover.

Emergency, edited by Dr Simon Judkins is real life stories from doctors working in the emergency departments of Australia’s hospitals. I think it will be a fascinating read, combining the heartbreak with triumph and the just plain weird. I’m also thrilled to see some former colleagues in there!

What did you receive or purchase this week? Do drop by the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies. Overseen by Vicki (I’d Rather Be at the Beach), Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit), I’m sure you’ll find many books for the wish list!

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

In brief: Tsukuru used to be part of a wonderful group of friends. But suddenly, they cut him off while he was at university. Years later, Tsukuru bears the scars and doesn’t know why. Until his girlfriend asks him to find out…

The good: It’s Murakami and my edition is so beautiful!

The not-so-good: It’s great, but not quite my favourite.

Why I chose it: Murakami + close proximity to Australia’s best bookshops on release day = purchase!

Year: 2014

Pages: 298

Publisher: Harvill Secker (translated by Philip Gabriel)

Setting: Japan and Finland

My rating: 9 out of 10

I bought Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage on release day. Early. I made it my mission to buy this before I left Melbourne to return home and rocked up to a bookstore just after opening. I carried it home carefully in my hand luggage. And even though it was released nearly a year ago, I didn’t read it until recently. Why? I guess it’s because I always like to have some Murakami I haven’t read up my sleeve and really, this book is so pretty, it just needs to be stared at for some time. I also received in my copy the slightly infamous stickers, but I haven’t opened them. (I’m even less likely to use them to decorate my copy). This is such an aesthetically pleasing book that I just want to keep it forever.

As for the story, unfortunately it’s not the insta-love I felt for 1Q84 and Norwegian Wood. A friend from work and I have discussed this at length and she feels it’s closest to Norwegian Wood in content. While it’s ‘straight’ (i.e. very few of those Murakami ‘what-the?’ moments like talking cats/frogs or multiple moons), I don’t think it has the depth, beauty or melancholy that Norwegian Wood does. She also thinks that it’s written to be hip and meet the current culture. I don’t agree – Tsukuru, the main character rarely uses the internet, Facebook etc. which doesn’t make him current in my book. I think the overall theme of friendship, loss and moving on is more universal. If you’re looking for an out there Murakami you can analyse until the cows come home, this one isn’t it. It’s a pleasant story of Tsukuru, a man who designs and builds railway stations who is haunted by something that happened when he was at university. He used to be in a very close knit group of friends, all who had names linked to colours (his means build). They did everything together. However, one holiday when Tsukuru returned from university, they all shunned him. They didn’t want to be friends anymore and they said he knew why.

But Tsukuru didn’t know why. Since then, his life has been solitary with what few friends he has disappearing. You could say (and Tsukuru would agree with you) that it’s affected his whole life. But Tsukuru’s new girlfriend Sara encourages (actually, more like demands) that he resolve this issue in his life. She tracks them down and it’s up to Tsukuru to meet them and find out what happened. The bulk of the novel is Tsukuru meeting each of his former friends and finding out what happened, with them and with their friendship. In typical Murakami fashion, not everything is answered. There are enough loose threads and ‘what-ifs’ to have you wondering for a day or two. It’s not as involved as 1Q84 or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle but it’s a pleasant journey, one that I was more than happy to take.

As always, Murakami’s work demands that you read each word and savour it like an expensive chocolate. Philip Gabriel is the translator and once again, he does a wonderful job, capturing the essence of the Japanese lifestyle and bringing to English the intense sense of loneliness in Tsukuru’s life. As anyone who has spent time in railway stations in Japan would know, they are a work of art and I found it fascinating that this is Tsukuru’s job. We get a glimpse of what his job is like, but it’s more of a metaphor for Tsukuru’s life – always moving, never stopping to contemplate. It’s only when he reflects on how his friends have done and his relationship with Sara that he slows down to reflect. Is this a comment on modern culture, that we rush around like shinkansen, never stopping to think beyond the next station? Perhaps. But Murakami’s work is always full of symbolism and I could write forever on what it all might mean and I could be completely wrong. Anyway, with the release of Wind/Pinball this week I haven’t got time for that – time to move on to the next Murakami station. While this may not be Murakami’s best work, it’s an enjoyable read that will satisfy Murakami cravings.

Mailbox Monday 25/8/14: Mega Melbourne edition

I’d like to say I don’t know where last week went, but sadly I do – it was back to work in full swing with additional extras. I didn’t get to read very much, which made me a bit sad and grumpy. Fortunately, I was able to take some time to relax and read a new novella which was wonderful!

I promised you last week you’d see the fruits of my Melbourne trip, which included Australia’s National Bookshop Day, where I ran around to several bookshops and bought some new reads, as well as enjoying activities and seeing Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (she looked just like Judy Garland), a number of princesses, some anime characters and a Dementor. It was an incredibly fun day and not one I’ll forget any time soon. Melbourne, you really know how to celebrate books!

But first, we should look at the books that did arrive via the post instead of a suitcase. Thanks to Penguin Australia and The Reading Room, I received a copy of The Sunnyvale Girls by Fiona Palmer. Fiona is a West Australian author, who shamefully I have yet to read! The book, out 24th September, is about three generations of women who discover a secret in a letter from the past that sends them across the world.

The second book was a prize from Harper Collins Australia – thank you! This year, I’m trying to read at least some (aim: half) of the Man Booker Prize long list, so I was happy to win one of the titles, The Dog by Joseph O’Neill. The book is about an attorney who accepts a job in Dubai after issues in his life in New York City. But things turn odd in Dubai too…

Now on to the haul…I did have a big splurge at Dymocks 234 Collins St, because it’s huge with a massive range! The following were bought over several visits. The first visit was a general roam around, with me making a list (how nerdy) then coming out with five books – easy to fit in the suitcase, right? Mary Renault’s The Charioteer has been on my wish list and it was on sale, so it was a must buy. It’s a war story of Laurie, who meets Andrew in hospital and is then introduced to a circle of gay men – should he choose pleasure or friendship? I hadn’t heard of A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon before, but the cover grabbed me. It’s set in the 1960s, about two men from vastly different upbringings who are friends but go on to different things. Set over 50 years, I’ll be interested to read why their friendship stopped abruptly. This One is Mine is Maria Semple’s first novel, re-released. Set in the Hollywood Hills, this is about Violet who has everything she wants except Teddy (a musician, not a fluffy toy). Sally wants some of what Violet has but Violet’s decisions will affect both of them.

I also bought two romance books based on the love the members of the Australian Romance Readers Association have for them. Everyone raves about Anna Campbell’s books, so I bought Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed to join the legion of fans. It’s a historical romance where Sidonie submits herself to the scoundrel Jonas to save her sister’s life. It’s not the horrible experience she expects and the pair start to care for each other. Can this love survive those wanting to destroy them? Anne Gracie is another popular author and I bought The Autumn Bride which is also a historical romance about Abigail, who breaks into a mansion to save her friends and sister. There, she finds a neglected elderly lady who she begins to care for. All is well until her nephew returns to find strangers in the house and chaos erupts…

Finally, I just had to buy the new Haruki Murakami book, Colorless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage on the day of release, as you know. I haven’t read this tale about the four friends who desert Tsukuru, leaving him to an aimless existence until he meets Sara (nor have I applied the stickers) but knowing it’s by my bedside makes it all okay!

Next stop on National Bookshop Day was the always lovely Reader’s Feast. Their shelves always contain books that feel as though they’ve been picked just for me. I can spend ages browsing in their beautiful building! I restrained myself to two books, both quite different. Warpaint by Alicia Foster is set in 1942. Vivienne paints propaganda, while Laura, Cecily and Faith paint a record of life during the war. When the course of the war changes, they meet and have to ask the tough questions – what are the truths and lies that they should tell? The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
is translated from the Japanese, a story of first love between the daughter of a rich man and a fisherman as the village gossips about their union.

I then headed out of the city to Readings in Carlton. This store is always packed with books and you can find so much on the shelves, which go nearly to the ceiling. I bought two books I’d heard good things about. The Vacationers by Emma Straub is strangely enough, a story about a family vacation. Naturally there are secrets and lies involved, as well as love and marriage. Sounds very action packed! Her by Harriet Lane is about a friendship between Nina and Emma – but they’ve met before and Nina wants something more this time and could be willing to go the extra mile to get it…(yes, the type of the title is blurry – it’s not your eyes or my picture taking!)

Back into town and I jumped off the tram to drop into Hill of Content, a cosy bookshop for the cloudy change in the afternoon. Another two books bought, both ones I hadn’t heard of before. Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong is a translation from the Vietnamese about the influence of the government on three women and their families and how it causes pain and uncertainty. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok is the story of a mother and daughter moving to New York from Hong Kong. On arrival, they have no money and don’t speak English. Can they turn into the happy American dream, leaving their past behind? Should they?

That was it for one day! I did also serendipitously chance on a discount bookshop (can’t remember the name) in South Wharf and bought a few bargains. I enjoyed Jean Fullerton’s
Nurse Millie series, so I thought I’d try No Cure for Love, a story about life in Whitechapel and romance. I also love Tilly Bagshawe’s books, so grabbed Friends & Rivals, about three old friends, who might have to become enemies to rise to the top of fame and fortune. Ron Burgundy’s Let Me Off at the Top! Is a must because I would not have a clue on how to stay classy without his expertise (and perhaps it may mention Brick). Finally, The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood has been on my wish list for years, about Iris and Oscar who come from different backgrounds and are convinced to be part of some experiments that will affect them all…

I hope you enjoyed the books of my trip…I have to confess I also made some online orders while I was on holidays, so be prepared for them next week…

Do stop in at the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies. Overseen by Vicki (I’d Rather Be at the Beach), Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit), I’m sure you’ll find something you want to read, as well as more great books!

 

 

Exciting new book releases for August 2014

I can’t believe it’s August already! That means there a whole month of exciting new releases to add to my wishlist (thank goodness for the internet, otherwise my notebooks would be overflowing). Here are the books I’ve picked for the month that I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on. Please note that all these are Australian release dates – if you’re elsewhere, you might be lucky enough to have these available already (or need to wait a bit longer).

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

From the publisher (Random House):

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it.

One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.

Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.

My thoughts: It’s Murakami. It’s going to be strange and awesome. I’ve already planned the morning of 12th August to ensure I get this at the first available opportunity.

 

 

 

The Golden Age by Joan London

From the publisher (Random House):

This is a story of resilience, the irrepressible, enduring nature of love, and the fragility of life. From one of Australia’s most loved novelists.

He felt like a pirate landing on an island of little maimed animals. A great wave had swept them up and dumped them here. All of them, like him, stranded, wanting to go home.

It is 1954 and thirteen-year-old Frank Gold, refugee from wartime Hungary, is learning to walk again after contracting polio in Australia. At The Golden Age Children’s Polio Convalescent Hospital in Perth, he sees Elsa, a fellow-patient, and they form a forbidden, passionate bond.

The Golden Age becomes the little world that reflects the larger one, where everything occurs, love and desire, music, death, and poetry. Where children must learn that they are alone, even within their families.

Written in Joan London’s customary clear-eyed prose, The Golden Age evokes a time past and a yearning for deep connection. It is a rare and precious gem of a book from one of Australia’s finest novelists.

My thoughts: Polio was a fear that consumed my parents and grandparents, yet to people my age it’s a forgotten disease. I can’t wait to learn more about this time, especially as it’s set in Perth.

 

 

 

In Love and War by Alex Preston

From the publisher (Allen & Unwin):

A tale of love, heroism and resistance set against the stunning backdrop of 1930s Florence, In Love and War weaves fact and fiction to create a thrilling portrait of a man swept up in the chaos of war.

Desperate to prove himself to his politician father, Esmond Lowndes is sent to Italy to forge ties between the British Union of Fascists and Mussolini’s government. He is also escaping the disgrace of a scandalous love affair. In Florence, he discovers art and passion amongst eccentric expatriates and glamorous locals.

But with the coming of war, he leaves his past behind and joins the Florentine resistance. He falls in love with a fellow freedom fighter and together they take on the malevolent Mario Carita, head of the Fascist secret police. Esmond is at the centre of assassination plots, shoot-outs and car chases, culminating in a final mission of extraordinary daring.

A novel of art and letters, of bawdy raconteurs and dashing spies, In Love and War takes you deep into the hidden heart of history. It is a tale both epic and intimate, harrowing and life-affirming.

My thoughts: I’ve been hearing a lot about this book lately from bookish people in the UK. It looks like the perfect mix of historical fiction and romance.

 

 

 

 

 

This is How I’d Love You by Hazel Woods

From the publisher (Penguin):

As the Great War rages, an independent young woman struggles to sustain love—and life—through the power of words.

It’s 1917 and America is on the brink of World War I. After Hensley Dench’s father is forced to resign from the New York Times for his anti-war writings, she finds herself expelled from the life she loves and the future she thought she would have. Instead, Hensley is transplanted to New Mexico, where her father has taken a job overseeing a gold mine. Driven by loneliness, Hensley hijacks her father’s correspondence with Charles Reid, a young American medic with whom her father plays chess via post. Hensley secretly begins her own exchange with Charles, but looming tragedy threatens them both, and—when everything turns against them—will their words be enough to beat the odds?

My thoughts: I’m enjoying reading about World War I this year. This book has popped up on lots of US bloggers’ lists and I’m excited to read it here soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano

From the publisher (Hachette):

Rebecca, a 15-year-old American, isn’t entirely happy with her life, comfortable though it is. Still, even she knows that she shouldn’t talk to strangers. So when her mysterious neighbour Miss Hatfield asked her in for a chat and a drink, Rebecca wasn’t entirely sure why she said yes. It was a decision that was to change everything. For Miss Hatfield is immortal. And now, thanks to a drop of water from the Fountain of Youth, Rebecca is as well. But this gift might be more of a curse, and it comes with a price. Rebecca is beginning to lose her personality, to take on the aspects of her neighbour. She is becoming the next Miss Hatfield. But before the process goes too far, Rebecca must travel back in time to turn-of-the-century New York and steal a painting, a picture which might provide a clue to the whereabouts of the source of immortality. A clue which must remain hidden from the world. In order to retrieve the painting, Rebecca must infiltrate a wealthy household, learn more about the head of the family, and find an opportunity to escape. Before her journey is through, she will also have – rather reluctantly – fallen in love. But how can she stay with the boy she cares for, when she must return to her own time before her time-travelling has a fatal effect on her body? And would she rather stay and die in love, or leave and live alone? And who is the mysterious stranger who shadows her from place to place? A hunter for the secret of immortality – or someone who has already found it?

My thoughts: This looks a bit quirky. I like the idea that Miss Hatfield is immortal and that Rebecca has to become her. Plus the cover is gorgeous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you read any of these books? What do you think of my choices?

Cover revealed for the new Haruki Murakami novel!

I was surfing the internet this week looking for book news (please say it’s not just me that does this!) when I stumbled upon the beautiful cover design for the latest Haruki Murakami novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. This book will be released on August 12th 2014 in Australia (that’s a Thursday in case you’re putting it in your diary now).

Suzanne Dean has designed this gorgeous cover, which not only fits in beautifully with previous Murakami covers but will certainly attract readers.

Image from Random House Australia

Intrigued?

Find out more about the book here (Australia), here (UK) or here (USA).

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

In brief: Hajime reminisces on the women of his youth. All is well until his childhood friend, Shimamoto returns to his life – how will Hajime react to a second chance?

The good: Vintage Murakami – the love, loss, longing and rumination.

The not-so-good: Some may find similar tones to Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart.

Why I chose it: I love Murakami’s writing and am eagerly awaiting his next book.

Year: 1998 (English translation)

Pages: 187

Publisher: Vintage Books

Setting: Japan

My rating: 9 out of 10

With a new Haruki Murakami book being released in Australia on August 12th 2014 (Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage); I thought it was high time I jumped into my Murakami stash. I love Murakami’s writing; it’s something I never want to run out of (hence my pile of his books that I read and savour slowly on occasions).

For those of you who have read 1Q84, Norwegian Wood or even Sputnik Sweetheart, you might think the plot of South of the Border, West of the Sun is sounding a little tired. The book revolves around Hajime and the women of the youth and early adulthood. He reflects on these girls later on in his years (he’s now happily married with children), but there’s one girl he keeps coming back to. Shimamoto. They hung out together as children – they were both only children and seemed drawn to each other. They listened to her father’s records together. Then Haijime’s family moved a little further away and Hajime went to a different school. It was an innocent time, but he’s never forgotten her. Nor has Hajime seen her, except for one very odd time before he was married.

Now the successful owner of two jazz bars in Tokyo, Hajime is surprised and pleased to meet Shimamoto again one night. He begins to crave their time together, but Shimamoto is evasive and her visits sporadic. Hajime’s life begins to revolve around Shimamoto again, but will he throw his life away for a second chance with her? Why does Shimamoto come and go? What is her secret?

I’ve heard this book described as Murakami’s most autobiographical novel, but I can’t comment. Yes, there is a similarity between the jazz bar but otherwise… Obviously lost love and what if? plays a large role in many of Murakami’s works, but I didn’t find this repetitive or similar to the above books. Murakami’s words are beautiful lyrics floating up off the page and he weaves a spell so that you are at one with the book. While you read his words, you are part of this mysterious, wondrous world that sparkles just a little bit brighter than your day to day monotony. There are also dark corners, ones that Murakami encourages you to explore on your own – he’s the type of author who suggests things, rather than hit you with the absolute truth.

So while we may not get all the answers as to why Hajime and Shimamoto act the way they do, we’re still taken on a beautiful journey full of emotions – love, joy, pain and deception. It’s a rare thing to be able to convey such intense feeling across the page, but Murakami does it with skill (and Philip Gabriel translates it perfectly).

This is a slim read, but one with words and emotions to savour long after you’ve closed the book.

Mailbox Monday 18/2/13

Wow, last week was such a busy week that it just flew by! I did have some fun though and met the author Rachael Johns at a library event. It was incredibly interesting! I also ate a lot of good food and then did some overtime to pay for the good food…and good books!

I strongly suspect that my parcel post man may have been on holiday (I can’t contemplate that I just simply had no mail) because everything in my mailbox came at the end of the week!

Firstly, Random House sent me a book journal because I’m one of their favourite Tweeters. Aww, thanks guys!


You can also get these at Dymocks when you purchase two Vintage Classics this month – not difficult, especially as all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are now published in Vintage Classics! There’s five sections: books I have read, books I want to read, books I have borrowed, books I have lent and book quotes to remember.

The kind folk at Bloomsbury sent me the very cool cover-ed book Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed. This book combines Hollywood with family secrets. This sounds right up my alley – I love hidden secrets combined with wealthy families.


I’ve also organised to be part of a tour for Margareta Osborn’s new book, Hope’s Road (my copy comes from Random House – thank you again!). It’s a rural Australian romance, covering several generations. The tour is a tag a along idea, with one review each day. You’ll see my review here mid-March.


Finally, I received my order from Readings, a Melbourne based chain of bookstores (the Carlton store is a booklover’s dream). They were offering Haruki Murakami’s books at $9.95, so I topped up my collection. I love Murakami’s books, even though I don’t claim to understand everything that happens. I bought Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman; Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World; Underground; South of the Border, West of the Sun and Dance Dance Dance.


Well, it looks like I’ll be busy this week too! What did you receive in your mailbox? Do visit the lovely Unabridged Chick, our host for Mailbox Monday for February to see a load of fantastic books received.

1Q84 (Books 1 & 2) by Haruki Murakami

A quick rundown… The story of two seemly unconnected people in Tokyo in 1984 and the mysterious things that are taking place.

Strengths: Absolutely fantastic writing that captures the heart and imagination; the story will remain with you long after you’ve finished.

Weaknesses: The ARC copy I had occasionally repeated extraneous details.

Why I read it: chosen by Readings Books to review it as part of their Uncorrected Proof Book Club. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Pages: 593 (ARC copy)

Published: 2011

Publisher: Harvill Secker (Random House)

Setting: Japan

Rating: 10 out of 10

If you liked this, try: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (if you like things linear), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (if you like the more fantastic side).

I finished reading 1Q84 (surely the blockbuster novel of 2011) almost a week ago, but I wanted to collect my thoughts before I put fingers to keyboard. This is a novel (sounds trite, perhaps epic would be a better word) that remains with you for a long, long time after reading it. I’ve kept thinking about the story and how each event fits in the overall structure of the book, how clever and intricate the world created is and how I can picture in my head a world that doesn’t exist…or does it?

The ARC copy I read comprised of Books 1 and 2 (Book 3 will be published in the UK on 25th October 2011, I’m uncertain of an Australian release date). The sheer weight of the first two books (nearly 600 pages) will come as a delight to Murakami fans. For readers new to Murakami, it may take a little while to warm up to the picture that is being painted lovingly before you but persevere, the puzzle pieces soon fall into place. The book opens with Aomame (whose name means ‘green pea’, we never know her by any other name) in a taxi, stuck in a traffic jam in Tokyo in 1984. She is going to be late for her appointment when the taxi driver informs her of an emergency exit that will take her off the expressway back to ground level. He says a few odd things, but Aomame is not concerned about that. She takes his advice, goes down the stairs and off to her appointment – killing a man.

Meanwhile, Tengo is a young writer who is struggling to make a name for himself while teaching mathematics at a cram school. At a meeting with his somewhat mentor, he is asked to rewrite a novel written by a seventeen year old girl that has been submitted for a new writers’ prize. The novel, Air Chrysalis, is nothing like he’s ever read before. Neither is its author, Fuka-Eri, a strange girl who never uses a question mark in her speech.

Can you see the Murakami originality coming through? The cover pictured gives quite an insight into the main symbols of this book.

I don’t want to spoil the story for others – it’s highly original and will keep you reading all through the night but be prepared for almost anything to happen: religious cults, strange sightings of the moon, an older woman out for revenge, missing persons, murder, love, sex and all sorts of people – from big to small.

Murakami must be lauded for his ability to think of such an intricate plot – almost every detail is leading you further into the story and almost nothing is there by chance. It all combines together later in the second book with exquisite tension before the explosion of the bittersweet ending. Be aware that there is a fair bit of sex in this book but I felt it was needed to show where the characters were coming from and where they were heading.

On finishing this book, I hardly dared to look up at the moon in case I was in 1Q84! Everything else I’ve read since has paled in comparison to 1Q84.
I simply can’t recommend this book more highly – it’s a beautiful masterpiece.

I’ll be reading Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 in September!

Yes, I’m very, very excited. Thanks to Readings Books, I’ll be taking part in their Uncorrected Proof Book Club next month, reading Haruki Murakami’s new book, 1Q84! This book looks to be very exciting, shifting between the story of two characters with some typical Murakami twists and surreal experiences. I can’t wait! This book will be released in Australia on the 1st November 2011.

Thank you to Readings, excellent booksellers of Melbourne (I highly recommend combining a meal in Carlton – or several – with a lengthy browse) and please check out the other readers’ blogs/Twitter accounts that will be sharing the journey with me:

Update: I’ve now read and reviewed Books 1 & 2, please read my review here!

 

Mini Book Reviews: April 2010

These are (usually) shorter reviews I wrote on books before I decided to start my blog. Although short, I hope they provide a quick overview of the book!

After the Quake: Stories by Haruki Murakami

I’m not usually a fan of short stories, but Murakami’s are brilliant. He paints such an intricate world in your mind in a few carefully chosen words. All the stories have a link (sometimes large, sometimes small) to the Kobe earthquake and how it has affected various individuals. I would love to see any of these stories in a longer format.

I dread the day I run out of Murakami’s works to read. 9 out of 10.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

This is a sequel that is truly worthy of the original- fast paced, exciting plot…a complete pageturner. Dealing with a new adventure (sex trafficking in Sweden), this follows Salander and Blomkvist again with even more twists and turns. I couldn’t put this down (lucky I wasn’t working this Easter). The translation is excellent. I think I’ll need to wait until another long weekend to read the next book…

What Kate did next by Lisa Heidke

First of all, I received this book as part of an early reviewers programme. In a similar vein to the main character, I’ll list what I liked and didn’t like about this book:
Likes:
1. It was Australian. Reading an Aussie book is like slipping on a pair of favourite jeans. You know what David Jones is, you can easily picture places in the book.
2. Very easy read. Despite a death in the family while reading this, I could pick it up and actually remember when I was.
3. The characters of the children (Lexi and Angus) were cute. Not kids I’d like to have, but funny.

Dislikes:
1. Lots of plotlines jumping around, none explored in explicit detail- mothers remarrying, infidelity, naughty teenagers, re-entering the workforce, losing you creative outlet…all touched on and revisited, but not battled out until the nth degree. Although if one had been focused on, we would have had a less funny book.
2. Couple of typos- one that sticks out during Kate’s fantasy is that a man licks her ‘naval’. How did that one get past?
3. The ending- felt a bit rushed and we missed out on the wedding.

All in all, a good, light read. If I saw the author’s other novel in an airport, I’d pick it up to take to read.  7.5 out of 10.

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism… by Thomas Kohnstamm

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll…that’s what you get when you agree to update Lonely Planet Brazil- and that’s just the first few chapters! Thomas Kohnstamm recounts his trip on little money, dodgy encounters, beautiful women and unique people. It’s a light, fun read that will make you think twice before blindly following the Lonely Planet on your next trip. Thomas writes well and had me laughing on a packed commuter train. It’s a little bit same-y in places (sex, drinking, repeat), but hey, that’s life! 6.5 out of 10.

Free Gift with Purchase: My Improbable Career in Magazines and Makeup… by Jean Godfrey-June

This is a light and fluffy skimming of the author’s life as a beauty editor at Elle and Lucky. However, don’t expect an indepth look at the world of a beauty editor. Personal memories, experiences, mentions of gift bags and freebies with some beauty advice make up this book. While I did enjoy it, I probably would have enjoyed a copy of Allure just as much. It’s a very easy read. 6 out of 10.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

If I had to summarise this book in a word, I’d say restrained. It’s not a very long book for startes, plus the feelings and thoughts of Eilis, the main character, seem a little distant.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not a great book. I’m still thinking about it, long after I’ve closed it. Did Eilis make the right choice? What options did she have?
The prose is great- explained in few words, but so eloquently that I feel I could find my way around Eilis’ neighbourhood and recognise all the characters. 8.5 out of 10.

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn

Let me preface this by saying that I haven’t seen the movie. I tried on an aeroplane, but we hit turbulence and I couldn’t concentrate. I did like what I saw, so I decided to buy the buy when I couldn’t find a theatre showing the movie.

I really hope the movie is not as bad as this book. What a waste of George Clooney if it is.

Up in the Air starts off innocently enough. Ryan Bingham, businessman extraordinaire will hit the magic one million frequent flyer miles this week. After that, he plans to quit his job, convinced that another company is about to poach him. Throw in a bit of crazy family, even crazier clients, then some strange moments, paranoia, drug taking and an even weider conclusion. I was left wondering it is was all real, whether it was being written or edited under the influence because some parts just did not make sense. In short, it was weird. At least the movie has George Clooney eye candy. 3 out of 10.