Archive for September, 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

By Haruki Murakami

The Short Take:

I am ashamed to admit this is the first book I’ve read by this world-renowned author. It was wonderful: Highly literary yet also completely approachable. Moving imagery and layers of meaning bubbled under the surface of a touching story about losing those you love and never understanding why.

Why?

The language is beguilingly simple yet studded with moments of poetic brilliance. The story is fairly straightforward yet full of subtle meaning. You can read at whatever depth you want and still fully enjoy the experience. While it’s certainly no thriller — closer to a character study — I found myself just as involved and unable to put it down as if were.

Murakami presents a wonderful story of loss and yearning, of the past shaping the future, of self doubt and self awareness. Simply a wonderful reading experience all around.

I have to say something about the delightful cover design and different size of this hardback book. It beautifully reflected the story and, I have to admit, something about holding it and simply turning the pages was pleasurable. Of course it was designed by Chip Kidd. No wonder it was the best design I’d seen since he designed the cover of his own novel!

A Little Plot:

Tsukuru Tazaki has an extremely close relationship with four other friends in high school. It is an exceptionally tight circle. Then they abruptly and completely turn their backs on him with no explanation. Is it because he is colorless and empty? Is it because he alone left their city for a university in Tokyo? Is he destined to always lose those he cares about because he is flawed in some way?

Read the book.

I didn’t immediately find a website for Haruki Murakami, but a quick Internet search will reveal much about this highly-respected author.

The Silkworm

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

By Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling)

The Short Take:

A completely worthy follow-up to the debut of what promises to be a truly superior detective series. No matter what name she uses, Rowling delivers highly readable novels. Her private investigator, Cormoran Strike, is unique — damaged in heart and body yet determined to move forward. His assistant, Robin Ellacott, is bright and determined to prove herself. It’s a great pairing, and then there’s the excellent mystery.

Why?

The key element of detective series is, of course, the detective. They must be different from the rest of us in some interesting way. What sets Cormoran Strike apart is not just his partial leg prothesis and the limitations and pain it brings, it is the depth that the author has given to his life. He is more knowable, with an extensive and intensive back story. Robin Ellacott, while entirely different on the surface, is just as completely realized.

However, this is a mystery novel, and it is exceptionally successful as such. There are just the right amount of obstacles to overcome and just the right number of colorful suspects, along with a resolution that is completely satisfying and highly unexpected.

I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to more Cormoran Strike mysteries in the years ahead. By the way, you don’t need to read The Cuckoo’s Calling first to enjoy this book, but you will enjoy Strike and Robin all the more if you do.

A Little Plot:

Strike agrees to look for Owen Quine, a novelist who has gone missing and not for the first time. However, this time he has just finished a manuscript filled with unpleasant representations of everyone he knows in the publishing world.

There are plenty of people who would like to see him dead. But, who has a mind to murder?

To learn more about Galbraith and Strike, click here.

Lucky Us

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

By Amy Bloom

The Short Take:

This thoroughly enjoyable book centers on family connections built between the most unlikely people. It grabbed me completely on the first page and had me in tears on the last. In between, this story of two half sisters, loosely set around the WWII years, never failed to engage and surprise.

Why?

The question to me is: Why haven’t I read Bloom before? Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, always interesting, this novel couldn’t have a more clear-eyed and pragmatic protagonist than Eva, one of the sisters. However, it manages to pull at your heart despite a welcome lack of maudlin sentiment.

Bloom manages to incorporate three first-person accounts without giving her readers a moment of confusion. Eva is the primary voice. Her half sister, Iris, and the German-American, Gus, also have their voices heard through their letters. The result is a richer understanding of the various flaws, hopes, and foibles that make up Bloom’s complex characters.

All in all, a wonderful book.

The Short Take:

Eva’s mom proclaims they are going to visit her father and his other family and promptly leaves the child on that father’s porch. What results is a strange alliance between two half-sisters — Iris always the star, Eva always her supporting cast.

Their eventual ¬†journey together crisscrosses the continent and leads them to new friends and lovers — sometimes of the most unexpected type. Then they are forced apart.

That’s all you’re getting from me. Just read the book. Enjoy. To learn more bout Amy Bloom and her books, click here.

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