Review: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Crown
Source: Publisher

The city is in a perpetual state of not being quite ready to talk about it. Instead it lashes its wind against the banners of the art museum. Moody light changes down Market, the cars bitch toward City Hall. Puddles yearn toward the sewers. The unrequited city dreams up conspiracies and keeps it buildings low to the ground.

This book is wonderful, beautiful and all things a book should be. It makes you feel, for that motherless girl who is victimized by her peers and discriminated against by the adults who are supposed to be on her side. It makes you sad for the teacher who has loved and lost and is trying to love again knowing very well that she is loving the wrong person. The jazz club owner whose life is unraveling so rapidly, the adolescent who only wants his dad’s approval but that seems impossible. Even the man who lost his wife and is unable to cope with the reality of it and so, fails his little daughter. Mrs. Santiago, who keeps working with her dead husband’s portrait for company, essentially raising the little girl whose father has checked out.

The little girl’s yearning to sing. The dog, Pedro, and his little eccentricities, who is as much a character as any human being in the book.

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas takes place over the course of one day. And what a day. It is linearly told (in the context of time) and narrated from many perspectives. Bertino’s characters are so vividly rendered and though some storylines clutch at your heartstrings, there is not an ounce of maudlin sentimentality to the novel. The writing is superlative. The ending liberating.

Even if you don’t usually read lit fic, read this one. It is not pretentious; it doesn’t serve as a platform for the author’s own intellect as some do. What it is is powerful, raw and splendid.

Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)

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Hardcover, 387 pages
Published August 12th 2014 by Knopf Publishing Group
Source: Publisher

I am a Murakami fan and have been since before it became a fashionable thing to be. I don’t know who introduced me to him or how I happened to pick one of his books but I was a devout fan after I read Kafka on the Shore. I didn’t totally get it but I loved the fact that it totally bewildered me. I have yet to read all his works, six or so of them remain but I did read 1Q84 this year and now I have read his latest Tsukuru Tazaki and I don’t know. I loved the first two books of 1Q84 but was largely unimpressed by the ending. Tsukuru Tazaki, on the other hand, I liked in bits and pieces.

I felt that the buildup was great; I was completely immersed in Tsukuru’s emotional anguish at being cut out of the group. I thought the moments of crystal introspection were beautiful. The graphic sex, however, felt, gratuitous but I realized its place in the narrative after the reveal. I did feel like the narrative thread with Haida went nowhere and I would have honestly liked to see something happen. I also was not a fan of Sara. I didn’t understand what the attraction was and somehow this seems like i am trying to force a conventional narrative on a writer famed for anything but, BUT I needed more in terms of their relationship as it is the catalyst which leads to Tsukuru’s pilgrimage. I mean, if she wasn’t committed to the relationship, why would she give him the list of things to do. I did not like that. I won’t go out with you unless and until you confront your past. Meh. Isn’t it the past that has made Tsukuru into the person he is?

And the repetition also annoyed me.The last bit of the novel is a reiteration of the entire book, regurgitating, unnecessarily, stuff that we have just read. Even the big reveal, the reason why Tsukuru was cut out of the group is disappointing. There’s a lack of tension, a lack of conflict….kind of like running in a race and finally getting to the end line and being told there was no race after all, people were playing a prank on you.

So yeah, definitely not one of my favourite of Murakami’s works. But I have six more books to read by him and hopefully by the time I’m done, he’ll have written one I can wholly enjoy.

Though I do wonder if the book reads differently and has a different effect in Japanese. Maybe there are cultural nuances that are important and missing in this translation–not because of the translator but because some things are just not translatable.

The Reading Forecast

This past week I read:

  1. You are Here – Chris Hadfield
  2. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
  3. House of Many Ways – Diana Wynne Jones
  4. The Magicians Guild – Trudi Caravan
  5. The Duchess War – Courtney Milan
  6. Skip Beat 29 – Yoshiki Nakamura
  7. Skip Beat 30 – Yoshiki Nakamura
  8. Skip Beat 31 – Yoshiki Nakamura
  9. Beautiful Darkness – Fabien Vehlmann
  10. Bad Houses – Carla Speed
  11. Skip Beat 32 – Yoshiki Nakamura
  12. Jackaby – William Ritter

I am currently reading:

  1. Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas
  2. The Shadow Hero – Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew
  3. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place – Julie Berry

I plan to read:

  1. Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
  2. Amulet 4 & 5 by Kazu Kibuishi
  3. The Seat of Magic – Kathleen J. Cheney

Buying Books: What Not To Do

There’s a book sale going on right now. A book sale that I attend almost religious every year: the Vancouver Public Library annual book sale. There are brand new books offered here for 75c and most of the times, I just go crazy. Like, suitcase full of books crazy.

This year, I decided to depart from the norm and abstain from the book sale. My friend, Teng, will be quite shocked by this decision because she knows that I am a glutton for books. I see books, especially books on sale, and I immediately start buying them whether I want them or not. I justify this rampage as a one in a million chance (lie) that I’ll find the book at this price ever again (lie).

However, ever since I started keeping records of the books I have on my TBR lists and the number of books I manage to shave off it every month before it is topped up again by books sent to me or bought when favourite authors release books or I get sent review copies of books I want (I only keep finished copies and books I really like, everything else is donated), I got this really cold feeling in my stomach. I realized I hadn’t read the books I bought at the sale three years ago and then I keep on buying and not reading. This is obviously not something I am comfortable with anymore because I have become too conscious of my own mortalityย  (is that weird?) and I want to read the books I have. Space is also a concern and I don’t want to fill up all available space with books that I bought simply because they were cheap.

So, even though it is sort of killing me, I’m not going to the book sale. I just decided this right now. I have a large list of books I want to add to my collection and I know I could justify the trip as trying to find the books I want but the truth is, I don’t mind waiting to buy those books until I have money to do so. As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I begin to be more fully aware of the consequences of my own actions than I used to be. Paying full price for a book may mean that I can only buy one book/month but it will also ensure that I will read that one book I buy. I won’t buy books that I *may* be interested in but I’ll buy books that I truly have yearned for.

Of course book sales are awesome, the VPL book sale in particular as it functions to help the library make more purchases of reading material for its patrons. I am in no way putting down book sales and chances are, I’ll probably wish I was there tomorrow but when you have a TBR mountain as ragingly out of control as mine, some feet have to be set down, no matter how agonizing it is.

Review: You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes by Chris Hadfield

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Hardcover, 208 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Random House Canada
Source: Publisher

It must be strange and sort of terrifying to look down or at the world wholly, to be able to see the planet in all its glory and understand your own mortality, your own miniscule presence. Hadfield’s book presents a collection of pictures he took while at a space station from 2006 to 2008, I believe. The book archives a wonderful selection of pictures that show how beautiful and at the same time, how terrifying, our planet is. Hadfield’s accompanying commentary is humourous and insightful giving a glimpse of the brilliant mind behind the book. Recommended.

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The Reading Forecast

Another week, another forecast. I really like doing these. I veer off the course all the time but having these posts up help me to direct my reading somewhat. Anyway, on to the reading I have done.

Read last week:

  1. Twitter: The Comic – Mike Rosenthal (reviewed)
  2. Anna Dressed in Blood – Kendare Blake.
    Did not live up to the expectations, unfortunately. I liked it but was not blown away as I thought I would be.
  3. Magic Breaks – Illona Andrews
    A billion stars. I loved it.
  4. The Chapel Wars – Lindsey Leavitt
    It was okay.
  5. Heaven’s Queen – Rachel Bach
    I really liked this.
  6. Kill My Mother – Jules Feiffer
    This was weird but okay.
  7. Even More Bad Parenting Advice – Guy Delisle
    Loved it. Review coming soon.
  8. Tippy and the Night Parade – Lilli Carre
    Cute.
  9. Briony Hatch – Penelope and Ginny Skinner
    Liked it quite a bit.
  10. The Adventures of Superhero Girl – Faith Erin Hicks
    This was amazing. Enjoyed it immensely.
  11. Amulet 3 – Kazu Kabuishi
    Really liked it. Twist in the story!

Currently Reading:

  1. House of Many Ways – Diana Wynne Jones
    A little over halfway through and my dad and I are both loving this.
  2. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
    The translation isn’t the best but the story (and the mystery) is compelling. I’m reading this slowly so I don’t know how long it’s going to take but I’m enjoying it so far.
  3. Around the World in 92 minutes – Chris Hadfield
    Certainly humbling and very awe-inspiring.

What I Plan to Read:

  1. Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire
    I plan to start it anyway. I want to read it before next week Wednesday so I can review it at The Book Wars.
  2. The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Caravan
    Should read this before I have to return it to the library.
  3. Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas
    I’ll give it a whirl. I’m not sure I’ll like it or finish it but I’ll give it a whirl.
  4. Amulet 4 and 5 by Kazu Kibuishi
    I may get to Amulet 6 as well but I don’t know.