Thumbs up for Kappa by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Literature.
When one of my favorite customers asked me what I was reading, I answered, “Lots of Japanese literature.” She responded, “Oh, how wonderful! I have a degree in Japanese literature! Who’s your favorite?” Her favorite was Akutagawa. I had no Akutagawa. She being the delightful person she is, she gave me one. Kappa is in fact a short story masquerading as a book, with the help of a long introduction that deals with the fascinating life of Akutagawa himself – something well worth reading on its own.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. Food.
A quick-reading, sweet book with luscious recipes and some not-too-sappy reminiscences of family and life. Already a fan of Orangette, Molly Wizenberg’s blog, I was looking forward to this, and it did not disappoint. Light reading, but very enjoyable.
“For one thing. she’s quite petite; barely over five feet tall. ‘Five feet and three-quarter inches,’ actually, is what she would tell you.
… >> Read more
Thumbs down for Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Science fiction.
It wasn’t the self-proclaimed “violent exploitation” that got to me; frankly, that was just unorginal video-game-style blood and guts. It was the fact that the writing is some of the worst I’ve ever read in a professionally published novel. I don’t know whether it was the author or the translator, but to quote from the book itself: “Damn, this was bad.” And let’s not forget the bouts of utter ridiculousness: apparently the author thinks bulletproof vests make you invincible.… >> Read more
Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Phoenix Code by Catherine Asaro. Science fiction/romance.
Catherine Asaro is one of my favorite writers, but that said, I cannot recommend this book. While I enjoy her style enough that I never wanted to actually put it down, the beginning was very slow, and after the plot picked up, there were far, far too many times that I thought to myself: “Oh, no way.” The ending is especially unbelievable.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. Literature.
A luscious chocolate of a book, which, as I am not quite smart enough to understand what it is really about, I will not try to synopsize for you. Nevertheless, if you like beautiful writing, and enjoy works in which the landscape shapes the story almost to the point of being itself a character, you will not regret reading it.… >> Read more
Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. Literature.
This book was fine. In a clear, readable way, it tells the simple story of the friendship between a housekeeper and her son with a mathematics professor who has only eighty minutes of long-term memory. But I demand a bit more from books than that they be “fine.” There are so many great books out there, why read one that is just “fine”?… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Out by Natsuo Kirino. Suspense.
An unforgettable work of crime fiction with excellent characters – especially the dark but powerful sort-of-heroine Masako, a worker on the night shift at a boxed-lunch factory – and many twisted scenes. I went through cycles of “this is so good, why do I have to put it down to go to work?” and “this is going to no happy ending, I’m realizing I’ve lost my taste for this sort of thing.” The first sense prevailed, however, and what I’m left with is the memory of an excellent book I can recommend to few people.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Silence by Shusaku Endo. Literature.
An engrossing story taking place during the state-supported massacres of the sizable minority of Japanese Catholics in the 1600’s. To simplify greatly, it deals in a well-rounded, satisfying way with the issue of staying true to one’s religion when to do so may not be the moral thing to do; and the effect of that dilemma on the faith of one man, Father Rodrigues, a young missionary.… >> Read more