Posted in Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: May 2018 and June TBR

Read in May 2018: 13
From my May TBR
 
Others
 

Reviews:

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki MurakamiBeautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Participated in Bout of Books 22

Book(s) of the month

Difficult to choose with so many 4 stars but I will go with these
June 2018 TBR
 

2018 Challenge Updates

  1. Read at least 40 books (Goodreads goal) – Goal completed – 48
  2. Read more classics (at least 15) – 6
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) – 12
  4. Read huge books (at least 3) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 0
  6. Read more non-fiction/ memoir/ autobiography (at least 10) – Goal Completed – 13

Total number of Pages read this year: 11436

2018 ultimate reading challenge

  1. A book you read in school
  2. A book from your childhood
  3. A book published over 100 years agoHeart of Darkness
  4. A book published in the last year – Genuine Fraud
  5. A non-fic book You can do it
  6. A book written by a male author – The Gift of Therapy
  7. A book written by a female authorSunbathing in the rain
  8. A book by someone who isn’t a writer – When breath becomes air
  9. A book that became a film – The painted veil
  10. A book published in the 20th century Changing Planes
  11. A book set in your hometown/ region
  12. A book with a name in the titleA Man called Ove
  13. A book with a number in the title – Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
  14. A book based on a true storyDying Well
  15. A book someone else recommended – 1984
  16. A book with over 500 pages
  17. A book you can finish in a day – Ghachar Ghochar
  18. A previously banned book
  19. A book with one-word title – Malice
  20. A book translated from another language – Moonrise From the Green Grass Roof
  21. A personal growth book
  22. A memoir or a journal – Tiger tiger
  23. A book by someone from another country – The Notebook
  24. A book set somewhere you’ll visit this yearThe Blue Castle
  25. An award-winning book – Pulitzer Prize – Angela’s Ashes
  26. A book you read in school
  27. A book with a character with your first name
  28. A book with a place in the titleThe Mayor of Casterbridge
  29. A book set in the futureCinder
  30. A play – The live Corpse
  31. A scary book
  32. A funny book – Where did you go, Bernadette
  33. A book of short stories – Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
  34. A trilogy or series Me Before You
  35. A bestseller The Hate U Give
  36. A book you own but haven’t readHaroun and the sea of stories
  37. A book about philosophy
  38. An epic poem
  39. A Victorian novel
  40. A book of poetry
  41. A book with a colour in the title
  42. A book with an appealing cover – Everything everything
  43. A book about psychology – Love’s executioner and other tales of psychotherapy
  44. A book about science – The Mind’s Eye
  45. A graphic novelAsterix the gaul
  46. A self-published book
  47. A book from a different cultureShanghai Girls
  48. A young adult book – This sky
  49. A book of non-fiction essays – At the same time
  50. A book by an author you haven’t read beforeGifts
  51. A book set in a country you’ve never been to – Into the water
  52. A book set in the place you live today

36/ 52 Done

How was your May reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

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Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

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Translators: Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin

Genre: Short Stories

Date Published: August 29, 2006

Pages: 333

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: Collection of twenty-four stories that generously expresses Murakami’s mastery of the form. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit his ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and relentlessly entertaining. Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, and an iceman, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for. Whether during a chance reunion in Italy, a romantic exile in Greece, a holiday in Hawaii, or in the grip of everyday life, Murakami’s characters confront grievous loss, or sexuality, or the glow of a firefly, or the impossible distances between those who ought to be closest of all.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Flipkart |

 Add on Goodreads

My View: Murakami. *Sigh* Here we go. After two books and two short story books, I am beginning to get Murakami. No no, don’t get me wrong. No one can ‘get’ Murakami (not me, at least). I have even come to doubt if Murakami gets Murakami! What I mean is that I have made my peace with him. So while Kafka on the shore had me pulling my hair (read more about that here) and wanting to hunt Murakami down (which I tried to unsuccessfully, on my trip to Japan), Colorless Tsukuru had me heaving a sigh of relief. Men without women had me rooting for Murakami (more on that here) and recommending the book to each and everyone I knew.

What did Blind Willow and Sleeping Woman do? It made me urge all my bibliophile friends to drop whatever they were reading and begin this with me because I wanted to talk! Which is what you want to do when you are reading a Murakami. It feels better to have some company while hitting your head on the wall. And my precious friends did give me company. Not one, not two but four friends decided to give me company. With one story a day each. 2 stories later, one dropped out. 3 stories later, another one dropped out. 4 stories later, the last two dropped out. *Sigh* It was good while it lasted. We had all these different interpretations going on. It was fun!

But I didn’t give up. That has to be something, right? I persisted. And not with a push or force. It was natural, I wanted to. I decided to take it slow and continue reading one story a day. Giving it time to find its way through the mazes of my mind, set its rhythm with my breath, and settle in somewhere deep within the recesses of my heart. Murakami weaves a net and you fall in, struggling in the beginning but the more you struggle, the more you are tangled up and then eventually you give up, you surrender. And it is then that it hits you. How good it feels not to have to struggle. Just to let go. To be. To savor the breeze in your hair, to let the world pass you by. And you’re there, entangled but content.

I have come to realize interpretation isn’t everything (grapes are sour, eh? 😉 ). Sometimes the story and the writing needs to be savored and inhaled not inspected and analyzed. Murakami is one such author. He pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. No matter if you don’t understand what just happened.

Life happened.

You should read it. Don’t fall into the ‘interpretation’ trap though and you’ll be just fine.

4/5 stars – I really liked it4 stars

Author Bio:

3354.jpgMurakami

Haruki (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as ‘easily accessible, yet profoundly complex’. He can be located on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/harukimuraka…

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse ‘Peter Cat’ which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.

Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleThe Thieving Magpie (after Rossini’s opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells’ song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood(after The Beatles’ song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

 

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

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Translated by: Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen

Genre: Short Stories

Date Published: May 9, 2017

Pages: 240

Source: Penguin Random House Review Copy

Goodreads Synopsis: A dazzling new collection of short stories–the first major new work of fiction from the beloved, internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami since his #1 best-selling Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart (40% off on hardcover!)| The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View:  Ah, well, here I find myself again. Around three years back, I read my first Murakami. You can read my hair-pulling review here. And it was then I decided to take a break from Murakami until I had wisened up or tracked down Murakami and sat him down to find some answers. I did try that last year when I was in Japan at a booklover’s paradise and reading Birthday Stories by him but I couldn’t track him down. Anyhow, I did find myself with another Murakami in the beginning of last year, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage which was comparatively easier for my dull mind to grasp. So when I saw this opportunity to read another Murakami a year and a half after my last read by him, I thought it was enough of  a break (not to mention the 1Q84 which is lying in the deep, dark corners of my bookshelf waiting to be discovered but I guess it will have to wait).

This book could not have come at a better time. With my mind unable to concentrate for long right now (ah! life), I guess short stories were just what I needed. And thanks be to Murakami, he did not mess with my mind too much this time. In fact, I have to give it to him for this masterpiece (and here is when I’m rethinking the rating but let’s go with that for now). After reading Murakami you know he can’t do without his cats and they make their presence felt. In fact, a reviewer who had the chance to ask him a question asked precisely this ‘What’s with the cats?’ and he answered  that when he was a child he had no brother and  no sister, but he had a cat, and he talked to his cat, and the cat talked back to him. They somehow entered all his stories, and he felt his writing was the better for it. Ah, atleast one question answered. Woohoo!

In fact, you may draw some associations between the stories with a character being repeated in another. I could only draw one such comparison but I was reading 5 books at a time so may have missed the others. A thing which I really appreciated is that even though the theme of ‘men without women’ pervades all the stories, the meaning is strikingly different in all which is no mean feat to accomplish. All the men in the stories are in completely different circumstances and the absence of a woman is presented in a unique manner in each, with varying consequences. But the theme of each is made clear without having to say it in those many terms.

I also like how the women are portrayed in these stories (although some may beg to differ). Murakami gives them wings to fly, he sets them free. They are just themselves without having to follow patriarchal rules and be set in a mould. They are strong and do not need men to complete them. On the other hand, as the title reveals, it’s the men here who miss the women in their lives despite their not being ideal or perfect which is actually a relief!

It’s difficult to come up with my favorite of all the stories but I guess it would be ‘Scheherazade’ which was the first one I read (yeah I love to randomly open up stories and start reading). It just spoke to me. If you have read the story, don’t judge me but something about her made me feel that I would like to be free like her. Without attachments, without concern yet not without feelings. It would be a good place to be in.

Murakami does magic when he writes down his characters. It is even more evident in his stories because you have known 2 characters in just 20 pages and yet you feel for them, you want to know more about them, and to know them personally. It’s not an easy thing to do certainly. People write whole books about characters you don’t give a damn about so making you feel for someone in a short story is just wow.

‘Samsa in love’ would give a good laugh to all those who have read and re-read ‘Metamorphosis‘ (yep, that would be me). Gregor Samsa has finally found his way back as a human but how. The stories have a touch of dry humor that would sometimes make you smile and at others, laugh out loud.

Murakami’s writing is lyrical and something to savor and relish with delight. I had to sadly read this book in a few days in order to write this review but I would advice you to read a story (and not read any other book concurrently) and let it mull over for a couple of days while your brain does its own thing and comes up with themes and secrets that Murakami always sprinkles around in his books.

So if you’re still deciding on whether or not to pick it up, let this make up your mind-

“It’s quite easy to become Men without Women. You love a woman deeply, and then she goes off somewhere. That’s all it takes. And there’s very little we can do about that. And that’s how you become Men without Women. Before you even know it. And once you’ve become Men without Women, loneliness seeps deep down inside your body, like a red-wine stain on a pastel carpet. No matter how many home ec books you study, getting rid of that stain isn’t easy. The stain might fade a bit over time, but it will still remain, as a stain, until the day you draw your final breath. And you are left to live the rest of your life with the gradual spread of that color, with that ambiguous outline. “

All right so you made your decision? Go off then, buy the book and get reading.

4/5 stars – I really liked it!
4 stars

Author Bio:

Haruki Murakami is the author of many novels as well as short stories and non-fiction. His books include Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, 1Q84, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, The Strange Library and Wind/Pinball. His work has been translated into more than 50 languages, and the most recent of his many international honours are the Jerusalem Prize and Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.

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(Many thanks to Penguin Random House for sending this book my way. All opinions are my own and completely unbiased.)
Posted in 2.5 Stars, Book reviews

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

818109Translated by: Philip Gabriel
Genre: Literature
Date Published: 10/06/2005
Pages: 615
Source: Local Library

Goodreads SynopsisKafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle—yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View:  This is a spoiler free review. My full review is here.

Before I could even dive into the book, I got confused that I had read a book by the author (which I had not. The book I was getting confused with was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and only realised my folly when I was writing this review and looked into it). I didn’t like that book very much so I was skeptical to pick this up even though I had heard many good things about this one.

Nevertheless, I did pick it up… and abandoned it after the first chapter. I just couldn’t get into it. So there it lay on my bedside table wanting my attention while I ignored it completely for two days. And then I kind of felt bad about it (or rather decided to give it a try since my friend had procured it from the library with great difficulty and I wasn’t sure if I could ever lay my hands on it again) and picked it up again.

It was the second chapter that had me captivated and wanting more. And then the pages flew by, well at least till a few more chapters.

A couple of incidents further grabbed my attention.  All the while I had this inkling that the words and incidents had a more deeper meaning attached and I should probably slow down and give my brain some time to think. But I was reading on a schedule here and hence flitted by.

I did have some hypotheses during this time.  I filed them away while I read further and those hypotheses kept changing depending on where the book led me.

It was towards the latter part of the book that things turned almost insane.  And I was almost pulling my hair out in frustration. I read on just be done with the book. Once I was done, I had the feeling of wanting to hunt down Murakami, sit him down and ask him ‘Did you go insane by the time you neared the end of the book?’ because it did seem that way to me. Phew!

I decided not to touch another book immediately after as my head screamed to (because it wanted to let go of all the weirdness this book brought about in me) and let it filter through. There was no way in hell I was going in for another reading as some of my fellow readers have done in order to get things straight. No, thank you. But somehow I kept myself from delving back into the book. It was almost like I was trying hard not to think about it. Wonder what it says about me, psychoanalytically.

There are too many questions left unanswered. Not that I mind them. But I mind the fact that this book had too much going on for its own good. Probably it needs to be read more slowly, writing down notes by the side and then contemplating on it. There are themes to be explored in here. But again, there are too many things there will be no explanation to and one wonders then, why, oh why?  So many questions.. Argggh.

Okay. I am not promising anything. But maybe, just maybe, I might pick up this one again a few years down the line and sit myself down with a notebook, read and make notes and solve the mystery. Or else, I will hunt down Murakami and threaten him until he solves all those mysteries for me. To be frank, I like the second idea much better. What do you think?

2.5/5 stars – Somewhere between ‘it was ok’ and ‘I liked it’.

2.5 stars

 

Author Bio:

Haruki Murakami (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as ‘easily accessible, yet profoundly complex’.

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse ‘Peter Cat’ which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.

Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini’s opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells’ song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boystune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles’ song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

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