Book Reviews · Books

Norwegian Wood

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norwegianwood Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
GOODREADSAMAZON
Released: First in 1987
Keywords: Adult, Suicide, Grief, Loss, Japan, Depression, Sex, Romance

Synopsis
When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire – to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.

Review
This was my 4th Murakami book that I read and I went in with lower expectations as I knew it was just contemporary with no magical elements, I generally find contemporary’s boring but as this is Murakami and this is probably his most well-known book I wanted to read it. It has gone in as my 2nd favourite book by him after Kafka on the Shore which was very unexpected! It’s a fairly depressing book with a major focus on mental health, suicide and depression so at time’s not very fun to read but I couldn’t put it down. It left a very haunting mark on me and I can see it being one of Murakami’s that I read again in the future.
There is also a considerable amount of sex talk and sexual scenes but within this very depressing context, I really enjoyed all of the female character’s and how different they were and how the main character was attracted to them in different ways.
If you’re a fan of Japanese lit in general and for whatever reason havn’t read this one yet, definitely give it a try, it might be a good start for people new to reading Japanese lit too.

My rating: 5/5 stars

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Book Reviews · Books

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

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beforethecoffeegetscold Before the Coffee Gets Cold
by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

GOODREADSAMAZON
Released: 19th September 2019
Keywords: Adult, Time travel, Grief, Loss, Alzheimer’s

Synopsis
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .
Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

Review
I ordered this book on a whim after seeing it pop up on Amazon and I’m glad that I did! Originally written as a play, this novelisation is charming and precious and hit me right in the feels many times.
This short novel is split up into 4 parts or chapters, each focusing on a different character traveling through time but all of them interconnect, it did take me a while to get all of the characters down as you get introduced to a lot at once.
When you travel back (or forward) you can not change the present so some deem the ability to be pointless, but as we see from this story, it is far from pointless and can still change lives.
I really really enjoyed this and would recommend if you’re looking for a short novel that’s heartfelt with great characters and humour and also tackles some serious subjects.
(Spoiler: there is infact no cat, but there is a ghost woman)

My rating: 5/5 stars

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Book Reviews · Books

Recent Japanese Reads

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thekeyThe Key by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

GOODREADSAMAZON

This was my first time reading Tanizaki, it is a short novel written out as journal entries between a husband and wife. It is mostly focused on the sex life between the two, the husband being significantly older than his wife who seemingly is unsatisfied with their sexual relations. Both start writing in secret diaries about the other in hopes of the other person reading it, the story explores the unconventional ways they find that in turn helps to spice up their sex life until the husband becomes sick. This book explores intimate relationships, desires, fetishes, adultery and grief. It was an interesting read that I found myself invested in and ultimately gave 3/5 stars. I plan on reading The Makioka Sisters by this author in the future.

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battleroyaleangelsborderBattle Royale: Angel’s Border by Koushun Takami

GOODREADSAMAZON

This side-story manga about the ‘Light House Girls’ in the Battle Royale novel was a must-read for me as Battle Royale is one of my favourite books/movies of all time. This manga is also written by the author of the original novel/manga series and specifically explores and focuses more on the girls that decided to group up and hide out inside the Light House on the island during the ‘game’. As expected, this was heart wrenching to read and made me tear up a few times, I really hope that Takami writes more side-storys like this in the future. He is supposedly working on his second novel. I gave this manga 5/5 stars. A must read for any Battle Royale fan.

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lifeforsaleLife for Sale by Yukio Mishima

GOODREADSAMAZON

The latest of Mishima’s works to have an English translated release, this may now be my favourite book of his that I have read so far. After a failed suicide attempt, Hanio decides to place an ad in his local paper offering his ‘life for sale’ which leads him on a wild ride with many interesting characters wanting him to do some bizarre and crazy things. The journey that this takes Hanio on ultimately gives him back some value to his life. I very much enjoyed this short novel after not reading any Mishima for a good few months, it reminded me just why I love his work. 5/5 stars.

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ibitsuIbitsu by Haruto Ryo

GOODREADSAMAZON

Ibitsu is a decent sized manga collection (think Junji Ito) and it is bloody terrifying. I will be making comparisons to Junji Ito’s manga as that is the only other horror manga I have read, where as I generally find Ito’s artwork the most disturbing thing about his works, Ibitsu was terrifying in art and story, it literally felt like I was watching a really creepy Japanese horror movie (there is even some parts with the wall climbing). Of course I chose to mostly read this at night before bed which was not the best of ideas. This manga had just about every awful thing you could think of and something I was not expecting was the sexual peverseness and inclusion of sexual artwork. There is also a lot of self harm imagery in this manga. It set out to scare and disturb, which it certainly accomplished with me, does that make it a good book? I’m giving it a 3.5/5 stars.

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So that’s what I’ve been reading lately, I tend to find that reading Japanese authors help me to get out of reading slumps, I am currently reading Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi and really enjoying it, I will post a review of that once I’m finished. Do you read much Japanese fiction? Feel free to leave me some recommendations!

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