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Desperately Wanting Wednesday (1) February 29, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in Book talk.
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(Desperately Wanting Wednesday is a feature hosted by Parajunkee)

This week’s Desperately Wanting Wednesday is all about the series the Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. It’s a Victorian Steampunk Paranormal series about a  heroine who happens to be soulless. You can get the first three books in an omnibus.

I’m desperately wanting the fifth book in the series, Timeless. I’ve been waiting for this book since I finished the fourth book for over four months ago.

There’s a lot to admire in Alexia Tarabotti. She’s not a fainting, simpering, “let’s pretend to be strong but go weak at the knees at the first sight of a handsome man” heroine of the Victorian ages. She’s truly got spunk.

The supporting cast is equally entertaining. From Lord Maccon, the indomitable alpha wereworlf, to Lord Akeldama, the enigmatic and humorous vampire, this series has it all. Humor, adventure, and romance.

Fast forward two years from the last book in the series and Alexia now has a toddler in tow. With her actress friend Ivy Tunstell, she travels by steamer to Egypt.

I look forward to finding out what sorts of mayhem Alexia and her family get into once she arrives. For trouble always arises when Alexia is around!

Review – Shadow Family February 28, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Mystery/Thriller.
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Shadow Family

by Miyuki Miyabe

(not available on Kindle)

I don’t normally read paperbacks, but I’ve been drawn to Japanese authors lately. I’ll most likely be reading a lot more paperbacks in the future as a lot of these authors don’t have their titles available on Kindle.

This book focuses on the two murders of a middle-aged man named Ryosuke Tokoroda and a college student named Naoko Imai. Email correspondence from Tokoroda’s computer shows that he’s created a fantasy family on the Internet where he is the father. His real daughter, Kazumi is drawn into the interview process of this “shadow” family and the psychological thriller begins.

What I liked about “Shadow Family” is how believable each and every character was. Takegami is the lead detective in the case and he’s been pulled from his desk job to do the interrogation. He’s a very fallible detective put in this very important role which makes him very human.

Another character I enjoyed was Kazumi’s mother and Ryosuke’s wife, Harue. She was easily over-powered by her daughter and her husband. She wasn’t a strong person, but that made her all the more believable. She had a weak-willed personality and Miyabe portrayed her perfectly.

The only thing I didn’t care for about the book was that it was fairly obvious as to whodunnit. That still didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book as the cat and mouse game between the police and the perpetrator was very entertaining.

It’s a slim volume and a fast-paced story making it a quick read. I enjoyed it so much I’ve already purchased more books by this author.

Digital Reader – 2 February 27, 2012

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Digital Reader is basically Mailbox Monday or In my Mailbox (created by The Story Siren ), but with a title that suits my blog. If you’re interested in joining the fun or seeing what other bloggers added to their shelves, I invite you to visit those two features. 

I got this idea from The Infinte Shelf.

***

My love for all things Japanese continue in the form of not only literature like The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki, but also Battle Royale by Koushon Takami.

The Makioka Sisters is about “four aristocratic women desperately trying to preserve a way of life”, a tradtional Japanese way of life in the face of change. My Mother read this book a long time ago. It’ll be nice to follow in her footsteps so to speak.

Battle Royale is a bloody book much like The Hunger Games. In the book, junior high school students are taken to a deserted island to kill each other until there’s only one left standing to win the game. For the record, Battle Royale was written before The Hunger Games.

This will be another book I’ll read for my March reading challenge.

Unfortunately, neither of these books were available in Kindle format so I got them in paperback. Such is the life.

The Makioka Sisters

by Junichiro Tanizaki

Battle Royal

by Koushon Takami

What have you added to your shelves lately?

On My Wishlist (#3) February 25, 2012

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On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City and runs every Saturday. It’s where we list all the books we desperately want but haven’t actually bought yet. They can be old, new or forthcoming. It’s also an event that you can join in with too – Mr Linky is always at the ready for you to link your own ‘On My Wishlist’ post. If you want to know more click here

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The Fox Woman follows two families, one of foxes and another of humans. The restless Kaya no Yoshifuji fails to receive an appointment in the Emperor’s court and, distracted and seemingly unfazed, decides to relocate to a rural estate to pass a pensive winter, accompanied by his wife Shikujo and son Tadamaro. But a young fox named Kitsune and her brother, mother, and grandfather have set up their den in the run-down estate, and soon the fate of both families becomes intertwined; Yoshifuji becomes bewitched by the foxes, and Kitsune in turn falls in love with him, much to the distress of all others involved, especially Shikujo.

 Despite the many ambiguous pitfalls this book may face (bestiality being one), I’m intrigued by this book.  Of course it takes place in Japan. Of course it has a fantasy aspect. Naturally these two things hold a lot of appeal to me.

Only instead of purchasing the Kindle version of this book, I might buy a used paperback copy. It’s just easier on the pocketbook.

This would be an excellent book to read for the Magical March Reading Challenge. So I might get this one sooner rather then later.

What fantasy books are you reading these days? Do they blend any two genres you’re interested in?

Contest for New Followers! An alternative to GFC! February 24, 2012

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I may not have a lot of followers or even a lot of followers of Google Friend Connect, but I hear they’re shutting it down. I decided to hold a contest anyway to lure in new followers instead.

I’ll be giving away two $10 gift certificates to Amazon, since this is a Kindle book review site. One to someone who already follows this site and recommends this site to someone new and the second to the new follower.

New followers can also win singly, but they have to have stumbled upon the contest on their own. Nobody who has followed the blog prior to the contest will qualify as new.

The old-timer needs to leave a comment in this post with the username of the new follower. The new follower needs to either follow me through Linky, RSS, email, or through WordPress and leave a comment in this post.

Simple, no?

If anyone has problems with Linky please leave me a comment.

Review – The Fall of the Haunted City February 23, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy.
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The Fall of the Haunted City

by A. D. Bloom

Molly must learn to rule the Haunted City. Instead the people fear and hate her. The Hales are on the way to attack. Molly desperately tries to save the Haunted City; along with Juan Chang, leader of the Populist Rebellion, Teddy-Da, a witch-altered vorpal clawed bear, and some vengeful noble Waltons.

While this was a more plot-driven novella, I enjoyed this second installment a lot more then I did the first one. The different characters introduced made it a lot more interesting despite the fact they weren’t very well fleshed out.

I liked the imaginative plot devices used throughout the book. Some were a continuation from the first book that I liked but took more notice of this time around. Some were introduced in the second book. I especially liked the eight-foot tall nobles!

I’m looking forward to reading the third installment. I do wish these weren’t novellas though, I’d rather they were full-length novels.

Review – After Dark February 22, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Foreign.
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After Dark

by Haruki Murakami

(also available in paperback and NOOK

A short, sleek novel of encounters set in Tokyo during the witching hours between midnight and dawn, and every bit as gripping as Haruki Murakami’s masterworks The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore.

At its center are two sisters—Eri, a fashion model slumbering her way into oblivion, and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny’s toward people whose lives are radically alien to her own: a jazz trombonist who claims they’ve met before, a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maid staff, and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These “night people” are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Eri’s slumber—mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime—will either restore or annihilate her.

Experiencing this novel, because it was indeed an experience, was like watching a citified episode of Twin Peaks. It had all the elements of surrealism and all the eccentric characters you’d come to expect out of the show. While disconcerting at times, it was also all the more intriguing.

It also had an eloquent prose that was like music to the ears. It urged me on to read until late into the night.

This was a more plot-driven novel. From seeing Mari in a Denny’s meet Takahashi the trombone player to having her propelled to a love-hotel. Then onwards into the night, you’re taken on a fascinating trip into the deep night of Tokyo.

While Eri remains asleep throughout the book, she’s not left out of the book. You get a definite sense of who she is and what her personality is like from the story. In fact she’s a key player.

I especially liked the way Murakami drew you in as a reader, cajoling you to take part of the experience along with himself as the narrator. You weren’t simply reading. You were, like I said, experiencing.

Ukishima February 21, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 3.5 stars, Fantasy.
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Ukishima

by Nigel Sellars

Instead of ending his days to the mercies of a wasting disease, Minamoto Ichiro decides to become a Kamikaze fighter pilot in the final legs of World War II. Before he can complete his mission, the Japanese war god Hachiman plucks him from the skies and offers him another chance at life as a Samurai. To save the universe from chaos, Ichiro must go to  a parallel universe where magic exists and save it from the evil daiymo Lord Taira.

This was a wonderful fantasy adventure into the not very often explored realm that is Japan. I enjoyed this book as I’ve always loved samurai books and movies. I grew up on them.

I have only a peripheral knowledge of Japanese culture and I’m no expert, but I did find it hard to believe that two female warriors would be so easily accepted in an all-male society. I also had a hard time believing that a left-handed, club-footed samurai would be so readily accepted as a hero and general. Instead I tried to suspend belief and I tried to enjoy the tale for what it was.

It was a fast-paced plot that didn’t slow down despite paying attention to the niceties of Japanese culture. A culture which can be tedious in its polite form. Sellars managed to pay homage to things like the tea ceremony while still keeping it interesting.

While the characters weren’t what I’d call fully formed or developed, they were still interesting and fascinating. Maybe it was because of the exotic setting.

I was disappointed in the development of the villain though. He came off as a bad actor in a vaudeville. He wasn’t as menacing or as truly evil as I’ve have liked him to be. One-dimensional villains always come off as second-rate. I would have liked to have seen more effort put into Lord Taira.

Ichiro is a good hero. He’s very likable and believable, but the question remains. How does he adjust to life in this new parallel universe? The book skips over that question by fast forwarding in time by two years. Effectively glossing over any adjustments he’s personally had to make in order to adapt.  I would have found it more believable if this topic had been addressed a bit more in depth.

The ending is open for more books in the series. I must admit I’m curious to see how the next one comes out.

Digital Reader – 1 February 20, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in Book talk.
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Digital Reader is basically Mailbox Monday (this month hosted by Metroreader) or   In my Mailbox (created by The Story Siren ), but with a title that suits my blog. If you’re interested in joining the fun or seeing what other bloggers added to their shelves, I invite you to visit those two features. 

I got this idea from The Infinte Shelf.

***

I’ve recently developed a passion for Japanese Literature and Japanese fiction in general. I’ve been busy amassing a collection of works from all different Japanese authors. Not all of these works are in Kindle format but I’ll have to learn to live with that.

So far I’ve read two books by Japanese authors. Shadow Family by Miyuki Miyabe and After Dark by Haruki Murakami. Both were excellent, but After Dark was by far my favorite.

It was much to my delight that I started reading the huge volume 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami this week. It’s over 900 pages and quite ponderous. It’ll probably take me quite awhile to read.

Another book that I’ve picked up is Laura Joh Rowland’s Red Chrysanthemum. I haven’t read her Sano Ichiro books in awhile, but I’m still enjoying it. It’s a light read and a nice switch from 1Q84.

Finally, I purchased the book Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki. I’m very interested in books about the conflict between traditional and modern Japan which is what is at the “heart of this novel”.

1Q84

by Haruki Murakami

Red Chrysanthemum

by Laura Joh Rowland

Some Prefer Nettles

by Junichiro Tanizaki

What have you added to your shelves or your Kindle recently? Have you ever read anything by a Japanese author?

Review – Bone Blade Girl February 19, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy, Novellas.
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Bone Blade Girl

by A. D. Bloom

Molly was forced to kill to protect her brother. In the eyes of her people, this makes her  a monster.

Vora is a Stitchlife witch who has discovered Sugar Music. A powerful magic that can save the ruins of the cities. She’s run away from the noble family she’s supposed to serve so that Sugar Music won’t be misused.

In the wake of a massacre, Molly has runaway only to run across of Vora. Vora rescues Molly and changes her into a witch-sped warrior.

In order to save Sugar Music, many sacrifices must be made. Some of them might include some monstrous acts on Molly’s part. For while young, she can be ruthless but she doesn’t want to be considered that way. She also shows a very vulnerable side that is very endearing.

Sugar Music offers Molly a means to Molly’s salvation or a means to her damnation. It all depends on how much she’s willing to sacrifice.

This character driven novella was highly entertaining and the pages seemed to fly by. It’s a fast-paced adventure that’s highly imaginative.

Molly is someone I took to immediately. You really feel for her plight. You want to comfort her. You want her to succeed. You want life to go right for her.

She becomes more of a superhero as the book goes on and as she gains her witch-sped powers. This makes her all the more special because she’s still just a little girl at the same time.

The problems I had? For one thing, the villains seemed one-dimensional to me. They were shallow and lacked intensity. To me, a truly great story has antagonists with some fire in them.

For another, despite my great liking for Molly, she still lacked a certain depth that I like to see in my characters. Vora also could have been more fleshed out as well. For some reason, they had a certain superficial air.

Finally, a few plot devices seemed corny. There were over-sized flying wasps that reminded me of 1950’s movie props. They were a little hard to swallow.

I’m still really looking forward to reading the rest of the novellas in this series.