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2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Carola has read 35 books toward her goal of 52 books.


Time to dust off this thing.


Will now start using this as Tumblr for books.


Reminder: I still mainly blog over at my proper blog, brilliant years. Find me there!

My book blog: Brilliant Years

On the whole I am not very active on Booklikes, but please check out my book blog, Brilliant Years :)

[Review] Genji Monogatari

The Tale of Genji - Murasaki Shikibu, Royall  Tyler

I think at some point in time I do want to read all of The Tale of Genji. But for now: life is too short. I recognise the historical significance of the work. However, the translation and style make for a tedious read (and I simply don't have the willpower to keep going for another 1000+ pages).

And Genji is a complete creep.

[Review] Seraphina

Seraphina - Rachel Hartman

I'm always suspicious of the fantasy genre. The thing is, it's hit or miss. How often have I enthusiastically begun reading a fantasy novel only to end up frustrated with it?

When I started reading this book, I got instantly worried: the concept is brilliant, but it could go so very wrong so very easily.

Well. It didn't.

I need the next volume like I need air.

Until then: the prequel!

[Review] The Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect X - Keigo Higashino, Alexander O. Smith, Elye J. Alexander

2.5 stars. This book was a nice read with an interesting approach. From the start of the book you know exactly who perpetrators are and how the victim died, but the question is: how did the body disappear and how will the perpetrators get away with it? Nonetheless, no part of this book really surprised me and moreover I didn't feel any connection with any of the characters at all. Everyone was just sort of bland.

My expectations were too high, I guess.

[Review] The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P

The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P - Rieko Matsuura, Michael Emmerich

2.5 stars, I suppose. It wasn't a good book, but it wasn't too bad either. It could have been much better. One way or another, I will definitely remember it.

[Review] The Tao of Pooh

Tao van Poeh - Benjamin Hoff

Sometimes you just read the right book at the right time. I really loved this book. Although I knew some of the basic principles of Taoism, this book is essentially my introduction to it.

The book made me smile a lot. I grew up with Pooh, so there's that. And I'm going through a time where I'm thinking more of what I find important in life, so the philosophy was just as welcome.

So yes, I loved it!

(Also, I am now thinking of picking up the Tao Te Ching sometime soon.)

[Review] The Almond Tree

The Almond Tree - Michelle Cohen Corasanti

21/12: Won this book as a give-away today on GR. Can't wait to receive and read it!

26/2: Finished the book, will review it later.

28/2: Time to review this book.

This book covers a very important topic: the conflict between Israel and Palestine. This is a topic that many of us can't even begin to understand completely, but all I know is that the situation is terrible for both sides.

For a heavy topic like this, a book can be a perfect way to raise awareness and show a human side to a conflict that we know mostly from what we see on the news. I guess this raised my expectations quite a bit. I realise this is a debut novel and as such I shouldn't be expecting too much. Let me begin by saying, as a debut novel it overall wasn't such a bad book.

In this review I will judge the book as just that: a book / story. And I must say I was left a bit disappointed. For example, the book starts of with multiple terrible deaths in the first few chapters. Unfortunately the writing was too bland to get any emotion from me about the events described. This went on for most of the book, although it got a bit better near the end.

The book covers the life of one person over nearly sixty years. That in itself was interesting. A side effect was that many emotional topics did not get touched upon as much as they maybe should. It felt the author was attempting to make the story more emotional but failed. Overall, I think the story told had many interesting and important aspects to it. But due to the lack of emotion, I couldn't help but roll my eyes at some events: "Seriously?" or "Not again!" Another minus is that some parts of the story were too unbelievable for me. Like winning the Nobel Prize at the end of the book after being nominated ten years in a row. This seemed to discredit a lot of the story.

I can imagine other people would enjoy this book more than I did. Looking at the other reviews I see many people were very touched by the book, and I do understand and believe this. Apparently it just wasn't for me.

[Review] The Briefcase

The Briefcase - Allison Markin Powell, Hiromi Kawakami

Hiromi Kawakami's The Briefcase was a 'readalong' for January in Japan. Kawakami isn't an author I had read or heard of before this event, so I was excited to get started. I have always been a bit more partial to modern Japanese literature compared to, especially, pre-WWII literature (which also has its charm, of course). Plus, The Briefcase was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and rightfully so in my opinion!

I enjoyed the pace of the book. The book starts out with seemingly random anecdotes of meeting Sensei, moving on to a more organised story, moving on to a full love story. What really fascinated me about this book is that we find out relatively little about the characters throughout the book. Even at the end you are still wondering about Tsukiko and Sensei (not to mention all the other characters). And you know what? It's okay. What we do know is enough, and it makes the story all the more natural.

Another aspect I personally liked about the book is the culture aspect. It's a bit silly maybe, but having spent a bit of time at izakaya (the Japanese style bars) myself and being a foodie, I enjoyed reading about the drinks and especially the dishes. I want to go out and eat it all. (I'm sure I'm not alone. Actually, reading fellow participants’ reviews, I know I'm not alone, haha) No, the food is not the main aspect of the book, but the bars are definitely one of the main settings.

There was one chapter in the book that felt out of place. I liked the idea of the chapter but the way it was written was so out of tune with the rest of the book that it got in the way a bit. From what I've read in other reviews, it reminds people of other books by Kawakami. Any thoughts on that? Anyway, I definitely plan to read more by Kawakami.

[Review] The Sound of the Wind: The Life and Works of Uno Chiyo

The Sound of the Wind: Life and Works of Uno Chiyo - Rebecca L. Copeland

Giving this 3.5 stars.

I picked up this book because I recently read Chiyo Uno's book Confessions of Love. I really enjoyed that book and I became fascinated by Uno's life.

This particular book is set up in two parts. First is a biography of Chiyo Uno. She was an author with a really fascinating and turbulent life and I enjoyed reading the biography. It could've been written a bit better and I skipped some parts here and there, but I'm glad I know a little more about Uno now.

The second part of the book contains three stories by Chiyo Uno. I didn't care much about The Puppet Maker and skipped some paragraphs here and there. I loved the second story, The Sound of the Wind. The last story, This Powder Box, was a great read especially because I recently read Confessions of Love. Confessions of Love is based on Uno's relationship with Seiji Togo, and This Powder Box is an autobiographical piece about her life with Togo after the incident that Confessions of Love ends with.

[Review] Rashomon

Rashomon: And Other Stories - Ryƫnosuke Akutagawa, Kojima Takashi, Howard Hibbett

Amazing short stories. This was the first I read of Akutagawa and I really loved it.

My only regret is that I didn't get the longer "Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories". This particular Tuttle edition also has quite a lot of typing errors...

[Review] The Bakery Attacks

De Broodjesroofverhalen - Haruki Murakami, Kat Menschik, Jacques Westerhoven

Happy 64th birthday to Haruki Murakami! That this year may be the year he finally wins that Nobel Prize in Literature (average age of the winners is 64) ;)


In honour of his birthday I read De broodjesroofverhalen, a little book compiling the two short 'bakery attack' stories. It was published in Dutch in November 2012 with illustrations by Kat Menschik (she also illustrated Sleep). Part of it already appeared as the short story The Second Bakery Attack in The Elephant Vanishes… and surprisingly it seems the English translation was originally published in Playboy, hah!


Anyway, the book is short, and although the story is perhaps nothing special I can’t help but love it. Two friends are so hungry they decide to rob a bakery, but despite leaving with full stomachs and bread, the robbery has 'failed'. And this has consequences..! With Menschik's illustrations this is a fun little book to have.


On another Murakami related note: Random House has released a Murakami Diary app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It's a fun little app with Murakami facts and some exclusive short stories! Best of all, the app synchronises with the iCal your device, which also makes it functional. I must say I really like it and the design is excellent as well.
(Admittedly I wish they (or anyone) would also publish a 2013 paper Murakami diary again this year!)

[Review] The Bakery Attacks

De Broodjesroofverhalen - Haruki Murakami, Kat Menschik, Jacques Westerhoven

In honour of his birthday (January 12th) I just had to read something by Murakami today.

Despite being really short, I do love this little book. This short story is pure Murakami (but without many of his clichés), the illustrations by Kat Menschik are pretty cool and the translation (I read the Dutch one) was excellent.

The Ghosts of Nagasaki

The Ghosts of Nagasaki - Daniel Clausen

I received this book from author Daniel Clausen today and I can't wait to start reading it!

[Review] Two Cowboys

Twee cowboys - Annie Proulx

I like the story, but hate the writing style (which is either the fault of the author or of the translator, as I read a Dutch translation).

[Review] Huntress

Huntress - Malinda Lo

Ok, so, thoughts.

This book has a lot of flaws.

The proportions for this book are way off. The introduction of the quest is very short and we don't get much of an explanation. This will be more or less fixed later in the story (or the author tries, at least), but nevertheless... Then, most of the book tells of the journey the characters take to the fairy city Taninli. This easily takes up two-thirds or more of the book. By the time they reach the city, there is not much space left to tell the rest of the story and it all feels quite hurried. Especially the final event, where Kaede has to hurry to meet the unicorn in order to safe the fairy queen is ridiculously short and hurried. I wish the author had left some of the journey out and would give more details in those last parts instead.

Another big flaw is the portrayal of good and evil. The 'bad person' in this book (Elowen) is extremely two-dimensional. 'Evil' is portrayed black-and-white and the author attempts to explain Elowen's actions to make it more grey but fails. I also felt no emotion whatsoever for the fairy queen later on, although I think the author tried.

That said, I must also be fair and say: the book was never boring. The writing style was also quite pleasant. Although the amount of adjectives put me off at the beginning of the book (probably because I of the book I read before this, which was a masterpiece in my opinion), I began to like the style later on and the book was a quick read. It wasn't a terrible book, but I was expecting more. I've read plenty of young adult books with far more depth.
Another plus for the book: the world is interesting enough, although I wish we got to hear more about it (but perhaps that happened in Ash, which is apparently the same world?). I liked that sexuality was almost a non-issue in this world. Kudos.

I'm giving this book 2.5 stars, leaning more towards 3.