Posts by Sharlene

Reader. Book blogger. Parent. Eater of foods aplenty. Tea drinker. Crocheter

Parade by Shuichi Yoshida

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“The me who lives here is most definitely the Apartment Me I created, and by that I mean she’s someone who just doesn’t do serious. The me who gets along well with the other residents (Ryosuke, Koto, Naoki, and Satoru) is Apartment Me… But maybe they’ve also created their own Apartment Selves, too. Which would mean that they, too, don’t actually exist in this apartment. Conclusion? No one is in this apartment.”

Five people. One Tokyo apartment.

Ryosuke Sugimoto is a college student from a small town. Kotomi Okochi doesn’t go out. She spends her time by the phone at the apartment, waiting for her maybe-boyfriend, an upcoming actor, to call. Mirai Soma is an artist who works at an imported-goods boutique and spends her nights drinking (and drinking and drinking). Naoki Ihara is the only one who seems to resemble an adult. He has a job at a film company but also has a strange relationship with his ex-girlfriend. The fifth person only enters the apartment some chapters in. Satoru Kokubo is 18 and at first everyone presumes he’s Ryosuke’s friend but it turns out he isn’t?

Then there is something strange about the visitors, often young girls and old men, emerging from the apartment next door. And there have been attacks on young women on the streets around their neighbourhood.

But really, it’s a story in which nothing very much happens. It’s the daily lives of these four (then five) young people. As I read on, seeing things from each character’s perspective, I realised that they didn’t really know much about each other. They lived together, the girls sharing a room and the guys in another, and they would sometime go out together but there seems to be a lot of disconnect. The use of the different points of view is very effective in this story – the characters reveal their innermost thoughts, as well as their true feelings about their flatmates. Although as much as I followed along with these secrets and hidden thoughts, I was still surprised by how it ended.

“A cowardly college student. A love-addicted girl. A freelance illustrator who likes to hang out with gay guys. And a health-obsessed jogger. If I hadn’t met them there, there’s no way I would ever talk to people like that.”

I found this quite a fascinating read. No way as weird and puzzling as some of the other Japanese novels I’ve recently (I’m looking at you, Earthlings) but it has that sense of alienation and detachment that seems to haunt a lot of Japanese fiction I’ve read.

Library Loot (January 20 to 26)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy Library Loot day! Let us know what you borrowed from your library this week. Here’s the link-up or leave a comment.

 

 

Specifically borrowed for the Reading Women challenge – Longlisted for the JCB Prize. This book was on the 2018 short list.

Latitudes of Longing – Shubhangi Swarup

A sweeping, lyrical debut about the love and longing between humanity and the earth itself, by a major new literary talent from India

A spellbinding work of literature, Latitudes of Longing follows the interconnected lives of characters searching for true intimacy. The novel sweeps across India, from an island, to a valley, a city, and a snow desert to tell a love story of epic proportions. We follow a scientist who studies trees and a clairvoyant who speaks to them; a geologist working to end futile wars over a glacier; octogenarian lovers; a mother struggling to free her revolutionary son; a yeti who seeks human companionship; a turtle who transforms first into a boat and then a woman; and the ghost of an evaporated ocean as restless as the continents. Binding them all together is a vision of life as vast as the universe itself.

A young writer awarded one of the most prestigious prizes in India for this novel, Shubhangi Swarup is a storyteller of extraordinary talent and insight. Richly imaginative and wryly perceptive, Latitudes of Longing offers a soaring view of humanity: our beauty and ugliness, our capacity to harm and love each other, and our mysterious and sacred relationship with nature.

 

Cat Town – Sakutarō Hagiwara

Modernist poet Sakutarō Hagiwara’s first published book, Howling at the Moon, shattered conventional verse forms and transformed the poetic landscape of Japan. Two of its poems were removed on order of the Ministry of the Interior for “disturbing social customs.” Along with the entirety of Howling, this volume includes all of Blue Cat, Hagiwara’s second major collection, together with Cat Town, a prose-poem novella, and a substantial selection of verse from the rest of his books, giving readers the full breadth and depth of this pioneering poet’s extraordinary work.

The graphic novel version of the YA book. Although I have no idea now why I decided to borrow this one instead of the novel. 

Juliet Takes a Breath: The Graphic Novel – Gabby Rivera, illustrated by Celia Moscote

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But don’t worry, Juliet has something kinda resembling a plan that’ll help her figure out what it means to be Puerto Rican, lesbian and out. See, she’s going to intern with Harlowe Brisbane – her favorite feminist author, someone’s who’s the last work on feminism, self-love and lots of of ther things that will help Juliet find her ever elusive epiphany. There’s just one problem – Harlowe’s white, not from the Bronx and doesn’t have the answers. Okay, maybe that’s more than one problem but Juliet never said it was a perfect plan… Critically-acclaimed writer Gabby Rivera adapts her bestselling novel alongside artist Celia Moscote in an unforgettable queer coming-of-age story exploring race, idenrity and what it means to be true to your amazing self. even when the rest of the world doesn’t understand.

How to Love a Jamaican – Alexia Arthurs

Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret—Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.

In “Light Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” an NYU student befriends a fellow Jamaican whose privileged West Coast upbringing has blinded her to the hard realities of race. In “Mash Up Love,” a twin’s chance sighting of his estranged brother—the prodigal son of the family—stirs up unresolved feelings of resentment. In “Bad Behavior,” a mother and father leave their wild teenage daughter with her grandmother in Jamaica, hoping the old ways will straighten her out. In “Mermaid River,” a Jamaican teenage boy is reunited with his mother in New York after eight years apart. In “The Ghost of Jia Yi,” a recently murdered international student haunts a despairing Jamaican athlete recruited to an Iowa college. And in “Shirley from a Small Place,” a world-famous pop star retreats to her mother’s big new house in Jamaica, which still holds the power to restore something vital.

The winner of The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for “Bad Behavior,” Alexia Arthurs emerges in this vibrant, lyrical, intimate collection as one of fiction’s most dynamic and essential young authors.

 

What did you get from your library this week?

 

Books I meant to read in 2020 #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To

I picked these books published in 2020 that I didn’t get to reading, but hopefully will do that soon! Have you read any of these?

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You Exist Too Much – Zaina Arafat

Transcendent Kingdom – Yaa Gyasi

Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo

How Much of These Hills is Gold – C Pam Zhang

Afterlife – Julia Alvarez

The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett

Bestiary – K-Ming Chang

Book of the Little Axe – Lauren Francis Sharma

Minor Feelings – Cathy Park

How to Pronounce Knife – Souvankham Thammavongsa

 

 


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

It’s Monday (January 18, 2021)

It’s Martin Luther King Jr Day in the US today so the kids don’t have school. But the fourth grader has his California missions presentation on Wednesday so he’s going to have to spend some time preparing for that.

Some things from last week.

Galbi rice bowl (with kimchi fried rice), macaroni salad

Made some sourdough bread

And laksa.

Currently…

Reading:

Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender

Watching:

Westworld

Listening:

Not really listening to any audiobooks at the moment

Eating and drinking:

Sourdough toast for breakfast and tea, as usual

Cooking:

We ate mostly Singapore-style food last week, so maybe this week, I’ll make some pasta.

Last week:

I read:

Eat Joy – edited by Natalie Eve Garrett

Girl Gone Viral – Alisha Rai

The Gun – Fuminori Nakamura

Henshin – J.M. Ken Niimura

I posted:

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura; The Stranger by Albert Camus

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Library Loot (January 13 to 19)

Resolutions for 2021 #TopTenTuesday

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura; The Stranger by Albert Camus

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A college student is walking late one night when he comes across a crime scene. A dead body with a gun in hand. He picks up the gun and takes it with him. Although he is also afraid as he’s breaking the law. He becomes obsessed with the gun. It brings him a strange joy.

“Once again, its overwhelming beauty and presence did not disappoint. I felt as though I might be transported – that is to say, that the world within myself could be unlocked – I felt full of such possibilities.”

This is Nakamura’s debut novel. It was first published in 2002 (English translation published 2016).

I come from a country where guns are very strictly restricted. And now I live in a country where lots of people own lots of guns. It first really hit me when I had to fill in a questionnaire for a well-child check-up, something along the lines of “do you have guns in the home and are they locked up securely?”. We don’t. But I started to wonder, do my neighbours? How about school classmates’ families?

I still marvel that this is a country where you can walk into a sporting goods store and buy a gun, and there’s a gun store about five minutes’ drive away from my house. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever feel ok about.

At any rate, The Gun is a young man’s obsession with a gun that he’s convinced is rightfully his. A gun he polishes and admires. A gun that he cannot stop thinking about. He does already have some sociopathic tendencies and this gun seems to just make things a whole lot worse.

The Gun is a rather unsettling read about an obsession.

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It was quite a similar read to The Stranger by Albert Camus. In that they both have main characters who are very detached from the world around them. Was Fuminori Nakamura inspired by The Stranger? Both characters have little or no feelings for the women they are involved with, nor their friends and neighbours. Perhaps The Gun is a modern, Japanese take on The Stranger.

I guess I should talk more about The Stranger here. I guess I didn’t expect it to be told so simply, and so effectively. It was a quick read that left me with many questions, which I suppose may be the point of all this.

Meursault has few (if any) opinions on anything, few (if any) feelings and emotions about anything that happens in the book. Is Camus’ point of this to allow the reader to project herself into his shoes? As we went through the trial, I kept thinking of how so much of it annoyed me, how the witnesses at the funeral pointed out that Meursault didn’t cry, and instead smoked and drank coffee. That he wasn’t sure of his mother’s age. As if all these were definitions of whether he had been sad about the death of his mother.

Typing this, I realised that I had an emotional reaction about a character who doesn’t seem to feel much emotions.

Was I glad to have read this book? I still do not know. But I suppose I am glad to finally know what the book is about. It wasn’t in any way a pleasant read, but perhaps in the future it may be something I reread.

I read The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura for January in Japan; and The Stranger by Albert Camus for Back to the Classics.

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

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I hadn’t heard of this book before the movie adaptation, Midnight Sky, came out on Netflix. You might have seen it or heard of it, maybe? It has George Clooney acting and directing.

The movie was ok. It left me with many questions and a general feeling that a lot was missing. But reading the book allowed me to fill in many gaps, especially about Sully.

(I’ll try not to reveal spoilers but will talk a little about the plot. So skip this post if you haven’t seen the movie/read the book yet and don’t really want to know much about it! But come back when you have!).

Essentially the story is about an ageing (ageing in the book, sick in the movie) astronomer, alone in a research centre in the Arctic, after everyone else has evacuated because of a major global catastrophe that isn’t exactly detailed. But he’s lost contact with the rest of the world, and he’s alone, until he comes upon Iris, a young girl who doesn’t say much. What is she doing by herself in this outpost? The other part of the story is on board Aether, a spacecraft on its return trip from Jupiter. Because of this catastrophe, they have not had contact with Mission Control for some time now. And they’re wondering if they can get back to Earth.

It’s a contemplative journey.

However, I was really surprised by the many changes made in the script. Not just Sully – actress Felicity Jones was pregnant during the filming, which resulted in a pregnancy being introduced to the film. Also small things like different characters used, the fact that Augustine wasn’t actually actively looking to talk to Aether (in the book it seems like a coincidence that he picks up their signal), and the way a death and mishap happen. I suppose it was to spice it up and make it more dramatic for the movie audience. Although one of them made no logical sense at all. How can you crash through ice and live through it when you’re out in the middle of nowhere in the freezing subzero temperatures?

But for me, the ultimate difference was that small nuances were lacking in the movie. It didn’t feel like they were all that anxious about being out of contact with Earth. They didn’t explore more about the other characters. Everyone seemed like they were fine with being on the spacecraft – I suppose this also comes from my watching the Netflix space TV series Away in which one of the characters has space blindness, and all kinds of things (too many perhaps) happen to their spacecraft. So the movie was definitely an “eh” and a “meh” for me.

Also, the endings were so different! When I finished the book, I marvelled at how so many small changes were made. And so, while I cannot recommend the movie (except for its cinematography) , I would not hesitate to recommend this book. It was a great read, a reflective one, and a different take on the dystopian novel.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

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“With the coffee in front of her, she closed her eyes, and inhaled deeply. It was her moment of happiness. As per his insistence, the coffee had been made from mocha beans with their distinct aroma, which coffee drinkers either love or hate. Those who enjoy the aroma, like Kohtake, can’t get enough of it. In fact, you could say that the coffee picked the customers.”

A book about time travel. But one with limits. It takes place solely in a cafe. And there are very strict rules. There is one particular seat at the cafe that allows time travel. The person cannot move from the seat. And the time traveler must return before the coffee gets cold (and also drink said coffee).

It all takes place in Cafe Funiculi Funicula (if you aren’t familiar, Funiculì, Funiculà is a song to commemorate the opening of the funicular railway on Mt Vesuvius back in 1880). There are a few regular customers of the cafe which is owned by Kei and Nagare, who are married. Kazu, who is Nagare’s cousin, helps out when she’s not at university. Kazu is the one who has to pour the cup of coffee that allows the time travel.

In this book, there are four time travellers in this book – and also another four in a separate book titled Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe (although known as Before Your Memory Fades in Japan).

It was only after reading the book, then reading a review of it that I learnt that this book was originally a play. That may explain why I wasn’t enamoured with the writing. The writing was fine, nothing to shout about, and you have to put aside your doubts about the way the time travel works (why is it only Kazu who pours the coffee? was a constant question for me!). But I really appreciated the thoughtfulness put into how their stories unfolded, the emotions touched on.

It was a slightly quirky, quick read that doesn’t feel like a quick read. It’s a gently told tale. It made me long for a day when I can finally go sit in a cafe and read a book – no indoor dining or even outdoor dining at the moment in California.

It made me think of the days when I worked at a newspaper in Singapore. I worked odd hours. At first, for the online edition, working the early shift, starting around 6am I think? Then later, sub-editing which meant we put the paper to bed and finished after midnight. Also, that meant I had to always work either Saturdays or Sundays, and had a weekday off. All those weird hours meant I would often find myself having time off but no one to hang out with. I would often take myself out to a cafe, sit down with a book, and enjoy a flat white.

Library Loot (January 13 to 19)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy Wednesday! Some comics and some Japanese lit for this week. How about you?

Let us know in the link-up (it’s over at Captive Reader this week).

The Invisible Kingdom Vol 2 – G Willow Wilson, Christian Ward (illustrator)

The explosive aftermath of their shocking discovery has pushed captain Grix and acolyte Vess to the furthest reaches of their solar system.

Once unknowing pawns of the most ubiquitous religion and pervasive mega-corporation, the now-renegade team is alone after revealing to the world that these “enemy” groups are in cahoots–but not for long. And when their crew encounters a group of ruthless spacefaring privateers, they might not be safe for long either.

Volume two of the sweeping sci-fi saga is beautifully crafted by Hugo Award winner G. Willow Wilson (Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel, acclaimed novelist of The Bird King and Alif the Unseen), and realized through the bold and singular art of Eisner winner Christian Ward (Black Bolt).

Henshin – J.M. Ken Niimura

I Kill Giants co-creator Ken Nimura (International Manga Award winner and Eisner nominee) brings a unique vision of life in Japan to the page in Henshin. The lives of a kid with peculiar superpowers, a lonely girl discovering herself in the big city, and a businessman on a long night out are some of the short stories included in this collection that will make you laugh, and even maybe shed a tear. Explore Tokyo as you’ve never seen it before under Nimura’s masterful and imaginative storytelling, printed here for the first time in English.

Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

Schoolgirl – Osamu Dazai

‘Schoolgirl’ is the novella that first established Dazai as a member of Japan’s literary elite. Essentially the start of Dazai’s career, the 1933 work gained notoriety for its ironic and inventive use of language, and how it illuminated the prevalent social structures of a lost time.

Parade – Shuichi Yoshida

In a crowded two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo, four Japanese twenty-somethings are waiting for their lives to begin. They have come from all over Japan, bringing with them dreams of success and romance, but life isn’t exactly going as planned. Kotomi waits by the phone for a boyfriend who never calls, Ryosuke is sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend, and Mirai’s drinking has become a serious problem. Only Naoki, an aspiring filmmaker and the glue that keeps them all together, seems to be on the right track. Meanwhile, their next door neighbors are up to something suspicious, and a mysterious attacker is terrorizing the neighborhood.

When a homeless teenager suddenly appears, his arrival sets off a chain of events that will bring to light dark secrets the tenants of Apt. 401 have kept from one another—and from themselves.

The Gun – Fuminori Nakamura

On a nighttime walk along a Tokyo riverbank, a young man named Nishikawa stumbles on a dead body, beside which lies a gun. From the moment Nishikawa decides to take the gun, the world around him blurs. Knowing he possesses the weapon brings an intoxicating sense of purpose to his dull university life.

But soon Nishikawa’s personal entanglements become unexpectedly complicated: he finds himself romantically involved with two women while his biological father, whom he’s never met, lies dying in a hospital. Through it all, he can’t stop thinking about the gun—and the four bullets loaded in its chamber. As he spirals into obsession, his focus is consumed by one idea: that possessing the gun is no longer enough—he must fire it.

What did you get from your library this week?

Resolutions for 2021 #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

Resolutions/Hopes for 2021 (bookish or not!)

My hopes for the year are that my family and friends continue to stay healthy and safe. And that we will be able to visit Singapore to see our families!

In terms of reading, I want to continue to read diversely. By that, I mean, to read more:

  • books in translation
  • books by authors from different countries, not just the US
  • books by minority writers
  • more non-fiction
  • hopefully at least six works of classic literature (works published at least 50 years ago).

How about you?


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

It’s Monday (January 11, 2021)

Happy Monday to you!

That was one crazy week, wasn’t it?

And I’m not talking about this past week being the first time an opossum visited my backyard.

Well, at any rate, we did some fun things like making dumplings for dinner. I forgot to buy cabbage when I bought the ground pork! So I made do with green onions and spinach instead. It worked out well!

We also picked up fresh noodles from the Asian supermarket. Boil it and mix your own sauce (I like soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, ketchup. Yes ketchup!).

We also picked up Singapore-style Hainanese chicken rice.

Currently…

Reading:

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Watching:

I finished Bridgerton and am finishing up Away. I’m disappointed to learn that they canceled Away! There were definitely some flaws with the show, but I really appreciated how they had a diverse cast and also were not afraid to have their actors speak different languages! There was Russian, Hindi, Mandarin, and Fante.

I didn’t know about the Fante language before this show. It’s mainly spoken in Ghana and I think it’s really awesome that the actor Ato Essandoh, who plays Kwesi, said Fante is the language his family speaks. They had previously created Kwesi’s character as Nigerian but changed it to Ghanaian after they learnt of Essandoh’s background. I mean, how often does that happen?

Listening:

I’m hoping to finish with this today!

Eating and drinking:

I had toast and tea for breakfast.

Cooking:

I have plans to cook bak kut teh (肉骨茶) – literally “meat bone tea”. A very comforting soup made of spices and pork ribs. And we even bought some frozen dough fritters (油条 youtiao) to go with it.

I didn’t buy enough dumpling wrappers for the amount of ground pork I had, so um, I will use the rest of the marinated pork to put into rice porridge I think.

Last week:

I read:

I posted:

Gimme Everything You Got by Iva-Marie Palmer

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Library Loot (January 6 to 12, 2021)

Looking forward to these 2021 reads #TopTenTuesday

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date