#RIPXIII – Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike

Graveyard Apartment doesn’t bring on the creep factor early on. Instead it opens very much like a typical domestic story. A family moves into a new apartment. But this apartment so happens to be located next to a graveyard. Which is of course the main reason why it’s so affordable – and thus attractive to this young family buying their first home.

And it does seem pleasant enough at first, with some beautiful daphne flowers blooming, and even cherry blossoms bordering the graveyard. The family sets about getting routines down, like getting kindergarten uniforms for their daughter and meeting the neighbors. A couple of unusual things does happen, like their pet bird dies and there seems to be a strange image on the TV but nothing to ruffle feathers. That is, until their daughter gets injured while playing in the basement, and things start getting weird from then on.

Graveyard Apartment is rather slow-moving as horror fiction goes. It was originally published in 1986 and perhaps the pacing of the storyline reflects that.

But when it got going, it did get pretty creepy for me – but then I am a big chicken when it comes to horror fiction – and found myself wishing I weren’t alone at home (and I live in a very quiet neighborhood).

Would you live near a cemetery? I wouldn’t.

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RIP XIII

As we near the end of August, it’s time to start thinking about autumn leaves and spooky reads!

The Readers Imbibing in Peril Challenge is in its 13th year!

If you’re new to RIP, this is what it’s all about:

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.

Suspense.

Thriller.

Dark Fantasy.

Gothic.

Horror.

Supernatural.

The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

The goals are simple. 

1. Have fun reading.

2. Share that fun with others.

You can find more details here

I’m joining in for

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (our very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature.

And here are some books I hope to read!

I always try to go for a pool centered around POC writers and female writers.

Death Notice – Zhou Haohui, translated from the Chinese by Zac Haluza

A police thriller set in Chengdu, China. A new-to-me writer

Last Winter We Parted – Fuminori Nakamura

I’ve read a couple of Nakamura’s books, The Boy in the Earth, and The Thief, and they’re always kinda weird and dark.

In the miso soup – Ryu Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Ralph McCarthy

Something about a possible serial killer in Tokyo and sleazy nightlife. I figure I might just give it a try.

The Graveyard Apartment – Mariko Koike, translated from the Japanese by Deborah Boliver Boehm

This was on some list of horror books online. It was originally published in 1984 and sure sounds creepy.

The Between– Tananarive Due

I loved Due’s The Good House and always say I should read more of her books.

The City of Brass – S A Chakraborty

I like the idea of fantasy set in the Middle East and don’t read enough of it. This goes for the next book too.

Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed

Want more suggestions?

Here’s my RIP XII pool (lots of women writers)

Here’s my list of POC authors that I posted for RIP XI

#RIPXII The Bear and the Nightingale

 

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From the very start of the book, I am hooked.

And that is not a usual thing. I am a reader of many books. By that I mean that I tend to read several things at once. So it can sometimes take me several tries to get into a book.

(You might just wonder then, why not just concentrate and read that one book, finish it, and then move on to another? Well, that’s just not the way I work. I just like multiple books going on!)

First of all, I love that it’s a fairytale. And more than that, that it’s a snowy, wintry kind of read. I have lived most of my life near the equator – where the only seasons are hot and dry or hot and rainy. And I now live in Northern California where winters are, at the most, rainy, although we could easily drive a few hours to find snow. So I’ve never really been in that kind of dense and intense winters that  the north of Russia must have.

Vasilisa is the youngest child of a wealthy lord of a northern Russian village. She can see  the spirits of the house, forest, river, the spirits that protect them from evil, like the domovoi, which lives in the oven. Her new stepmother can see these spirits too, but she calls them demons and seeks refuge in the church. She soon forbids the household from honoring these spirits with offerings. But Vasya tries to continue this ritual when she can, fearing that something bad is about to happen.

“The domovoi was small and squat and brown. He had a long beard and brilliant eyes. At night he crept out of the oven to wipe the plates and scour away the soot. He used to do mending, too, when people left it out, but Anna would shriek if she saw a stray shirt, and few of the servants would risk her anger. Before Vasya’s stepmother arrived, they had left offerings for him: a bowl of milk or a bit of bread. But Anna shrieked then, too. Dunya and the serving-maids had begun hiding their offerings in odd corners where Anna rarely came.”

Things get even more interesting when Father Konstantin is sent to their village and the villagers grow more fearful, and so is bold and brave Vasya.

“No, Vasya was frightened of her own people. They did not joke on the way to church anymore; they listened to Father Konstantin in heavy, hungry silence. And even when they were not in church, the people made excuses to visit his room.”

Something is waking, something evil. And without these spirits’ protection, crops start failing, the creatures of the forest roam closer, danger lurks.

The Bear and the Nightingale was an absolute charmer of a book. I loved all the Russian folklore throughout and the rural setting. Perhaps the only part that didn’t sit too well with me was the last act, which seemed a bit rushed.

 

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This is my fourth read for RIP XII

Joining #RIPXII

Happy RIP season! I’ve been taking part since RIP IV – it was the very first challenge I took part in, so it will always be special! Every September 1 through October 31 for the last 11 years Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings has hosted the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge, affectionately known as the R.I.P. Challenge. And now it’s being run by Andi of Estelle’s Revenge and Heather of My Capricious Life.

But it remains the same, it’s always about books of:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
And I always go for
Peril the First:
“Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (our very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shirley Jackson or Tananarive Due…or anyone in between.”

I’ve decided this year to focus on women writers!

Here’s my pool:

The Vicious Deep – Zoraida Cordova

Ink and Ashes – Valence E. Maetani

Waiting on a Bright Moon – JY Yang

The Reader – Traci Chee

The Chaos – Nalo Hopkinson

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

City of the Lost – Kelley Armstrong

The Witches of New York – Ami McKay

The Unquiet Dead – Ausma Zehanat Khan

RIP XI: Dark Matter

This was definitely an exciting read. No doubt about it.

The kind of book you open and read and read and then when you’re done it’s 1 am and you can’t sleep. Well perhaps that would be me if I wasn’t such a stickler for my 1030 pm bedtime (I have two kids who are up before 7 even on weekends – I need my sleep!).

Dark Matter has an intriguing beginning. A guy is abducted by an unknown man then wakes up to find himself strapped down to a gurney surrounded by people he doesn’t know. And then he discovers that he is in a world that isn’t his. His wife is not his wife. His son does not exist.

Dun dun dun!! It’s a parallel world!

It felt very much like it was written with a future movie in mind. A lot of action, what is probably an explosive soundtrack with a lot of electric guitars, or maybe that was what was in my head at the time when I was reading this book. (Is that just me?)

Blake Crouch is very fond of short staccato sentences.

A lot of pages read like these few lines.

One after another.

That’s how he seems to like to write.

It’s not really my style.

Unless you’re talking about blogging.

Cos then I could go on writing these sentences

For

Ages.

And so Dark Matter makes for a quick and exciting read. One that will have you up all night, if you’re the up-all-night-reading types. One that is suitable enough for RIP, because the main character is definitely (1) imbibing and (2) in peril.

It’s the kind of book that makes me give it 4 stars on Goodreads immediately after reading. But some weeks later, as I think about it, I may knock it down to 3.5 or 3. Because while I was reading it – and really enjoying all its heartracing action – I don’t think I got very involved with its characters. I think that in fact I may have disliked Jason through most of it.

So read this for a quick fun read. Hey the readathon is coming up, and while it’s not exactly a short book at 342 pages, it’ll be a pretty good readathon kind of read, especially when you’re flagging in the middle of the night!

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I read this book for Readers Imbibing in Peril XI

(here’s the link to the review site)

Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan

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While not as well-rounded as Beauty is A Wound (my thoughts), Man Tiger, first published in 2004, is a great introduction to Eka Kurniawan and Indonesian literature. After all, it tops out at 172 pages, versus Beauty is a Wound (first published in 2002) which has 470 pages.

Man Tiger is not so much a whodunnit as a whydunnit. There is a murder. A man in a small village has been killed. Everyone knows that it was Margio, who insists:

“It wasn’t me,” he said calmly and without guilt. “There is a tiger inside my body.”

There are a lot of mystical elements to the story, which is told in a cyclical, rather conversational manner (perhaps in the Indonesian storytelling fashion?). But this is also a story about an ill-matched relationship, a couple who are constantly at loggerheads, a broken family.

Man Tiger could be described as crime fiction, maybe magic realism (although when I see those two words, I tend to flee from the book, so scratch that), domestic fiction? I don’t know, I guess the easy way out would be to file it under ‘translated fiction’ as it doesn’t really seem to fit into any proper genre. But if you’re looking for a different, diverse, translated read, one that’s quick, one that’s different, and yet also gory (you should see the way Margio kills the man), passionate, and just completely apt for autumn (i.e. ripe for any Readers Imbibing in Peril, or just up for a weird read).

If you’re interested in reading more from Indonesian writers, may I suggest The Girl from the Coast by Pramoedya Ananta Toer (my thoughts)

Some things you might not know about Indonesia.

  • It’s the world’s fourth most populous nation with some 261 million people speaking over 580 languages and dialects.The main language is Bahasa Indonesia
  • It’s made up of 17,000 islands and some 130 active volcanoes

 

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I read this book for Readers Imbibing in Peril XI

(here’s the link to the review site)

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Akilah’s Diversity on the Shelf 

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 Read Diverse Books Year-Round

RIP XI: Akata Witch 

Nnedi Okorafor’s books are always such a treat.

Akata Witch is the story of Sunny, born in America but who now lives in Nigeria with her brothers and parents.

“I’m Nigerian by blood, American by birth, and Nigerian again because I live here. I have West African features, like my mother, but while the rest of my family is dark brown, I’ve got light yellow hair, skin the color of “sour milk” (or so stupid people like to tell me), and hazel eyes that look like God ran out of the right color. I’m albino.”

Sunny confuses people. She doesn’t fit in. Not at school, where she is called “akata” which means “bush animal” and is used to refer to black Americans or foreign-born blacks. She doesn’t really fit in at home either – her dad doesn’t seem to know what to do with her.

Then she becomes friends with Orlu, a boy in her school, who introduces her to Chichi, a rather strange girl who lives in a  house full of books. And they reveal that they are Leopard People, powerful, magical. And that she too is one, except that she is a “free agent”. That is, despite her parents being ordinary folk, she is in a Leopard spirit line, and that she had magical abilities too, abilities that need to be unlocked and developed.

There is a whole world out there just for Leopard People. A place called Leopard Knocks with shops, restaurants and the Obi Library. For Leopard People, it’s all about learning.

She has to learn, to study juju, spells, magic. And this is on top of all the studying she already has to do for school. Add to that the sneaking around because she can’t tell anyone else about her newfound magical abilities, or the Leopard People.

Young and inexperienced as she is, she – and three other Leopard People friends- are tasked to catch a serial killer.

It’s such a fun read, as we explore this new world with Sunny, learn about her powers and this strange new double life she leads. Also there’s that element of darkness and danger lurking, not just with the serial killer, but all the tasks and skills training she goes through. Even a visit to a mentor’s house could be deadly!

And this magical world that Okorafor has created! One with an artist wasp that creates sculptures out of things it finds in nature like crumbs or mud – and will sting you if you don’t appreciate its work! The way Leopard People earn money, called chittim – when they learn something, the gold coins fall from the sky and land at their feet!

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Akata Witch reminded me a lot of Zahrah the Windseeker (another fab read), in its strong young female character and fascinating world, and in this article with SFWA, Okorafor explains:

But they’ll also find that all my novels are connected, they are telling one big story. Akata Witch is a prequel to The Shadow SpeakerZahrah the Windseeker is directly linked the Who Fears Death. There is technology in Who Fears Death that is more explained in The Shadow SpeakerThe Shadow Speaker shares characters with Zahrah the Windseeker. The Nigerian writing script Nsibidi plays a pivotal role in Who Fears DeathZahrah the Windseeker and Akata Witch. Aro (from Who Fears Death), The Desert Magician (from The Shadow Speaker), Papa Grip (Zahrah the Windseeker), Long Juju Man (from Long Juju Man), Junk Man (from Akata Witch) — he shows up in all of my novels in various forms.

Also, good news! Akata Witch has a sequel coming out soon!

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I read this book for Readers Imbibing in Peril XI

(here’s the link to the review site)

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Akilah’s Diversity on the Shelf 

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 Read Diverse Books Year-Round