Library Loot

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief 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.

 

For some reason I ended up picking up two more Japanese books – I had already put the Tanizaki on hold after reading and loving The Makioka Sisters (more about that next week). And then all those lovely comics, although the Wytches looks more scary than I expected!!

Supermarket – Satoshi Azuchi (translated by Paul Warham)

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A modern classic of literature in Japan, Supermarket is a novel of the human drama surrounding the management of a supermarket chain at a time when the phenomenon of the supermarket, imported postwar from the US, was just taking hold in Japan.

When Kojima, an elite banker resigns his job to help a cousin manage Ishiei, a supermarket in one of Japan’s provincial cities, a host of problems ensue.  Store employees are stealing products, the books are in disaray, and the workers seem stuck in old ways of thinking.  As Kojima begins to give all his time over to the relentless task of reforming the store’s management, a chance encounter with a woman from his childhood causes him to ask the age-old question: is the all encompassing pursuit of business success really worth it?

Sincere and naive in tone, Supermarket takes us back to a simpler, kinder time, and  skillfully presents the depictions of its characters alongside a wealth of information concerning Japanese post WWII recovery and industrialization.

The Guest Cat – Takahashi Hiraide (translated by Eric Selland)

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A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife — the days have more light and color. The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens….

 

Seven Japanese Tales – Junichiro Tanizaki
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In these seven stories, the author of The Makioka Sisters explores the territory where love becomes self-annihilation, where the contemplation of beauty gives way to fetishism, and where tradition becomes an instrument of refined cruelty.

Wytches Vol 1 – Scott Snyder ; art, Jock ; colors, Matt Hollingsworth ; letters, Clem Robins ; editor, David Brothers

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Everything you thought you knew about witches is wrong. They are much darker, and they are much more horrifying. Wytches takes the mythology of witches to a far creepier, bone-chilling place than readers have dared venture before. When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they’re hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient…and hungry.

Genius Vol 1: Siege – Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman, writers ; Afua Richardson, artist ;
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What if the greatest military mind of our generation was born to a people who are already supremely conditioned to wage war, who know nothing but violence from birth and must continually adapt to new predators in order to survive? This action-packed book contains the full story of a city that declares war on a brilliant young woman pushed to the edge.


The kids’ loot:

  


Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

 

 

Library Looting some classics

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief 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.

 

Just one book for me this week. This one is for the Back to the Classics challenge. And will also count for the Diversity on the Shelf challenge

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The Makioka Sisters – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. As told by Junichiro Tanizaki, the story of the Makioka sisters forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family–and an entire society–sliding into the abyss of modernity.

Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepares to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family’s exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances. Filled with vignettes of upper-class Japanese life and capturing both the decorum and the heartache of its protagonist, The Makioka Sisters is a classic of international literature.

 

Also, one e-book hold came in:

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Oreo – Fran Ross

Love the cover!

Oreo is raised by her maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. Her black mother tours with a theatrical troupe, and her Jewish deadbeat dad disappeared when she was an infant, leaving behind a mysterious note that triggers her quest to find him. What ensues is a playful, modernized parody of the classical odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, immersed in seventies pop culture, and mixing standard English, black vernacular, and Yiddish with wisecracking aplomb. Oreo, our young hero, navigates the labyrinth of sound studios and brothels and subway tunnels in Manhattan, seeking to claim her birthright while unwittingly experiencing and triggering a mythic journey of self-discovery like no other.

 

 

And the kids’ loot as usual…

 

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

 

 

Library Looting some comics!

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief 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.

 

 Grabbed plenty of picture books, and even some back issues of kids magazines, this week. And also roamed the comics and graphic novel shelves upstairs for a bit. I’ve decided to jump in and do some Reading this weekend during the #24in48 Readathon! It’s highly unlikely that it will be 24. Or even 12. (Insert excuses here, which include the fact that after recovering from a cough, I now have caught a cold. Plus my kids still are coughing. Oh and did I mention that I have kids? Two little boys whose idea of fun is running around and throwing things. Well sometimes they might sit down and flip through some books for a bit before going back to running and jumping and wrestling. See bottom of post for books  I hope to amuse them with this weekend!)

Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order – Gene Yang

Did not know this was a sequel! Will have to see if it makes sense without reading the first!

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In this sequel to Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, high school sopomore Loyola Chin meets the mysterious Saint Danger in one of her many food induced dreams. The two strike up a friendship which leads to something entirely beyond Loyola’s imagination.

 

Displacement: a travelogue – Lucy Knisley

While I really did like Knisley’s Relish, I wasn’t all that fond of French Milk, so I’m wondering what I’ll think of this one.

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In her graphic memoirs, New York Times-best selling cartoonist Lucy Knisley paints a warts-and-all portrait of contemporary, twentysomething womanhood, like writer Lena Dunham (Girls). In the next installment of her graphic travelogue series, Displacement, Knisley volunteers to watch over her ailing grandparents on a cruise. (The book s watercolors evoke the ocean that surrounds them.) In a book that is part graphic memoir, part travelogue, and part family history, Knisley not only tries to connect with her grandparents, but to reconcile their younger and older selves. She is aided in her quest by her grandfather s WWII memoir, which is excerpted. Readers will identify with Knisley s frustration, her fears, her compassion, and her attempts to come to terms with mortality, as she copes with the stress of travel complicated by her grandparents frailty.”

 

SuperMutant Magic Academy – Jillian Tamaki

Ok so I got this for that title. And for Jillian Tamaki, who illustrated This One Summer. 

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The New York Times and New Yorker illustrator Jillian Tamaki is best known for co-creating the award-winning young adult graphic novels Skim and This One Summer—moody and atmospheric bestsellers. SuperMutant Magic Academy, which she has been serializing online for the past four years, paints a teenaged world filled with just as much ennui and uncertainty, but also with a sharp dose of humor and irreverence. Tamaki deftly plays superhero and high-school Hollywood tropes against what adolescence is really like: The SuperMutant Magic Academy is a prep school for mutants and witches, but their paranormal abilities take a backseat to everyday teen concerns.

Science experiments go awry, bake sales are upstaged, and the new kid at school is a cat who will determine the course of human destiny. In one strip, lizard-headed Trixie frets about her nonexistent modeling career; in another, the immortal Everlasting Boy tries to escape this mortal coil to no avail. Throughout it all, closeted Marsha obsesses about her unrequited crush, the cat-eared Wendy. Whether the magic is mundane or miraculous, Tamaki’s jokes are precise and devastating.

 

Dial H: Volume 1, Into you – China Mieville, writer ; Mateus Santolouco, David Lapham, Riccardo Burchielli, artists ; Tanya & Richard Horie, colorists ; Steve Wands, letterer ; Brian Bolland, collection & original series cover artist

Hadn’t heard of this before, but when I saw China Mieville, I had to pick it up.

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Hugo Award-winning novelist China Miéville breathes new life into a classic DC Comics series as part of the second wave of DC Comics – The New 52.

In the small run-down town of Littleville, CO, a troubled young man stumbles upon the lost H-Dial and all of the secrets and power it possesses. It has been many years since the H-Dial has been seen, though legions of villains have been scouring the globe looking for it and its ability to transform users into a variety of superheros and take on their powers and psyches.

Will our hero be able to harness the power of the H-Dial and protect it from falling into the hands of evil? Will this newfound power plunge our hero to madness? And will we ever discover where the H-Dial came from and its true meaning?

 

Birds of Prey: End Run – Gail Simon, Ed Benes (Illustrator), Adriana Melo (Illustrator), Alvin Lee(Illustrator)

Another one I hadn’t heard of. This one I also picked up upon recognising a name – Gail Simone, whose Red Sonja I read last year.

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Soaring out of BRIGHTEST DAY, the Birds of Prey are back!Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and Lady Blackhawk all return to Gotham City, where they belong – and they’ve brought a couple of new friends (or are they foes?) along with them.

The Birds of Prey are forced to ally themselves with the worst of Gotham City’s mega-criminals while they struggle to save his life from the unspeakable horror that hunts them all. Pursued by an unstoppable killer, the Birds are forced to run a gauntlet of insane gang members and corrupt cops out to kill them while trying to keep a teammate alive



 

The two-year-old immediately declared: “this is MY train book and MY Thomas book!”


Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

 

 

Library Loot – Fates and Furies; Ms Marvel! Whee!

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief 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.

 

So I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this past week. And decided that a library trip, one in which I actually get books for myself and not just the kids, was in order. Whee!

msmarvel3

Ms Marvel Vol 3: Crushed – G. Willow Wilson, Mark Waid, Takeshi Miyazawa (Artist), Elmo Bondoc (Artist), Humberto Ramos (Illustrator)

Love is in the air in Jersey City as Valentine’s Day arrives! Kamala Khan may not be allowed to go to the school dance, but Ms. Marvel is! Well sort of–by crashing it in an attempt to capture Asgard’s most annoying trickster! Yup, it’s a special Valentine’s Day story featuring Marvel’s favorite charlatan, Loki! And when a mysterious stranger arrives in Jersey City, Ms. Marvel must deal with…a crush! Because this new kid is really, really cute. What are these feelings, Kamala Khan? Prepare for drama! Intrigue! Romance! Suspense! Punching things! All this and more! The fan-favorite, critically acclaimed, amazing new series continues as Kamala Khan proves why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is! Plus, see what happens when S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jemma Simmons goes undercover at Kamala’s school!

 

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Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff

I had been hemming and hawing over borrowing this e-book, but eventually joined the library queue for it. Then I went to the library and spotted it among the “It’s Your Lucky Day” shelves, where popular books are set out, just no renewals and whatnot. So it was indeed my lucky day. And I better get started on reading this one soon!

Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation.

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

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The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor

I don’t really read many of the latest books but hey it’s Nnedi Okorafor!

A fiery spirit dances from the pages of the Great Book. She brings the aroma of scorched sand and ozone. She has a story to tell…. 

The Book of Phoenix is a unique work of magical futurism. A prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death, it features the rise of another of Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future

here

Here – Richard McGuire

Here is Richard McGuire’s unique graphic novel based on the legendary 1989 comic strip of the same name.

Richard McGuire’s groundbreaking comic strip Here was published under Art Spiegelman’s editorship at RAW in 1989.

Built in six pages of interlocking panels, dated by year, it collapsed time and space to tell the story of the corner of a room – and its inhabitants – between the years 500,957,406,073 BC and 2033 AD.

The strip remains one of the most influential and widely discussed contributions to the medium, and it has now been developed, expanded and reimagined by the artist into this full-length, full-colour graphic novel – a must for any fan of the genre

 

ilovetrouble

I love trouble – Kel Symons

Felicia Castillo is a small-time grifter on the run from a nasty New Orleans gangster she just ripped off when she discovers she has the amazing ability to teleport. This lands her in the crosshairs of the nefarious Mars Corporation, which exploits supernatural gifts of people like Felicia. They make her an offer she can’t refuse: use her unique talent to become an assassin that can get close to anyone, anywhere. However, Felicia soon learns that no matter how long or how far you run, your troubles always catch up to you.

 

Kids’ loot:

 

  
Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

 

 

RIP X and Diversiverse: The Good House by Tananarive Due

goodhouse

Above the steps, the house appeared like a doll’s house set against the wilderness, prominently displaying the large picture window Angela and Tariq had built after they claimed the house as their own. Gramma Marie’s house had been built in 1907, and except for the picture window, internal refurbishing, roof work, painting, and electrical and plumbing updates, the roomy house remained as it had always been: a cheery blue post-Victorian with five bedrooms, twin pairs of narrow white columns on either side of the porch to greet visitors, and a round windowpositioned like a watchful eye from the attic. The boxy second story sat atop the smaller first level like a fat, nesting bird. The house bordered nearly virgin woods and a creek that had been in Angela’s family for three generations now.

Sounds lovely doesn’t it.

Well this house has been haunting me the past week(s) or so since I’ve finished this book.
You don’t think that a town like this..

small cluster of businesses that called itself “downtown” always had their radios tuned to the same oldies station that played The Four Seasons, Bobby Darin, and Elvis Presley, creating an overall effect Corey called “Time Warp, U.S.A.” And how even the beefiest-looking bill-capped rednecks with gun racks mounted in their pickups’ rear windows drove past them in town and greeted them with wide grins and neighborly waves like characters straight out of a Frank Capra movie.

A town like this could never harbour something evil. Could it?

Because there would be something else. She knew that from a place that did not adhere to rationality, a wordless, unmapped place. She’d felt that tingling in her fingertips, the same sensation she’d experienced on the Fourth of July, and that tingling signaled big things, catastrophic things. She hadn’t realized until now how much she’d been living in dread of the day that cold-burn would return, imagining what awful  surprises it would drag in its wake.

But this town has seen some tragic events recently, and there’s more to come.

And it all began a long time ago, with vodou priestess Marie Touissant, who lived in the Good House, and who, while trying to help a neighbour’s child, unleashes a relentless spirit into her world.

Fast forward to today, and Marie’s granddaughter Angela is back at the Good House, staying there with her family, visiting the sleepy town she grew up in. She hasn’t a clue about the house and its past, or even her grandmother’s powers and beliefs. But when her life, her heart, is ripped apart, she begins to uncover her family’s past, its connection to vodou, and her own need to embrace it – or die trying.

Tanananarive Due has written a very suspenseful book. One that I made sure not to read at night, especially after one evening, when I read it close(r) to bedtime, and then couldn’t sleep!

I’m not the best judge of horror or suspense novels. I tend only to read them for this event, as they really just creep me out. And at RIP, I get enough creeping-out to last me for the rest of the year. Due’s plot, with its vengeful spirits reaching out to take everything that is precious from you, really sent chills up my spine. I know it may sound weird to many of you, but I think I felt this way, because I kind of believed it. I mean, I know it’s fictional and all that, but there were parts of it, the horrors of losing a loved one, that just ripped my heart out.

That’s the thing though. I ‘enjoyed’ the book in the sense that I was creeped out, as I was meant to be. But I am hesitating to pick up another of her books, because I don’t really want to be creeped out like that again! At least not right now. And I also have to add here that it took me weeks just to finish writing up this post, because I really just dreaded having to think about this book again.

So if you’re looking for something  suspenseful this RIP season, consider The Good House!

diversiverse2015

 

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I read this book for Diversiverse and RIP X 

 

Bibliography

Speculative fiction novels
The Between (1995)
The Good House (2003)
Joplin’s Ghost (2005)

African Immortals Series
My Soul to Keep (1997)
The Living Blood (2001)
Blood Colony (2008)
My Soul To Take (2011)

Mysteries
Naked Came the Manatee (1996) (contributor)
The Tennyson Hardwick novels
Casanegra (2007; with Blair Underwood and Steven Barnes)
In the Night of the Heat (2008; with Blair Underwood and Steven Barnes)
From Cape Town with Love (2010; with Blair Underwood and Steven Barnes)
South by Southeast (scheduled for September 2012; with Blair Underwood and Steven Barnes)
Short stories
“Like Daughter”, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000)
“Patient Zero”, The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Eighteenth Annual Collection (2001)
“Trial Day”, Mojo: Conjure Stories (2003)
“Aftermoon”, Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2004)
“Senora Suerte”, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction[9] (September 2006)
The Lake (2011)

Other works
The Black Rose, historical fiction about Madam C.J. Walker[10] (2000)
Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights (2003) (with Patricia Stephens Due)
Devil’s Wake (with Steven Barnes) (2012)
Domino Falls (2013)
Ghost Summer (Collection) (2015)

#Diversiverse and #RIPX : Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan

 

 

beautywound

(translated by Anne Tucker)

Dewi Ayu was buried in a far corner of the cemetery among the graves of other ill-fated people, because that was what Kyai Jahro and the gravedigger had agreed upon. Buried there was an evil thief from the colonial era, and a crazy killer, and a number of communists, and now a prostitute. It was believed that those unfortunate souls would be disturbed by ongoing tests and trials in the grave, and so it was wise to distance them from the graves of pious people who wanted to rest in peace, be invaded by worms and rot in peace, and make love to heavenly nymphs without any commotion.

What is this book that I’ve just read? It is hard to really put a finger on what genre it would fall into.

Is it a ghost story?
Is it historical fiction?
Is it a romance?
Is it a sweeping family saga that spans several generations and many decades?
Is it a story about Indonesia, its history and its people and culture?

It is all that and more.

It is ambitious. It is immense. It is startling and odd and also fresh and exciting.

It is the story of Dewi Ayu, born into a Dutch family, captured by the Japanese when they occupied Indonesia, forced into prostitution. And it is also the story of her four daughters and their own families.

Lots of people get married in the months of the rainy season. Crowds of villagers attend ceremony after ceremony for weeks on end and the golden janur kuning poles marking the houses holding wedding parties stick out of fences at almost every single intersection, arching over the street to dangle their festive decorations. Meanwhile, those men who aren’t married yet go off to the whorehouse, lovers meet more often to get it on in secret, long-married couples seem to relive their honeymoons in the months of the rainy season, and God creates many tiny little embryos

It is also the story of Indonesia – from its occupation by the Japanese during the Second World War, to its struggles with the Dutch (it was part of the Dutch East Indies) and then with the communists and the anti-communist purge in 1965.

So it is political, it is violent – in terms of physical violence and sexual violence. Yet Eka Kurniawan somehow manages to bring some humour, albeit an odd sense of it, into his tale.

They often teased people forced to walk past the cemetery, making spooky noises or appearing as headless sweet potato sellers. Everyone avoided the place at night but Kamino and Farida were quite used to the ghosts, and simply chased them away like other people shoo out a chicken that has wandered into the kitchen. Every once in a while the couple even teased the ghosts right back.

I rushed through a good part of this book, which I had borrowed as an e-book from the library. That wasn’t the way Beauty is a Wound should be read though. I had started it but then the whole woman climbing out of a grave thing wasn’t really jiving with me at the time – I had just emerged from reading a book that had creeped me out, and I wasn’t ready for more ghostly matters!. So I mentally filed it away to read later. Of course, it was only way later that I remembered it, with just a few days left before it would expire. With some other eager readers on hold for the e-book, there wasn’t a chance to renew it, and so the intense reading began.

But with its large ensemble cast and its meander through history, this is an intense read.

For instance, when Kurniawan introduces a new character, he tosses us deep into this character’s history, yes, breaking the original narrative and chronological order of the story, pulling the reader back in time, tracing this new character’s relationship with the previously mentioned characters and sometimes introducing other characters, a seemingly different story arc. Then he brings it all back together again to continue the main story. It is originally a bit disconcerting but the lives of these different characters, their own stories is so fascinating that I just read and read wherever Kurniawan takes me.

There is so much that seems to be taken from legend and folklore here. I am not familiar with Indonesian culture (although I am from Southeast Asia), so I don’t know if all these myths and stories Kurniawan tells are influenced by something that is old and legendary, but it often feels like it. I’m probably missing out a bit by not knowing all this background, but like any good book, it makes me want to find out more, to read more about Indonesia and learn. (And also wonder why the Singapore education system never made us learn more about our neighbours).

The supernatural is a big part of Indonesian culture. Prominent Indonesians are known to consult dukun or shamans. It is even said that former presidents Suharto and Sukarno employed dukun, who are seen as gatekeepers to the supernatural world, and can heal ailments, and some more famous ones even claim to help politicians get elected.

As they descended from the station platform, they jerked back at the soupy air, thick with a rancid stench and full of shadows that flickered with a reddish glow.
“It’s like entering a haunted house,” the wife commented, shaking her head. “No,” said her husband, “it’s like there was a massacre in this city.”

I wouldn’t say this book is for everyone. It is not a quick breezy read. Its layers and depths and even humour take some time to wander through. It is wordy, it meanders. But it offers insight into a country that not many books are set in, it also gives the reader plenty of food for thought. If you’re looking for something a little different, and are willing to devote some time to reading it, consider Beauty is a Wound.

Interestingly, Beauty is a Wound or Cantik itu Luka was originally published in 2002. Lelaki Harimau or Man Tiger (recently published by Verso Books) was originally published in 2004.

 

Here are others’ thoughts on the book:

The Complete Review

ANZ LitLovers

The Saturday Paper

Salty Popcorn

One NYT review: “If Pippi Longstocking were an Indonesian prostitute instead of a Swedish tomboy, she would be something like Dewi Ayu”.
(really??)

Also, an interesting interview with Kurniawan in the Sydney Morning Herald

Have you read this book or Eka Kurniawan’s other works?

diversiverse2015

 

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I read this book for Diversiverse and RIP X 

#Diversiverse and #RIPX : Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

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“I’m surprised at you, Lorrie,” said Rollo. “It stands to reason no one can have a picnic if it is raining cockatrices and dragons. A hugeness mermaid don’t improve the view, either.”

It is always refreshing to read a fantasy/magical story that isn’t all about people fair of skin and golden-locked. And it is always wonderful to read of a strong feisty main female character who doesn’t bow down to tradition, even if it is a Regency setting, where women are not supposed to practise magic.

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Sorcerer to the Crown is all about breaking with tradition.

In truth magic had always had a slightly un-English character, being unpredictable, heedless of tradition and profligate with its gifts to high and low.

Sure, there are elements of popular fantasy reads here. A school for magic (or rather anti-magic) for girls. Squabbling magicians (males of course). The land of faery. A Regency England setting. Very proper and what not.

Magic was too strong a force for women’s frail bodies – too potent a brew for their weak minds – and so, especially at a time when everyone must be anxious to preserve what magical resource England still possessed, magic must be forbidden to women.

But at its heart is the Sorcerer Royal Zacharias, a black man in a sea of white. He was a freed slave who was adopted by the Sir Stephen Wythe, then the Sorcerer Royal. He inherited the title from Sir Stephen. Well sort of. The thing with the title is that it comes with a staff and like Thor’s hammer, it is only wielded by the rightful owner. But mutter mutter there rumour rumour here, everyone is convinced that Zacharias had something to do with Sir Stephen’s death. After all, where is Leofric, Sir Wythe’s familiar? Doesn’t the Sorcerer Royal need a familiar? And also, they blame him for the mere trickling of magic that England now has.

So besides all this politicking (and assassination attempts and constant worrying about lack of magical resources) that Zacharias has to fend off, he has to make a speech at Mrs Daubeney’s School for Gentlewitches, a school in which girls learn to suppress their natural magical abilities. Because women aren’t supposed to be magical. Of course they aren’t! There he meets Prunella, a sort of ward/teacher/servant of the school, a very magical young woman, who seeks his help in leaving the school and, well, she’s not the kind of person who takes no for an answer. And also, she’s a mixed race, half-Indian orphan.

Then there’s Mak Genggang, a witch from Janda Baik, and she’s stirring up trouble for everyone, especially Zacharias, who pretty much has his hands full by now.

Mak Genggang was a puzzle. In manner and appearance she struck Prunella as being little different from an English village witch, of the sort who plied villagers with love philtres and finding charms, far away from the disapproving eye of the Society. Yet she had walked through Fairyland to England; the Sorcerer Royal treated her as an equal; and she was possessed of such a serene and persuasive conviction of her own power that neither fact seemed remarkable.

 

So Zacharias’ life is changed forever, and so is Prunella’s. And they set out to put England right too. Things aren’t ever as simple as that, especially since this is only the first book in the series, but just take it from me, this is a delightful delightful book. It is a book that made me laugh and smile and just be so glad for someone like Zen Cho to have written this magical book of magic. A book full of life and colour and vivacity. A book that simple soars.

(I do have the tiniest twinge of disappointment that this book was not set in Malaysia, or even somewhere in Asia – Cho was born and raised in Malaysia but currently lives in England. But I have hope that she will write one novel set in Asia sometime soon.)

Zen Cho’s Bibliography (her website)
Spirits Abroad (short stories)
Cyberpunk: Malaysia (editor)

 

diversiverse2015

 

ripx

I read this book for Diversiverse and RIP X