Book Updates: Holiday Season

I have not been able to pick up a book since sometime in August (it was a Star Trek book too). So of course, I picked up many books to read during my Holiday Break. So far in the last 12 days I have only read six of the books that I picked up, but I figured I would write updates on these and then more later if I finish any other books. There is no actual theme to the books that I read, they don’t have anything to do with the holiday season either.

7081Android’s Dream by John Scalzi– This book was recommended to me by TheBetterCup. I read Oldman’s War by Scalzi as well, and overall he is a fantastic author so I had high hopes for this one too. It did not disappoint me.

Earth is on the verge of war with a militarily advance alien race after a human diplomat succeeds in killing (albeit in the funniest sort of way) his alien counterpart. Harry Creek must try to find the one object that can save the planet from alien enslavement. With many different groups moving in to find this special breed of sheep, and everyone double crossing each other, Harry also finds a way to overcome his own personal demons.

This book is fantastic. It is a sci-fi based adventure story filled with action and extremely likable characters. Scalzi is sublimely funny as he pokes fun at diplomacy, religion, legal system, and politics. The plot was full of unexpected twists, and the entire story (and title) is allusion or tip of the hat to a science fiction novel from the 1960’s.

The one negative I have to say about this book is that it is not the deepest or most thought provoking one on the list (at least for me that is). This is the type of book to read when you just want something to enjoy and don’t want to have to question everything. I recommend this book 100%.

17803

After Dark by Haruki Murakami– This one I picked up because I loved the author. He was the author of one of my very favorite books Kafka on the Shore. He is a bizarre author and this book was no different.

The story takes place entirely in one night (from like 11 pm to about 6 am). It centers around two estranged sisters: Eri, a beauty deep in sleep for the past months, and Mari, an ordinary student who regularly chooses not to sleep at night and instead reads at a local Denny’s. One such night, through strange yet very ordinary circumstances, she meets many people whose lives exist at night (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 have terrible secrets that draw them together. And all of it is some how connected to Eri’s slumber, one where it seemed she had completely given up living but slept on like sleeping beauty, that will either restore or annihilate her.

The book’s plot feels simple, and yet it is intricate and surrealistic. It makes you think deeply about life and how each of these characters have lives that don’t match their personalities. I found the entire story very enjoyable, the one problem (which you may find in many of Murakami’s books) is that you may not recognize how everything connects. He never explains straight out what the fudge was going on with Eri and the man in the TV. Seriously though, this is a great book and is my favorite on the list.

7295501Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary R. Kowal– I found this book randomly and only decided to get it because of the name (I thought it sounded pleasant). I am glad that I did too, because I really liked it.

The story revolves around a neighborhood of families with young men and women who are looking for suitable matches. But the main character Jane, at the age of 28 and with a young sister who is considered angelic in beauty, has accepted her role as a spinster instead of a possible eligible bachelorette. She is very skilled in the feminine art of creating glamour (a magical trait added to art and music and even the body to enhance beauty). Her great skill and wonderful personality help her change in the end.

The story was fun and interesting with characters that won you over and others that made you hate them (Melody is everything disgusting that a young girl can be towards her sister). It is a magical realism book, so magic is part of everyday life here. My one problem is that the end was slightly fast paced in comparison to the rest of the story, too clean cut, and some characters just thrown away like they never mattered.

The writer attempted to write like Jane Austin and she was very similar. If you are a fan of Austin, which I am not but TheBetterCup is, you may like this. If you a worshiper of Austin, then you may be offended by her attempt to mimic the famous lady. I personally loved the book. If you want a book that is an easy read like Android’s Dream, but you are more into a romance from the Victorian Era, then pick this instead. I feel many people were too cruel on Goodreads (especially one bitter lady). I liked enough to want to read the other books in this series. I have read all of Austin’s books, and honestly I don’t think its any worse or better (again a personal opinion). This is not the best book ever, but I enjoyed reading it.

50143Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto– I wanted to read a book by Yoshimoto for some time. Honestly I heard others recommend this and her pen name was just so cool. I expected more, but ended up only kind of liking the book.

Asleep is actually three short stories (with the last one being titled Asleep). All three focus on young women who have been put into a magical slumber for different reasons. The first one was called Night and Night’s Travelers. It was my least favorite of the three. It tells the story of a 22 year old girl named Shibami whose brother died unexpectedly and her relationship to him, her cousin who loved him, and his ex-American girlfriend. Focusing on how his death and their secrets affect each other and strengthen them. The story was not bad it was just a little boring. And I did not care much for the characters. The second story was much better. Love Songs focuses on Fumi, a young woman who is becoming an alcoholic and who hears a strange song, that reminds her of an old enemy named Haru, each night before passing out. She soon realizes that that the song is Haru’s attempt to reach her from the after life. They settle their differences and finally accept that they never hated each other. The third story was the best of the three. Asleep tells the story of Terako, a young woman in a relationship with an older married man whose wife is a vegetable in a coma. After the suicide of her best friend, a woman who slept next to people each night for money, Terako finds herself giving up on her own life. She only saves herself after meeting the spirit of her boyfriend’s wife.

The book is good, and Banana does a great job in incorporating this magical element that is invisibly present. Its not great like Murakami’s After Dark (which had a similar theme), and it may be that reading it after reading After Dark was the reason for my less excited feelings for it. I still liked the book, i just recommend not reading the two together.

17799South of the Border and West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami– Again another Murakami book. This was a good book, but not one of my favorites I still recommend this book, like all the other books on this list, but not as fully as I do some of the others.

Hajime was an only child growing up in post war Japan. His only companion in a world where every family had multiple children was a lame girl named Shimamoto who was also an only child. They had a deep bond, but lost touch over the years. Now in his thirties, he is married, has children, and owns a successful business. He meets Shinamoto again and his life is thrown upside down (because of his intense obsession with her).

This was a weird story, but much less magical then Murakami usually does. Actually there was no magic in this book. The story was great and compelling, but i only had two problems. One: the main character was not someone I really fell for. I could care less about his problems and his life because he was not very likable. He made many mistakes, yet did not seem to repent that much, and man was he obsessive and overly involved in these weird fascinations with this one girl he met when he was twelve. Second: the story felt incomplete. We never know what happened to the Shimamoto, he still says he would cheat on his wife, and even his wife says she may cheat on him. And what was Shimamoto’s life like? It was just so unfinished.

378The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer– I only read this book because my roommate suggested it. It was a great book, but it is a child’s book and I think I missed out since I read it now instead of as a kid. It was great now, but I feel there was a certain kind of astonishment that only a kid could feel in reading this.

It tells the story of Milo, a young boy who seems to have given up in life, finding now enjoyment in anything. One day he is sent a package where he builds a blue tollbooth that transports him into this strange world.

The book is witty, and has all this commentary on human behavior in the modern world. All it really is doing is pointing out the importance of appreciation life, sounds, scents, people, and showing how certain behavior are form of destructive ignorance. I think all kids should read this, and adults too.

Right now I am reading Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett, which is exhilarating so far. What books have you been reading? Comment below.

-Blog Barista

Rasengan!

Rasengan!

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