Book Thoughts: Hote Iris

 

Hote

 

“I’m sorry. Forgive me” They were words I had said over and over to my mother since childhood. Though I’d had no idea what forgiveness meant I had cried for it nonetheless.

Well, this was a bit dark. Scratch that this was all dark, maybe with a few gray tints. I don’t mind dark. In fact, I like it, however, I usually take it in large quantities with my horror, mental psychological fictions, and poetry. My dark reads are hardly ever in my literary fiction, erotica, or romance. It’s not that I don’t like it there, it’s just that I’ve never been compelled by the books I’ve read. Most of the erotica or romance novels involving dark themes have walked a fine line between romance and rape, and as a result leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Hotel Iris did not.

“I was confused and afraid, and yet somewhere deep inside I was praying that voice would someday give me an order, too.”

This is Mari’s first reaction to hearing the voice of the man she dubs the Translator. Right there the reader is privy to the essence of her character. Against her wishes and without quite understanding it herself, she likes being told what to do. Craves it even.

Mari is seventeen and works at the Hotel Iris, her family’s seaside hotel. Her mother runs the hotel with a frugal rigidness. Mari is her employer first and daughter second. One night a guest of the hotel causes a scene with a prostitute and is promptly kicked out. That guest turns out to be the Translator. The Translator is a much older enigmatic man who makes a living as a Russian translator. He lives alone on a neighboring island, and his isolation is as intriguing to Mari as it is mysterious. She finds herself enthralled and unable to stay away from him.

Soon the two start an illicit relationship where Mari’s wish is granted and the Translator commands her to follow his every whim. Many of these scenes can be quite disturbing. Yoko Ogawa’s doesn’t spare her readers any details into both the physical and psychological workings of her characters. I will emphasis this is book is not for the fainthearted. I cringed several times, however, I did not have the urge to look away.
Many of the books that I have read that tackle this touchy subject matter, have failed for me because they portray these deeply disturbed characters, yet they don’t offer any reasoning behind it other than. “He was hot,” With Mari, I knew why she liked being tied,whipped, humiliated because Ogawa doesn’t tell us she shows us.

He had undressed me with great skill, his movements no less elegant for all their violence. Indeed, the more he shamed me, the more refined he became — like a perfumer plucking the petals from a rose, a jeweler prying open an oyster for its pearl.

Does Mari glorify what happens to her? Yes. Is she an active participate? Yes. Should we judge what other people are into? No.

There is never a blurred line between the Translator and Mari, and this is why I could appreciate their story. This might be difficult for some readers to stomach. However, Ogawa doesn’t so much expect her readers to suspend disbelief, but she makes them want to understand her characters and their minds, and for me it worked.

What I loved most about this book was the writing. Ogawa’s writing is smooth yet simple. She doesn’t try to twist anything into poetry though it often times comes out like that anyway, and I loved it. All the hard gritty nuances of the story are laid bare for the reader. I fond myself glued to the writing and its dreamlike tone which carries on a serene feel throughout this dark story

Despite the BDSM troupe, this book is not solely about sex. It’s a story of loneliness and a psychological look at the mind of girl whose life has never been her own. It portrays her gaining some amount of control over her desires, even if it’s ironically handing that control over to someone else.

Overall, this is not for everyone. However, if you’re looking for something dark twisted and brutally honest then let  Hotel Iris surprise you.

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Book Thoughts: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore.

 

Mr. P “…this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.

Yeah, I want to shop in that store!

I hear, “Books about Bookstores,” and I go,

Drol

I love books (obviously) and I love bookstores (duh), and it’s my ultimate dream in life to possible write my own book someday, and to own my very own bookstore. Say what you will a girl can dream. So you can understand my lack of decorum when my two favorite things are mentioned in one sentence. The first official job I ever applied for was for my favorite indie bookshop. I didn’t get it, and it’s cool you know I’m not bitter or anything.

and

No seriously I’m OK.

 sna

I know how to lose with class.

So books about bookstores allow me to geek out in an unfashionably manner, and they allow me to vicariously live an experience that I would have killed to have had.

When it comes to this book about books, however, I am in a bit of a bind. I really loved certain aspects of the novel such as the characters the humor, the physical bookstore. Others aspects I found sort of meh, like the plot, the puzzles, and the grand mystery that was supposed to be the driving force behind this story. This could also be a common case of over hype. I may have expected this book to walk on water, so naturally I can’t help but feeling like I wanted more.

Mr. Penumbra s 24 hour Bookstore is located in San Francisco, and you’ll only find second hand book on its shelves, so don’t wander in expecting to find 50 Shades of Grey because chances are it won’t be there. So how does a second hand bookstore manage to stay afloat in these difficult times of Kindles, Nooks, and illegal e-book downloading? Well, that is because not all is as it seems in Mr. Penumbra’s quant little shop. From customers coming in at the oddest hours of the night demanding their books like so,“Kingslake! I need Kinglslake!” On top of their eccentricities, they have the tendency to borrow these strange books instead of buying. Clay our protagonist and shop clerk suspects something is up, and he recruits his nerdiest friends to help him solve the puzzle.

If you know me you know I’ m a massive nerd. I geek out in ways that embarrass everyone in my vicinity.I, however, I’m not ashamed. I earned my nerd stripes proudly, and I’ll rock them till the day I die. Reading the description of this one had me jumping for joy. I mean really how could I resist?

Book Description:

Books

Bookstores

San Francisco

Puzzles

Secret Societies

Codes.

Me:

Hell Yes!

The first half of the book went smoothly as planned. I was laughing and nerding out, and absolutely loving every second of it, but somewhere in the middle I was still laughing still nerding out, but the loving had been solidly reduced to liking dangerously approaching meh territory. After the big “reveal,” I was more like Whaat?! I wasn’t swayed to the cause, but my love for the characters kept me at it. The ending wasn’t bad really just a little too convenient, and a definite Happily Ever After that you don’t see much outside of HR.

This book wasn’t the complete package, but sometimes the little pieces make up for the whole. As I said before, the big mystery just didn’t work for me. There wasn’t much suspense or drama that you would think would come with a big secret like that. The coding and puzzling was more for the techie nerds, than the bookish -word puzzles -anagram types.

What worked for me. The characters. No one got on my nerves, sure some of them were caricatures, but for some reason that didn’t seem to annoy me this time around. They worked great together as a team, and Clay was a down to earth funny guy. He understands my kind of humor and his internal monologues had me cracking up. “

What if he’s dead? Or what if he’s weeping to himself in a lonely apartment somewhere, where his family never visits him because Grandpa Penumbra is weird and smells like books?”

“He’s the warrior, you’re the wizard, I’m the rogue. This conversation never happened.”

“We need a James Bond with a library science degree.”

The book also tries to blend the old and the new. Kindles and paperbacks, archives and the internet. It doesn’t try to belittle the past and stomp the old out of existence, but it shows us how books and libraries and written records are still important and always will be despite whatever Apple or Google come up with. Speaking of Google. Jeez that is one thing I could have done without. This book is almost a walking propaganda for Google. Everything is “Oh look how clever those Google folks are” or “They’re googlers they can walk on the sun and decode everything at the speed of light.” We all know google people are smart. Do we need to be reminded 27/7? I didn’t.

Other bits I enjoyed. Random pieces of info like,

“An e-book costs about ten dollars right? And it’s usually about a megabyte’s worth of text. (For the record, you download more data than an e-book everytime you open Facebook.)

And of course this wouldn’t be a book about books without capturing the essence of why we love to read. From the friendships we form through the books we love, and how much those books teach us about life. Whether we get our books through our fancy pants e-readers, the threadbare used bookshops, or the big chains. What we can all agree on is that books are lovely and important to us. They allow us to live different lives, and they keep us company after all the friends and family have gone home.

“Well actually I love books because books are my best friends.”

Book Thoughts:This Song will Save your Life

this song

Well, I will tell you: making friends is actually not that hard when you drop every one of your standards.

Or you can keep your standards high and lower your expectations of finding perfect people because newsflash perfect people do not exist.

face

 

I think my forehead is a little red from all of ^this I was doing.

I don’t know what it is about me and YA contemporary these days, but we are unable to find a middle ground. Could this be a parting of the ways? *puts hand to heart* I really hope not, but I just can’t seem to even with it these days.

Elise is entering her sophomore year determined to change her status from uncool to cool. Problem is she has no idea how to accomplish this feat. So what does she do? Takes hints from every magazine and movie she get her hands on, and she enters Glendale High determined to make some friends. Needless to say her plan fails epically, and at the end of the day, she’s worse off then when she started. However, there is one thing she holds on to, and that is her love of music which may not earn her a spot among the cool kids in high school, but it certainly does among the partygoers of an underground warehouse nightclub.

There was so much potential with this one. I thought I would be able to identify with Elise because like her I always hated high school, I’m awkward, socially inept at times, and I geek out about things that hardly any of my IRL friends understand. Unfortunately, Elise and I did not end up becoming one.

Elise is the kind of person who values people by what they can offer her. She demands everything from the people around her although she gives nothing back. And, when people fall short of her ridiculously high expectations, she finds some hidden flaws she never saw before so that she can then have deep epiphanies where she realizes that actually she doesn’t want them in her life.

But Amelia is nice. That’s all. That doesn’t make her my friend, that doesn’t make her special, and that doesn’t maker her anything I want her to be. It has nothing to do with me. She’s just nice.

 

face

Pft why would anyone want a “just nice” friend? Personally I like my friends vicious and mean.

So Elise’s plan at making friends didn’t go smoothly, but miracle of miracles she does make “friends” or at least people she sits with at lunch. People who actually talk to her and don’t tease her or make her cry like the rest of the school seems to do, and what is her response to this.

They are both less popular than me and I don’t know why, but I hope it’s because they are unbelievably boring. They have only one interest, and that is: what the popular kids are doing.

face

Really bit of the pot calling the kettle black there Elise. And, how are they less popular than you? At least these girls have each other, whereas before they decided to be “nice “ and let you sit with them you had no friends.

Have I already mentioned how self-centered this chick is? You know what I would do if I was lonely and didn’t have friends? I would try and be friends with the other people who are lonely and also don’t have friends. Of course having these two things in common doesn’t a friendship make, but it’s worth a shot. But, does Elise do this. Nope. Probably because it doesn’t occur to her that she isn’t the center of the world. I’m sure she thinks she is the saddest most loneliest person that ever existed. She only wants “cool” friends except she’s pretty self-centered when it comes to them too.

For example, in the beginning of the book she tries to befriend a girl who she later has some drama with. No spoilers, but this is Elise’s response to the girl.

Why? You didn’t even know me. I didn’t even know your name until two seconds ago.

face

 

How do you not know her name when 100 pages ago you were trying to be her new BFF?! My high school had a little over a thousand kids. My graduating class was in the hundreds, and I certainly didn’t know everyone’s name, but I would say I knew at least 80%, and I wasn’t even trying to be everyone’s friend, that is just something that happens when you share a space with people for four plus years, and you’re aware of things other than yourself.

There were other issues I had with this book and a lot more with Elise, but I think I made my point. I understand Elise’s pain and loneliness, but I just don’t think her attitude contributed in any way towards improving her life.

In the end, Elise does wake up a bit about certain things, but it was a little too late for me. The damage had been done.

The one thing I did like here was the music, I love music, and dancing and after reading this I added a ton of new songs on Spotify. I also believe in the importance of friendship which is a theme here however strangely it was represented. This could have worked for me if not for Elise. In fact, thanks to Elise I’ve now christened a shelve,MC-Not-FOR-ME.

When I started high school I can’t remember who told me this it might have been my BFF’s cousin, but the advice was simple, “High school is not the be all end all of your life, it’s not even the half of it, some people will be nice some people will be mean, make friends with the nice people, and avoid the mean people and you should be fine.”

Someone should have told Elise this along with handed her a copy of Mean Girls.

Book Thoughts: Red Rising

red rising

 

This was me when I read the description of the book.

Ohmygodsoundsamazingmustreadnow

This was me when I got the book.

YesfinallygoodbyeworldiamgoingtoMars

Me while reading this book

Muststayawakemuststayawake

I was so sure that I would love this book. All of the amazing reviews that kept showing up everywhere only added to my excitement. The people at my local bookstore swore that if I loved The Hunger Games than this was for me. However, here I am not loving this book, and I am very disappointed by that.

Red Rising takes place generations from now on Mars. Mars is categorized in order of colors which identify rank. Darrow our main protagonist, is a Red, the lowest order. His work is essentially to dig at Mars’ underground surface for the purpose of future terraformation. He believes that his work will benefit the future generations of Martians. However, this is a lie. Mars is already terraformed and grand cities and civilizations have formed. In fact, many planets including some moons have also been terraformed, so humans now inhabit various pockets of our solar system. When Darrow finds out about  this his anger becomes the catalyst in his attempts to bring down the Golds. The people who rule Mars with an iron fist. They believe themselves to be Gods and see the lower colors as ants. Darrow meets a group of rebels who give him the tools he needs to infiltrate the Golds’ society to become one of them, learn from them,and eventually destroy them.

Sounded thrilling to me, however, it wasn’t. I’ve tried to understand why this book didn’t do it for me, and I think I can peg it on Darrow. I am a character driven person. Especially when it comes to war/dystopian books. Emotions and stakes are high, and I need a character that I may not like all the time, but one that I always love. I need a main character I can stand behind, and Darrow was not that guy for me. He was too perfect, and as it usually is the case, perfection cancels out personality. Yes, he did have feelings, and he cared about people, and I knew that because he told me about. So much of his narration was telling and not showing. His struggles didn’t feel real. He passed all of test with flying colors. This was one of the reasons I didn’t care for Ender’s Game. Ender was also too perfect, and too detached from me to care about.

My greatest disappointment, however, lies in Mars. I am a sucker for anything that has to do with discovery of what else is out there. I enjoy reading what authors’ interpretations of what life on other plants might be like. So it goes without saying that I couldn’t wait to see what Pierce Brown had to add. I wanted to see what plants grew on Mars, what the landscape would be like, how people have managed to evolve and make the red planet their home. I wanted to go to Mars and instead I ended up in …Rome? Which I wouldn’t mind under other circumstances since I am also a history buff. However, the two in this setting, were not compatible. To be fair, Brown did have some descriptions of flowers, life above ground as well as below, and well the massive dictatorship tells me all I need to know about human evolution.

There are other things I can nit pick at, but I won’t. The funny part is, that if there were a film adaption I might like it . The visuals in this book are very descriptive and certainly adaptable to film. Which I now know there is actually a screen play in the works, so there you go. For me, however, this medium just didn’t fit for this story.

Overall, this just wasn’t for me. It was a constant struggle to pay attention throughout the reading, and when I was finally done it was a relief.

Book Thoughts: Magic Bites( Kate Daniels Book 1)

magic bites

 

Not sure

 

Well, I was planning to DNF this books at 50 pages. Not because it was bad. I’ll stress that there isn’t anything here that I hated. There just isn’t anything that I loved either. I couldn’t for the life of me get into it. I was bored with the info dumping, bored with this world, and the characters.

Then a few  peeps told me to hold on, and made me all sorts of promises that it gets better. That Kate isn’t such a distant prickly little thing, that Curran gets exciting, and the info dumping starts making a bit of sense as the series progresses. Me, never one to back down from a challenge persisted, and it did get better. Not to the point where I’m singing its praises mind you, but at least I can see the promise for more. I’ve read plenty of series where the first book was a little questionable, so I won’t hold it against this series.

The last half of the book is much better than the first. The characters loosen up a bit, the plot thickens and something actually happens. I even managed a few chuckles.

“Why a raven?”
“To honor my father.”
“The writing under it, is that Cyrillic?”
“Yes.”
“What does it say?”
“Dar Vorona. Gift of the Raven. I am my father’s gift.”
“The raven is holding a bloody sword.”
“I never said it was a nice gift.”

So there you go. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate. Still kind of iffy about it as a whole.
I trust the people telling me it’s good, so I’ll l continue on with book 2. Fingers crossed

Book Thoughts: Norwegian Wood

 

 

Nor

 

 

Norwegian
There is so much to rave about in this book and there is so much that has been said that what I have to say sounds like overkill. Funnily enough, for a book I loved so much I’ve had a hard time formulating words So, I’m going to forgo the usual summary and plot thing, and just jump into the whys as best as I can.

“I want you always to remember me. Will you remember that I existed, and that I stood next to you here like this?”

I’ve read plenty of amazing books recently, and I loved them all for different reasons. Some were page turning thrillers that had me up in the wee hours of the night. Others terrifying in their ability to get my heart pumping. A few were filled with mushily romantic adorableness. All had me excited, jumping up and down and thrilled to share my love for them with my friends. Eager to place them on my favorite shelves.
Norwegian Wood was different. It’s impact on my was subtler, so subtle that I barely realized how much I had enjoyed it until I had finished it. I walked around for the rest of the day just thinking and repeating words and scenes in my head.
Sometimes it really isn’t a bang that grabs you, but a soft powerful whisper.

It’s hard to describe why you love a book that is so dark. Why do you want your heart shredded and that empty lonely feeling that comes with death, loss of innocence, and unrequited love?And better yet, some of my friends might say, why do you want me to read it? Being a little dark myself, for me maybe it’s always been about finding a story and the words that help me not feel so alone. The same reason everyone reads. I read everything and I do mean everything. I’ve found beautiful books in just about every genre.However, it’s stories and writers like this that get to the core of where I live. It’s usually tied to where I am at in a particular moment in my life. I need words to describe what I’m feeling, and these books just hand them out to me. Reading this book felt similar to reading Harry Potter and Matilda as a child, The Book Thief and Jellicoe Road as a teen. It was something that said, “Hey, I know what you need right now. Here you go.”

I identified with Toru and his life. He’s like a male version of me. He’s nostalgic, shy, and awkward. He prefers his quite life with his books, and his music. A drink at the end of the day to wind down.

“Nor could I understand why he picked me to be his friend. I was just an ordinary kid who liked to read books and listen to music and didn’t stand out in any way that would prompt Kizuki to pay attention to me.”

He lives in the shadow of his much more gregarious friends, but he doesn’t really mind it. Attention bothers him. He has terrible luck with love, falls in love with the wrong person, has the wrong person fall in love with him. He doesn’t know how to handle situations, and as a result he often times gets it wrong.
Basically, me in a nutshell.

The portrayal of women is superb. They’re human. None of them are carbon copies of something, much less each other. They’re flawed. They’re emotional. They’re strong. No one tries to fix them, or make them something they aren’t. It’s sad that I have to mention this as a positive, like shouldn’t this just be a thing? But so much “literature” written by men and women-that I’ve read lately- has some really weak female characters, so it’s refreshing to see it done right.

Lastly, Japan, Japan, Japan. Can someone please just buy me a plane ticket and end my misery.

Haruki Marukami said he isn’t sure why this his most beloved book. I could really go on and probably write an essay as to why I think so. My hand written notes are overflowing with squiggles that flow into the margin, but I won’t. Partly because I don’t even understand what I am trying to say, and I really don’t want to get this wrong. Like Toru, I sometimes am the least vocal when I feel strongly about something. So, all I can say is this book is lovely in all its tragedy, and stunning in its simplicity.