**** 1/2
Very good
**** 1/2
Just okay
Not for me
Definitely not for me

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Review: Snow by Maxence Fermine

snow.JPG Yuko Akita had two passions.
And snow.

Yuko is a poet who loves snow and writes Haiku poetry only about snow. The Poet of the Imperial Court thinks Yuko has great potential but thinks his poetry needs more color. He then sends him on a journey to a blind poetry master named Soseki where Yuko will not only learn about poetry, but also about love.

I really loved aspects of this book and the language is lyrical, but parts of it just didn't sit right with me. It takes only an hour or two to read, though, so I do recommend it as something different from the usual that is not too time-consuming.

1999, 100 pp., translated from the French

Review: Silk by Alessandro Baricco

silk.JPG Silk is a novella about obsession, longing, and love. It's the 1860's and Herve Joncour, a married French merchant of silkworms, goes to Japan several times for eggs. While there, he meets a young concubine who is not Japanese but cannot communicate in anything except Japanese. Joncour becomes obsessed; meanwhile, his wife back home waits patiently for him during every trip he takes. Will either of them get what they long for?

Sigh. This was a well-written novella; but again, it was just too graphic in parts for my tastes. I have a difficult time believing that one of the female characters would write a letter such as the one found in this book, but who knows. On a positive note, this is my first book completed for the 1% Well-Read Challenge, so I guess that means I'm 0.1% well-read.

1996, 91 pp.

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Silence by Shusaku Endo

silence.JPG Based on a true story about the persecution and torture of Japanese Christians and foreign missionaries in 1600s Japan, Silence is a powerful book about faith (and doubt), truth, and the human spirit. What will make one person stay true to his faith, even under unspeakable torture, while another one does not? Why is God silent during suffering? These are the questions the book raises, and some would say it gives no clear answers. It is easy to say from our comfortable Western homes that we would never deny God under duress. But the Bible states that even Peter, a much loved disciple, denied Christ. What does it truly mean to stay faithful to God?

Repeating the prayer again and again he tried wildly to distract his attention; but the prayer could not tranquilize his agonized heart. 'Lord, why are you silent? Why are you always silent...?'

This book powerfully affected me, and I've already sought out more books by this Japanese Christian author.

It has been announced that Martin Scorsese will be making this into a movie slated for 2010.

1966, 201 pages

After Dark

afterdark.JPG I read this book for the Japanese Literature Challenge and the Notable Book Challenge. This is my first Murakami. I wasn't sure what to expect, and even though I am only rating this a 3.5, I will definitely read more by this author. I found his writing style to be very unique.

The book covers the encounters of several "night people" on one particular evening from 11:56 pm to 6:52 am. All of the characters in the book have some interconnection. I most enjoyed the story of the two sisters, Eri and Mari. One of them can't sleep and the other one won't wake up. I also enjoyed the philosophical discussions between Mari and Takahashi. I didn't really get what was going on with the TV/white noise thing, but it was interesting. Does anyone have a favorite Murakami? Although I might not get to another one of his until next year, I'd like to read more.

2004 [2007 in U.S.], 191 pp.

Strangers by Taichi Yamada

strangers.JPG I read Strangers by Taichi Yamada for the Japanese literature challenge. This was my first book for the challenge, and I don't recollect ever having read a book translated from the Japanese before. I first heard about it from kimbofo at Reading Matters , who gave it a perfect 5 star rating.

It's very atmospheric. I found myself thinking about it long after reading the novel, and the story somewhat reminded me of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Harada lives in a building on a very busy street in Tokyo. However, most of the units in the building have been converted to office space and, consequently, there are only two tenants there after hours. He's a little spooked by the quietness in the building at night but chalks it up to being recently divorced and unused to being alone.

One night he decides to go to his hometown where he meets a couple who are the spitting image of his long-dead parents. He keeps going back to see them to try to determine who they really are. There are other strange happenings in his life that I won't spoil for you here.

It's a short book that can be read in a few hours, and I encourage anyone interested in world literature to read it. The 'quiet suspense' of the novel impressed me and made me want to read more by this author.

(1987 [2003 in U.S.], 203 pp.)

The Kite Runner


The Kite Runner by Khalded Hosseini starts out beautifully:

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it's wrong what they say about the past, I've learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.

The description Amir tells of his childhood in Afghanistan is mesmerizing. Wanting to please his father, playing (and taunting) his friend/servant Hassan, dealing with the neighborhood boys. The first half of the book is very, very strong. However, the last third of the book I felt was too contrived, too formulaic, and too coincidental. I still became very emotional at times, but the 'wow' factor for me was gone. There were just too many coincidences in the end to make it a believable story. Overall, though, I did enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation. I'll also be reading A Thousand Splendid Suns in 2008.

2003, 371 pp.
Rating: 4

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