Thursday, February 12, 2015

Opening doorways to wonder and tragedy

Kafka on the ShoreKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was not an easy book to read. I'm used to books that are more action oriented rather than introspective; the shift took some getting used to. The dilemma faced by the fifteen year old protagonist was diametrically different from my halcyon days of the same age; but some things still resonate.

Kafka is a fifteen year old boy who ran away from home to keep himself from fulfilling a terrible prophecy. Nakata was a man who lost himself at the cusp of adolescence and was rendered mentally differently abled as a result. I still don't understand why Kafka's narrative was in the present tense and Nakata's in the past, but I think that has something to do with the different trajectory of their journey.

The book have talking cats, hidden forests, and a sense of lyrical magic that intertwines through the whole story; a sense of foreshadowing, a glimmer of innocence and unexplained resonance with the psyche. A very interesting examination of Japanese culture past and present, as well as a snapshot in a moment that is neither modern nor obsolete.

This is not a book to be read and discarded; but one to be poured over and contemplated. I really had to resist the resistance to scribble on the margins just so I could keep track of what's in my head.

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Wild and Steamy

Night Shift (Kate Daniels, #6.5; SPI Files, # 0.5; Psy-Changeling, #12.5)Night Shift by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anthologies can be pretty hit and miss for me, but I'd still grab it if it has an author (or two) that I adore. This book delivered to me new novellas by Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook (under the pseudonym Milla Vane) so I'm pretty happy about it all.

The first story was by Nalini Singh in her Psy/Changeling universe. I've not read the series but this novella gave a good introduction to the world and is intriguing enough to make me want to look up for more. Bastien Smith was a leopard on a mission to hunt down his mate but her elusive here-and-not-here scent is driving him nuts and leading him down many a false trail. When he finally found Kirby, he had to help her reconcile her with her wild side for them to come together as a whole. Steamy and sensuous are perfect to describe this little sojourn in the Psy/Changeling 'verse.

Ilona Andrews' romp with our favourite Security Chief of Atlanta's Pack and Dali Harimau was utterly satisfying and left me wanting more. The writing team did an excellent job weaving tributes to magic culture from Indonesia and other parts of the world in their writing in an engaging and respectful manner and this novella was no different. I do hope that they'll write a longer story for Dali and Jim after putting them both through the emotional wringer in their path to become a mated pair.

I don't remember if I've read Lisa Shearin before; she penned here a first-day-on-the job nightmare for her protagonist and made it feel like a prologue piece. Interesting world building, but the limitations of a novella perhaps made the story line a little clunky.

I was a fan of Red Sonja and Conan the Barbarian movies as a child. Milla Vane hit that kink here like whoa with her fabulous barbarian romance. The journey of Mala and Kavik was condensed in this intense novella with the right amount of sizzle, adventure and ass-kicking action. And what I love most was how they saved each other.

In short, this book is super fun even if the only two stories that I re-read obsessively was the 2nd and 4th novella. *grin*

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