This beautiful book was on sale at my local store. Since it had two of my beloved things on the cover – cat and books – I had to read it. Turns out, book is also handily sized, so it came with me to two of my long weekend trips in Europe. And it was a great book to carry around, here’s why.
This book’s protagonists are a tabby cat that talks and a young boy who has recently lost his grandfather, thereby inheriting an old and crumbly bookshop. The cat appears one day, out of nowhere, to present the quiet Rintaro of Natsuki Books with a challenge – to save books that are stuck in various labyrinths. These books have come unto the possession of people, who through good intentions or bad, aren’t able to care for books as they should. And so Rintaro must intervene.
What follows are the tales of the journeys themselves, this boy and this talking cat on their mission. The book forces us to think of our own relationships with books – those we own, those we read and those we love. Through introspection it makes us reveal what it is we value about books, and also a great deal about our own ego.
Of course, Rintaro has a lady friend, and she somehow gets embroiled in this tale too. It is very cute. I really loved reading this book. It has all the hallmarks of modern Japanese writing – a quiet protagonist, a cat, a moral somewhere in there and feelings you cannot quite put your finger on. And magic realism, which I love.
Let’s be honest. Despite the progress with vaccinations, this year too feels like last year in terms of travel. Some of us have also had to deal with difficult personal and professional challenges. The pandemic makes the days blur. Despite all this, I still find reading the best form of escapism. I have read some wonderful books in the last few months. Although, I have been moving from Scotland to England, and I have been busy.
To share my joys, I thought I’d compile some summer reads here for you all –
This is one of the finest pieces of travel lit I have read in a long time. Baker’s prose is evocative and atmospheric. He writes about the remote and forgotten places in my dear country Scotland. And every chapter will take you on a journey through the pages ad reams of time. I found myself thinking about this book long after I had finished reading it. And I can also see myself re-reading it a number of times. If you want to switch off from the world and are happy when your mind is wandering, do read this.
This is for non-fiction lovers. It is also a book I’d recommend if you want to learn more and participate in the race discourse. Through a collection of essays, Miller explores what it is like to navigate the world as a black man. But it is not just another book on the subject. Miller’s work is unique in that he writes about the things he has stopped himself or been stopped from saying. And there is a lot of that. Race is a topic of nuance, and this is a book that respects that and does not shy away from it.
If you cannot concentrate on reading for too long as the stresses of the pandemic are too high, then I recommend this slim volume of poetry. Duffy’s seletion includes poems from a wide range of poets, who all explore the concept of their children leaving. It is, however, a very emotional read. If, like me, you have been forcibly separated from your family during the last 15 months, then this is a book that you will be phoning them about. It is as immense as it is small.
For nature loves, this is a thoroughly delightful and unique read. Canton celebrates the oak tree, one that is central to the British isles. And he does so by picking a particular one dear to him and visiting it for a whole year, through all the seasons. What comes out is a wonderful read about the healing power of trees, the sense of entwinement with the natural world, and some introspection. Recommended read for a sunny afternoon in the park.
If, by some magic, you are travelling, then this is a book for you to take on holiday. Set on the Isle of Bute and with its murder mystery backdrop, this is a great read. The female protagonist is easy to relate to and her seach for the truth amongst the horrors in her past will keep you hooked. You can dive in and out of this, you can read and move on, or you can linger. Your choice!
2015 was a bad year for my reading. I picked up many books that I abandoned because I did not enjoy them. And then I just didn’t pick books up many months of the year. I tried to make up for it in Nov and Dec but that didn’t go very well either. That’s all going to have to change.
One of the things I’ve never done before is a Reading challenge. I’ve signed up for one this year, hosted by You, Me and a Cup of Tea. It is a Classics challenge, which will be nice as I really enjoy reading them. We’ll see…
Robin Cook has been my go to man for fast-paced, enjoyable, thrilling medical novels. For the last 15 years! Yes, you read that right… I read my first Cook when I was ten, and I have never looked back. I’ve read all 33 of them… he’s a great writer. That said, he has had his moments. Some books, like Abduction, were kind of not-that-great. But the Jack and Laurie series of books were stellar. And with his latest offering, George Wilson from LA is now my favourite doctor! In keeping with his uusualstyle of making medical ‘problems’ absolutely believable, in this book, he deals with the subject of technology. Cell in this book refers to Cellphones, which have an app called iDoc, replacing the need for traditional doctors. Of course, these things are being debated upon as we speak but in this book, as people start dropping like flies around Wilson, Cook presents a very chilling perspective.
How much technology is good? How much can we handle before it takes over our lives? these questions are important enough for grocery shopping, or the education of kids, or 3D printers and guns, but when it comes to the evolution of modern medicine, this question hits home deep. When the code behind an app starts developing ‘problems’, their developers are the decision makers for the rights vs the money. And the systems and political machinery that backs ventures such as these is also very ‘Big Brother’-esque.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked how the app seems like such a natural progression of our lives and then you see why real doctors are needed, why you cannot trust computers, and why, George loses his fiancee, his neighbour, a colleague, and a friend one after another. It is my kind of book, it raises my kind of issues, and it pulls it off with the fine kind of writing that Cook never fails to deliver. Must read!
I know I have fallen back on blog posts. Life has been getting in the way an so has various other forms of writing. But I have been reading quite a bit on the side as well. So book reviews that are pending are
The Lewis Man (Lewis Trilogy, #2)
Keep Your Friends Close
The Blackhouse (Lewis Trilogy, #1)
The Guga Hunters
They will be up soon, I promise. One has got to make time to write, no excuse there.
I notice some new followers, so I have renewed enthusiasm and eternal gratitude. Thank you all.
So I moved and obviously, now I have a new library. I found the latest Murakami and was very pleased. Of course, I’m not pleased now that he didn’t win the Nobel But that’s a separate post. This latest book, about Tazaki’s life and how he has to face the ghosts of his adolescence when he’s spurred on by his girlfriend, is a very different read from the usual. There isn’t even a cat!
Of course, there are dreams, and strange unrealities, and a parallel Universe, but they are not the crux of the plot. There IS an actual plot, so that’s quite a change as well. Murakami is a very versatile author and he seems to be experimenting a bit here. It worked for me. The storyline takes the protagonist into the deep recesses of his past and through in the future to Finland. There is a strange familiarity in the style of writing, like a cup of tea with an old friend. There is also the slow paced suspense of finding out how someone’s life changes based on which way the book goes. I really liked the character of the girlfriend – she is kind, compassionate, organised, and fun. I think I identified with her a bit.
The end is quite open, but depending on who you are as a person, your mind is bound to lead you one way or another. The author sort of hints at a possibility and leaves you, as a reader, to make up the rest. I liked this book 🙂
Tanya J Peterson was kind to invite me to be part of her blog tour and I was more than happy to take her up on the offer. After over a year since I reviewed Leave of Absence, I was prepared to be sucked into another tale of agonising and debilitating mental illness. ‘Nutshell’ is the state in which our central characters live – Brian and Abigail. Brian in in his early thirties and suffers from a chronic anxiety disorder He stays away from everyone and everything and has an ordinary job as a handyman at a local school. On the outside, he is a normal young man, who loved cycling to work, hiking in the woods, gardening and growing fresh produce, and animals. But on the inside, Brian is troubled and lost. Everyday actions like picking out a set of clothes, grocery shopping, and pleasant interaction pushes him towards severe panic attacks.
Life conspires and he meets Abigail Harris at school. A little girl of seven, she throws tantrums, behaves badly, and brings hell down if anyone tries to cross her. She lives with her Aunt and Uncle, who are at their wits’ end already. Brian and Abigail strike up a very likely friendship. It was clear to me as a reader that they both were dealing with similar issues. I also felt that Brian was the unfortunate result of an Abigail growing up in neglect.
This is the story of a beautiful friendship and a careful clutch of people who make this possible. One of the nice things about this book is that all the secondary characters are very well thought-out. They’re each indispensible to the story. The Harrises, Brian’s colleague Roger, the principal of the school, Brian’s counsellor, and Abigail’s teachers. Each of the characters is heartwarming in their efforts to ensure that both flourish.
While I enjoyed this book thoroughly, I felt, at times, that Brian’s ‘episodes’ were long drawn out and seemingly endless. But when I came to the bits where he was on the verge of receiving help, it made me want it so bad too, on his behalf. The author has managed to instill that yearning in the reader as well, which is pretty impressive! Worth a read!