Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
By Haruki Murakami
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385352109, August 2014, 400pp.)

The Short of It:

Loss, longing and the power of memory. This novel is like a drug. I was mesmerized while reading it.

The Rest of It:

This is classic Murakami…and not.

Every time I discuss this book with another fan, we end up agreeing that it’s a classic but at the same time I cannot help but peg it as ‘different’ in some way. Let me tell you about the story first. It’s about a guy name Tsukuru Tazaki. He had some good friends in high school, two boys and two girls. They completed one another and there was no hint at all, that their relationships would not last. But to Tazaki’s surprise, all four friends stop talking to him. Instead of investigating further, he decides that he is the one “without a color” as all of their names represent a color and his does not. In his mind, he is the outcast and seriously considers ending his life.

But as he goes through life simply existing, he meets two key individuals that force him to reconsider. One is a friend who has many similar likes, and yet he maintains an air of mystery that Tazaki cannot explain. The other, is a girlfriend who forces him to seek out his friends to put closure on the situation. She asks him to do this before they can take their relationship further, and in his eagerness to move into the next stage of their relationship, he decides to find them and hopefully find out why they abandoned him so many years ago.

As a long time fan, I find that this novel is a mix of old and new. It’s much more straight-forward in the telling. There are a couple of elements that could be fantastical in nature, but overall, the story is simply told. The themes that I’ve come to expect from Murakami are all here. His characters are always these lonely souls searching for something or someone, there is always the question of, is it real or is it a dream? As a reader, you can’t be sure. The story can be interpreted many different ways and that is what makes this such an exciting read.

Many of his books can be “out there” with the talking cats, the sexy ear lobes, the awkward sexual encounters and the like but even though that stuff can catch you off guard, they are SO Murakami to me, that I missed them in this novel. Missed them, but not enough for it to affect my enjoyment of the novel itself. It’s a different type of book for him and it has me wondering if he is evolving as a writer. I know writers do at some point, but this work is decidedly different in tone. I still loved it, but I always wonder if the writing has changed or the translation had something to do with it.

It’s getting harder to choose a fave these days. To date, I do believe that Kafka on the Shore is probably my favorite but it was also my first and probably the most wild of his books. However, Colorless is probably right up there but for different reasons. One of which, is that a very similar thing happened to me a few years ago. Friendships can be complex to figure out in general but when they go wrong, sometimes there is no rhyme or reason as to why and it’s baffling. I cannot to this day make sense of what happened to me and at this point in time, I don’t want to waste the energy trying to figure it out but it sure makes for some good reading when it’s happening to someone else!

If you want to give him a try, start with After Dark. It’s not too long but has a good mix of what I’ve come to recognize as his signature style.

Murakami recently announced a short novel to be released in the US this December. What? Yep! Another one! This one is called The Strange Library and let me tell you, it sounds like it’s back to surreal city. I. Cannot. Wait!

Special note from Ti:

When I was chosen to be a Fan Ambassador for Colorless, I was given a few copies of Norwegian Wood to giveaway. I will be posting that giveaway soon but wanted to give you all a heads-up since I gave one away recently via Facebook and some of you might have thought you missed it.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Station Eleven
By Emily St. John Mandel
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385353304, September 2014, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Civilization ends and begins and through it all there is music and Shakespeare.

The Rest of It:

I’m not sure I can even sum this book up! This is a crazy good book but not in your typical sense of what crazy good is. It spans decades and begins with the death of an actor while he’s onstage during a production of King Lear. Through flashbacks, we get to know Arthur Leander, his loves, his personalities and all the relationships he’s touched in-between. His death on-stage is witnessed by many, including a child actor named Kristen, who later is part of the Traveling Symphony roaming what is left of civilization after a pandemic. The man who comes to his aid, and fails, also appears later in the story and is one of the first to figure out that the “flu” that everyone is coming down with, is not your average bug.

This story will haunt you. The visuals of a landscape changed by illness are chilling. I don’t want to scare anyone away from it so I will say this, it’s not your typical ‘end of the world’ scenario. You can read, even in the dead of night and not have nightmares but just the idea of art and music existing in such a wrecked and broken world is enough to blow your mind. Plus, the use of time is handled very well. I am not a huge fan of jumping back and forth in time to tell a story but the before and after in this one works to really give you an idea of just how much has changed.

Is there hope? Is it too bleak of a story? No. I think that the continuation of art in and of itself is a sign of something good. I’ve not read anything by this author before and I understand she has a few other books out. I will definitely check them out since I enjoyed this one so much.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Sparrow – Midway Check-in

The Sparrow Read Along

I’ve already finished the book and my review posts soon but here is my midway check-in without any spoilers so I can be a good read-alonger and not be called a cheater cheater! Trish, just poking fun at ya.

1. How is The Sparrow matching up with your expectations going into the book? Are you surprised by anything?

I had no expectations going into this book and actually knew very little about the story but I must say, it took a me a very  long time to get into the story. From everyone’s comments, I expected to be pulled in a little quicker.

2. Do you feel the switching back and forth between past and present to be effective?

I am not a fan of jumping back and forth between past and present but I do feel it worked for this book. It felt a little cheater-ish to know up-front that something horrible happened and then not be told what for a very long time, but it did increase the suspense factor quite a bit by doing it this way.

3. Which characters do you want to hug and squeeze? Any you’d like to strangle?

I liked Anna and George a lot but I tired of Sofia and her uptight ways. I also did not care all that much for Emilio.

4. Any other thoughts? 

It was written some time ago but not all that long ago. I thought it was written in the 80s. I was way off there. It was written in ’96 and has a sequel, Children of God.

I can’t say too much more without giving stuff away so I’ll stop here. I can’t wait for the others to finish so I can discuss it with them. The ending. Oh, the ending. Gotta discuss it.

The Sunday Salon: Hot

It is blazing hot here in Southern California My sinuses don’t know what to think. First it’s hot and dry, then it’s hot and humid and today it seems to be dry and humid which is impossible. Because of it, I have a raging headache and nothing I take seems to touch it.

In the big scheme of things though, life is going pretty well. After hitting church by myself, no one wanted to go with me, I came straight home, enjoyed a salad and some leftover gluten-free pizza and pretty soon I am going to find myself a comfy spot and take a nap. My head hurts too much to read right now but maybe a nap will do the trick.

Rehearsals for Annie begin tomorrow (Monday) and on Wednesday, the audition process begins. It’s always an exciting time.

Sunday Salon

Let’s see, what else is going on? Well, we had a lovely dinner last night. The Teen’s girlfriend and family came over for pizza and salad. We grilled peaches for dessert, topped with cinnamon butter and vanilla bean ice cream. It was really good. I meant to take a picture but I gobbled it up before I could.

What am I reading?

Well, I finished The Sparrow for the read along Trish was hosting. It’s quite a book. After reading it I felt slightly beat-up and needed something with a lighter tone so I picked up The Way Inn by Will Wiles. It’s a crazy book. I find it funny but the reviews are not that great which has me wondering about the end, of which I am almost to.

Next up? The Bone Clocks.

What am I cooking?

Not a thing. We had leftovers for lunch and I am not ready to even think about dinner. When it’s hot like this, food does not sound good. I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving though, which is so weird considering it does not feel like fall here at all.

What am I watching?

I watched Pitch Perfect for the first time ever. The Girl forced me to watch it and I was not looking forward to it at all but I really liked it. I don’t know what I thought it was about but I had no idea it was about a choir. With my kids in theater and choir, I can’t believe I didn’t see it earlier.

I recorded a bunch of I Love Lucy episodes and plan to sit down and have a Lucy fest later this afternoon. Those shows are so comforting to me.

What are you up to today?

Oh, and if you don’t have reading plans for October join our read along! We are reading Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and it’s going to be awesome! Scary carnival, guys. How can you resist?

Something Wicked This Way Comes button

Review: The Painter

The Painter

The Painter
By Peter Heller
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385352093, May 2014, 384pp.)

The Short of It:

Thoughtfully written novel about anger and loss. Surprisingly deep.

The Rest of It:

What did I expect when I picked this up? I seriously went into it without much knowledge about the story itself and sometimes that is a great way to go into a book. The only thing I  knew beforehand, was that I enjoyed Heller’s other novel, The Dog Stars and apparently, that’s not a bad way to choose a book because I really enjoyed this one.

The story is simple. Jim Stegner is sitting in a bar one day when one of its patrons makes an off-color remark about his daughter. Jim, not a man to let such a thing go, shoots the guy and goes to prison for it. Years later, after serving his sentence he chooses not to return to the Santa Fe art scene he left behind. Instead, he heads to rural Colorado to paint in solitude, fly fish and remember the marriage that he once had, and the daughter he lost to drugs.

This quiet novel stays with you long after reading it. Stegner is an interesting guy. He expresses himself through his paintings, but his temper gets him into trouble and when he sees a guy beat a horse on the side of the road, he can’t help but act and of course this starts a chain of events that he cannot ignore. Through it all, the reader is in his head as he ponders his predicament and somehow, he is not the bad guy no matter what he chooses to do. He’s imperfect but at the same time, his actions seem logical which makes him easy to relate to.

The writing is almost poetic. Sometimes, even lyrical in nature. It’s not flowery or overdone but it’s simple and lovely and I remember feeling the same way about The Dog Stars. I kind of dig his style. It’s no-nonsense and yet deep. It’s also a very quick read. I highly recommend it because there is all kinds of stuff to sink your teeth into.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Why, Hello There!

Reading Gives Us Someplace to Go

Seen at Amy Miles Books

It’s one of those weeks.

After a glorious birthday weekend, I am in a funk. Too much to keep track of and I am feeling a tad overwhelmed. It happens this time of year. My brain is ready to move into fall but the weather says otherwise so I am all out of whack.

I really need to sit down and write all of the reviews that I’ve worked out in my head. I think I am at least six books behind. One good thing, is that the reading continues. I am nearing the finish line with The Sparrow. I am not sure what to make of this book. It’s not at ALL what I imagined it to be. Some chapters I love, some…not so much. I think I need to finish it before I say more because everyone who has read it says it blew their mind. Thank goodness for reading or I’d lose my mind.

I am trying to get stuff in order this week because everything seems to be starting up next week. Choir, drama, community theater, cheer camp, booster club meetings, my promise to build a webpage, bake sales… it’s all starting up and it’s time to dust off the calendar (I still use paper in addition to an app).

None of this new but as I get older I seem less able to deal with it all. I know some of you can relate. I think it’s a lack of patience on my part.

Just so I don’t leave you all on a down note, I am going to make a list of all the things I am looking forward to. You can add your own items in comments if you’d like to jump on board with me.

Looking forward to…( in no particular order)

  • Dinner with friends this weekend.
  • Next week’s kick-off of Annie. Both kids will be auditioning for roles.
  • Football, high school and professional. Can’t say I follow the games too well but I enjoy watching.
  • Seeing The Teen in The 39 Steps later this year.
  • Taking The Girl to see Wicked. I have seen it twice but she was too young when it hit town the first time.
  • Celebrating The Girl’s birthday in October.
  • Candles! I love candles. I can’t wait until the weather cools off a little so I can light them up.
  • The Something Wicked This Way Comes read along that Sandy and I are hosting in October! Bradbury! Carnival setting! LOVE it.
  • Spiced cider.
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds.
  • Scary movies.
  • Scary reading. RIP IX? Yep.
  • Fall back (time change)
  • Holiday time off. Vacation requests, approved! YES!
  • The November release of Revival by King. I plan to do a read along for that one too.
  • The new short novel that Haruki Murakami will be releasing in December (The Strange Library). I kid you not.
  • Had to add American Horror Story, Season 4 and The Walking Dead, Season 5. Lordy! Cannot forget them!

I will leave it at that but I could go on and on. What are you looking forward to?

 

The Sunday Salon: Celebrating

Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday! I am tired and happy, which is a good feeling after a wonderful weekend. The weekend started with me taking Friday off, which happened to be my birthday. I did absolutely nothing! I slept and read and that’s about it.

Saturday, we headed out to breakfast and then drove up to Ojai. It was a gorgeous, but hot day and Ojai was showing signs of drought (in a big way). We browsed the little shops and the outdoor bookstore and then just couldn’t take the heat anymore, so we piled back into the car and headed to Santa Barbara.

We shopped, had pizza, treated ourselves to McConnell’s ice cream and then we called the In-laws who happened to be staying in Santa Barbara for the weekend and they invited us to dinner! We didn’t get home until very late but it was a wonderful day.

Santa Barbara

I also bought myself a little gift, which I never do. I usually carry a backpack to work and since I work on a college campus it works but it’s bulky. I saw that Timbuk2 recently redesigned their messenger bag so… I picked one up. My biggest “if” right now is if I should return it for a small. I got a medium which fits my laptop but most days, I am not taking my laptop with me. Decisions.

Messenger Bag

What am I reading?

I am reading The Sparrow for a read along (#SparrowRAL). It’s gotten very good, but also a little strange. I am also reading The Little Friend (still). I am really loving it but I put it aside so I could catch-up with the read along.

I announced it last week but a group of us will be reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury in October (#EnterTheRingmaster). If you’d like to join us, click on the badge below for details.

Something Wicked

What am I cooking?

Uh, no food in the house (again). Sad huh? But, I am craving Chicken Tortilla soup so maybe I will hit the store to buy the ingredients I need. We are expecting rain today and tomorrow but it’s already hot and does not look like rain AT ALL. Oh my gosh. My yard really needs some water.

What am I watching?

Not much. I did watch Pacific Rim this week and it was really good. We have a free movie preview right now but nothing is on that I really want to see. We watched Funny Farm and of course, football is on right now so the TV is not mine to mess with.

What are you up to this weekend? I am trying to get The Girl up so we can go to church and then the rest of the day is a big question mark.

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