April 28, 2015

The Reading Book Post, April 28th

The Reading Book Post with all the literary news of the previous week

I know that The Reading Book Post is supposed to be published every Monday, but yesterday I've been travelling for almost all day. When I finally got home I was so tired that I didn't even want to look at the screen. Anyway, it's been a fun weekend, plus I got some amazing comic books! As usual, here are the most interesting literary news from last week.

  • Last week, on April 20, The Pulitzer Prizes announced the list for the 2015 winners. The winner for the fiction prize is Anthony Doerr for his historical novel All the Lights we Cannot See. I'm so happy to see this amazing book being awarded for such a prestigious prize! Also, Yiyun Li was awarded The Sunday Times short story prize for A Sheltered Woman. The short story was first published in March 2014 in The New Yorker and Li became the first woman author to win this prize.  

  • The announcement by PEN American Center that the Freedom of Expression Courage award will be given to the french satirical newspapers Charlie Hebdo has stirred the literary world. Six authors, Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi, have withdrawn from the gala, which will take place at the Natural History Museum in Manhattan on May 5.

  • Fight Club 2 is about to get published. The first issue will be out on May 27 by Dark Horse Comics and the covers are absolutely amazing. Meanwhile, the author Chuck Palahniuk explains the jump from the novel to graphic novel format, whether a movie sequel will happen and the biggest problems he had to face.

  • Are you a Girl Online fan? Then you will be happy to learn that Zoella is writing Girl Online 2, the sequel to her first best-selling novel. She has teased that the sequel will be written without the help of a ghostwriter and she is already in chapter 11.

  • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is due to be published on November 3, but this week the complete list of the short stories included in the collection has been made public. Among those, there is A Death, a short story that was published earlier this year in The New Yorker. Well, anything new by Stephen King is always welcome, don't you agree?

  • Another long awaited book is Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. The news we had this week concern its audiobook version, which will be narrated by actress Reese Witherspoon. This will be the first audiobook project for the actress and the unabridged version will be published alongside the novel's debut on July 14.

  • Which is your favourite Agatha Christie novel? This is what the Agatha Christie estate is trying to figure out. More than 80 novels are in the running to be named the world's favourite Agatha Christie novel and several famous fans of the author have already voted. This survey is to celebrate the 125 years from the birth of the famous novelist. The winner will become known in September, the month when Agatha Christie was born. 

  • Avengers: The Age of Ultron has come. Before we watch the film let's take this quiz, in order to find out which Avenger we are. I got Quicksilver, which one did you get?

April 25, 2015

Liebster Award Nomination

Book Blog Award, Liebster Award

Thanks to All Write-y Then.. for nominating me for the Liebster Award. Check out her blog! So here are the rules of this award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you (it's a common courtesy)
  2. Display the award on your blog, either in a post or display it with a widget/gadget
  3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, provided by the person who nominated you
  4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself
  5. Nominate 5 - 11 other blog
  6. Create a new list of 11 questions
  7. List the rules on your blog
  8. Inform the people/blogs you nominated

Questions from All Write-y Then..
  1. What is you least favourite genre? This would probably be Erotica. Basically, I read a lot of different genres, but this is one that I don't particularly enjoy.
  2. What are your favourite movies? There are too many to name them all. The Before trilogy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Star Wars trilogy are all favourites. 
  3. Do you prefer ebooks or physical copies of books? I prefer physical copies of books, but I read a lot of ebooks because it is more practical to carry it around.
  4. Your least favourite book cover? The one that comes clearly to mind is that of Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. This cover doesn't really make you want to read this book and it's a shame because it's a beautiful story.
  5. If you could have any magical ability (or type of magical abilities), what would you choose? That's an easy one. Mind reading, Professor X's style.
  6. What is your favourite mythical/fantasy creature? I have a fascination with elves and fairies, not just the ones in The Lord of the Rings, but also the ones in Celtic mythology (Irish Fairy and Folktales by W.B.Yeats is one of my favourite books).
  7. Favourite book when you were 10? This would either be Artemis Fowl or His Dark Materials (and they still are favourites).
  8. What real or fictional place would you most likely go to on vacation and why? It would probably be Tokyo as described in number9dream by David Mitchell. It's in the future and I'd like to see that.
  9. Is there a particular movie/book that you have an unpopular/controversial opinion on? This is The Hunger Games trilogy. Especially after reading Battle Royale, I can't really bring myself to think about it anymore.
  10. What book do you wish would be made into a movie? Artemis Fowl. Come on! So many fantasy and dystopian books are turned into movies, why don't you give Artemis a chance?
  11. Chocolate chip cookie dough: great ice cream flavour, or greatest ice cream favour? I like it, I don't know if it's the greatest, but it's close to being the one.

11 random facts about myself
  1. I've just turned 25 years old.
  2. I like some alternative rock bands, such as Muse, The Strokes and Smashing Pumpkins.
  3. I love baking stuff, you will always find at my place scones, cakes, muffins and biscuits.
  4. I've lost count of how many times I've read Pride and Prejudice. Apart from English I've also read it in Greek and Spanish.
  5. I find Captain America one of the most boring superheroes.
  6. I never really minded the Star Wars prequels.
  7. My favourite social media is Instagram.
  8. I always read the last sentence of a book. It's never a spoiler, but somehow I can tell if I'll like a book or not.
  9. With my friends, we play a lot of board games.
  10. I like all things floral.
  11. I find that reading on the beach is one of the most relaxing things ever.

My nominations

My 11 question to the nominees
  1. In what age did you start reading?
  2. With which fictional character would you hang out?
  3. Which is your most anticipated movie in 2015?
  4. What is your guilty pleasure?
  5. What is your favourite song?
  6. Do you prefer scones, cookies or biscuits?
  7. Where would you rather live? Both fictional and real places and why.
  8. Do you play any sports? Which one?
  9. Pop Corn or Nachos in the cinema?
  10. Which is your all time favourite villain?
  11. If you could only have one book, which one would it be?  

April 22, 2015

10 Manga for Thriller, Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovers

A few days earlier I posted a list with 10 Manga for Romance and Comedy Lovers and as I've already told you I prepared another one which covers other genres, such as fantasy, thriller and science fiction. In this list, there are both well known and popular series, as well as some of my personal favourites.

Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba

manga death note cover

This series, which is illustrated by Takeshi Obata, is without a doubt one of the most popular and perhaps one of the best manga ever published. The story is thrilling with great twists and it has some iconic characters. Both Light and L are intoxicating and their intellectual battle throughout the series is fascinating. 

Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki

Manga Rurouni Kenshin cover

Rurouni Kenshin is a historical series. Himura Kenshin is an ex-assassin, who is now working as a rurouni, a wandering swordsman. Set in the Meiji period in Japan, is an excellent example of a samurai story. It also has a little romance. 

Fullmetal Alchemist by Himoru Arakawa

Manga Fullmetal Alchemist cover

From the historical, samurai story, here we have a story full of alchemy. Two brothers, one who have lost a leg and an arm and another who his soul is trapped in a suit of armor. So, begins their journey to find the philosopher's stone, in order to regain their bodies. Another series very popular among the fantasy fans. 

Black Butler by Yana Toboso

Manga Black Butler cover

Black Butler is an ongoing series. Set in Victorian England it manages to build an eerie atmosphere. Indeed, this series is purely a horror one. Young Ciel Phantomhive sells his soul to a demon, who he names Sebastian Michaelis. The demon takes his place beside Ciel as his butler in order help him take revenge for all his misfortunes. Interesting, right?

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Manga Akira cover

The first Sci-Fi manga on this list is Akira. We are transferred in Neo-Tokyo, in the year 2019, when Tetsuo, a young biker, releases from cryo-stasis Akira who possesses a destructive psychic ability. The story is filled with high-speed action, intriguing story and well-developed characters, making it one of the most impressive manga you'll come across. 

Berserk by Kentaro Miura

Manga Berserk cover

If you want to read a pure medieval, fantasy manga, with excellent sword fighting then you needn't search anymore. Berserk is an epic manga and it has everything, intrigue, betrayal, nude, sword fights and a lot of violence. The story is a little slow, have in mind that the series started being published in 1989 and it's still ongoing.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki

Manga Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind cover

Another epic fantasy series, this time from the legendary Studio Gibli director Hayao Miyazaki. This manga might seem more familiar to you because it was turned into a movie in 1984 by Miyazaki himself. The manga isn't one of the most popular ones possibly due to the film, but it's sure a magical adventure.

Monster by Naoki Urasawa

Manga Monster cover

Monster in a profound series. Dr. Tenzo Kenma is a brain surgeon and one night he has to come into an important decision, whether to sacrifice the life of the town's Mayor or the one of a young child. He decides to perform the surgery on the young boy, thus saving him, but he has no way of knowing that he let loose a future serial killer. A great psychological thriller to give you the creeps.

Planetes by Makoto Yukimura

Manga Planetes cover

What is life like in outer space? This manga is about a team, whose job is to clean space debris from Earth's orbit. The feel is realistic, the characters are unique and it's a story based on people. Plus the art is amazing. 

Eden: It's an Endless World!

Manga Eden: It's an Endless World cover

This list ends with a dystopian series. A new virus has killed the 15% of Earth's population and has crippled many more. It's based strongly on Gnostic mythology and all the major character have names of gnostic deities and have analogous roles.

Have you read any of those mangas? Would you add other to the list? 

April 20, 2015

The Reading Book Post, April 20th

The Reading Book Post with all the literary news of the previous week

The Comicdom Con is only a few days away and I really can't wait. Apart from the conference it will also be a great opportunity to catch up with some friends that I haven't seen for a while. Anyway, it's been a relatively quiet week in the literary world and here are the most interesting ones:

  • The past few months more and more organisations announced their longlists. Now, it's the time for them to make their shortlists public. PEN American Center announced their 2015 Literary Awards shortlists for categories such as debut fiction, the art of the essay, nonfiction and literary science. Also, the 2015 shortlist for the Dublin Literary Award was released to the press. On this list, there is only one book by an Irish author, Colum McCann, and three novels in translation. Finally, the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction publicised its shortlist as well. We had seen earlier in March the longlist, and the final winner will be announced on June 3rd.

  • Gunter Grass, the Nobel Prize recipient, died at the age of 87 on April 13ht. His novel The Tin Drum caused an uproar in his country because it dealt with subjects that were taboo in post-war Germany and it became an immediate bestseller when it first came out in 1959. 

  • Time magazine published its list for the year 2015 with the 100 most influential people on the planet. Among those, there are two names of the literary world. It's none other than the Japanese author Haruki Murakami and the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

  • DC Comics has announced that a digital tie-in comic series will be published during the summer with the animated film Justice League: Gods & Monsters, which will serve as a prequel. The series will be launched digitally in July, the interior art is by Thony Silas, but the comic writer is still unknown. 

  • The art collective Le Gun has filled the well-known bookshop Shakespeare & Co. in Paris with Tales for the Void, an installation that consists of hand-drawn  sculptural books. Those "books" are scattered on the shelves of the bookstore and they are beautiful. What do you think of this installation? 

  • This week's quiz reveals which literary character you are. I got Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings. Which one did you get?

April 19, 2015

10 Manga for Romance and Comedy Lovers

Since the Japanese themed read is nearly over and the last thing on it is a manga series I decided to dedicate two posts to this art form. Today I will present to you 10 manga series you can read you are a lover of romance and comedy. The list includes both well-known and loved series, as well as personal favourites. 

Skip Beat by Yoshiki Nakamura

Manga Skip Beat cover

Skip Beat is an absolute favourite! The truth is it's massive, 37 volumes have been published and it's still ongoing. But don't be alarmed by this fact, it's one of the best that the shojo genre has ever produced. The story, a simple revenge story at first, is great, the characters are well-developed and it's hilarious. Plus, Tsuruga Ren is one of the best male characters!

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

Manga Fruits Basket cover

This manga is also one of the most loved ones. With its 23 volumes is a series that can make you obsessed with it. Apart from its romantic nature, there is also a strong fantasy element in a family curse. The climax is thrilling and it has one of the most interesting antagonists. 

Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori

Manga Ouran High Scholl Host Club cover

A slightly smaller series, with 18 volumes, Ouran High School Host Club is one of the funniest series I have ever read. There were moments when I would just stop reading because I was laughing so hard. The story in this series is amazingly built and the characters are all unique and memorable. Months after I've read it I still remember each one's personality.    

Hotarubi no Mori e by Yuki Midorikawa

Manga Hotarubi no Mori E cover

Hotarubi no Mori E or Into the Forest of Fireflies' Light is actually not a series. It's a collection of four one-shot stories, one for each season. The second story, the one that shares its title with the volume, is one of the most bittersweet stories ever written. I can only describe it as magical and deeply touching. The rest of the stories are sweet as well and the volume is one of my personal favourites.

Kodomo no Omocha by Miho Obana

Manga Kodomo no Omocha (Kodocha) cover

Kodocha, as is the shortest version of the name of this manga, is also one of my personal favourites. Older than the previous ones in this list, it's not only a romance but much more like a coming-of-age manga. Only 10 volumes long, we get the chance to watch Sana and Akito grow up and have a wonderful relationship. And they are so cute together!

Kimi ni Todoke by Karuho Shiina

Manga Kimi ni Todoke cover

This one is also a massive series, which is still ongoing. The art in Kimi, no Todoke is so amazing! Look how beautiful cover it has! The romance in this series, as a typical slice of life, is slow and gradual, taking things one step at a time. At times, it also feels dramatic, but in general it has a comfortable atmosphere to it.

Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa

Manga Paradise Kiss cover

At the end of this series, I was crying. Paradise Kiss feels heavy at times and things can actually go very, very badly. The romance indeed is bittersweet and really unique. It has some amazing fashion and diverse characters. George is very complicated, but he is very compelling at the same time.

Kaichou wa Maid-sama! by Hiro Fujiwara

Manga Kaichou wa Maid-sama cover

The President is a Maid as it's the English translation of the name is a hilarious manga. It has a strong female lead, which is forced to work as a maid, a "perverted space-alien" who is attracted to her and ex-gang members with soft sides. Have I persuaded you already? Ok, Usui is another reason to read this series and his killer line "just her stalker" can make me laugh without a reason.

Beast Master by Kyousuke Motomi

Manga Beast Master cover

A short and cute manga. Beast Master is a lesser known manga, but a true gem. It's only 2 volumes, but can put you in a good mood nonetheless. The relationship between the main characters is very difficult, but they are adorable. 

Red River by Chie Shinohara

Manga Red River (Anatolia Story) cover

Red River or Anatolia Story is a historical fantasy shojo manga. A modern teenager is transferred back in time in Anatolia and is saved by a prince. Many of the people and events are drawn from actual history when the Hittite Empire was near its peak. It's definitely a unique and memorable series. 

Have you read any of those? Which ones would you add to the list?

April 18, 2015

Info on Kafka on the Shore

Information of Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore 

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage

Date of Publication: 2006 (first published in Japan in 2002)

Number of Pages: 480


Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle - yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.

About the Author

Haruki Murakami is one of the most popular Japanese authors, with his works translated into 50 languages and selling millions of copies outside his native country. Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influence. His work has gathered many awards. In 1979 the Gunzo Award for Hear the Wind Sing, in 1982 the Noma Literary Prize for A Wild Sheep Chase, in 1985 the Tanizaki Prize for Hard-boiled Wonderland and the Eve of the World, in 1995 the Yomiuri Prize for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, in 2006 the World Fantasy Award for Kafka on the Shore and in 2006 he received the Frank O'Connor Internation Short Story Award for Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. In 2006, he was also the sixth recipient of the Franz Kafka Prize. 

Learn more about the author on his official website.

To learn more about Kafka on the Shore read what Murakami himself has to say about it in the interviews in BookBrowse and Paris Review magazine.

April 17, 2015

Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Title: Kitchen

Author: Banana Yoshimoto

Publisher: Grove Press

Date of Publication: 2006 (first published 1988)

Number of Pages: 152


Banana Yoshimoto's novels have made her a sensation in Japan and all over the world, and Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine of Kitchen, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, she is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who was once his father), Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale that recalls early Marguerite Duras. Kitchen and its companion story, "Moonlight Shadow," are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.


How can such short stories be filled with so much emotion? This was the first thought that came to mind when I finished reading Kitchen and indeed this book was an emotional rollercoaster. Both of the stories were deeply touching and heartfelt, although they were short and concise.

Kitchen, the first and longest story included in the publication, is about a young woman named Mikage, who has lost her grandmother. She struggles to get over the grief, but it's too difficult for her because she's left alone in the world, without another blood relation. But she finds hope when she moves in with a young friend of his grandmother, Yuichi, and his mother Eriko. After that she slowly gets closer to both of them, she finds a job and a new apartment. When tragedy comes to Yuichi she has to make an important decision if she will stand beside him or let him deal with it alone. 

In its core Kitchen is a love story, although death and loss and how to go on living after such a difficult situation are present all the time. But there is not a great dramatic gesture or a confession, or even sweet loving words. The feelings develop under the surface and the understanding comes from little gestures, like sometimes happens in real life. Sometimes to bring a takeout is enough, in order to convey the feeling of wanting to be together even if everything is so uncertain.

While Mikage is dreaming she has a deep conversation with Yuichi and they end up singing the above song. A simple act and a simple dream, but the next morning she learns that Yuichi himself had the same dream and their conversation was real in a telepathetic kind of way. It's fascinating to see how at home they feel with each other, even though they are in tough situations.

Mikage, Yuichi and Eriko are all likable characters. Although this isn't a novel in order to get to know their personalities very well, there is a deep connection with them. Their loneliness is profound and their thoughts on death are the ones that move them. They all had terrible losses and that's the reason why they can truly feel alive. Eriko is the most perplex character, as a transgender her life has been complicated. When she was a man she had met her true love, Yuichi's mother, but when she lost her she decided that she didn't want to be a man anymore. When Mikage meets her, she is a woman that always tries to achieve the things that she wants and is making everyone feel happy with her positive aura.

Moonlight Shadow as the author informs us was inspired by the song of Mike Oldfield with the same title. The theme is similar to that of the one in Kitchen. But, what is more important in this story is closure, a chance to say a proper goodbye to the loved ones you have lost. Indeed, Satsuki has lost her boyfriend in an accident and she barely deals with the fact. One day she meets a mysterious woman, who invites her to a peculiar phenomenon. The last time ever she saw him/ Carried away by a moonlight shadow and how much do regrets hurt. If only she had talked to him and told him not to go as he walked away, he would still be alive. But his back fading in the mist is her last image of her boyfriend and that peculiar phenomenon lets her say goodbye to him in that very spot. If she manages to ever let go we don't learn, but now we feel that the possibility is there.  

Kitchen is a book that touched me, made me cry and feel hope at the same time. It's highly recommended to anyone who is in for an emotional read. 

So, my advice is...

A lighthouse in the distance
To the two of us in the night
The spinning light looks like
Sunshine through the branches of trees 

April 16, 2015

Info on Kitchen

Information on Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Title: Kitchen

Author: Banana Yoshimoto

Publisher: Grove Press

Date of Publication: 2006 (first published in Japan in 1988)

Number of Pages: 152


This book contains two stories, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow, both told through the eyes of a pair of contemporary Japanese women.

In Kitchen, a young woman named Mikage Sakurai struggles to overcome the death of her grandmother. She gradually grows close to one of her grandmother's friends, Yuichi, from a flower shop and ends up staying with him and his transgender mother, Eriko.

In Moonlight Shadow, a woman named Satsuki loses her boyfriend Hitoshi in an accident. She becomes friendly with his brother Hiiragi, whose girlfriend died in the same crash. On one insomniac night out walking she meets a strange woman called Urara who has also lost someone.

About the Author

Banana Yoshimoto, born as Mahoko Yoshimoto, is a Japanese contemporary writer. She is the daughter of Takaaki Yoshimoto, a famous Japanese poet and critic. Her sister Haruno Yuiko is a well-known cartoonist in Japan. While in Nihon University Art College she took the pseudonym "Banana" after her love of banana flowers. Yoshimoto was awarded the 39th edition Best Newcomer Artist Recommended by the Minister of Education in August 1988 for Kitchen and Utakata/Sankuchuari. In 1989, she was awarded the 2nd Yamamoto Shugoro Prize for Goodbye Tsugumi. In 1994, her novel Amrita was awarded the Murasaki-shikibu Prize. She was also awarded several prizes in Italy while in 2011 her novel The Lake was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize.

To learn more about Banana Yoshimoto visit her official page or read her interviews on Bookslut and Banana Writers.

April 15, 2015

Review: The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

Review of the classic novel The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

Title: The Woman in the Dunes

Author: Kobo Abe

Publisher: Vintage

Date of Publication: 1991 (first published 1962)

Number of Pages: 241


After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman, and together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side through this Sisyphean of tasks.


Niki Jumpei is a teacher, but his true passion is entomology. His biggest dream is to discover a new type of insect and have his name written in the encyclopedias of that science. After a thorough study, he has decided that his luck will be in the desert. In the sand, it's possible that a beetle would have involved in order to survive. So he decides to take a trip and search in the desert. After many hours of walking and searching in the sand, he meets a villager that informs him that the last bus has already left and he agrees to stay the night in one of the houses in the village. 

This is when his nightmare begins. They accommodate him in a house in the bottom of a pit created by the sand dunes, in which only a woman lives. Every night she has to dig through the sand walls in order to protect the house and that very first night he helps her. But the dawn comes and no one lets him out of the pit, neither a word is said of him going away. This is when he understands that something is amiss. As the days go by he tries various ways of escape, but all of them fail. 

The story of this novel is very intriguing. The horror of this man's situation creeps under the skin, the futility of all his endeavours make the whole novel a nightmare put down to words. But the flashbacks and the illusions of the man makes it in some parts a little difficult to follow. The too much argumentative way of writing, although it reminds a lot Kafka's The Trial, is tiring and difficult to enjoy.

I also couldn't really connect to Niki Jumpei. His fascination with the sand is peculiar, his imagination though is exceptional. With the limited things he has available he tries to escape and almost manages it. The woman, on the other hand, is very mysterious. You can never understand what she's thinking about. She is always shy and never talks too much, but most of the time she seems without a will of her own, eager to serve a man she has never met before.  

To sum things up, The Woman in the Dunes although it's considered a classic, wasn't the most enjoyable book I've read lately. The story and the feel of the novel were intense. In the end, I almost felt the sand in my mouth. But it would work much better for me if the narrative was more straightforward. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a more argumentative way of writing.

So my advice is...

At least it has a nice cover!

April 13, 2015

The Reading Book Post, April 13th

The Reading Book Post with all the literary news of the previous week

Another Monday morning is here. The Easter in Greece was celebrated yesterday and soon the holidays will be over. In two days, I have my birthday and the cake is not a lie (actually it will be the Chocolate Celebration Cake from Jamie's Comfort Food). For once more, let's discover what happened in the literary world this week.

  • This week's award news concern winners! Atticus Lish is the 2015 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner for his novel Preparation for the Next Life. The other award in an art prize. To be precise, Tessa Farmer won the British Science Fiction Award for her sculptural tribute to Iain Bank's first novel, the Wasp Factory. 

  • A story written by Queen Victoria when she was 10 years old will be published on June 8. The story is called The Adventures of Alice Laselles, and the young future queen signed under the name of Alexandrina Victoria, aged 10 3/4. 

  • A fake play by William Shakespeare has been proved genuine. Double Falsehood was first published in 1728 by Lewis Theobald but was soon considered a forgery. Now a new study has proven that the play was indeed written by Shakespeare himself. 

  • Colouring books for adults are a thing. And they are amazing! Johanna Basford, a Scottish illustrator, tops the Amazon bestsellers list with her impressive colouring books, Secret Garden and the follow-up Enchanted Forest. I think I've just found myself a new hobby!

  • In a few days, 200 years from the birth of Anthony Trollope will be celebrated. To honour him, various authors pick their favourite novels, including The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right. Have you read any of Trollope's works?

  • The cover for the new novel by Jonathan Freedland has been revealed. It's the author's sixth novel and it's called The 3rd Woman. Expected date of publication is July 2. What do you think about the cover?

  • Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales are different to the versions and the retellings we are accustomed to. But how much do we know about the original ones? Test yourself with this quiz. Luckily I've read them quiet recently and I got 10/12, how about you?

April 11, 2015

Info on The Woman in the Dunes

After reading The Gracekeepers, I'm now ready to continue with the Japanese literature themed read. The next book on the list is The Woman in the Dunes, a book that is considered a classic. 

Information on The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

Title: The Woman in the Dunes

Author: Kobo Abe

Publisher: Vintage

Date of Publication: 1991 (first published in Japan in 1962)

Number of Pages: 256


After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.

About the Author

Kobo Abe was a Japanese writer, playwright, photographer and inventor. He studied medicine at Tokyo University, although he never practiced it. His style of writing is often compared to that of Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia for his surreal explorations of individuals in contemporary society. In 1951, he was awarded the Akutagawa Prize (the biggest literary prize in Japan) for The Crime of S. Karuma. In 1962, he received the Yomiuri Prize for The Woman in the Dunes while in 1967 he was awarded the Tanizaki Prize for his play Friends. He was nominated several times for the Nobel Prize and Kenzaburo Oe (who has already won it) declared that he deserved it. 

The Woman in the Dunes was turned into a movie in 1964, directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara. This is only a small scene.

April 10, 2015

ARC Review: The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

ARC Review of the novel The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Title: The Gracekeepers

Author: Kirsty Logan

Publisher: Crown

Date of Publication: 2015

Number of Pages: 320


As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland ("landlockers") and those who float on the sea ("damplings"), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives - offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.


Once upon a time the world was a big, endless ocean. There were only a few islands left, from the old world as we know it. The people who lived on those islands, the landlockers, were privileged compared to the ones that lived on boats, the damplings. Besides they were afraid of each other, they worshiped different gods and they rarely associated. The cases where a landlocker fell in love with a dampling and chose the sea were scarce. In fact, the people of the land considered the sea cursed and those of the sea felt unsteady on the steady land.

That was the way of the world where two girls, worlds a far from one another, grew up and tried to find what it means to be home. North was born and raised on the sea, making her living as a bear dancer in a circus. Her bear was her only true companion, the one who understood her and turned to keep herself calm during the nights. But she carries a secret that puts her position in the circus in danger, a baby that grows inside of her. On the contrary, Callanish was a landlocker. She was born with some physical peculiarities that connected her to North's baby and for that reason she was always wearing gloves and slippers. A terrible mistake, more likely a normal reaction for a small girl, made her leave her home island and she became a gracekeeper, the one that performed a resting for those who died at sea. The two girls met briefly but connected in a special way. This connection filled both of them with the hope that they can find the home they both longed for and a new beginning.

The story is relatively slow paced, although in the last ten chapters it speeds up. This fact though doesn't make the story less compelling. From the beginning you want to get closer to the characters, reveal their secrets and see them find what they've been looking for. The narrative, being from different points of view, allows you both to understand the way of thinking of each character and the way he behaves as seen from an observer. 

The characters are all well developed. North and Callanish are so likeable that you almost feel like you have known them for a very long time. Their hopes and their disappointments become your own. I really like the way that each character's motive is revealed, not only those of the two young women, but of the people surrounding them as well. Avalon, the wife of the ringmaster and the one that hates North, is one of the most complex characters in this book. In a way, you can even say that she is a tragic one too. Although in the end she gets what she wanted from the beginning, you never get the feeling of closure. The only thing is that I'd like to see more of the bear, to have a little more active role as the book processed.

What I really love about this novel, and it actually surprised me, is its theme. To find where you belong, the place you can call home and feel most comfortable in, is something that all of the characters desire. There are those that think they have found it, those who have lost it, and those that are on the way of obtaining it. This is not an easy journey and the obstacles are big because it's so easy to confuse what you really need with that you think that you need. Callanish is one of the characters that fall in this trap and is bitterly disappointed by the reality. 

No one would ever know what happened out there. Such small crimes.

I would recommend The Gracekeepers to anyone. I really enjoyed reading it and I basically couldn't put it down. I found this novel refreshing, well written with a fairytale-like feel. Don't expect a story filled with action, except for the climax which is pretty intense. The characters and the theme are what makes is worth the while. 

So my advice is...
Sail the world through its pages.

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange of an honest review.

April 8, 2015

Info on The Gracekeepers

Although I'm in the middle of the Japanese theme, I received this book via NetGalley and it seems so amazing that I simply had to read it straight away. So I will make a small exception and review The Gracekeepers first and then I will continue with The Woman in the Dunes.

Information on the novel The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Title: The Gracekeepers

Author: Kirsty Logan

Publisher: Harvill Secker

Date of Publication: May 7th, 2015

Number of Pages: 304


The sea has flooded the earth. North lives on a circus boat, floating between the scattered islands that remain. She dances with her beloved bear while the rest of the crew trade dazzling and death-defying feats for food from the islanders. However, North has a secret that could capsize her life with the circus.

Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean, with only the birds and the fish for company. As penance for a terrible mistake, she works as a gracekeeper, tending the graves of those who die at sea. What drove her from home is also what pulls her towards North.

When a storm creates a chance meeting between the two girls, their worlds change. They are magnetically drawn to one another, and the promise of a new life. But the waters are treacherous, and the tide is against them. 

About the author

Kirsty Logan is a writer based in Glasgow. Her first book, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, is a short story collection and The Gracekeepers is her first novel.
Learn more about her on her personal site.

April 7, 2015

Review: Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

Review of the novel Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

Title: Hotel Iris

Author: Yoko Ogawa

Publisher: Picador

Date of Publication: 30 March, 2010 (first pub. 1996)

Number of Pages: 164

See it on Goodreads: Hotel Iris


In a crumbling seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother tends to the off-season customers. When one night they are forced to expel a middle-aged man and a prostitute from their room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man's voice, in what will become the first gesture of a single long seduction. In spite of her provincial surroundings, and her cool but controlling mother, Mari is a sophisticated observer of human desire, and she sees in this man something she has long been looking for.

The man is a proud if threadbare translator living on an island off the coast. A widower, there are whispers around town that he may have murdered his wife. Mari begins to visit him on his island, and he soon initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure, a place in which she finds herself more at ease even than the translator. As Mari's mother begins to close in on the affair, Mari's sense of what is suitable and what is desirable are recklessly engaged.


When I first read the summary of Hotel Iris I didn't know what to expect. The pain and pleasure, would it be that of Marquis de Sade or something soft and mildly shocking? Either way, it managed to grab my attention and I dug into it with great interest. 

Mari is a seventeen-year-old girl, who lives with her controlling mother. They own an old and neglected hotel, the Iris. One night a past-middle-aged man checks in with a prostitute, but during the night they cause a disturbance and they are turned out of the hotel. Mari is drawn to the tone of the voice of that man, which is firm and commanding. Some days later she meets him outside and they start talking. Eventually they form a relationship, hidden from Mari's mother and the man, who we learn is a translator, initiates Mari to pleasure and pain.

The story is not something exceptional. On the one side, there is a middle-aged man who is widowed for many years and is taken with a girl much younger than him and so he feels much livelier. On the other side, there is a young adult who has dropped school and is trapped in a hotel with a mother too controlling. They both have their issues and their relationship has even more, but it's also a remedy to all those problems and they try to break free from. 

Both the man and Mari are difficult characters to explain. They both have likeable and unlikeable sides to them. The translator away from his house is very kind, he's shy and thoughtful. He's one of those men that try their best not to make the other feel uncomfortable in any way. But he has a tendency to violence when he feels threatened, for example when they don't let them into a restaurant. When at home he is completely transformed. He is authoritative, commanding and cruel. Mari is very observant, having grown up in a hotel. She is also very tolerant towards her mother and the translator, although being raised to such a controlling environment she seems familiar and even drawn to the cruel behaviour against her. Sometimes she even tries to make the man mad at her, for example when she betrays him with his nephew and when he finds out she admits it and hopes that he will humiliate her some more. 

The romance in Hotel Iris is bipolar as well. In his letters, the translator is very kind and gentle and professes his love in an amazing way. Anyone who saw me would think me odd indeed, but those with impoverished hearts cannot recognize simple miracles writes in one letter, and who can deny that those are some beautiful words to say, especially when they are told from the heart. Also, when they are together outside, they hold hands, they talk and they fall in that comfortable silence that you can only share with the one that truly understands you. If it was the only case I wouldn't mind the age gap between them, but it's not the only one. When they go to the man's house he disgraces her and humiliates her in every possible way, but Mari finds pleasure in it.

This pleasure though is brought with a cruel way. The man ties Mari in a way that she cannot move, he hits her with a whip, he slaps her and he even chokes her. He makes her put on his socks using only her mouth, she makes her move in the house and do several chores but without using her hands and she ties her in a way that her body forms different furniture in order to take nude photographs of her. But Mari enjoys it, even when she was losing her consciousness from the lack of air she felt pleasure. When she was putting on his socks she was turned on because it was the only occasion that she touched his skin. Ultimately they didn't have sex, the translator never took any of his clothes off. He explored Mari's body and she was enjoying it, but the act was never complete. 

To sum things up, Hotel Iris is a sexually-explicit novel. Both the sex scenes and the romance are disturbing and some might find them shocking. Cruelty doesn't bother me, so I was able to enjoy this book, although I would recommend it with caution. If you can get past this, the narrative is excellent and there is so much to discover in both of the protagonists' psychology.

So my advice is...

Beware of the cruelty.

April 6, 2015

The Reading Book Post, April 6th

The Reading Book Post with all the literary news of the previous week

Happy Easter everyone! It's been an interesting week. I started the Japanese themed read and so far I'm enjoying it. Today I'm waiting for the Classics Club Spin number, in order to learn which classic from my list I will read. Well, let's see what happened in the literary world this past week.

  • A few days ago the finalists for the Hugo Awards were announced! The ceremony will take place on 22 August and after it a list with the top 15 nominees in each category will be publicized.

  • The fangirl in me was really excited this week because the cover from the new novel of David Mitchell was revealed. As most of the other novels' covers (honestly the only one that I don't particularly like is Ghostwritten's cover), I found this cover amazing. Both in the UK and US edition, it will be the same. Slade House will be published on October 27th. What do you think? Did you like it?

  • George R. R. Martin is in the news, again! But this is actually exciting because he gave an exert from The Winds of Winter. It is a Sansa chapter and it is a first taste of what the next installment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series is going to be like. Plus he claims that he hopes to finish it before Season 6 premieres in Spring 2016.

  • The Millennium series has a sequel ten years after the author's, Stieg Larsson, death. After the successful trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Played With Fire and Kicked the Hornet's Nest), a fourth novel will be published on August 27th. It's called The Girl in the Spider's Web and it is written by David Lagercrantz, who got the approval of Larsson's estate. 

  • Sir Salman Rushdie, the Booker-prize winning author, joined a forum and rated some well-known and classic books thinking that it was private, as he said later. For example, he rated Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis with one star and To Kill A Mocking Bird with three stars. If found it very interesting to actually see the true taste of the writers, even if he was "just fooling around".

  • Any Archer fans? Well, in this animated show the main character, Archer, says as many literary references as other profanities and here you can watch a video with the most of them. Enjoy!

  • Did Jane Austen show the way to the #RealisticYA and #VeryRealisticYA hashtags? Well, this twitter trend surely reminds of Northanger Abbey, which parodies the melodramatic narratives of the 18th-century gothic novels. 

  • This week's quiz is a relatively difficult one. Can you recognize these beautiful works of literature from just the first line?

April 5, 2015

Info on Hotel Iris

After reading The Housekeeper and the Professor, I was very impressed with Yoko Ogawa and I've been meaning to read her other novels as well, the translated ones by the way. So I'm so happy that I get the chance with the Japanese theme to read another of her novels, Hotel Iris.

Information on the novel Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

Title: Hotel Iris

Author: Yoko Ogawa

Publisher: Picador

Date of Publication: 2010 (first published in Japan in 1996)

Number of Pages: 164


In a crumbling seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother tends to the off-season customers. When one night they are forced to expel a middle-aged man and a prostitute from their room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man's voice, in what will become the first gesture of a single long seduction. In spite of her provincial surroundings, and her cool but controlling mother, Mari is a sophisticated observer of human desire, and she sees in this man something she has long been looking for. The man is a proud if threadbare translator living on an island off the coast. A widower, there are whispers around town that he may have murdered his wife. Mari begins to visit him on his island, and he soon initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure, a place in which she finds herself more at easy even than the translator. As Mari's mother begins to close in on the affair, Mari's sense of what is suitable and what is desirable are recklessly engaged.

About the author:

Yoko Ogawa was born in 1962 and still lives in Japan. Since 1988, she has published more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction. She was introduced to the west with her short story The Cafeteria in the Evening and a Pool in the Rain, which was published in 2004 on The New Yorker. Ogawa was nominated and won many awards, more notably the Akutagawa Award in 1990. Her other works include The Housekeeper and the Professor, The Diving Pool and Revenge.

As an introduction to this author, you can read two of her short stories here

April 4, 2015

The Classics Club Spin #9

The Classics Club Spin list of books

The Classics Club is doing another Classics Club Spin. In this event, all the Classics Club members are called to read a classic book within a certain amount of time. But it's not that simple. Each one who wants to participate makes a Spin list, then the Club announces a certain number and the book that it's in that list's number is the one that you have to read. This is the first time that I am taking part in the Spin and I'm really excited about it.

So here is my Spin list:
  1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
  2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  3. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
  4. Howards End by E. M. Forster
  5. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  6. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  7. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  9. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
  10. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
  11. Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
  12. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  13. The Strange Case of Dr. Jackyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  14. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  15. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  16. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  17. Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  18. Nana by Emile Zola
  19. La Dame aux Camelias by Alexander Dumas-fis
  20. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

This is my list of 20 books. I haven't read any of this books and I've been meaning to for quite some time. Of course, there are some titles that I'm dreading, like Nana, Lorna Doone, Little Dorrit and La Dame aux Camelias. I hope that I will be lucky in my first Classics Club Spin. 

April 2, 2015

Review: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Review of the novel Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Title: Battle Royale

Author: Koushun Takami

Publisher: VIZ, LLC

Date of Publication: 2003 (first published 1999)

Number of Pages: 617


Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan - where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller - Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world. Made into a controversial hit movie of the same name, Battle Royale is already a contemporary Japanese pulp classic, now available for the first time in the English language.


Battle Royale is fierce, intense and violent. It creeps inside your skin and makes you tremble with the directness all this violence is described. And what makes this feeling even more horrible? The fact that all this violence concerns fifteen-year-olds. But it would be a lie to say that this novel is just about a violent game in a dystopian equivalent of Japan. For me, it felt like a study of human behaviour, friendship, morals, trust and love. Just like a miniature version of a civil war, or even life itself (minus the extremities). 

The third class of Shiroiwa Junior Highschool is selected to participate in this year's Program. The students though are unaware of the fact, they think that they are departing for a school trip, but instead they get drugged in the bus and wake up in a school building in a deserted island. They are informed that they indeed take part in the Program and they have to kill each other, in order to have a winner, the last student standing. They also find out that they wear collars that will explode if they try to take them off, attempt to escape or get caught in the forbidden zones. There are no other restrictions, they can hide, they can run from one part of the island to the other and they can form groups in order to help each other. But eventually they will have to kill each other because if 24 hours pass without a single kill then all the collars will detonate and this year's Program will be declared a failure. 

So, each student departs from that school receiving a single daypack, in which there is a random weapon, supplies of water and bread, a map and a list of the students participating. The weapons given can be from totally useless ones, like darts or a fork to extremely powerful ones, like automatic guns and rifles. All hell breaks loose even before they start departing the building. And thus the game begins.

At first everyone denies that they are in such a situation and they think that the best would be to wait outside of the premises for their friends, in order to protect each other and try to find a way out. But some of the classmates already have decided that they would participate and so seeing the dead body of a former classmate they all get scared witless and run. And those who do find their friends, they always have in the back of their mind the possibility of them being betrayed. It's so terrifying to learn that two students are friends for many years, but when they find each other they are so scared that they reflexively pull the trigger and fight each other. In the class, it's only natural to exist couples, or guys and girls that have a crush on a classmate. For those, this situation is the worst. Their options are either to see each other die or decide to die together by committing suicide at the same time.  

As you have already understood Battle Royale is filled with violence. And I mean that students get killed with every possible way. The question here is whether it bothered me or not. No, it didn't. There were moments where I was holding my breath, others that I was yelling at the characters "Don't go there!", "Stop!" or "It's all a lie, don't be fooled!" and others that I nearly cried. Actually I tried all the time so hard not to like some character because I was sure that I'd end up crying. Even with this precaution, I was still sad at the end of some chapters. But the violence itself never bothered me, it was raw and direct but never pretentious. The action scenes were so well-written that I couldn't stop reading. My favourite scene would definitely be the one where Kazushi tries to rape Takako and they end up fighting.

The characters are all interesting and unique, although some of them are not fully developed. Each one gets to be a narrator, thinks about his past and so we get to know the personalities and their way of thinking. There are those who hate to take part in such a game and think that it would be best to unite and revolt and there are others that are cold, merciless and try to be the winner. The main protagonist (because among those 42 students there is one that gets the attention), Shuya, is really likeable. He has a strong sense of moral, he trusts too much his classmates and has a strong love for the forbidden rock'n'roll music, which he thinks can bring revolution to his country. On the other hand, Kazuo is a guy who doesn't have any feelings, is merciless and he is, in fact, the biggest threat of Shuya and his company.

The writing of this novel was excellent. It manages to balance between intense action scenes with deep emotional ones. The only thing that left me wondering was the fact that so many girls had a secret crush on Shuya. I mean at least five girls out of an entire class had a crush on Shuya. Was it because he was good at sports and played electric guitar? Hmmm...

All in all, Battle Royale turned to be one of my all-time favourite books. In fact, it is possible that it's in that particular category such as The Ocean at the End of the Lane. For me, books like that make me see life in a different light and the feelings stay with me no matter how many time has passed. So, I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to read an action filled, adrenaline-pumped book and doesn't mind a little bit of violence. 

So, my advice is...

Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness/
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul/
Someday girl I don't know when/
We're going to get to that place/
Where we really want to go/
And we'll walk in the sun/
But till then tramps like us/
Baby, we were born to run