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My impressions of 1Q84

Disclaimer: This post is my opinion of Murakami’s work and it will be full of spoilers. If you have not yet read the book and do not appreciate spoilers, please skip this post. Instead of reading this you can go check out Geri’s game, or Alma, or how fascinating differences can be. Or just read about the day a venti skinny peppermint mocha tried to kill me. Your call.

103575751Q84 is a novel by Haruki Murakami originally published in Japan in three volumes but released as a single volume in the US. It’s an international best seller and it’s Murakami’s 12th published book. The letter Q and the number 9 are homophones in Japanese. The title is a play on the Japanese pronunciation of the year 1984, a reference to George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eight-Four.

In all honesty, after learning all that about it, I had really high hopes when I started reading this book. I had been trying to get my hands on it for quite some time and was eager to know what was so amazing about it. Thinking back I realize I set my expectations too high, and that’s never a good thing. The best thing is to have low expectations, so you can never get disappointed. But some things are easier said than done.

The novel opens with a very vague first paragraph. It doesn’t cause an impact and things start very slowly. For a long time I felt lost, not knowing where the story was going or what was the connection with Nineteen Eight-Four. There’s a lot of repetition throughout the chapters, including information that is given again and again, as if I was not capable of retaining information as I read the book. The first two books go back and forth between two different point of views: Aomame’s and Tengo’s. The third book introduces a third point of view: Ushikawa’s. Bits of information are dropped here and there but the reader is left wondering what the H is really happening. And yes, good books do not review all their secrets at once, and curiosity does move you forward and makes you eager to know what happens next, but too little information can be frustrating.

At times there was too much telling when a simple showing would suffice. One example is when Tengo is cooking. It is explained to the reader how that was not a chore to him, dishes are explained to specific details, and it’s said how the character likes to use this time to think about things. Honestly, I don’t think it was necessary, and it even slowed me down. Just show me Tengo thinking while chopping one thing. That’s all I need.

I also felt that characters reached the right conclusions way too easily. Ushikawa, for example, when investigating why the dowager helps victims of domestic violence, concludes that the dowager’s daughter did not die of illness, but that she took her own life. Really? Is that the most reasonable conclusion? I would have thought the daughter had probably died as a victim of domestic violence; that the violence she suffered either left her to die from injuries inflicted on her by the abuser or had led her to give up hope and commit suicide. That would have been a more reasonable way for a character to reflect on the dowager’s real motives.

Then, as we get closer to the end of the book, things seem to get sloppier. We have the narrator’s POV during Aomame’s POV, which was not a resource used throughout the book, so it was just odd it was dropped there all of a sudden. It was as if the author couldn’t think of a way to deliver the message to the reader. In Tengo’s POV we have another character telling his story, and for a chunk of the chapter it becomes his POV instead of Tengo’s. Then in Ushikawa’s POV, in a chapter he’s being tortured and blindfolded, we have the name of the torturer, which is something Ushikawa couldn’t possibly know, being dropped from nowhere. We, readers, know who that person is, but Ushikawa shouldn’t know. And we shouldn’t have a description of the aggressor closing his eyes or anything like that, since the chapter was supposed to be from Ushikawa’s POV, relating only what Ushikawa could hear or sense (he’s blindfolded, after all). And in chapter 29 (book 3), since it says the chapter is from Aomame’s POV, we shouldn’t have the whole chapter narrated from Tengo’s POV.

Those little things really bothered me. Maybe some of them are due to translation issues, but I doubt all of them are. And I know it’s a book written in a different language through the eyes of someone who lives in a different culture, but that shouldn’t change things that much. But the most frustrating part, for me, was that one of the main characters is a writer! He talks about writing, he talks about fixing issues with a book written by someone else, a book where details are not explained. His editor tells him that when something new is introduced, something people don’t yet know about it, it must be explained as well as possible. He talks about those things and makes such silly mistakes. He introduces elements we do not have in this world we live in, and does not provide us a good explanation, or even a good image. He leaves his readers confused at times, when they needn’t be.

Other than that, I do think the book has a nice story in it. I don’t think it is as great as some make it seem, though. Sometimes I wonder why a particular book is a best seller, and what makes people thinks something is so great. I have already reached the conclusion that being a best seller does not guarantee a book will be good, but I’m still curious as to what draws people’s attention to it so much. Don’t take me wrong, the book does have good points, but overall, I’m not as happy with it as I hoped I’d be.

So, did you read the book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other books by Murakami?

Quotes:

“That’s what the world is , after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.”

“Even if we could turn back, we’d probably never end up where we started.”

“Most people are not looking for provable truths. As you said, truth is often accompanied by intense pain, and almost no one is looking for painful truths. What people need is beautiful, comforting stories that make them feel as if their lives have some meaning. Which is where religion comes from.”

“Perhaps this was the wisdom with which a child in her position survived: by minimizing her wounds–staying as small as possible, as nearly transparent as possible.”

“(…) but if she actually put it into words, the facts contained in the ‘something’ might irretrievably become more definite as facts, so she wanted to postpone that moment, if only briefly.”

“It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.”

 

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Anya’s Ghost

anyas-ghostHave you read it? I’m not going to lie, I don’t usually read graphic novels. I saw the name Vera Brosgol somewhere, saw she was involved with the film Coraline (as storyboard artist) and was curious, so I looked for her as an author at my library’s website. That’s how I found Anya’s Ghost.

The cover was interesting and so I decided to give it a try. It started out as a story about a girl having a hard time fitting in at high school. Then she skips school and falls down a well. This is the moment you yawn, right? Not really.

Inside the well there’s a skeleton. And the skeleton has a ghost. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the title of the book, of course. But who is this ghost? Is she a friendly ghost? What’s her motivation to do what she’s doing?

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, so I’ll just say I really enjoyed the book. And don’t try to speed-read it. Take your time and enjoy the pictures, the expressions, the looks, they are all there for a reason.

If you’re curious about the author, you should check out her website: verabee.com.

 

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The Book Thief

book-thief_custom-5556fa04c9c8b2854fecdce5f096940a892255db-s6-c10The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is the story of Liesel Meminger, a blonde girl with dark brown eyes, living with a foster family in Germany during World War II. But the most interesting thing is the narrator of the story: Death.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. (Random House)

It’s just a small story really, about, among other things:

* A girl
* Some words
* An accordionist
* Some fanatical Germans
* A Jewish fist fighter
* And quite a lot of thievery

I saw the book thief three times.

A long time ago my grandmother was reading this book and insisted I read it. At the time I was busy with other things and found excuses not to do so. Then last December I saw the title again and decided to give it a try. But I read about a third of it and had to return the book to the library. At the end of January I got the book again and devoured the last two-thirds of it.

When I was done reading the last page I felt this emptiness inside of me. Do you know what I mean? It was as if I had been in a cave and had suddenly emerged from it. My eyes took their time getting used to the light of day once again. That’s how I felt. I held the book in my hands and just said the last line of the book in my head.

I loved it! And that made me really, really sad.

You see, I love libraries. Love them! I love going to the library and just touching the books on the shelves. I love the ability of reading anything I want without having to worry about money. To be honest, if I could, I’d buy all the books I want to read. But unfortunately I don’t make that much money. And that’s why libraries are so amazing, because they are for everyone, regardless of how much money they make.

But every now and then, when I read a book I truly enjoy, I get sad because I know I have to return the book. It’s not my book to keep. Is this silly? Maybe it is. But it’s okay. At least I have one more book to add to my ever-growing list of books to buy even though I’ve already read them.

If you have a chance, read it. It truly is an unforgettable story.

A few quotes:

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

“If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter.”

“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.”

“I like that every page in every book can have a gem on it. It’s probably what I love most about writing–that words can be used in a way that’s like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They’re the best moments in a day of writing — when an image appears that you didn’t know would be there when you started work in the morning.”

“Can a person steal happiness? Or is just another internal, infernal human trick?”

“You cannot look afraid. Read the book. Smile at it. It’s a great book – the greatest book you’ve ever read.”

“I am haunted by humans.”

 

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Signed copies

i-died-once-coverDo you like books? Of course you do! If you didn’t… well… who doesn’t, right? I always believed that people who say the don’t like to read is because they spent their lives reading what [insert here name of school/ adult/ organization] told them to and never ventured out there to find something else. The fact that someone likes a book doesn’t make that book perfect for you. And sometimes we must read the book ourselves to see what we think of it. Have you ever seen how many different opinions you can find if you try to find reviews from books?

So how do you feel about copies signed by the author? Pretty cool, huh? I couldn’t care less about autographs from celebrities (sorry guys) but I love books signed by the authors.

Okay, so James Mahoney has a deal on his website for signed copies of his books. You can click on the book titles to know more about them. On his website, not here, of course.

 

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Life is about the little things that make us happy, right?

Sorry about the last post, people. I was feeling down and just had to vent a little. I try to remind myself that things happen when they are supposed to happen, that there’s a reason for everything, and that there’s also a right time for everything, and that it’s not up to us to decide when and how things are going to happen. I believe that if I’m here and if things are the way they are is because that’s how it’s all supposed to be. Not that I think we should all sit back and wait for everything to just magically solve itself, but that there are things we can’t control simply because we can’t really grasp all the future consequences of our choices.

We constantly ask ourselves if things would be different had we chosen a different path, and to that I think the answer is yes, things would be. Had I married my high school sweetheart I would be in a completely different place right now. Had I married my ex-fiance I would have never moved here. Had I not decided to move from my hometown to a place where I literally knew no one, things would certainly not be the same. But can I say things would be better? No, I can’t. And to be honest, I believe that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. No, things didn’t turn out the way I expected them to, but they are a result of the choices I made in life. And for now that’s good enough for me.

So moving on, guess what great news I have just received that made me do a little happy dance? I’ll be seeing Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess in March! She’ll be on a book tour and will finally come to my town! Not only that, but she’ll be here on a day I can actually go see her. It’s the “now in paperback” book tour of her book (well, what else could it be, right?). In case you’re wondering, yes, I do have her book (hardcover) already, and yes, I will be getting a new one (paperback). Why? Because there’s a new chapter in the paperback and I just have to see it. That’s why.

Anyway, I’m really excited! It will be a great way to celebrate my birthday.

 

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Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Hello, all.

This is J.B. and I’m glad to be here, saying (hopefully) helpful, inspiring things and whatnot. I figured I’d start out with something easy. So for now, I’ll just talk a bit about Emily Giffin’s novel Something Borrowed, since I just finished it a few days ago. I knew about its movie adaptation first, which had the same title and its “iconic” ring on the cover. There were a few changes from the book to the movie, but from what I can tell, it’s just to make characters easier to understand without knowing all that extra background info you get from the book.

Although I felt it was overall a pretty good novel – the characters are believable, the sex scenes are classy enough and don’t remind you of a cheap romance novel from Wal-Mart, and it has its highly amusing moments – I probably won’t pick up the second book, Something Blue. I was far more interested in knowing how the story’s crisis would come to a conclusion than I was in the journey for a good while. Though I would love to tell you that it’s the best thing since sliced bread, I don’t like lying (most of the time, anyway). If you like chick lit and you like being in the mind of an underdog with a bossy friend you’d like to backhand, go ahead and pick it up. But if you’re only mildly interested, go and rent the movie. If you want to know more about the characters, pick up the book from Half Priced Books or Amazon (like I did, to save a few bucks 😀 ).

[Image credit: Wikipedia.com]

 

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To be a writer

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”
― Ernest Hemingway

 

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