Book Review—The Strange Library by Haruki Kurakami

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Murakami’s newest book “The Strange Library” has been called many things: odd, indulgent, incomprehensible, unfinished. But though it may indeed be all of those things, that doesn’t mean that it’s “bad.”

I’ve read a few incomprehensible books before. The one that comes immediately to mind is “Snow White” by Donald Barthelme. This is what we’d call “a book written for English professors,” in regards to its impenetrable literary message buried under opaque literary references and disturbing sexual renditions of the Snow White story. In the end I had no idea what I had read, and what was its purpose. But here’s where Murakami’s book is different: although I may not have understood the story entirely, I sure did enjoy the ride.

I think a lot of people read books in order to get to the end. Sure, they enjoy the adventure and the ups and downs along the way, but really it’s the end that makes or breaks opinions; after all, it IS the last part of the book you see, and therefore often the most memorable. Yet Murakami is a unique writer in that the end is often the least important part of his books. Problems are left unsolved, mysteries are left mysteries, and people are left in emotional limbo.

This has the potential to piss some people off. Why invest in a character’s problems if they don’t get solved?

Anyway, I’ll admit I’m biased; Murakami is one of my all-time favorite authors, along with Khaled Housseini, David Mitchell, William Faulkner, and Stephen King. Although I may not understand everything in his stories, I have always enjoyed the journeys and places he takes me, the people he shows me, and his talent for bleeding the fantastical into reality, which makes me wonder how fantastical some things really are.

In all, I absolutely recommend this book for Murakami fans, and for first timers, just go into it expecting something different than your regular old story. Let it take you where it will.

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Writing Prompt found this Barnes and Noble writing prompt the other day:

“Turn to page 22 of the book you are reading, find the first full sentence—this is what your first/next book should be about.”


Seeing as I plan to read Murakami’s “The Strange Library” next, I took a look:

“The sheep man cocked his head to one side. ‘Wow, that’s a tough one.'”

I know that’s two sentences, but I thought they went together well.


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I’ve jumped on the Twitter bandwagon:

What is this new magic world that I’ve avoided for so long?

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Book Review—30 Days by XYZ

I aplogize for neglecting to post last month; my class and teaching schedules exploded at the same time. But I do have something for you today: a collection of sciencey poems!

“30 Days” by XYZ (a biologist from England) is an artbook that features a short poem about science, written on a sciencey piece of art, on every page. Although at times repetitive, I’ve never seen anything like this before and wanted to share. Enjoy!





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Book Review—At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

Attention all Lovecraft fans; have you been struggling to get a concrete picture of what exactly Lovecraft’s alternative historical cosmos looks like? If so, read this book.

“At the Mountains of Madness” was not my favorite Lovecraft story (it was a bit too slow and complicated) but within it you will find the fullest and most detailed account of what exactly the Elder Ones are, where they came from, and what happened to them. I’m sure you could just look all this up on the internet, but isn’t it more fun to piece it together yourself? I would lightly compare this book to Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” in that it provides a history of confusing things, but unilke “The Silmarillion” there is an actual story attached, albeit a skeletal one.

So there you go, and here’s a little picture to give you nightmares:at-the-mountains-of-madness-book-cover-02

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Book Review—The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing

Although I enjoyed learning about the lives of some of America’s greatest authors and their relationship with drinking, I finished Olivia Laing’s “The Trip to Echo Spring” wishing that there had been a little more to it. It may have been naive for me to expect to find a definitive answer as to why drinking and literary genius seem to mesh so well, but I picked up this book hoping to do just that. I guess the lack of an answer really shows how slippery alcoholism can be.

IMG_2568This book is the second instance in my budding (more like flopping around confusedly) writing life that has insinuated that in order to be a great writer one must also be a great alcoholic. A professor of mine used to joke about this quite a bit: grab a drink, write a sentence, grab a lot of drinks, write a book. Call me a stick in the mud, but I never found it all that funny; it rings too true to be funny.

In all, Laing’s book provided a nice peek into the drinking lives of various authors, but don’t expect it to offer any answers.




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I Would Survive the Zombie Apocalypse Like This…

Alright, this post is not about books at all, but seeing as zombies sometimes appear within books, I guess it’s relevant.

How many of you have recurring nightmares? I have two: one is that I get a phone call from my high school saying that I am lacking one mathematics credit and my diploma will be taken away if I don’t return to school immediately and complete, and the other is the zombie apocalypse. I would say that I dream about zombies twice a week. I have no idea why. Anyway, sometime in college I had an idea that if I planned a survival strategy very carefully, then maybe I could induce some kind of lucid dream where I took control and executed my plan, and if I did it enough the dream would just get bored and go away. Nevermind if dreams get bored! Let me tell you the plan so far:

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????My plan is to get on a boat and sail to Tuckernuck Island.

Tuckernuck is a small island off the western edge of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Although Boston (where I live) is much closer to the little islands that hang about in Dorchester Bay, most of those islands are either connected to the mainland by roads and sandbanks, or are too barren to offer an acceptable safe haven. As such, to there would cometh the zombies, or dieth I would of starvation. (Also, forget about how to get the boat, or out of Boston and all the way around Cape Cod. That part of the journey has too many variables. The important part is the goal.)

Back to Tuckernuck: this is a private island whose residents (about 35 houses) are mostly present in the summer only. Scenario 1: the apocalypse occurs in the off-season and practically nobody is there. Scenario 2: the apocalypse occurs in the on-season and there are only 35 families to deal with. Adding on to these two scenarios, there are no official cemetaries on this island, so unless people are being buried in their yards or something, there shouldn’t be any rising zombies to begin with. An infected person could perhaps be brought over on a boat or a little airplane, but it seems unlikely that either of these crafts would be able to make it to the island if there was a zombie outbreak on board. Incubation time across most zombie stories and movies seems to be relatively fast, and it’s likely the whole craft would be filled with zombies en route, and zombies are generally not able sea or airmen.

largeLet’s keep going: Tuckernuck island is home to quite a few duck and tern species, as well as the prunus maritima (beach plum), myrica pensylvanica (bayberry), and gaylussacia baccata (huckleberry), all of which are edible. In addition, fish and shellfish and other sea critters would likely be present. Although the nearby islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard prove to have more modern resources, they also prove to have a few cemeteries, which is a big no no in the zombie apocalypse.

Worry 1: I am not sure how deep the water is between Tuckernuck and Nantucket. If there is a time when the tides are low enough for someone to walk across it could be problematic, but I’m sure I could rig up some warning system, since I won’t have the internet or work or class or anything else to fiddle around with, and therefore plenty of free-time.

Worry 2: I don’t know how to properly kill and skin animals, or fish, or start a fire with stick and stones (you fart on the fire to make it bigger, right?) or do any of that survival stuff, but I’m working on it.

thumb***Worry 3: How far can zombies smell human flesh? If they can smell it from across a body of water, can they walk through it? Will they walk through it? If they walk through it, will the sharks and fish try to eat them since zombies are heaps of dead flesh? If the sharks and fish eat them will the sharks and fish becomes zombie sharks and fish? If the answer is yes, then won’t the birds (parasites, virusus, plants???) becomes zombie birds and fly over to my island and ruin everything?

These are extremely important questions that need to be answered in order for me to complete my strategy.


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Book Review—Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

IMG_2416Post-apocalyptic themes have been trending within the fiction world for quite awhile. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a bit of the end-of-the-world, but remember when Arthur C. Clarke wrote about “electronic papers” in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” (1968) and when H.G. Wells talked about a nuclear world in “The World Set Free,” (1913)? Anyway, who knows why the apocalypse is so popular now, but I sure hope it’s not because our future is sending warning waves back through time and into the minds of our most precognitive population: authors.

Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” is both a story as well as a study of humanity, and how it behaves when the world thrusts it back to its prehistoric roots. I must admit, I wasn’t as impressed as I expected to be. Though the story was great, I thought there wasn’t enough explanation of what this post-apocalyptic world was like, or how exactly it came to be. There were a few specific questions I felt needed to be addressed before I could fully accept the setting.

That being said, I devoured this book in a day, and it left me with that wonderful feeling of bewilderment, and a little bit of unease, that all great works of fiction do. It made me think about our not so fiction problems in this not so fiction world, and about who I would be if (when) the time came for all of us to face the end. Would I be the main character of the story, or that plot device lying silent by the side of the road?

I’m not sure. I hope none of us will have to find out.

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Book Review (in bulk)—Horror Horror Everywhere

It’s official: I’ve become a horror junkie. I wasn’t quite sure if it had truly happened, since I began to junk-out on horror in October and thought it may have been a pre-Halloween fad, but it’s January now and I haven’t slowed down. I’ve got four books to talk about in this post, starting with the one I liked the most:

1) The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies by John Langan61T9p8JeEOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

I am not by any means a horror snob, but I rarely rate modern horror novels (except Stephen King) very highly. Langan’s collection of short stories, however, was both well-written and terrifying. He put a truly modern spin on classic horror tales (vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc) and made these tired subjects new. I recommend this book to horror-junkies and the general reader alike. You won’t be disappointed.



damnation2002-2502) The Damnation Game by Clive Barker

Firstly, Clive Barker’s young-adult Abarat series included some of my favorite books from childhood, so it was an exceptionally special experience for me to pick up one of his adult books years later, after I myself had become an adult. Secondly, “The Damnation Game” was, at parts, absolutely disgusting, in a most wondrously horror-filled way. Honestly, I’m not really sure what happened in this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride it took me on. I may not want to fully understand it anyway; it might protect my sanity. Anyway, I recommend this book to almost anyone, but not to those who tend to have weak stomachs.

3) The Haunted by Michaelbrent Collings13583692

“The Haunted” is a classic haunted house story about a couple who move into a new house and find it already “occupied.” What’s unique about this book is that it throws you right into the horror on pretty much the first page, and doesn’t slow down for even a second. The overall writing in this book wasn’t stellar, but the author has a true gift for building up suspense. The first 3/4 of this book scared the crap out of me, but the end left me abysmally disappointed. In all, I recommend this book to the horror junkie. Its good for a late-night thrill.

135283814) Breed by Chase Novak

I love a good bit of gore and disturbing images, and this book has a smattering of good ones. Yet the overall story was a little bit slow. It starts with a couple who wants to have a baby so badly, that they visit a doctor who does a strange fertility treatment. Although the treatment does cause pregnancy, it seems to turn both the parents and children into beastly primordial beings. I won’t give the story away, but the two children run away from home when they realize that their parents may, in fact, want to eat them, and from there do quite a bit of running around in New York City. I also recommend this book to the horror junkie, but only if you’re in the mood to read this kind of thing.

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Bookish News—Don’t Just Read Books, Wear Them!

Via the complicated dark magic of Google and Facebook’s alarming search engine intelligence, an add for t-shirts that display the entirety of a novel on its surface appeared in my newsfeed this morning. Dear Raptor Jesus, if I hadn’t spent all my money on holiday gifts and an increasingly increasing heating bill, I would absolutely be wearing “The War of the Worlds” on my body right now.

warworlds-tee-6_15bfd692-1595-4bfa-bda8-928b6d0e665d_1024x1024 warworlds-tee-12_1024x1024

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