Coraline is the first book I read by Neil Gaiman. I have heard a lot about him and his books but never got round to reading anything by him. But I happened to read somewhere that his story, Coraline, features a cat and I lapped up on the opportunity to read it since I had seen the copy in the college library.
Coraline begins with the eponymous protagonist having moved into an old house along with her parents. The house also has a few strange neighbours who have equally strange names: Miss Spink and Miss Forcible being two examples. Another is an old man who is currently training rats to perform their own circus!
Despite such peculiar neighbours, Coraline feels easily bored with her surroundings and being summer vacation, she does not have much to do except chatting with her parents (who are busy with their own jobs) or neighbours or exploring the old house which is quite huge and even has an overgrown garden. But this alone does not quench her boredom.
Come take a beautiful hike with Britta up the Kori La pass in Mongar, in the central east district of a tiny country, Bhutan, sandwiched between two giants, India and China!!
When Britta had decided to volunteer in Bhutan way back in 1997, she had no clue what she was signing up for! But her stint as a physiotherapist in a village hospital in Mongar gave her beautiful insights and lovely memories of a place about which not much is written about. Perhaps, that is how Buttertea at Sunrise was born!
The Crazed by Ha Jin is told from the point of view of the student, Jian, who is under the guidance of Mr. Yang. But the novel starts with Mr Yang having suffered from a stroke and in the hospital in 1989.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
Mr. Yang’s crazy outbursts while in hospital give a glimpse into his relationship with his student, Jian, as well as his past: affairs, his ill treatment under the Mao regime, his unconscious desire to have been a well respected official along with being a scholar among other things.
What is so interesting about The Crazed are the several literary references that pepper the novel, particularly Mr Yang’s lectures even in that delirious state about random literary subjects such as why Western poets use a persona to speak in their poems whereas the Chinese poets speak as themselves in the poems or his references to poets such as Goethe, Dante and several Tang poets like Tu Fu or Li Po.
It was astonishing how in that state he goes from “a political parrot” as Jian calls him, spewing Communist jingles to a lecture spewing professor.
Ito Junji’s horror mangas are well renowned but this famous Cat Diary takes a step away from the usual gory affairs and gives an autobiographical look at how Junji warmed up to two pet cats his fiance got into their lives.
Cat Diary starts with the author moving into a new house in Gifu with his fiance.
And that turns his world upside because his cat loving fiance brings her parents’ cat, Yon, from their house in Chiba.
Yon is a scary cat nicknamed, “the cat with an accursed face”, since it has an eerie print of a skull on its back.
Horror may be his forte, but the accursed face scares the living daylights out of Junji Ito in Cat Diary!
Quite ironical, yeah?
This lovely novella, The Dog Who Dared to Dream, is the second story I came across written by Sun-Mi Hwang. The first one was The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, which I would highly recommend! Read my review here!
I am sure many hardcore Murakami fans will swear by the magic realism and surreal feel of his novel, Kafka on the Shore.
And it sure has a touch of the bizarre and the other worldly.
Kafka on the Shore starts with a 15 year old boy deciding to runaway from his father to live on his own under the pseudonym, Kafka Tamura. The novel than traces his journey where he meets other characters such as Sakura who is a hair dresser and who he thinks might be his sister. Then he stumbles on a job in the library that he had visited and finds a home there. At the library, he meets Oshima, who is the assistant, and the owner, Miss Saeki, who has her own melancholic back story.
Parallelly, the novel touches upon a curious incident that happened in the Yamanashi Prefecture where a group of children suddenly became unconsciously. It then focuses on one of those students, Mr. Nakata, who after the accident lost the ability to read and write but could mysteriously talk to cats. Consequently, he was the cat finder of his area in Nakano where he stayed.
Talking to cats is just one in the series of bizarre things to pop up in the novel.
With pale pink illustrations, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi, is a sharp look at how one person deals with the demons in her mind that the world creates and how she overcomes them.
What is the book about?
The opening scene of the manga, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi is like a film since it focuses on an unexpected situation that the female protagonist of this manga is in and the she talks about the scene and how she ended up there.
Next page though, we see the ghosts that haunted her in the past ten years that led her to that opening situation: ghosts that we may all face such as not knowing where to go, not having a “something I belong to”, to much more serious ones such as self harm, eating disorders and depression.
The second Blurb Appreciation Reviews presents a review of Boats on Land by Janice Pariat.
About the blurb:
I agree with one thing in the blurb that Boats on Land is imbued with the supernatural and the folkloric. From the first page itself, Janice Pariat gives a glimpse of the Khasi (an ethnic group of the north eastern Indian state of Meghalaya) culture through the concept of ka ktien, which would roughly mean (if I am not mistaken) the power that words have.
Right in the first story itself, we see the power of the ka ktien and throughout the stories we see other rituals such as “the three night long watches kept by the ieng iap briew (household of the dead) when windows and doors stayed open for the spirits of the deceased.”
Pariat has infused elements of the Khasi oral culture, with its many customs, beliefs and superstitions, into the written word and she upholds the former’s power over the latter.
In the Honduran novel, The Ships by the Honduran author, Roberto Quesado, the protagonist, Lopez Guillermo is proud to be working on the pineapple plantation for the Standard Fruit Company despite being a city person. That is because there are not many jobs that pay well in the city.
What he would like to do is write but he is not sure if that too will bring in the money. However, that does not stop him from always thinking about how to write about certain things that are happening around him such as when he visits the town of El Porvenir, he thinks about how to write about that town where one is greeted by headless hands. He is always thinking about how to make his writing interesting and unique even though we do not really see him writing.
I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino is one of the sweetest and most beautiful story on queer love between two boys who are poles apart.
What is the book about?
The manga, I Hear the Sunspot, is a beautiful blossoming story of how two school boys meet each other and slowly, tentatively, hesitatingly fall for each other. One is Kouhei, quiet and composed, and the other is Sagawa Taichi, who is the exact opposite: loud, boisterous and ready to pick a fight!
Kouhei has a hearing disability which makes his college life difficult as it does not help him socialise easily and in turn leads to him being labelled as being aloof.
Intrigued? Read more!
Guest post by Linda Shaji-Pauline:
Linda Shaji-Pauline, a fellow feminist and a rice lover, who had an affinity for post-colonial literature but now realises that there is much more to read as well. When she’s not at work, her motto is, “will walk for food.” You can often find her walking around all over the city in search of that new restaurant. She is still undecided if she loves music or books more but agrees that together they make the best combination. Together they make her life in finance very tolerable.
I love debuts, and why not? There is a new author / musician / composer / actor whose art is to be explored by their audience.
Dinaw Mengestu’s 2007 book, Children of the Revolution, captured my attention in a second hand book sale for not just being a debut but also for being written by an immigrant writer. Dinaw Mengestu is Ethiopian-American. This was the first book that I was reading that had a connection to Ethiopia. I do not consider it Ethiopian in nature, it is still American.
Written in a first person narrative, the story is that of Sepha Stephanos who left Ethiopia as a refugee simply seeking survival in America. He does not bring along with him the great American dream, he simply wants to be invisible enough to survive. Sepha survives on his meagre income earned by running his simple grocery / general store. It is not the best store in the neighbourhood as he frankly attests.
Welcome to the first Blurb Appreication Review:
Confused about what it is?
Click here before reading on!
About The Blurb:
The above blurb says it all and I feel that I have nothing much to add about the setting and themes of the stories.
But I would like to focus your attention to the picture at the bottom of the back cover. Looks scary, right?
Well it is meant to be.
Sri Lanka, according to many myths, was supposed to have been ruled by rakshashas or demons. The picture you see at the bottom is the Naga Rakshasa mask (Snake Demon mask) which is worn during rituals or performances to exorcise the demons or the rakshasas. Notice the many snakes on the top of the mask!
Now that is what I call a kick ass blurb-it not only tells you what the book is about but entices you with a bonus picture too that lets you know more about the setting!
For more information on the rakshash masks: click here and here!
I am slowly starting to read some Murakami. The first book of his that I read was Strange Library which was indeed strange and had such a beautiful cover featuring a library card!
Next I read Desire, part of the Vintage Mini Series, which had five of his short stories. I absolutely adored that book! Read my review here!
Next up was After Dark, which one of my colleagues gave me as well. I did not mind reading it since she said it was only 200 pages long. (I am going through a phase where I somehow cannot commit to books that are too long because I do not get time to read them!)
The Book Cafe is proud to present a new series that will highlight the books that have a musical element in them!
The books could be about music, or have protagonists that love music or have some great music references or some other elements that make the book/story connected to some form of music!
Welcome to Musically Yours!
How can you contribute?
Take a look at all the entries in this category!
- Spread the music: Share and spread the word!
- Guest Posts:
Oh we love guest posts! Perhaps you know about books that are related to music? We would love to hear from you!
Share your thoughts with email@example.com
In July, The Book Cafe had stated an interesting idea about how one needs to read books from all the states in India-be it in the original language or translated. Click the link here to see the full list of books The Book Cafe has read from different Indian States!
Meera Baindur, a bookworm and philosophy faculty at Bengaluru Central University, shares her own thoughts about reading translations of different Indian languages.
For many the idea of being able to profit from something that they truly love is not a reality. It instead is a dream, often thought to be an unrealistic dream at that. People who dream this dream often do not have the tools to turn it into a reality. This post will outline how to turn a passion for books and shopping into profit in 5 simple steps! I, personally, have followed the steps below and now boast a profit of over 1k monthly from reselling books I find at thrift stores.
By reading this post you, too, will gain the skills to begin making money on books you find at the thrift store!
What do I know about the country?
Next to nothing!
Which is why I lapped up onto the suggestion when a colleague mentioned about how she has books by a Honduran author.
The Big Banana by Roberto Quesado has a protagonist named Eduardo Lin, who comes to New York City to become an actor along with a parallel story of Mirian, in Honduras, who has a Cold War spy obsession which culminates in her obsession with the character of James Bond.
While in New York, Eduardo lives in a rented house along with other immigrants who each have their own stories and reasons for being there. Back in Honduras, Mirian’s obsession goes out of control and she regularly visits a psychiatrist, who takes Eduardo’s helps to fix this obsession when he had been in Honduras. With this, Mirian and Eduardo, becomes long distant lovers.
And that brings me to the opening scene of The Big Banana where Eduardo is busy cursing the New York Telephone that regularly sends him huge bills to pay.
Intrigued? Read more!
Immigration may be a buzz word in recent times worldwide. But it is an act that has been going on throughout the world through times immemorial; and that it is used as a political tool to create disharmony is detestable. This is because for one it diminishes the humanity of the issue and then it erodes the idea that sometimes it maybe forced and beyond an individual’s control. Hence, at times, politics is what leads to immigration and yet politics is also deterring it and creating this false sense of danger around it.
To keep politics aside, immigration has several repercussions for the person as well as the place to which the person immigrated to. It could be in terms of language, the food, the issue of assimilation and acculturation; or feeling ostracised, and even feelings of extreme loneliness among many others. It could help a place to know more about different cultures, its food and language and other aspects as well.
To commemorate this loss and gain, The Book Cafe is going to start a series called, Pardesi, which will highlight books that talk about immigrant experiences.
Pardesi in Hindi means “someone who has gone outside of their country to live.”
Pardes in Hindi would mean “a foreign place.”
How can you contribute?
- Read and Share:
Find the link for all the posts in this series here!
- If you would want to talk about or do a guest post on any novel or story or poem or play that have immigration as a theme, let us know! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Or if guest posts are not your thing, you could simply give recommendations for books you thought best captured the immigration experience.
Typical of Kazuo Ishiguro’s themes, When We Were Orphans, which is set mostly in the 1930s England while also hovering over to Shanghai, deals with the diminishing of one’s memories and the protagonist, Christopher Banks, makes a conscious attempt to try and recollect them and tell his story.
Through these recollections we see how he lived in Shanghai and how he had to come back home to England due to his parents going missing.
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is a memoir by Sarah Glidden about how she took a ‘birthright’ tour to Israel (which is free) to try to understand the Israel Palestine conflict.