Wednesday, April 26, 2017

#BookReview: PENANCE by Kanae Minato

Summary: When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.

Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren't able to accurately describe the stranger's appearance to the police after the Emily's body was discovered. Asako, Emily's mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter's murder.

Review: Penance starts with a letter from Sae to a woman that attended her wedding, explaining how she came to know her husband and why, eventually, she had to kill him. Whoa, ma'am! I knew right then that this was going to be an interesting read.

As Minato delves into the lives of each girl, now women, that were with Emily at the time of her death, readers see that though Emily was the one that died, all of the girls were victims of the crime. And one by one, each becomes a criminal in her own way.

Because each girl has a different personality and played a different role within their group of friends, their perspectives are different. So it's interesting to watch the same story retold from their unique points of view. Quiet Sae believes that the murderer will come back to find her and leaves her small village for the big city where she can blend in and never be found. Maki becomes a teacher, determined to protect her students from the fate that befell Emily. Akiko has become an unstable homebody who continues to live with her parents and only finds joy in playing with her niece. And Yuko, who believes she has outsmarted the curse put upon the girls, finds that she really hasn't.

Minato's words brought each character to life and curiosity about the french dolls the girls referenced led me down a wormhole. While I did find the french dolls, and they were a bit creepy, I also found that Penance was made into a mini series in Japan and was shown in the U.S. in 2014. It's currently on Amazon Video, so I know what I'll be watching this weekend. I can only hope that it's as fascinating as the book.

240p.
Published: April 2017 (U.S.), 2009 (Japan)

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, April 25, 2017

Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broadus
144p; Science fiction

Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari.

Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone.

Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym
240p.; Biography

In 2010, Min Kym was poised to take the classical music world by storm. A former child prodigy—touring internationally by age thirteen—she had accomplished the yet rarer feat of transitioning to a soloist career, with a major recording about to be released and a grand slate of performances and press lined up. And then it all came crashing down, because she lost her violin.

Kym’s 1696 Stradivarius had never been just an instrument to her—it was her, her musical self, and also the life partner she knew and loved more intimately than any human. And suddenly it was gone, stolen from a London cafĂ©, and with it Kym’s sense of who she was and what her life in music had meant. In this luminous, probing memoir, she reckons with that displacement, seeing with new eyes the triumphs and sacrifices of a life lived behind a bow, and finding revelations about art, passion, and what it truly means to do what you love.

All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan
288p.; Fiction

One day, in the cold of early New York winter, a chance encounter brings two strangers together: Hilmi, a Palestinian born in Hebron, and an Israeli woman called Liat. A promising young translator, Liat plans to study in New York for six months and then return home to Tel Aviv. Immediately drawn to the charismatic, passionate, and kind Hilmi, Liat decides that their connection will be—can only be—an affair, a short-lived but intense memento of her frozen winter away from home. But their passionate fling deepens into love, and Liat and Hilmi find themselves caught between their desire for each other and their duties to their families; between the possibility of creating a life together and the fear that Israelis and Palestinians are supposed to be enemies. And as the weeks and days slip by, Liat and Hilmi must decide whether their love is worth risking the disapproval of their families, their friends and even their government.

The Maids by Junichiro Tanizaki
224p; Fiction/Japan

The Maids
is a jewel: an astonishing complement to The Makioka Sisters, set in the same house, in the same turbulent decades, but among the servants as much as the masters. The Maids concerns all the young women who work—before, during, and after WWII—in the pampered, elegant household of the famous author Chikura Raikichi, his wife Sanko, and her younger sister. Though quite well-to-do, Raikichi has a small house: the family and the maids (usually a few, sharing a little room next to the kitchen) are on top of one another. This proximity helps to explain Raikichi’s extremely close observation of the maids and their daily lives.

In the sensualist, semi-innocent, sexist patrician Raikichi, Tanizaki offers a richly ironic self-portrait, but he presents as well a moving, nuanced chronicle of change and loss: centuries-old values and manners are vanishing, and here—in the evanescent beauty of the small gestures and intricacies of private life—we find a whole world to be mourned. And yet, there is such vivacity and such beauty of writing that Tanizaki creates an intensely compelling epic in a kitchen full of lively girls.

Desserts LaBelle: Soulful Sweets to Sing About by Patti LaBelle
272p.; Cooking

Her New York Times bestseller LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, which sold more than 300,000 copies, established her as a cooking star. Today, Patti's baking skills have the country buzzing. In Fall 2015, a fan's YouTube review of her sweet potato pie became a viral sensation, with over 20 million views. In just one weekend, her pies were completely sold out at Wal-Mart stores across the country.

Now, for the first time, fans of Patti's pie can make their own, as well as other amazing sweets! Filled with her favorite recipes for pies, cakes, cookies, and puddings, as well as a chapter on diabetic-friendly recipes, moving personal stories from her career and life, this is the most personal cookbook LaBelle has written. Every fan of soul and sweets will want to own it.

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
288p; Fiction

As an only son, Kiran has obligations—to excel in his studies, to honor the deities, to find a nice Indian girl, and, above all, to make his mother and father proud—standard stuff for a boy of his background. If only Kiran had anything in common with the other Indian kids besides the color of his skin. They reject him at every turn, and his cretinous public schoolmates are no better. Cincinnati in the early 1990s isn’t exactly a hotbed of cultural diversity, and Kiran’s not-so-well-kept secrets don’t endear him to any group. Playing with dolls, choosing ballet over basketball, taking the annual talent show way too seriously. . .the very things that make Kiran who he is also make him the star of his own personal freak show…

Surrounded by examples of upstanding Indian Americans—in his own home, in his temple, at the weekly parties given by his parents’ friends—Kiran nevertheless finds it impossible to get the knack of “normalcy.” And then one fateful day, a revelation: perhaps his desires aren’t too earthly, but too divine. Perhaps the solution to the mystery of his existence has been before him since birth. For Kiran Sharma, a long, strange trip is about to begin—a journey so sublime, so ridiculous, so painfully beautiful, that it can only lead to the truth…

The Boy in the Earth by Fuminori Nakamura
160p.; Fiction/Japan

As an unnamed Tokyo taxi driver works a night shift, picking up fares that offer him glimpses into the lives of ordinary people, he can’t escape his own nihilistic thoughts. Almost without meaning to, he puts himself in harm’s way; he can’t stop daydreaming of suicide, envisioning himself returning to the earth in obsessive fantasies that soon become terrifying blackout episodes. The truth is, his long estranged father has tried to reach out to him, triggering a cascade of traumatic memories. As the cab driver wrestles with the truth about his past and the history of violence in his childhood, he must also confront his present, which is no less complicated or grim.

Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
320p.;Fiction/Nigeria

Season of Crimson Blossoms tells the captivating story of an illicit affair between a twenty-five-year-old street gang leader, Hassan Reza, and a devout fifty-five-year-old widow and grandmother, Binta Zubairu, who yearns for intimacy after the sexual repression of her marriage and the pain of losing her first son. This story of love and longing—set in a conservative Muslim community in Nigeria—reveals deep emotions that defy age, class, and religion.