Feb 6, 2023

Book Review: Fractured Soul by Akira Mizubayashi


An historical novel set in Japan and France. 

Awarded the Prix des libraires by France’s booksellers, a universal story about music and restoring one’s faith in others amid the aftermath of tremendous loss.

Fractured Soul

Expected publication: April 4th, 2023 by HarperVia

My review:

The novel is an anti-war/anti-imperialism novel set in Japan before and during WWII and in France post war. I was overwhelmed by the sorrow of the 11-year-old Rei as he witnessed/heard his father Yu being arrested at a private concert recital and his father's treasured violin smashed by the boots of a Japanese corporal.

The story is moving and yet sentimental; it links classical music, its performance on stringed instruments, and the loss Rei feels when his father disappeared after the arrest. I thought it fitting that Rei becomes a maker/restorer of quality violins in his own shop in France, where he was raised by a French couple who were friends with his missing father Yu.

Rei spends his life trying to overcome the fractured soul he had become from memories of the violence to his father and his father's beloved violin. Rei heals as he connects with others from his past, piecing together what had happened, in an effort to heal all those who shared in his distress.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this amazing historical novel of music, love, loss and restoration.

This review is part of the Japanese Literature Challenge 16  hosted by DolceBellezza

Feb 4, 2023

Sunday Salon: Two Japanese Novels with a Message




About: High school student Rintaro Natsuki is about to close the secondhand bookstore he inherited from his beloved grandfather. Then, a talking cat named Tiger appears with an unusual request. (publisher)

 This is a book for bibliophiles, readers, reviewers, and those who collect books. It's also for those who don't read and are sceptical about the value of books.

 Reclusive and shy student Rintaro is led by a mysterious talking tabby cat into labyrinths behind his father's old bookstore to confront and correct these five misusers of books.

 1) The Imprisoner: a hoarder who collects and neglects his books, finding value only in reading as many new books as possible.

2) The Mutilator: who values extreme editing of books to summarize and cut them down to one sentence. 

3) The Seller of Books: who sells and discards without caring about individual books.

4) The Final Labyrinth, in which Rintaro confronts a sceptic and gives the real reason books are valuable, new or old.


"Books are filled with human thoughts and feelings. People suffering, people who are sad or happy, laughing with joy....(W)e learn about the hearts and minds of other people besides ourselves."

" I think that the power of books is that - that they teach us to care about others. It's a power that gives people courage and also supports them in turn.... Empathy - that's the power of books."

Becoming more confident after his experiences in the labyrinth, Rintaro happily returns to school after being a shy truant.

The book, in translation, would be good for students and new readers. It also reinforces what long time readers already know. 


 There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved reading about all the problems that can go wrong in various job situations. A young woman moves into five different jobs before coming to terms with what she can and will accept. 

The different jobs she takes within a year read like separate short stories - surveillance; writing bus advertising; writing random facts to be printed on the backs of cracker packets; putting up posters on storefronts, and working alone in an isolated hut in the middle of a forested park.  

The five jobs were interesting and entertaining to read about -  the dilemma of work with various employees and environments, and  different demands of bosses.

"..what I'd discovered by doing five jobs in such a short span of time was this: the same was true of everything. You never knew what was going to happen, whatever you did..."
You just try to do the best you can, is her final word of advice. 
These reviews are part of the Japanese Literature Challenge 16  hosted by DolceBellezza
What are you reading this week?

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday


Jan 27, 2023

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson and TBR Thrillers: Sunday Salon

 I am familiar with Jamaican black cake, a traditional fruit cake with fruits soaked in rum and wine. I went to many weddings and celebrations on the island where this special cake was served. 

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the story of three generations, the novel set in the unnamed Caribbean island, later moving to the U.K. and the U.S. 

The book begins with Bennie and Byron, adult siblings born in the U.S., who find out after their mother Eleanor's death that they have a sister who had been given up for adoption at birth. They also find out the full extent of Eleanor's checkered and secret past, secrets that began in the island and that continued in England and America.

The link between Eleanor and her children and the island she grew up in is the black cake, a traditional plum pudding made with fruits soaked in rum and wine and served at Christmas, at weddings, and at other important celebrations. Their mother Eleanor taught Bennie how to make the cake, a tradition she was careful to hand down.

A lot of research went into this book, which shows very well the multicultural aspect of the island, its history, and how Eleanor's past is an intricate part of it.

My only other comment regarding the book is that the story might be better listened to than read. The tone of the book becomes conversational at times, as the plot is slowly revealed in bits and pieces at a time. This made me impatient toward the end, wishing that the author would get to the important parts faster.

But the wait was worth it. All the threads of the novel are finally knit together and all the questions answered.

RECIPE: Click on the Book Club Kit from Random House Books for a recipe for Jamaican Black Cake.


Thanks to Soho Press for these new supense novels for possible review.

The Motion Picture Teller by Colin Cotterill, Jan. 2023

From CWA Dagger winner Colin Cotterill, set in Bangkok in 1996: a mystery without a crime, where the line between fact and fiction blurs, and nothing is as simple as it appears. (publisher)

I really enjoy Cotterill's mystery books set in Southeast Asia. This one is in Bangkok, where I lived before the time period of this novel.  


The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura, May 2, 2023

Two detectives. Two identical women. One dead body—rapidly becoming two, then three, then four. All knotted up in Japan’s underground BDSM scene and kinbaku, a form of rope bondage which bears a complex cultural history of spirituality, torture, cleansing, and sacrifice. (publisher)

What are you reading this week?

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Jan 21, 2023

Year of the Rabbit: Chinese Lunar New Year 2023

 The Year of the Rabbit begins January 22, 2023

Gung Hay Faat Choy is the Lunar New Year greeting in the Cantonese language.
Wishing you all health, happiness, and prosperity
 According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Rabbit will bring a calmer year

Published October 11, 2022; Hanover Square Press

"Five generations of Vietnamese mothers and daughters, drawing on Vietnamese zodiac astrology to chart the fateful events of their lives.

In present day New Orleans, Xuan Trung, former beauty queen turned refugee after the Fall of Saigon, is obsessed with divining her daughters' fates through their Vietnamese zodiac signs.
But Trac, Nhi and Trieu diverge completely from their immigrant parents' expectations."(publisher)

Book beginning: 
The night before the first day of Lunar New Year, Xuan called her children to give them their horoscopes. She did this every year: for at least a week, she pored over the gigantic book with each sign's annual predictions and the star positions, and the daily zodiac calendar with its moon phases, both of which she bought at the Vietnamese bookstore at the strip mall in New Orleans east.   

This enemies-to-lovers debut rom-com filled with Chinese astrology will undoubtedly prove to be a perfect match with readers

Always a matchmaker, never a match...

Olivia Huang Christenson is excited-slash-terrified to be taking over her grandmother’s matchmaking business. But when she learns that a new dating app has made her Pó Po’s traditional Chinese zodiac approach all about “animal attraction,” her emotions skew more toward furious-slash-outraged. Especially when L.A.’s most-eligible bachelor Bennett O’Brien is behind the app that could destroy her family’s legacy.
 What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Jan 18, 2023

Wednesdays: Shelf Control Meme

 Shelf Control is a feature where bloggers pick an unread book from their shelves and talk about it. Shelf Control is hosted at Literary Potpourri

Plucked from my TBR pile:

Jan 14, 2023

Sunday Salon: Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton


Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton 
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Genre: immigrant interest; Contemporary Asian fiction
Publication: April 25, 2023; Harper Via
About: Set between the last years of the "Chinese Windrush" in 1966 and Hong Kong's Handover to China in 1997, a mysterious inheritance sees a young woman from London uncovering buried secrets in her late mother's homeland in this captivating, wry debut about family, identity, and the price of belonging.

My comments:

I felt I was put through a wringer after reading this book. The dramatic and sad life of Sook-Yin in 1966 Hong Kong, starts with her flying off to London to study nursing, pushed out of her home by the jealousy/sibling rivalry of a vengeful older brother. Then the suspenseful search of Sook-Yin's British daughter Lily some 30 years later into her mother's life back in Hong Kong and Kowloon. In addition, I was juggled back and forth from one time period to the other in every other chapter.

I thought it interesting and clever to show the Chinese discrimination against Westernized Chinese such as Sook-Yin's half-British daughters. Lily is the Ghost Girl, a foreigner in Chinese eyes, as she is part British and part white, and though she looks Chinese, she is also a banana - yellow on the outside, but white on the inside due to her upbringing. Banana may also be referring to Lily's mother, Sook-Yin.

The complexities of relationships in Hong Kong spins Lily in circles when she goes to China to get information on the early life of her deceased mother. It also spun me in cirles as the reader. I had a hard time jumping timelines from Sook-Yin in the 1960s to Lily in the 1990s. I got confused at times and felt I had to work hard to get through the novel with the two time lines.

But the book deserves praise for showing us just how complex family and culture can be.

The ARC of this book was provided by NetGalley

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Jan 13, 2023

Book Beginning: If You Are Lonely....A Short Story by Yiyun Li


If You Are Lonely and You Know It by Yiyun Li
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: short story

Gordon, a single divorced man, has as his only companions a foster pit bull disliked by the neighborhood, and an elderly widow who rents him the bungalow on her property. These contacts seem to be enough for him at the moment, as he goes out of his way to avoid conflicts with the neighbors re his dog, and continues taking care of his crochety landlord by doing her chores and creating a garden on the property. 
An interesting slice of one man's life.

Book beginning:

"She should've given you a different name," Gordon said. "No offence, but Ajax is a terrible name. A terrible role model for anyone. What about Odysseus, with some brains at least?"

The dog's eyes, limpid and devoid of self-doubt, did not show any recognition of the misfortune of his name.... 

Would you read on?

 Visit Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader for this meme. 

Book Review: Fractured Soul by Akira Mizubayashi

  An historical novel set in Japan and France.  A warded the Prix des libraires by France’s booksellers, a universal story about music and r...