Monday, 25 February 2013

Spring Snow - Yukio Mishima

It's 1914 and Kioyaki Matsugae is the privileged son of a family who are descended from Samurai. They have advanced from that position and are making their way up the ladder of aristocracy. As a result Kioyaki has more privelege than most of his school chums. He is granted an automatic place amongst the aristocracy regardless of how he does at school. Which is just as well because he spends his time contemplating his life and then chasing his old friend Satoko Ayakura. Satoko is the daughter of a family who has a long history among the aristocracy but have fallen on tough times. They rely heavily on the Matsugae family and as a thank you they teach Kioyaki the artistocratic way. Kiyoaki has therefore spent a lot of time with Satoko and doesn't realise until it's too late that she is deeply in love with him.

If this sounds like the story of a spoiled brat who doesn't realise what he wants until it's too late you would be correct. Kiyoaki is not only privileged he is beautiful too and an enigma to his own family. He is spoiled and hard to like. Only his best friend Honda seems to like him and even he loses his patience with him at times. He is vain and fickle and little realises or appreciates the hard work his family have put in to get where they are. Then there is his views on Satoko. She is an irritant to him as her behaviour and words confuse him. He doesn't realise all her words are to show how much she cares for him but instead believes she is trying to be difficult. It's only when he can no longer have her that the little light in his mind clicks. He realises he loves her too and like the spoiled child he is goes after what he can't have.

I have little doubt that I am not endearing you to the story. Every word of this is true and yet you will want to read on. If only because of the beautiful writing. Japanese writers seem to have a talent just to make their words flow and Mishima is no exception. It makes the book a delight to read and you don't really mind too much that Kioyaki is a spoiled brat. His friend Honda who gets a voice in the book more than makes up for it. If anything he is everything Kioyaki should be. His family isn't quite as privileged and he knows hard they work. He works hard too and is determined to get everything he can out of his education. He knows his friends faults and watches him as though he is a study on human nature. Yet he still loves his friend and helps him when Kiyoaki finally opens up to him about Satoko.

The Siam Princes are also a pleasant contrast to Kiyoaki. They truly come across as innocents as they are visiting Japan and have no choice but to see Japan through the eyes of Kiyoaki. At least what Kiyoaki chooses to reveal to them. They cling to him even when the have to move to the school dormitories. It's their openness as well as their innocence that makes them such a contrast because really for much of the story Kiyoaki is an innocent too. A young boy who doesn't know he is in love.

If I say more about the story I will probably spoil it. It's the first book in a series of four and I know a little how each of them are connected thanks to my classic loving friend. It was that interesting premise alone that got me reading it and I definitely want to read the others. I am not exagerating when I say that Mishima writes beautifully.

Plus once again, how lovely is the vintage cover? Even if my friend hadn't sold me on it. Had I seen this cover I would have immediately picked it up.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a book meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. A great way for everyone to share their reading week.

I am doing two weeks in one. Feel this poor blog is being neglected but I promise there will be some reviews soon.

Last two weeks I read;

The collected stories - Lorrie Moore. This was every bit as amazing as I expected it to be. This would sell even the most hard short story hating person onto the joy of them. Several collections of her short stories spanning 660 pages and I still wanted more.

The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick. After seeing it reviewed on Kill Me If I Stop I had to pick this up. Sadly I could only get the film tie in cover (grrr). However, this was a fantastic book and I am glad I read it rather than see the film. I quite fancied the film too but I can happily live life without it now.

Just now I am reading;

Did You Miss Me? - Karen Rose. I am a bit meh about this book. I think this will be my last Karen Rose.

Next I plan to read;

The Woman Who Died A Lot - Jasper Fforde. Why have I waited so long for this? I love this series and I knew the book was out. Normally I can't wait for the paperback but this time I have. Looking forward to it.

How has you reading been going?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a book meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. It's a fantastic way for everyone to share their reading week.

I finally admitted it last week that the last few months I sort of lost my reading mojo. I had a book pile there that I was less than excited about and I was at a loss for what to read next. Last week I think I found my mojo again and I actually managed to finish two books. The last few days I have also been going round book blogs more than I have the last two months. Mainly getting ideas for future reads but also to see what everyone else was up to. I left a few comments and was sad to see that a few blogs that I enjoyed I have disappeared. That's the way blogging life goes mind you. Hopefully though I will keep up with the momentum as going round the blogs I realised I missed talking with people about books.

Last week I read;

Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima. This is the first book in a tetraology. A beautifully written Japanese classic. Once again recommended by my classic loving friend.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This saw me finally with a book I couldn't leave alone. Read it in two days. Great read.

Just now I am reading;

The Collected Stories - Lorrie Moore. It's actually a few of her collections in one book. Have been wanting to read this for years and finally got myself a copy (Glasgow library didn't stock it). Really enjoying it so far. Lots of unique characters in there.

Next I plan to read;

Did You Miss Me? - Karen Rose. Every time I buy a book by this author it's always on a whim. This one is no exception. Thought it would be good to mix series with light as I don't want this reading fervor to go away.

What have you all been reading?

Be My Enemy - Christopher Brookmyre

Jack Parlabane is a Glasgwegian journalist with a reputation for causing trouble. However, it's his reputation for cynisim that gets him his latest reporting job. He has been invited to take part in a corporate team building exercise at a secluded hotel near Inverness. The company who are organising this hope that if they can concince the cynical Jack Parlabane of their product then it will give their company the kick start they need. Jack agrees to go along and brings his photographer friend who just happened to be a British spy in a previous life. Along with Jack and Vale a group of others ranging from different walks of life have also been invited. Unknown to them though there is a reason this group has been brought together. Although they won't find out that reason until they are already fighting for their lives.

This is only me second Brookmyre book. I bought it years ago but always meant to read the previous books in the series first. I managed one (which I did enjoy). I decided to pick it up because of my determination to get through my tbr pile and this would be sitting there for another 5 years if I waited until I read the others. I'm glad I didn't wait as I think had I gotten into the series I would have been sadly disappointed. This just didn't live up to the first book in the series. Thankfully I had been warned that after the first three books the series goes downhill so my expectations weren't that high to begin with.

Reading it I didn't feel that I was missing out on too much from not reading the others. I remembered a few of the recurring characters in Parlabane's life from book one and anything else in his life was briefly mentioned and didn't have much in the way to do with the plot. On the other hand it just wasn't as funny as that first book. I remember laughing out loud from the first line. With this one, while Parlabane had his amusing moments, there was nothing to make me laugh out loud. Parlabane's attempt at humour came across as 'trying too hard'.

The plot itself I did enjoy although from what I hear he had done this sort of thing before but with an oil rig. Another reason for me to be glad I stopped waiting. The fun didn't start until half way through the book which was a little annoying but I could sort of understand it. It gave us background information to each of the characters involved which turned out to be important in the end. There are hints as to why each of the characters were invited in this first half. Once I got to the second half I got right into it and I wasn't so bothered that it wasn't as funny. It did end a little quickly but that's the price you pay when all the action is stored up for one half of the book.

I do still want to read his earlier books. This hasn't put me off and in truth I did like it. It just wasn't to the standard of that first book.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Mist - Stephen King

David Drayton, his wife and his son are residents of a small lake town. One night the lake is hit with a huge storm which leaves the town with a huge clean up the next day. David is sent by his wife to get some supplies. His son and the pretentious neighbour go with him but before they leave they notice a thick fog travelling across the lake. David has a bad feeling about it and tries to encourage his wife to go with him. Once in the local supermarket that feeling doesn't go away and it seem the mist has travelled with them. It soon becomes clear that anyone who enters the mist is attacked in some way. The three end up trapped in the supermarket with a handful of other shoppers. All of them wondering how long it will be before the creatures outside will get in.

I didn't realise that this was a short story in Kings book "Skeleton Crew" (yes, I know it says so right at the bottom). I actually thought that I had read Skeleton Crew but obviously not because I would definitely have remember this story. This one has the makings of a fantastic King story if only he had expanded on it in true King style. Yes, that's right, I have found piece of writing by Stephen King that is not long enough for me.

So here is what you have a post apololyptic story. A military base nearby is the probably cause (although this is just guess work by a few of the locals), we have a few of those military in the supermarket, there is the pig headed male who won't listen to reason and has his wee band of followers, there is the cute little boy who just wants to go find his mum, there is the artist dad and hero who really just wants the same and lastly there is the crazy lady who develops her own band of followers. Each of these things could have been expanded on to make a fantastic novel. Granted, these are all themes that King has touched on in the past.

The creatures in the mist I am always skeptical over. I am sure that's been done before too and not by King. It goes back to being afraid of what you can't see (or don't understand). Something that King excells at so I was soon able to ignore my skepticism and struggle to sleep without the light on. What can I say, I'm a big wimp. The ending too irritated me although I read in the blurb at the end that this was deliberate. King wanted it to be ambigous but to me that was more opportunity to expand into a bigger novel.

I have two fun facts for you. Well, I read about it somewhere so may not be fact. The first is that King supposedly wrote this after experiencing a storm in his hometown and he then got sent to the supermarket. The second is that if you read the Dark Tower graphic novels the mist and it's creatures make an appearance there although the Dark Tower world have a name for it. I really should get round to reading those graphic novels. And to reading the rest of Skeleton Crew.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

January Overview/ Month Ahead

Feels a bit cheeky to be doing an overview a third of the way into the new month. Going to do it anyway as you can see. I need to get back onto my blogging routine.

It's not the blogging I have had a problem with (although I do have a couple of books to review). It's the reading, or rather my less than inspirational book pile. There is nothing in it that is calling out to me and this was shown by the fact that I read only four books in January. One of those was a novella too. My pitiful four books from last month (of which I had the first two weeks off) were;

1. Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King
2. The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out A Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
3. The Mist - Stephen King
4. Be My Enemy - Christopher Brookmyre.

I also gave up on an 800 page tomb, The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. After a promising start I quickly became bored and the thought of reading this book put me off reading at all. Eventually I was brave enough to call it quits and pick up something I actually wanted to read. Other than that I did actually enjoy the books I read and the Jonasson one is alread a firm favourite (as I mentioned in my review). It's also the only one that didn't come off my book pile.

As for the rest of this month I bought three books in the hopes of gaining an interest in reading again. One was a book I have been wanting to read for years, another was a whim and the last was a recommendation. I am starting with the recommendation which is the Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Hopefully it will get me excited about reading again.

I also wanted to start up my classic a month again and I did pick up Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima but I have only just finished it. So there goes my one a month. Although it was a good classic for the first of 2013. I've whittled down my reading pile again so hopefully I will get a few of those finished too. I am also hoping to spend a bit of time doing the blog rounds. As I haven't been reading as much I've felt too guilty going to see what others are reading. Looking forward to it now though. Lastly, my plan is to catch up on my goodreads challenge. Until today I was 4 books behind.

Hope everyone had a more inspirational January than I did.