[BOOK] S.

“S.” or “Ship of Theseus”

Yep, that’s the title of the “book.” And yes, that’s quotation marks on book. It’s quite difficult to explain what an experience this was because it is more than just “a book.” Doug Dorst & J. J. Abrams made such an interesting concept which sort of reminds me of House of Leaves (which was how I found this book in the first place). The amount of work that was put into this “experience” must have been tremendous and I gotta give them props for that. Great job, guys!

Right off the bat, what you get is more of a box that contains the book called “Ship of Theseus.” That’s not a mistake. The physical book you get really is called that and the author of ‘Ship of Theseus’ is ‘V. M. Straka.’ It is supposedly a library book closely studied by a graduate student named Erik for his literary paper and he has written a number of annotations throughout the book. This said copy of the book was picked up by an undergraduate student, Jen, who works part-time at the university library and through this book, Erik and Jen communicate with each other by writing down notes on the book’s margins. 

When you see the book, it looks overwhelming with all the annotations and inserts (letters, maps, photos, etc.) but to be honest, those things are what make this experience worthwhile, in my opinion. The beauty of ‘S.’ is that it is more than just the “Ship of Theseus” but rather it is ‘Ship of Theseus’ plus the story of Jen & Erik in real life.

As far as the story goes, ‘S.’ is certainly engaging. It has mystery, suspense and romance all in one. What’s not to like?

With all the back and forth between Jen & Erik, as the reader, I felt like I was eavesdropping on their conversations by reading their annotations on the book. Way to be an outsider, huh. The two search for answers regarding the true identity of V. M. Straka, who is truly a mysterious character. No one has seen/met/known VMS personally, not even the translator and editor of the book. Due to the mystery behind the identity of the author, Jen & Erik have their own ideas as to who VMS might be. Throughout the margins, they would be name-dropping various names which get confusing I gotta say. Other than that, I would say that I loved this book and I wouldn’t mind reading it again and I am sure I would understand it even more the second time around.

NinthMelody rating: 8/10

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[BOOK] The Devotion of Suspect X.

b9605b8edc950642d2fe09115744d709“The Devotion of Suspect X” is my second Keigo Higashino novel and I’m starting to really like this author. The first book of his that I’ve read is “Naoko” which is a mystery book but not at all like this one. The Devotion of Suspect X is the 3rd book from the Detective Galileo series but merely the first one translated to English which is truly unfortunate.

Here’s the synopsis from the back of the book:

Yasuko lives a quiet life, a good mother to her only child. But when her ex-husband appears at her door without warning one evening, her comfortable world is shattered.

When Detective Kusanagi of the Tokyo Police tries to piece together the events of that night, he finds himself confronted by the most puzzling, mysterious circumstances he has ever investigated. Nothing quite makes sense…

The book starts with the introduction of various characters who eventually get involved in the “murder case.” It’s not a typical story of “who is the killer?” rather “how will they get away with it?” From the first few chapters, the readers are made accomplices to the murder. We get to know who did it and exactly how it happened. Once the investigation about the murder starts, we see how they come up with alibis and if it manages to convince the detectives of their innocence. It’s a really interesting spin to the whole murder mystery genre which sort of reminds me of the TV series “How To Get Away With Murder.”

Aside from the “suspects” and the assigned detective of the case, the brilliant Detective Galileo/Yukawa is only introduced towards the middle of the book. He’s not in any way involved with the case professionally but is merely friends with the principal detective assigned to the investigation. Because of his relationship with the detective, Yukawa occasionally gets bits of information from his friend and he eventually develops an interest in the case especially since one of the main suspects turns out to be a former rival/friend from school.

I am not comfortable with giving out too much information about the story since I’m afraid to spoil the experience. As expected in this kind of genre, a twist in the story is inevitable. The twist in this one towards the end is pretty mind-blowing that even if you find the rest of the book mundane, the ending is worth it in my opinion. It just shows how creative the author is and to be honest, it’s quite scary how he could possibly come up with such scenarios. I’m definitely going to be reading more of Higashino’s books, you can bet on that.

NinthMelody rating: 9/10

[BOOK] Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

This book is about a 36-year-old man named Tsukuru Tazaki who is an engineer who builds railroad stations. It’s been his dream since he was young and it is amazing how he has worked tirelessly towards this goal. Tsukuru has been plagued by an event from his past where he was ostracized by his close friends without giving an explanation as to why. This has affected him so much that he even contemplated taking his own life. Now, at 36, he was coaxed by his girlfriend to find out exactly the reason why he was kicked out from the group and that she feels it would make him feel more at ease if he finally talked to his former friends.

After all this time, Tsukuru never tried to contact or seek answers from his group of friends as to why he was given that kind of treatment in the past. He just assumed that his personality; his colorless personality was the cause of all of it. His friends, Ao, Aka, Shiro and Eri, all had “colors” associated with their names. Tsukuru didn’t. This made him believe that he was the one with the least likable personality and thus the term “Colorless Tsukuru Tazuki.”

Tsukuru Tazaki is an embodiment of basically every human being who doubts himself; who sells himself short because he thinks he’s so ordinary that nothing about him is remarkable so everyone would probably be better off without him. Tsukuru Tazaki is me, maybe even you. There have been so many times when I’ve thought the same thoughts as he had (except the suicide part), I’ve imagined what it would be like if I had just ceased to exist. Would the people around me have a better life? Would it matter if I were gone? I see so much of myself in Tsukuru Tazaki’s self-doubting and lack of confidence. And you know what I realized? It’s quite annoying.

Despite being able to relate to what Tsukuru Tazaki was going through, I couldn’t help but be the person from the outside looking in. That self-doubt and lack in confidence is truly something that eats you up from the inside and no one can help you but yourself since no one around you is aware of its existence.

I was quite surprised to find out that this book was fairly normal. No out-of-this-world, supernatural occurrences which I’ve come to associate with Murakami’s work since the ones I’ve read before were fairly eccentric. The ending was not as definitive as I would’ve liked but apparently that’s also one of the things people associate with Haruki Murakami’s books.

If you’re looking for a satisfying ending, look elsewhere. There are quite a number of unanswered questions, inconclusive events, etc. But if you want to enjoy the ride and just go with the flow, this book is quite a journey. Just like real life, there are always things that JUST ARE. No explanations, no satisfying conclusions – just tucked away inside a drawer in one’s mind with the label, “PENDING.”

NinthMelody rating: 7/10

[BOOK] Human Acts.

Human Acts by Han Kang is a fictional account from 6 different people of their heartbreaking experiences during the Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in 1980. Being told from these different perspectives, show how the violent event affected people from various walks of life, no matter the gender nor age. This was a difficult read in terms of how the brutality and inhumane actions of the soldiers – the human acts – make you lose hope in humanity.

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

 

It might be odd to say, but the descriptions, despite being morbid in its meaning, was beautifully put into words – as if the words were made to alleviate the horrors of the horrendous events.

Gusts of wind grazed the leaves of dark trees. The pale sun trembled over the lip of the horizon, moving up to the sky’s center in a violent, majestic advance. Piled up behind the thicket, our bodies now began to soften in the sun, with putrefaction setting in. Clouds of gadflies and mayflies alighted on those places that were clotted with dried black blood, rubbed their front legs, crawled about, flew up, then settled again.

The excerpt above was from the second chapter – “The Boy’s Friend, 1980.” It is from the perspective of “the boy’s friend” – the boy, referring to Dong-Ho, the character introduced in Chapter 1 – “The Boy, 1980.” What’s interesting in this chapter is that “The Boy’s Friend,” Jeong Dae, is dead. He’s one of the victims of the onslaught and the chapter is purely from his perspective, despite being already dead. It is thus, more descriptive of the decaying bodies and piles of rotting flesh, all in first person narrative.

It is also interesting to note that each chapter differs in its narrative style. Some are in first person, second person and even third person narratives. As an epilogue, we see the perspective of the writer, Han Kang, herself. Born and raised in Gwangju, this historical event was close to her heart which is why she wanted to write this book in the first place.

“After you died I could not hold a funeral, and so my life became a funeral.”

The quote above is probably the most memorable line for me from Human Acts. It succinctly depicts the sorrow and hopelessness felt by those who survived a loss. “Survived” may be a wrong term to use but a loss of a loved one is obviously something one tries to overcome and willfully tries to move past from so for a person to continuously live past such a heartache, he/she is ultimately a survivor, despite the fact that such loss can never be forgotten.

In case you want to read this, I suggest reading the introduction by the translator, Deborah Smith. It would greatly enlighten you about the Gwangju Uprising in case you know nothing about it, like me. Reading about the brief history of the uprising greatly helped me in understanding where the activists were coming from.

NinthMelody Rating: 8.5/10

[BOOK] The Hypnotist’s Love Story.

Redesign_9780425260937_HypnotistsLo_cover.inddLiane Moriarty has been one of my go-to authors ever since I read “Big Little Lies.” It became one of my favorite books so I’ve approached her other works with mild curiosity and excitement. “The Hypnotist’s Love Story” is the fifth book of Moriarty’s that I’ve read and although it’s not my favorite, it was still a story that appealed to me.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Ellen O’Farrell is a professional hypnotherapist who works out of the eccentric beachfront home she inherited from her grandparents. It’s a nice life, except for her tumultuous relationship history. She’s stoic about it, but at this point, Ellen wouldn’t mind a lasting one. When she meets Patrick, she’s optimistic. He’s attractive, single, employed, and best of all, he seems to like her back. Then comes that dreaded moment: He thinks they should have a talk.

Braced for the worst, Ellen is pleasantly surprised. It turns out that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend is stalking him. Ellen thinks, Actually, that’s kind of interesting. She’s dating someone worth stalking. She’s intrigued by the woman’s motives. In fact, she’d even love to meet her.

Ellen doesn’t know it, but she already has.

Compared to her other books, I find this one to be very straightforward. Although it may sound rather plain, it wasn’t. This had the least mystery out of all the books of Moriarty that I’ve read. Don’t get me wrong, it had a mystery (the will-she or will-she not question) just not as big as the others.

What I like about this book is it was told from the perspective of Ellen and the stalker. I’ve always appreciated books told from multiple perspectives as it gives more dimension to the story. In fact, had it been told only from Ellen’s view, the stalker would have probably come out as a completely deranged lunatic, out to ruin Patrick’s and Ellen’s lives. Although that would be the typical response to a “stalker,” interestingly enough, Ellen was intrigued by the whole idea and doesn’t find it creepy at all. I don’t know if it’s because of her profession that she has a natural curiosity to get into the minds of those who have problems, or she’s just a brave, odd woman.

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My dog is not too keen on reading.. or posing for a photo.

Judging from people’s comments on Goodreads, I see a lot of skepticism about this book. I get that it’s not as great as her other works but it’s not that bad. One must read it as it is without judging it compared to her other books. I actually liked the idea that the antagonist has a redeeming quality and there is an opportunity and possibility for her to better herself. Also, Ellen may seem weird for being okay with the whole “stalker” thing and the fact that she was very accepting about Patrick taking her on a trip to the same place he went to with his “ex-girlfriend, now-stalker,” but hey, to each his own. Not everyone reacts the same way to weird instances.

In my opinion, this is still a sufficiently enjoyable read. It wouldn’t be the first book of Liane Moriarty’s that I would recommend to people but it’s not the worst thing in the world and it doesn’t deserve the hate it’s getting.

Other Liane Moriarty books I’ve read:

*Apparently I did not blog about “The Husband’s Secret” but it does not mean that I did not enjoy it. In fact, it’s one of her better works.

NinthMelody rating: 8/10

[BOOK] Naoko.

NaokoI was just randomly browsing through the books at a store when I chanced upon this simple, ordinary-looking book called NAOKO by a Japanese author – Keigo Higashino. I’ve said it time and again, I do judge a book by its cover. I just can’t help it. Who has the time to literally browse through each and every synopsis of all the books in a bookstore. Obviously, you judge a book by its cover. If the cover looks interesting enough or it was given much attention in its inception, then maybe it’s worth looking at. Publishers who are lazy in making the covers look inviting are not doing their books any good. Just saying.

Anyway, so there I was, judging books by their covers when this book simply stood out among the rest. I picked it up and the synopsis just intrigued me and I was genuinely curious to know how the story would develop. I would say though, the cover isn’t as extravagant as others but it really does pop and just draws your attention.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

An everyman, Heisuke works hard at a factory job to provide for his wife, Naoko, and young daughter, Monami. He takes pleasure from the small things, like breakfast with both of them after a night shift. His placid life is rocked when, looking up from his microwave dinner one evening, he realizes the TV news that he wasn’t paying attention to is reporting a catastrophic bus accident and the names of his loved ones.
When Monami finally wakes from a coma, she seems to think she’s Naoko, who has died protecting her daughter. More disturbingly, the girl knows things only Naoko could know. The family life that resumes between the modest man and a companion who looks like his daughter but seems like his dead wife is ticklish-funny until it begins hurtling toward a soul-shattering end.

The plot sounds messed up which is why I was hooked. I’ve never heard of Keigo Higashino nor his works so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he had also written Murder Mysteries (screams in excitement). The moment I finished reading this book, I ordered his other books immediately. I’ve read another one of his works since then and loved it (blog post about Devotion of Suspect X coming soon).

So about the book… If you think about it, the whole premise just sounds extremely disturbing. Imagine your child with the “soul” or “consciousness” of your spouse. *cringe* The whole time I was reading it, I was curious to see if the author would make the characters cross the line of immorality and *spoiler alert*

.

.

.

.

he doesn’t.

It was heartbreaking to see Heisuke lose his wife and daughter at the same time despite the fact that his daughter is alive but his wife’s soul is in her. You might think it’s like you never lost them but in fact, it seems like it’s worse. He is not sure how he should act with his daughter, Monami. Should he treat her like his daughter? or like his wife? It just seems wrong either way. The dilemma Heisuke was in is not something you’d want to wish on anybody.

NinthMelody rating: 8/10

 

[BOOK] The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

y648This was my first Agatha Christie book. I’ve always enjoyed murder/mysteries and detective stories, most especially Sherlock Holmes (I’m currently trying to read all of his novels and short stories in between the other books I’m reading). Knowing that, I realized, why have I never tried reading Agatha Christie’s books? I’ve heard nothing but good things about her work, so why have I never shown interest? So I remedied that.

From her website, I saw that they have a list of her books per series so I decided to start with the Hercule Poirot series, with the first book called “The Mysterious Affair At Styles.”

At first, it felt a lot like another Sherlock Holmes packaged differently – Sherlock Holmes as Hercule Poirot (a brilliant detective), John Watson as Hastings (the narrator and trusted side kick) and Lestrade as Inspector Japp. I must admit, at the beginning, I was put off by the fact that the dynamics felt a bit too familiar and similar to that of Sherlock Holmes and I couldn’t help but feel that it was a rip off of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic. However, after reading some background on Agatha Christie’s novels, apparently Hastings does not appear in all Poirot stories. I’m interested to see how those stories develop as opposed to this one. I understand that it’s unfair to judge Christie’s works based on just this one. So I look forward to reading her other novels and short stories. I might try a Miss Marple Mystery novel sometime soon.

Anyway, I can safely say that Poirot is such an endearing character as he has a certain comical warmth that sets him apart from Holmes. Both are obviously brilliant but that just really means their creators are at a league of their own. Hercule Poirot just exudes a different aura from Sherlock Holmes (in my mind, at least) that makes him more likeable as opposed to Sherlock Holmes’ more confident (or close to) arrogant brilliance.

Here’s the synopsis of The Mysterious Affair at Styles from Goodreads:

Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorpe, and how did the murderer penetrate and escape from her locked bedroom? Suspects abound in the quaint village of Styles St. Mary–from the heiress’s fawning new husband to her two stepsons, her volatile housekeeper, and a pretty nurse who works in a hospital dispensary. Making his unforgettable debut, the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is on the case. The key to the success of this style of detective novel, writes Elizabeth George in her Introduction, lies in how the author deals with both the clues and the red herrings, and it has to be said that no one bettered Agatha Christie at this game.

This book introduced me to the term “red herring.” Being a lover of Murder/Mysteries and typical “Detective” stories, I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve come across such a term. But man, does this story have it. It was a true roller coaster and I was pleasantly surprised that this is something I have not felt so far in Sherlock Holmes’ stories. I have yet to complete the entire collection but so far, it hasn’t surprised me in its revelations as much as The Mysterious Affair at Styles did.

I would have to say that this was a brilliant introduction to the world of Hercule Poirot. Surely, this would not be my one and only Poirot book. Looking forward to the others and more.

NinthMelody rating: 9/10