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Origin in Death
J.D. Robb
Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You
Jay Rubin
Black Butler, Vol. 1 - Yana Toboso, Tomo Kimura I actually watched the first season of the anime before picking up the manga. I really like the story progression laid out in the manga. It starts out seeming to be the misadventures of a very competent butler with an eccentric master and incompetent staff. However, at the end, you realize that something is not quite right.

I also enjoy the mangaka's artistic style and her extras included at the end of the volume.
The Countess - Rebecca Johns This novel is a dramatization of the Countess Erzsébet Báthory who is also known has the "Blood Countess" . I'm not sure how much of it is based on fact and how much artistic license was taken. However, the narrative, told from Erzsébet's perspective was interesting and decently told while lulling you into almost seeing the rational behind the insanity -- that is if you are to believe that she was a victim of politics though she was definitely a sadistic woman.

I couldn't give it a 3 star rating. It's a personal preference in which I like a fuller developed story rather than the superficial narrative style. It's okay. I recommend this novel for someone that wouldn't mind a casual re-imagining from the Countess's perspective.
Undone by the Duke (Secrets in Silk, #1) - Michelle Willingham I liked the basic concept of the characters, setting and plot. However, it felt incomplete for some reason. I guess the main problem is the pacing and development of the to main threads were not meshing well. We have Jonathan and Victoria, the series plot of the dastardly Earl as well as hints of future stories involving the rest of the family.

Overall, this series has potential and I forward to the next novel in the series.
Dance Dance Dance - Haruki Murakami, Alfred Birnbaum I'm not sure what to make of this installment of the series. We pick up five years after where [b:A Wild Sheep Chase|11298|A Wild Sheep Chase (The Rat, #3)|Haruki Murakami|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327908774s/11298.jpg|2057170] ends. Again, he is making a living though going through the motions in life though in his own small ways inserts a part of himself in his mundane work. Again, he reaches the realization that he's in a rut and as he connects with people, things happen again. I'm not sure what to make of this. Perhaps its about living and the risks of living and getting hurt. However, the alternative is just shoveling snow.
The Winter Sea - Susanna Kearsley I wish I had read this novel before Firebird; I was constantly trying to figure that heroine's story into this one and realized I could remember all the details. Despite the preoccupation, I really enjoyed the parallel stories of Carrie and Sophia. At first, I found Carrie's story more engrossing but later Sophia's story overshadowed Carrie's. I also especially loved the part when Jane despaired over Sophia's story. I felt it too! Glad I was able to borrow the book from the library.

A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase - Haruki Murakami I can't decide between a 3.5 or a 4. This story falls in the realm of magical realism. You do have a socially disconnected protagonist who is sent on a wild sheep chase. At times, the story is absurd but it works. The dialogue is slick and the characters are less introspective than the last novel I read. I do have a theory about what the sheep symbolized but felt I was missing parts of the story since I didn't read the earlier novels; however, this shouldn't greatly affect your ability to follow the story.
Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami When I borrowed this book from the library, I didn't know what to expect. This is a haunting tale of characters living in various forms of disconnect. I really enjoyed this novel. However, I can see how this novel isn't for mass consumption.

The story is primarily character driven and through the eyes of the main character. He is a rather disconnected individual that hovers between the connected and disconnected world. The pacing and narrative style reminded me a lot of Margaret Atwood's earlier novels -- introspective and not overtly emotionally strong characters. I think that's what I enjoyed the most about the novel is the flawed characters living life the best they can and nothing really dramatic but a mundane life and coping with it (or not coping with it in some cases).
The Book of Madness and Cures - Regina O'Melveny This novel is about a woman's journey seeking to find the absentee father she idolized and realizing the truth about her father. It is Gabriella's journey into adulthood and letting go of childhood illusions.

Character development and story development was rich but also slowed the pace of the story significantly. The plausibility of Gabriella being able to travel with just two elderly servants in 16th century Europe was also really hard to believe and constantly nagged at me even though I tried not to let it affect me.

If you don't mind the implausibilty and rather rich detailing, you will enjoy this book.

I wish we could do half stars. I can't give it a 3 but it deserves more than a 2 star rating.
Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess - Lea Jacobson This is an interesting narrative of an American woman's journey through the less than savory aspects of Japanese life. At first, there were some hindsight rationalization which actually irks me when I read biographies of living people but luckily it stopped quickly and laid out her life as it were, warts and all.

I really enjoyed reading her perspective as a young woman with her personal demons that had an unfortunate synergy with the hostess lifestyle. I liked that she generally didn't make excuses in the latter part of the book. I also enjoyed her take on Japanese culture as well though the book focused on her life as an American working in a hostess club. Parts of the narrative were difficult especially during her bratty moments. It was painful to read at times.

The best part is that the book ends with a hopeful epilogue. She seems to have matured and finding her footing.
Gambler's Woman - Jayne Ann Krentz The characters were intriguing and their interactions were fun to read. However, the story progressed too fast without the right development. Jordon came off as a borderline stalker and his actions were questionable. We didn't get enough character development to reconcile that. It was also very hard to reconcile the resolution of the story as well. In fact, I think that was the main hurdle for me when reading this book. Alyssa was intriguing and well developed as well as her portion of the story. I realize this was written in the 80s and appeals to that audience as well as needing to be short. If it were a little bit longer and Jordon were better developed, this would be a decent story. However, Jordon just came off like a sleaze to me. No matter how she did try to mitigate it.

Slightly Shady (Lake/March, #1)

Slightly Shady (Lake/March, #1) - Amanda Quick This series is okay. I liked the suspense aspect of the story but not so much the characters with the exception of the niece and brother-in-law. My general pet peeve is that I don't enjoy older characters acting more immature than their younger counterparts. Both Tobias and Lavania can off childish and immature compared to Anthony and Emeline. With that said, while not her better works, it was an interesting premise with a lot of wasted potential.

Hotel Iris

Hotel Iris - Yōko Ogawa Lately I've been reading a lot of Japanese fiction dealing with parasitic children but this story is the reverse. It is the adults in this story who are the parasites stealing from the children. Mari's life and emotional well being is slowly whittled away by her mother who visits excessive responsibilities on Mari while taking time to live her life. The nasty maid who is her mom's buddy steals Mari's possessions as well as taunting her stagnate life. Worse is the translator who is selfish and uses Mari as an emotional punching bag for all his anger and regret. While their relationship is uneven, Mari does get something out of her relationship with the translator; a drama play of her emotional angst and a chance to rebel against the life at the inn. The novel starts with a detailed slow ticking away at Mari's existence and you root for her escape. However, as everything comes to a head at the climax of the story, everything happens or appears resolved in a flurry. Everything happens fast. I did not see this as a bittersweet love story as many have. I might have it weren't for the scene with the nephew and the subsequent reaction of his uncle. But after those scenes it just had too much of a Lolita feel to it. Adults stealing innocence trying to reclaim something for themselves selfishly with regard to who they hurt. Anyway, that's my two cents.
Paprika - Yasutaka Tsutsui I couldn't do it. While the plot was somewhat interesting, I felt no connection to the characters. Not enough to want to keep going. I only made it to the end of chapter 3 and just couldn't bring myself to pick it up. Perhaps I'm not in the mood for it. Storywise, it is fine but I'm in the mood for more character driven stories or perhaps stories with more introspection. But for now, I will give up on this novel until I'm in the mood for it.

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan - Jake Adelstein I have mixed feelings about this book. It starts out as an irrelevant story about the author's journey into journalism in Japan as a foreigner and also about the relationship with the police. However, you already know the poop is going to hit the fan. It becomes riveting and I couldn't put the book down. Towards the end, I felt a lot was missing from the final story or as if there was a lot that wasn't said but implied. I also don't know how I felt about his womanizing. He was frank about it in the beginning but not so towards the end dropping hints. I really couldn't say that I approved since he was married with children but I realize the situation is far more complicated. Still, a very illuminating tale on so many levels.
Pirate's Bride - Lynette Vinet This book had potential. There were many plot elements that had the characters been better developed would have carried off the novel. However, there were too many holes in the story and the characters were both incredibly underdeveloped and unlikeable in their present form that made it tough to read the story. Our main heroine, Bethryn never really matures. She acts like an impetus brat from beginning to end. Ian is a jerk too. A complete philanderer and his evolution feels false due to the lack of development as well. The concept is intriguing of hidden identity and the novel started out promising.
Math for Mystics: From the Fibonacci sequence to Luna's Labyrinth to the Golden Section and Other Secrets of Sacred Geometry - Renna Shesso I couldn't give this book a rating. While it made intriguing mystical connections with mathematical concepts, it had too much mysticism and not enough math for my taste. Nor did it provide enough evidence for a lot of its assertions. However, there are many interesting points and connections made.