Top 5 Friday – Books Which Have Impacted Me

As World Book Day was this week, I thought for this month’s Friday feature I would look at the top five books that have impacted me in some way. A couple of these novels aren’t what I would consider to be favourites of mine, but they are all ones that have stuck with me in some way, or have been an introduction into something I love to see in books now.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

HERE IS A SMALL FACT:
YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with her foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME MORE IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH.

I remember first seeing this novel in a WH Smiths Bookshop at an airport, the cover and the description both really caught my attention. At the time I didn’t have enough pocket money to buy it so I, unfortunately, had to leave it there. After coming back from my holiday I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about the novel so I was determined to find it! I’m so pleased I did as it was such a beautiful novel and unlike anything I had ever read before. As a child I did read quite a lot of fiction around WWII but this one just stood out to me. I loved all of the characters, especially Liesel and the friendship she had with Max who her family was hiding in their basement. I don’t imagine there’s anyone who hasn’t read this novel now, but if you haven’t it is well worth picking up!


Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

Claire and her mother are running out of time, but they don’t know it. Not yet. Claire is wrapped up with the difficulties of her bourgeoning adulthood—boys, school, friends, identity; Claire’s mother, a single mom, is rushed off her feet both at work and at home. They rarely find themselves in the same room at the same time, and it often seems that the only thing they can count on are notes to each other on the refrigerator door. When home is threatened by a crisis, their relationship experiences a momentous change. Forced to reevaluate the delicate balance between their personal lives and their bond as mother and daughter, Claire and her mother find new love and devotion for one another deeper than anything they had ever imagined.

This is either the first book, or one of the first books, that I ever read which made me realise that novels didn’t have to be written in continuous prose in order to be a good book or tell a great story. Whilst it’s been years since I read this novel, I remember enjoying the way the story was told – through a series of notes that a mother and her teenage daughter would leave each other as they rarely saw each other. Whether the novel still stands up now the same as it did when I first read it, I’m not entirely sure, but the fact that I did read this novel so long ago and I can still remember how it was written and how it ended shows that it did make a lasting impression on me. Even now, I seek out novels that subvert the norm in terms of structure.


Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the remarkable story of a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. Here Haruki Murakami—one of the most revered voices in literature today—gives us a story of love, friend­ship, and heartbreak for the ages.

This novel was my first exposure to Japanese fiction, I had no idea when I picked this novel up that it would spark an interest in the genre which has now become one of my favourites. Even before I understood the nuances of translated fiction and how different Japanese novels are from Western ones, I could tell there was something unique about the way it was written. That this storytelling and characters was very different to what I was used to. This is also a fabulous novel if you have never read a Murakami before!


1984 by George Orwell

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . .

When I was in Sixth Form I was really into dystopian fiction, however I had never read 1984 even though it was said to be one of the greats of the genre. So, I knew that I needed to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about. I adored this novel and quickly understood why so many people still talk about it today and why there are so many references to the novel in everyday life. The future that Orwell imagined was a chilling one, that coupled with the complicated and, not always likeable, characters, really packed a punch. So much so that it was this novel that inspired my dissertation looking into dystopian fiction and how I branched out of YA dystopian novels to classic ones and ‘adult’ ones.


Pet Sematary by Stephen King

When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son—and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat.

But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth—more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.

A few years ago I went through a phase of reading a lot of Stephen King novels, however out of the ones I read there was only one that managed to actually scare me and that was Pet Semetary. I’m not sure what exactly it was about this novel that I found so creepy compared to his others that I had read too. There was just something about the way King described the characters after they had been buried in the Pet Semetary, that was incredibly unsettling. What probably didn’t help was the fact that I was reading this on holiday and where we was staying was close to a cemetery. But the point still stands!

What books have you read that have impacted or influenced you in some way? Let me know in the comments!

www.blackwells.co.uk

Top 5 Friday – Most Anticipated Reads of 2021 (Part One)

There are so many amazing books coming out in 2021, so I thought that I would start with five of my anticipated reads of the year that will be coming out in the Spring, I’m going to split this list into parts and post them throughout the year. These parts are grouped by release date so you know what is coming soon and won’t have to wait too long!

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Release Date: 2 March 2021

“Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.”

When I discovered earlier last year that Kazuo Ishiguro was releasing a new novel I was thrilled – I was less thrilled to see March 2021 as its release date but the wait is finally nearly over! I adored Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go so much to that it was one of the texts I analysed in my dissertation. The fact that the novel is set around AI (Artificial Intelligence), which fascinates me, has me even more eager to get my hands on it!


Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro

Publisher: Tinder Press
Release Date: 25 March 2021

It’s a lonely life for Stan, at a new school that feels more ordeal than fresh start, and at home where he and his mother struggle to break the silence after his father’s death. When he encounters fearless, clever Charlie on the local common, all of that begins to change. Charlie’s curiosity is infectious, and it is Charlie who teaches Stan, for the first time, to stand on his own two feet. But will their unit of two be strong enough to endure in a world that offers these boys such different prospects?

Naomi Ishiguro actually has two books out this year that I will be picking up, both of which I am looking forward to (Escape Routes came out in hardback early 2020 but the paperback is released on 21 January 2021 which is what I’ve been waiting for!). I decided to highlight this one in particular as, not only is it being published for the first time this year but, I am a huge sucker for stories that focus on friendships, especially the hardships over the years. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a copy of this novel from NetGalley and I can’t wait to get stuck into it.


First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Release Date: 6 April 2021

The eight masterly stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic memories of youth, meditations on music, and an ardent love of baseball to dreamlike scenarios and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.

One of my favourite authors is Haruki Murakami and I’m slowly working my way through his works. When I was checking out which books I had left to read I discovered that he has a new short story collection coming out this year. So, naturally, this has to make it onto this list. I especially love mysterious form so when it is unclear whether some of the narrators of these stories are Murakami himself – it just makes it even more exciting!


Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

Publisher: Transworld Publishers
Release Date: 22 April 2021

Seven students are avoiding going to school, hiding in their darkened bedrooms, unable to face their family and friends, until the moment they discover a portal into another world that offers temporary escape from their stressful lives. Passing through a glowing mirror, they gather in a magnificent castle which becomes their playground and refuge during school hours. The students are tasked with locating a key, hidden somewhere in the castle, that will allow whoever finds it to be granted one wish. At this moment, the castle will vanish, along with all memories they may have of their adventure. If they fail to leave the castle by 5 pm every afternoon, they will be eaten by the keeper of the castle, an easily provoked and shrill creature named the Wolf Queen.

This novel sounds like the perfect combination of fairytale and mystery all set (sort of) in my favourite city, Tokyo. I’m drawn in just by the description alone, it feels like it will be a magical read but not just because of its fantasy setting. I can’t wait to meet these characters and hear their stories.


Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Publisher: Wildfire
Release Date: 29 April 2021

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

As many of you may have noticed, last year I was on a huge Greek mythology book kick – especially when it came to the women in Greek mythology. I was already somewhat familiar with the character of Ariadne due to Madeline Miller’s Circe, but I wanted to learn more about her – so when I found out about this novel on Twitter I immediately added it to my Waterstones’ wish list. Since then I have been lucky enough to be approved a copy of the novel on NetGalley – although the cover alone is worth getting a physical copy of this book too!

These are just a handful of titles I’m excited about to start the year off with! What releases are you excited about this year? Which books out of my five are you most interested in checking out?

www.blackwells.co.uk

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date:
03/10/2019
Length: 681 pages
Genre:
Translated Fiction | Japanese Fiction | Magic Realism

CW: n/a

Blackwells.co.uk

When a thirty-something portrait painter is abandoned by his wife, he holes up in the mountain home of a famous artist. The days drift by, spent painting, listening to music and drinking whiskey in the evenings. But then he discovers a strange painting in the attic and unintentionally begins a strange journey of self-discovery that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt and a haunted underworld.

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Monthly Wrap Up – August 2020

This is my first full month blogging and I’m really happy with the way things are going so far! This month I also began reading two books at a time rather than my usual one book at a time, which has been working out much better than I thought it would. 

In August I launched two different types of monthly content of my Top Five Friday and Thoughtful Thursday. If you have any suggestions on topics you’d like to see me cover in these posts, please let me know. In addition to that, I also became a Blackwell’s affiliate! This means that any Blackwell’s link you see on my blog (including the banners) is my affiliate link, at no extra cost to you I will earn a small commission on any order placed using my affiliate link. I would really appreciate it if you check it out for your next book buying spree!

Books read this month

All the physical books I read in August.

This month I read a total of 16 books (9 physical books and 7 ebooks)

  1. Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro (ARC)
  2. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
  3. The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan
  4. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  5. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
  6. The Bridge of Little Jeremy by Indrajit Garai (Review Request)
  7. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
  8. The Last Qumranian by Joe Basile (Review Request)
  9. Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
  10. The Hungry Ghost by H.S. Norup (ARC)
  11. Spark by Naoki Matayoshi (ARC)
  12. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
  13. Marilia, The Warlord by Morgan Cole (ARC)
  14. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  15. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
  16. The Connection by David Billingsley (Review Request)

Favourite books read this month

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
As you can tell I’ve still been on a Greek myth retelling kick with this entry! I loved hearing a story from the Trojan war that I have never considered before, from both slave and warrior. The characters are wonderfully conflicted and developed which made it difficult not to fall for them. This novel captures everything that is great about Greek mythology and isn’t afraid to get violent. 

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
As I’ve mentioned before, Murakami is one of my favourite authors, so it’s not really a shock to see his novel on my favourites for this month! If you have never read a Murakami novel before this is a great one to start with to understand the brilliance of magic realism, whilst also uncovering a family mystery. 

The Hungry Ghost by H.S. Norup
This novel was such a refreshing read with unique characters and a fascinating tale steeped in Malay culture and superstition. What stood out the most for me about this novel were the characters, especially Freja the protagonist. Norup excellently captured the voice of her child characters and developed them beautifully. This novel is released on the 24 September 2020.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
This novel was such a magical experience for me, not only is this novel a favourite for this month but it is one of my favourites in general. I don’t think any review I can write on this book (although one is coming) would do it justice. Morgenstern masterfully weaves together several different narratives and narrative styles which was delightful.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Book Tag

In my favourite place with my favourite villager…

Firstly, huge thanks to Two Book Thieves for creating this brilliant book tag! As soon as I saw it on another blog I just knew that this would be a perfect one for me to do! As well as books, my other huge passion is video games and I, like most other people, have been obsessively playing Animal Crossing New Horizons since it came out in March. I also thought it was quite appropriate to post this today with the second Summer update going live!

Past Villager – Who is a character you found when you were younger that still has a place in your heart?

I think I would have to say Alex Rider from the series by Anthony Horowitz. Whilst I haven’t kept up with the series in recent years, I loved Alex’s adventures and I was always excited to start reading the next instalment. The character is still very much in my heart, especially after reliving my favourite of his missions, Point Blanc, in the recent TV adaptation Alex Rider on Amazon Prime.

Blather’s Blatherings – Recommend a historical fiction book that you think everybody should read.

No doubt about it, everybody should read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (then again, I’m not sure if there are many people left that haven’t read it at this point!). It’s a phenomenal story set in Nazi Germany and narrated by Death. I read the novel in 2007 and it has stuck with me ever since.

Celeste’s Wish – What is a future book you wish you could read now?

I wish I could read The Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss, which doesn’t yet have a release date. After finishing The Wise Man’s Fear I have been eager to get my hands on the final instalment of the series! However, I trust Patrick Rothfuss and his writing to know that the novel will be well worth the wait no matter how long it may be.

Timmy & Tommy – What is your favourite sibling relationship in a book?

The siblings that immediately came to mind were the Weasley twins – how could they not?

The Easter Bunny – A popular book character you’re not a big fan of.

Professor Snape. I feel like getting backstory for him, and the reveal of why he’s mean to Harry, just didn’t sit well with me. It was interesting but, to me, it made him bullying Harry all these years make less sense. Okay, we get that you hate his father but, is that any way to treat the child of the woman you supposedly loved?

Nook’s Loans – An author you would give all your money to.

Haruki Murakami, I mean, I practically have already with all of the books of his that I’ve bought and read so far!

The Sisters Able – What is your favourite fictional family (found or otherwise)?

Kind of a mix of found and blood family, but I love the Housekeeper, her son Root and the Professor in Yōko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor. Whilst only two are actually blood related, the way that the Housekeeper looks after the Professor and builds a strong bond with him was beautiful. The way the Professor took to Root too, as if he was his grandson, was also very touching.

It’s a C+ – What is a book trope you don’t like that keeps popping up?

Love triangles. Nothing more needs to be said.

The Wandering Camel – What is your favourite book set in a land far away from yours?

As a literature enthusiast, it is impossible for me to have a favourite book (how do you manage to pick just one?!). However, the one that I have chosen for this question is Dawn by Octavia Butler. This was on my reading list for a module at university and I adored it. I was fascinated by the Oankali aliens and their plans for the last remaining humans on a new planet. Thinking about this book again makes me want to re-read it and finish the series…

What Would Dodos Do? – A fictional land you wish you could fly away to at any moment.

It would have to be the wizarding world in the Harry Potter series. After growing up with the series, it felt like home to me and probably always will. Although, I’d like to go to Hogwarts when Harry isn’t a student: I couldn’t be dealing with the stress of Voldemort making an appearance every year AND exams.