Monday, 25 July 2011

Book of the Week - Week Three

It's time again for 


This week's book was chosen because I simply can't stop telling people about it. It's called The Island at the End of the World and it's by Sam Taylor, the author of The Amnesiac which I have not read but it sounds fantastic.

The basic plot of the book is that there has been another great flood and the sole survivors are a small family unit: Pa, Alice, Finn, and Daisy. They have lived for years and years on a small, idyllic island which seems to fulfill all their needs. One day, however, a boat is spotted on the horizon and a stranger wanders into their perfect world. While Pa worries that this will spin the world he has created out of control, the children start to grapple with what this new addition to their tribe could mean.

Now, to be perfectly honest, the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was that it was published by Penguin, my favorite publisher and holder of my undiminished faith in all of their novels. Twenty pages in, however, I was dismayed to find that perhaps I had for once picked the sole rotten apple in the bunch.

My main problems with the beginning of the novel had to do with their narratorial style. Each chapter switched between first person narrators, from Pa to Finn and back again, switching to Alice later in the book. While each of these narrative voices are very powerful, unfortunately, young Finn's style, having been raised on the island, is completely phonetic. While an understandable choice, it becomes grating to read and the novel seems more like an exercise in patience than an interesting read.

Sticking through it, though, proved gratifying. The story the novel tells is interesting and the last twenty or so pages were as page-turning as the best of them. I absolutely loved the conclusion. 

The absolute best part, however, was Alice's narrative voice. We don't get to experience it until about halfway through the novel, when Finn's narration switches to Alice's. One of the details in the book is that Pa had only brought three books with him on the ark: a book of children's fables, the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. Knowing that that is all Alice has known since she was a young girl, her voice is a beautiful mix of normal speech and Shakespearean poetry that heightens the strong emotions as the novel races towards the inevitable conclusion.

This book is nowhere near perfect and very hard to get into but I feel it rewards the reader at the end, telling a complete and thought-provoking story. Definitely worth a try. 

Monday, 18 July 2011

Book of the Week - Week Two

Time once again for ....


In honor of this week being one year since moving to Japan, I picked this week's book from one of Japan's most famous authors, Haruki Murakami. An important figure in postmodern literature, Murakami has written many books that have been published to great acclaim all over the world.

The book I have chosen, After Dark, is by no means one of his most famous. You'd have to find Kafka on the Shore or Norwegian Wood for those. No, this is a short little novel he published in 2004 (2007 for us English speakers) but my favorite simply because it was the first of his I read.

A short novel at 208 pages, it takes place in the lives of several people over the span of one night in Tokyo. A student studying at Denny's. A manager at a love hotel. A girl in a deep sleep at home. Each of these characters, as well as several others, manage to intertwine their lives with those around them yet stay a distant presence at the same time.

An interesting look into the alienation of life in a big city, the thing I find most amazing about this book is the way it reads. The only way I can think to describe it is that it reads like watching a play. The images are so clear and so direct that it just happens in your mind's eye. And although there is no doubt as to what is happening, there is a vagueness and murkiness about it, too, as if the reader should be looking deeper or finding the meaning to the hollow areas.

It may not be his most famous piece or one of the deepest things you've ever read but it's a good taste of Murakami and a good starting book. If you have some time to sit down, it's a fast, interesting read. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Little Bit of Background

Hi. My name is Molly and the two things I love most in this world are books and journeys.

This was the first result for "books and journeys." Despite my lack of masculinity and jungle journeys, I feel it's appropriate.

Now, that isn't to say that there aren't other things I'm interested in. I watch much too much television and there was a point in my life when I could rattle off the names of countless Japanese celebrities. But if you were to ask me the two things most important to me at any time from the ages of three to twenty three, I would have no hesitation. I love to read and I love to go places.

I've been in love with books since the first time my mother took me to story time at my local library when I was two. I have vivid memories of wandering up and down the halls of the old library, knowing every inch of the children's section and, with the addition of the new self-check machines, helping confused adults check out books while my mother stood in line for our holds. 

There's just something incredibly magical about losing yourself in a book. There is no other medium that sucks you in like that, that mesmerizing state of imagination and prose, when no matter where you are, you're somewhere else. I can honestly remember periods of my childhood where I'd sit down on a couch with a book and look up to find it somehow hours later and my stomach growling out of nowhere. 

I looked something like this, but more modern and way less coifed.

If you recognized anything of yourself in those last few paragraphs, you should know that I now consider you a kindred spirit.

I think it was all those books at a young age that inspired the second love. I never said that I loved travelling. No, what I always wanted was a journey. Like all the characters from the books I loved so well, I wanted to head out with a purpose and discover things along the way. Of course, I probably wouldn't be the best heroine as a four year old but I'd like to think that as time passed, I might just have inherited those qualities of a classic novel heroine. 

If those animals could do it, so could I!

As such, I've taken pretty much every chance I could to go pretty much anywhere. As a kid, I traveled all around America with my parents, visiting ever-moving relatives and seeing lots of different sights (some I wanted to see, others not so much). It wasn't until I was older that I caught that world travelling bug. A trip to Japan in high school awakened the desire to see different cultures around the world and so, during college, I took every opportunity to fly off into the wild blue yonder. I recently figured out that, since 2008, I haven't gone more than six months without taking an intercontinental flight. It's frantic, it's tiring but, by gosh, it's the journey my life has taken. 

Molly's Journeys


July - Niigata, Japan
A school exchange with a small group of my friends to a small city in Japan. That's where it all started, friends.


January - Ireland
A class on the history of Ireland took me on a tour starting and ending in Dublin, hitting cities like Belfast, Derry, Galway and Killarney on the way. It was glorious.

September through December - London, England
A semester sent abroad at Queen Mary University in the East End of London. Good friends, good classes, good adventures.

November - Copenhagen, Denmark
A visit to another friend studying abroad. I never thought I would go to Denmark but I'm so happy I did. It's like a storybook.


April though August - Tokyo, Japan
Another semester abroad at Sophia University. With my group of four great friends (Angela, Tegge, Amy and Jenny), we pretty much conquered the city. It was an amazing experience.


January - Italy, France
Another class, this time on Christian Art History took me from Florence to Rome to Paris, with several stops along the way. It was certainly interesting, from a crazy group of students to freezing churches in January. 

July through December - Tokyo, Japan
Here's where we met at first, dear readers. A job teaching at an English school in Tokyo brought me back to the city where I had my greatest adventures. Sadly, I didn't have my four companions beside me but a few new friends helped the time go by.


January through March - Tokyo, Japan
The last few months in Japan were filled with a bit of stress and a surprise ending. Although it was tough at times, it was good, too and I'm happy it happened.

September through September 2012 - London, England
Is this my first time announcing it on the blog? I'M MOVING TO LONDON! I was accepted into University College London to get my Masters in Shakespearean Studies. So don't worry, this book blog isn't going anywhere.

And that's it, folks. That's the girl who's writing all of these nonsensical posts. I definitely turned all of my studious travels into mini-adventures that I promise to fill you guys in on. And now that I'm moving abroad again, you'll be the first to know when something ridiculous happens over in the UK. 

You know, as long as I can write about it on the internet.

And hopefully it is as awkward and hilarious as failbook

Monday, 11 July 2011

Book of the Week - Week One

Time to introduce a new corner of the blog. Every Monday we're going to have...


Our very first book of the week is Harry Potter. I wanted to choose something a little less well known but as the last movie comes out this Friday, it seemed only appropriate.

If you haven't read Harry Potter yet, well, I'm not quite sure how you've managed to get along in this world til now. Harry and his classmates have not only enchanted millions of children into reading but have created a whole generation of young adults waiting for their Hogwarts letter. It has gone beyond simply a series of books and has become a marker of a time period, something that connects people of a certain age with that same dream, "what's your sign?" turning into "what's your house?"

I'm a Hufflepuff, by the way.

The last movie is coming out this week and for many of us, it seems like a marker of the end of our childhood. We grew up with Harry and his friends and now there will be no more new magic. But that's the wonderful thing about books: they're always there for a reread. There's always some little detail that you forgot about, a spell that slipped your mind. And Harry, Ron and Hermione will always be a part of our lives, for as long as we want them to be.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

It's new, it's exciting, it's the BRAND NEW 'LIT NERD AROUND THE WORLD!'

Let's face it: this blog has become boring. I'm so far behind on my book reviews that it's become worrying to even think about it and I try to ignore it whenever possible. Which I shouldn't because, deep down, I do love this and want to update it. So, it has come time for a drastic change.

Not that drastic

There will no longer be super long book reviews where I'm rambling mostly to fill up space. There will be lots and lots of different content, from personal stories to tidbits about different countries to thoughts on different literary genres. The point of the blog will be the same (and, of course, there will still be book reviews, if shorter) but hopefully, it will be much more fun.

One can only hope as fun as this

Ideas? Things you'd like to see? Drop me a line. I'd love to hear more ideas.

Example: This is a great idea

See you all soon!