Showing posts with label Natsuo Kirino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Natsuo Kirino. Show all posts

Thursday, January 22, 2015

To the Bottom of Yoshida's Villain!

It’s probably easier–to save any spoilers–if I just copied the back synopsis of Shuichi Yoshida's Villain here to give you an idea as to what the book is about.  As well as sprinkle your imagination.
"A woman is killed at a ghostly mountain pass in southern Japan and the local police quickly pinpoint a suspect.  But as the puzzle pieces of the crime slowly click into place, new questions arise.  Is a villain simply the person who commits a crime or are those who feel no remorse for malicious behavior just as guilty?  Moving from office parks and claustrophobic love hotels to desolate seaside towns and lighthouses, Shuichi Yoshida's dark thriller reveals the inner lives of men and women who have something to hide."
I decided to borrow the book’s synopsis to keep Villain’s plot as imprecise as possible. Why? Because while Villain’s unfolding events may seem apparent in the beginning, there are moments of both physiological and story progression that deters, squeezes, and red herrings you around the entanglements of the book. All of which may spoil the reading experience should I try to lay it all out in a summary. Nevertheless, to me Villain works in part like a character analysis, societal/cultural examination, noir thriller, and salacious love story. And while some of those elements may not seem to correspond properly with one another–or belong underneath the same listing–it’s kind of what I'm left with after reading the book.

Villain offers plenty; crammed together and, in my opinion, dark and elegantly deployed in the book’s storytelling.  It's a story that raises questions asking what sort of psychological disposition (if even able) causes an individual to tumble over the edge and into that of a murderer? What unawareness causes a person to fall as prey to a murderer? What causes a person to fall in love with a murderer? How does either of the two’s family respond, internalize and accept the falling of their loved one? How do outside players pushed into the fray deal with guilt and grief concerning their choices and lack thereof?  What are the choices given to all those involved, and what could amount to a better decision? How does cultural and societal pressure play a role?

And so much of this is presented without overthrowing the actual story itself.

So many questions with subjective answers consume you post-Villain. However, if not, you'll have at least enjoyed the shadowy ride with its troubled characters. And Villain is a ride that may, at times, feel bumpy from Yoshida’s multiple interlocking plots and sometimes non-chronological events. Also, the unexpected leaps from third-person to a reflective first-person narrative may ask you to step back for just a moment to gather exactly which character is providing his or her study of the surrounding events.

If you love Japanese crime and physiological thriller writers like Natsuo Kirino, Ryu Murakami and Miyuki Miyabe then you can't go too wrong with Yoshida’s Villain. As my first reading of him, I have to say that Villain contained all the elements and components I love in Japanese crime/psychological fiction.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Taste of Mori Hiroshi

"Kaoru thought she would get married to her boyfriend Thoru soon. However, since she met Satoru, Thoru's younger twin brother, something in her mind had changed. Kaoru noticed that she was being attracted toward Satoru more than to Thoru.

While Thoru was on his overseas business trip, the apartment Satoru lived in was burned down and a burned body was found on the site.

Was it an accident?
Was it a suicide, homicide, or murder?
Whose body was burned to death, Satoru or Thoru?

Did Thoru kill Satoru?
Or, did Satoru kill Thoru?

There is only one victim.
There is only one suspect.

And, there is only one truth."

I am bored with Patricia Cornwell’s latest, Flesh and Blood. Well, actually, not bored. Maybe weary of the uneventfulness of it all. Nonetheless, I didn't want to lose any reading momentum I’d already gathered for November–though I think it’s already lost. Having gotten through a manga (Stepping on Roses volume 2), I then decided to read a translated copy of A Pair of Hearts by Japanese thriller writer, Mori Hiroshi. I happened upon the book after watching two episodes of The Perfect Insider, a Japanese television crime drama based off Mori’s S&M series. It’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of Japanese crime writer, Natsuo Kirino; and a little more on the abnormal side of Japan as it concerns the author Haruki Murakami. So Hiroshi seemed like a great fit/distraction.

I did enjoy A Pair of Hearts. It was a quick read (54 pages); not too heavy on the details, and just an easy introduction into Hiroshi's writing (certainly not the best introduction, I'm sure). I anticipated its wooly ending, considering the story built itself on the internal and external conflict of a woman shuffling relations between a pair of twins. So there’s not too much here, but I look forward to one day reading a full novel by Hiroshi. And sadly, this little reading interlude wasn't sweet enough to push me back into Cornwell. Oh, well.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

7 Favorite Reads of 2013


With each year comes one concrete, consistent thing that forever entertains, comforts, and enlightens me... that would be books.  According to Goodreads I read more in 2013 than 2012.  I felt a little surprised, certain that it was the other way around for some reason.  Still, I had a few decent books on that list that I cropped through to find my 7 Favorite Reads of 2013 that I wanted to share on the blog.  Some of the books I've never written about; this is the perfect time to do so.  I also have another list comprising of a few of the books I rather leave in 2013.  Neither list is necessarily numbered in order of greatness, flavor, or level of entertainment.  It’s just a list of the books I walked away from feeling mostly inspired (or uninspired) by.
Here goes…
1. The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

Natsuo Kirino is a Japanese crime writer best known outside of Japan for the English adaptation of her grizzly novel, Out.  I was introduced to her by that particular book, after a bored bookstore stroll for new titles to read.  Quickly put, Out is about four hard-up Japanese women working in a bento factory while disposing bodies for extra cash.  Their method of disposal?  Divide the bodies into pieces before each takes a part to an undisclosed location for dumping.  It doesn't take long before their trust with one another, concerning money and their nasty dealings, begin to unravel from within.  And true to its nature, some of these women don't make it till the end of the novel.  While Out may sound like some sort of ABC crime novel under the streets of Tokyo, the psychology Kirino goes through with each of the women places this book a whole step above.  That exploration into a character's dark psychology (and impulse) is familiar in Japanese crime novels.  You see it in authors Keigo Higashino and Miyuki Miyabe as well.  Nonetheless, I was sold by Out's synopsis and have been a fan of Kirino since.  

The next novel adapted into English was her book, Grotesque.  Just as dark as Out, Grotesque follows the story of two Japanese sisters weighted by the inferior treatment of women in Japan.  One sister has turned to prostitution underneath the weight.  When I say this story will take you down some dark and scary places--I mean it.  It is one ride that will keep you hanging on just to find some kind of resolution with these sisters.  If you can stomach it, of course.  In 2008 the English adaptation of Kirino’s Real World was released.  Here we had another dark story featuring a group of Japanese teens assisting a murderer-on-the-run within their group.  Naturally, Kirino’s dark stories reflect societal concerns, particularly bullying and the heavy amount of pressure placed on Japanese students and academics, so addressed in Real World.  

So what is Kirino’s fourth English adapted book about?  

Almost the same theme concerning the overthrow of women in Japanese society; however, it’s told underneath a retelling of an old Japanese kwaidan-like myth.  The Goddess Chronicle takes place on a Japanese island shaped like a teardrop (let’s go ahead and push the symbolism).  On this island we’re introduced to two sisters born and designed to fulfill a local prophesy.  One sister, Kamikuu, must be a representative of purity and light, whereas the other sister, Namima, resides in the shade.  Natural to Kirino’s characters and storytelling, Namima wishes to escape her position underneath her sister’s shadow.  This wish becomes increasing dire when Namima is ordered by tradition to serve the goddess of darkness.  To serve the goddess is to live in isolation without the island’s graveyard, attending to the dead.  However, Namima carries a secret that breaks her tabooed position as a servant of the darkness.  Namima devises a plan to escape the island.  Should the tradition-baring locals find out about her secret, the consequences could equal up to her life.  Where Namima's eventual escape leads her is to the Realm of the Dead, where she meets the goddess of darkness herself.  It's here that Namima realizes that she has a lot to relate to with the goddess herself.  They both share the pain of the betrayal.  Now to find absolve (or maybe revenge) within those betrayals are the women’s common goal.

2.  Night by Elie Wiesel

3.  Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

4.  Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor

My post on Linden Hills.  

5.  The Shining by Stephen King

7.  Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Now the 3 books I'd probably leave in 2013 follows...

1.  Jazz by Toni Morrison

Seems a little off I'm sure.  It's not that I disliked the book, it just wasn't what I'd hoped for.  I've learned that much of Morrison's material post-80's has what I see as a distracting dip in vivid prose and language.  The problem for me is that that "distracting" sometimes lures me away from gathering some sense of the plot of the book, or even the order of the plot.  Add in the multiple themes and narratives in JazzI just didn't leave fully connected with overall story.  However, some of the individual narratives in the book stood so strongly that it was like reading an individual short story inside the book.  Glimpses of pieces of the past that made the two main characters was where I enjoyed the book the most.  In any regard, it's definitely a book that needs a second, focused read.

2.  The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

The Urban Fantasy genre has failed me over the years.  After Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series set the tone for what to avoid while writing/reading in the genre, I've been sketchy on picking up anything that even distantly suggests a girl must sleep with vampires and werewolves for a plot.  Save for the authors who introduced me to the genre (sadly, Hamilton is one), I try to look carefully for new authors in the genre.  I'm afraid they'll try to pull me in with a ridiculous plot about sex and a she devil who thrives on it to survive.  Williams, luckily, isn't any of those things.  However, what did annoy me about this particular book was that the heroine spent a little too much time than I cared for ruminating on her affection between two guys.  One guys is labeled bad.  One guy is labeled good.  We got a love triangle and the whole time I just wished the main character, McKenzie, would give up the need for romantic stability and just start slaying heads.  Something tells me that's a personal taste of mine.  Nevertheless, I'm actually on the fence about continuing the series.  I'll let it get a few books in then see.

3.  Deadline by Sandra Brown

She has some good ones.  She has some boring ones.  This was a boring one.  I hate to say it, but many times Brown's characters are all the same.  Their careers are different, but their desires are not.  Predictable in many senses.  I saw a lot of that in Deadline.  Same as in 2012's Low Pressure.  Same as in 2011's Lethal (which I actually liked).  As I said before, Brown's books sometimes read like Lifetime movies--and that's not a bad thing.  But here's what I see too often that annoys me.  There's a guy.  He's often a suspect involved in the murder contained within the book.  He likes the girl.  She's often related to the victim in some way.  They're either on the run from cops or bad guys.  Between that running, she is a wall to his desperate sexual advances.  She cracks.  He makes way.  Together they become a force to smoke out the true killer.  That's been her last 3-4 books.

That's the end of my list folks!  Wish I could've written about them all, but trust and believe me when I say that the ones that I didn't write about would've required an entire post.  Any suggestions or comments?  Do you have a list 2013 book list of favorites?  Share and let's compare notes!

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