Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I enjoy a good apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novel, and I love literary fiction. Station Eleven gave me both. A flu pandemic wipes out 99% of the world's population. Civilization collapses, the survivors do what they can to survive and rebuild. But merely survival is not enough for The Traveling Symphony, a troupe of musicians and actors who go from outpost to outpost performing Shakespeare. The storyline twists and veers in a non-linear fashion, jumping back and forth in time: before, during, and up to twenty years after the pandemic. What I found most satisfying was the descriptive world-building, including how people reacted to this new world; how they interacted, how they felt: "[They were] furious because fury was the last defense against…

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Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki

In Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, memories of time spent in Japan visiting her professional violinist grandfather inspire Hana to play her violin in her school talent show, even though she's had only a few lessons. Hana spends every spare moment practicing, despite unsupportive comments from her brothers, and finds a way to face her own performance anxiety the day of the show. The illustrations are stunning, and I especially appreciated Leng's attention to accurate details: the violin and the bow are shown in the correct hands, music notes are properly drawn. Uegaki's use of language is beautifully descriptive: "From his study, the clear, bright notes would drift upstairs, through the shoji screen doors to where Hana slept on sweet-smelling tatami…

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The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

Let me start out by commenting on the physical book itself. The Strange Library has thick pages and opens in an interesting way. The top flap made a nice built-in bookmark. The inside is pretty unique, too. It's set in Typewriter. The font size gradually changes up until the end, and there are also some variations in color throughout. The book is generously full of full-page color illustrations. The Strange Library is "a fantastical illustrated short novel about a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man who plot their escape from the nightmarish library." "So you'll stay and read?" Holy moly, I've read pretty much everything by Murakami and as I was I reading, I was thinking, "this is…

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a brief memoir by Haruki Murakami, written in pieces between 2005-2006. Whenever something came to his mind, something he felt he needed to talk about, Murakami would write it down. He has this balance and zen about life and the lessons he's learned so far, and that's what he shares in this book, in his charming, humble way. I've watched interviews and talks on YouTube enough that I can hear Murakami's own voice in my mind. So when Ray Porter started narrating, it was a little jarring...kind of like watching a foreign film with the subtitles on (which I never do, I'm a snoot, ha!). But really, Porter's narration was great.…

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Two Lovely Berries by A. M. Blair

I first heard about Two Lovely Berries from Katie at Words for Worms. I'm a big fan of AMB's blog, but had somehow missed that she'd published a novel! I read Katie's review, then immediately bought the book. And as often happens with book purchases, it then sat on my Nook, waiting and waiting to be read. I finally picked it up during a recent slump where nothing was grabbing me, when I kept starting and setting books aside. This pulled me out of that slump; I ended up reading it in one sitting. The story centers around two identical twin sisters, Nora and Aubrey, and their suddenly separate lives after college, their struggle to have independent identities yet stay connected.…

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