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The Bitch Posse
The Bitch Posse
by Martha O'Connor
Edition: Hardcover
81 used & new from $0.01

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars JK Rowling meets Jackie Collins?, August 10, 2005
This review is from: The Bitch Posse (Hardcover)
As a parent, I am a bit mystified by this book. On the one hand it seems to be aimed at teenage girls - the marketing, the themes of intense friendships and the general plotting/literary style. On the other hand, the unimaginatively crude language and adult themes make me really question as to whether an adolescent girl is realy going to appreciate the repetitive descriptions of semen oozing, oral sex and drug abuse. Maybe it's me who is out of touch with the chick sub-culture but I found the characters unsympathetic and the final outcome dull. Give me Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty anytime.

Death March on Mount Hakkoda (Rock Spring Collection of Japanese Literature)
Death March on Mount Hakkoda (Rock Spring Collection of Japanese Literature)
by Jiro Nitta
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $2.35

4.0 out of 5 stars Bridge Over the River Kwai (Japanese version), April 12, 2003
I read this book about a year after I had visited the North of Japan in autumn to walk along Oirase and take a hot bath in one of the hot springs near Mt Hakkoda (both of which are highly recommended). Maybe my view of the area would have been rather different had I read this entertaining but fictionalised account of one of the greatest peacetime military blunders.
The book does not really explore the characters (some real, some fiction) in any great depth (nor are they totally convincing) but the factual basis of the story makes one wince with each new act of arrogance and folly as it is exposed in the narrative. The frailties of the major protagonists are ruthlessly revealed in a strictly hierarchical society - a theme explored subsequently by - among others - Chie Nakane.

Bicycle Days
Bicycle Days
by John Burnham Schwartz
Edition: Paperback
52 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Humorless, November 12, 2002
This review is from: Bicycle Days (Paperback)
This is a book of contrasts. On the one hand, it is not your stereotypical story of a foreigner lost in Japan. The primary character, Alec, does speak Japanese and we get a sight (or perhaps a glimpse) of the world away from Roppongi and Nishi-Azabu. Apart from a few quasi-errors, I thought that descriptions of time spent away from the hackneyed gaijin hang-outs was the best part of the narrative.
At the same time Alec remains rather detached from (and ungrateful towards) many of the people around him, preferring to take advantage of beautiful down-on-their-luck women and be pandered to by mother-substitutes. As a result, he is probably not the most sympathetic of main heroes. The family break-up sub-plot was rather limp but realistic enough.
However the biggest failing in the novel is the almost total absence of humour. And Japan without a sense of humour is about as much fun as the drive from Narita to Central Tokyo.

South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel
South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.37
146 used & new from $0.23

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murakami gets gritty, August 20, 2002
It's clear that this book polarises even fans of Murakami and it is not hard to see why. Although there are some similar elements to other Murakami stories, the whole premise of this book is rather different. This is a much more traditional romance, rather gritty and hard by Murakami standards, few if any truly fantastic elements, no attempt to tie down the loose ends at the conclusion.
This novel is a retrospective by a man in his late thirties who seemingly has everything and is yet dissatisfied. This in itself may put off many readers. The book is written entirely in the first person but unlike many of MH novels, the other characters seem both more realistic and better defined. With one exception, I found the steps of the narrative quite believable.
This is not a deep look into life's inner meaning but I think it will be thought provoking to readers who can identify (at least emotionally) with the main character - there are also many references to Tokyo life which may seem meaningless to some. This combination of obstacles may limit the appeal of the book rather sharply.
I found the translation much better than Gabriel's earlier effort at MH although why oh why does Meidiya become Meijiya and Shinjuku Gyoen become Shinjuku Goen. Beats me.
For those who don't like the sex scenes, I recommend Amy Yamada.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.09
201 used & new from $2.72

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murakami Grows Up, June 21, 2002
This is a highly accomplished book by Murakami, a kind of grown up version of Wild Sheep Chase. The off the wall humour has gone but in its place we have some fine character development and an excellent edge on contemporary sex and politics. Its still vintage Murakami though with larger than life villains, girls with sexy ears, some nice culinary touches and the inevitable view of the shopwindows in downtown Tokyo. Woven into the story is a revealing cameo of the Japanese occupation of Manchukuo and the aftermath of the defeat.
Jay Rubin's translation is pretty good although one or two bizarre grammar errors seem to have escaped someone's eye and I noted too some problems with the adjective derived from the word Malta. However, for all that, it is quite a tour de force almost ranking with Hard Boiled Wonderland.

Sputnik Sweetheart: A Novel
Sputnik Sweetheart: A Novel
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.37
118 used & new from $4.23

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly spaced-out Murakami, May 28, 2002
I am a great Murakami fan but I found this book slightly disappointing at first - though it got better as the story unfolded.
First, I dilked the way the narration switched between the omniscient narrator and the K character. Murakami is brilliant as the laidback "I" in the Sheep trilogy etc. but I found K rather spineless and unimaginative.
Secondly, Murakami's depiction of lesbian love is not altogether convincing - it may be very realistic but inevitably he has formulated his ideas second-hand and it reads as such.
I may be being picky here but I did not much like Gabriel's translation. The wonderful similes and use of hyperbole seem strained (which may be Murakami's fault) but I though the English was a bit mangled too - particularly Miu's conversation style which would be more befitting an 18 year old American than a sophisticated Japanese in her late thirties.
Example at random (p39):
....its weird to have your own father become a statue. Imagine if they erected a statue of your father in the square in front of Chigasaki station. You'd feel pretty weird about it, right?
For all that, the book does show flashes of style and humour, a desire to push the boundaries of novel writing and Murakami's unique and exciting ability to take the reader down one path only to divert at the last minute and take him/her somewhere else.

Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy (Japan's Modern Writers)
Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy (Japan's Modern Writers)
by Osamu Dazai
Edition: Paperback
23 used & new from $6.12

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb selection of Short stories, April 5, 2002
I read this book after reading Alan Booth's comments on Dazai and his life - so I have to admit, I was rather cynical.
I very much warmed to Dazai through these excellent translations by Ralph McCarthy. The tales have many ingredients which will appeal to lovers of Akutagawa and Kawabata. Those who like to see Chinese stories through Japanese eyes will not be disappointed.
There is also a fine preface, giving a historical perspective to the stories.

MY BRAIN IS OPEN: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos
MY BRAIN IS OPEN: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos
by Bruce Schechter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.22
73 used & new from $1.43

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sympathetic insight into the world of mathematicians, April 5, 2002
I enjoyed this book and thought that Bruce Schechter did well to get across the humanity of the man and as well as some of his ideas. Inevitably, the mathematics contained in the book will seem a bit hard going for some but Schechter handles it delicately and manages a fair balance.
The book is written in an approachable style and has a deliberately non-critical and inspirational tone. I recommend that it should be put in the hands of any teenager who is thinking of studying mathematics at university. If she/he does not like the ideas and characters described, he might be happier choosing another major!

Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature
Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature
by Alison Lurie
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.99
68 used & new from $0.01

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What your child should read and why....., December 8, 2001
A collection of essays - in some ways uneven - covering a wide range of children's literature and so-called children's authors. The biographies are intriguing and combined with Ms Luries's wit and scholarship, the book makes for an excellent introduction to the theme.
The word "subversive" in the title may be a little misleading - "the great books that bridge the gap between infant reading and adult reading" might be a better title but not nearly as catchy!

Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World
Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World
by John Man
Edition: Paperback
48 used & new from $0.01

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Parson's Egg, November 26, 2001
I found this book quite informative and intriguing in parts but it also included some very dodgy logic and a style of English which makes USA Today read like Shakespeare.
I found Man's central hypothesis that the Roman alphabet is the most efficient way of transferring the spoken word to written format hardly credible.
His analysis of Chinese and the merits of Chinese characters versus the alphabet is facile and the Japanese language is not given a mention. However, neither are Arabic nor any of the Indian languages, so I suppose speakers of those languages should not feel discriminated against. More irritatingly, the extermination of the Mayan written heritage by the Spanish might suggest to some (but not to John Man) that efforts to diffuse the Roman alphabet in Central/South America were not totally meritorious.
Man certainly has collected some interesting snippets of knowledge about how the Roman alphabet developed but too often the ideas are not fully developed, or the train of thought sputters out midway.
The whole book would have been better in the hands of a Simon Singh or Simon Winchester, where the intellectual rigour could have been maintained without the silly anecdotes about the author's childhood experiences.

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