book reviews by Althea

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Croak – Gina Damico ***

Croak by Gina Damico
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise is what drew me to pick up this book: a rebellious teen discovers that her true calling is to become a Grim Reaper. Awesome, right?
Well, it is fun. The author aims for a Terry-Pratchett-esque style and sense of humor (It specifically calls ‘Mort’ to mind), but it often feels obvious that this is the work of a new writer. The characters can feel a bit flat, and some act more juvenile that they might, given their stated ages.
The book also ends with many unanswered questions, and an obvious set-up for a sequel, which is a bit annoying. It was still a light, enjoyable read.

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1Q84 – Haruki Murakami ****

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whatever topic he’s addressing, Murakami is an excellent writer – one of those that it’s just a pleasure to read, no matter what the content is. Still, I was delighted to hear that his latest could be described as ‘fantasy,’ since, well, I love fantasy.

Originally, the book was published in 3 volumes. I’m glad that the English publisher didn’t opt for that route (even though the book was heavy), as it’s definitely one continuous work.

An aspect of Murakami’s work that I have ambiguous feelings about is that his creations are… “floaty.” I really enjoy the dreamlike quality of his scenarios, but sometimes I wish his characters were more concrete. This aspect to his writing is very appropriate to the premise of 1Q84, where the main individuals, the sports instructor/hit woman Aomame, and the math instructor/novelist Tengo mysteriously find themselves in an alternate reality where there are two moons in the sky. It highlights the bizarre, surreal nature of their experiences, where fantastic elements from an odd teenager’s novel turn out to be true, and an enigmatic cult offers threats…
Perhaps it is only possible because Tengo and Aomame are themselves both odd, isolated individuals, but I couldn’t help sometimes feeling that the surreal nature of the fantastic events would be thrown into sharper relief if the characters themselves were initially more rooted in our reality.

The events of the novel are not fast-moving, but they hold the reader’s interest. It’s wise, however, to read it as an immersive experience, not a goal-oriented one. Don’t expect any of your questions to be answered. Regardless of the lack of explanations, I did find the end satisfying.

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