Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Can we talk about the Tokyo Zodiac Murders?

Omiomiomiomigod!I don’t know why I didn't pick this up sooner. To be fair I only learned about it recently when I was listening to the backlist of the All The Books  podcast from Book Riot (such a treasure trove of great book findings!). It sounded so intriguing that I wrote down the title and picked it up at the bookstore as soon as I could.


The premise is thus: In 1936, a deranged artist haunted by demons by the name of Heikichi Umezawa writes in his last will and testament a detailed and gruesome account of how he would murder his daughters and nieces to create the ultimate goddess. Soon after, he is found murdered himself, locked in his studio. Shortly after, the six women are found murdered in the exact way as described by the artist. The case stumped the Japanese police and has remained unsolved all this time. Fast forward forty years and friends Kazumi Ishioka and Kiyoshi Mitarai (a nod by the author to Holmes and Watson) are provided a fresh clue and decided to try their hand at the mystery.

This will be less of a review (because this book is brilliant) than a stream of consciousness inner monologue as I read this book. This Book is unputdownable and the only negative thing to say is that it made my brain feel like a pretzel.

~ Page 120

I can’t believe this is a debut novel. How can someone be so genius on their FIRST PUBLISHED BOOK?

Hehe the narrator is also a mystery book addict? I understand you bro!

Also why haven’t more of his works been translated into English? (Thank you Puskin Vertigo!)
Seriously this man is known in Japan as the “God of Mystery” and his other works haven’t been translated?

This is what happens when SAW and Sherlock Holmes have a baby.
Mutilation, murder and rape...oh this is not your grandma’s cozy mystery.

This book has lots of floor plans, family trees and diagrams: this is a nice nod to golden aged crime books, something I didn’t realized I wanted more of in my crime books.


Oh gross


~ page 200

Oh great, now you took on a bet that you could solve this mystery in a week???
You know it’s been unsolved for 40 years right? 40 YEARS.

I have absolutely no idea who could have done it, unless it was the artist who said he was going to do it, but he was dead so he couldn’t have done it. OR WAS HE? What if it’s a hoax, what if its not real? What if nothing is real??? WHAT IS REAL?

Oh really? I should be able to solve the mystery by now? I have all the clues? THANKS Shimada for making me feel completely incompetent

ANOTHER note from the author? Now he’s just gloating, I still have no idea…

That is probably the best a-ha moment I have ready in a book in a long time. Cray cray good.

Aaaaand he’s still not revealing how he figured it out….aaaand he stalling….come on, quit the tease, we want to know!!

Ok, well I certainly not expecting that….

My brain…

It’s so simple, but wow…

What is life….

Rating ☆☆☆☆☆
Go pick this up!
You can find the book here 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

#NYCbookstore The Strand

What would a list of indie bookstores in NYC be without the Strand? Like a subway car with no shoving or a bagel without lox, it just wouldn’t feel authentically NYC, that’s what. This multi-story behemoth located on Broadway in Greenwich Village is a NYC icon and a must visit for tourists and natives alike. Founded in 1927, the Strand carries over 2.5 million used, new, and rare books, covering topics as far-ranging as occult to philosophy to finance. The store also offers an ever-changing array of literary gifts and goods from Moleskines to coffee mugs, and everything in-between. Really, we mean everything in-between, from a Shakespeare insult mug to the wildly popular Strand onesie.

With everything from a rare-book room to the famous $1 carts outside, the Strand is one of the most diverse bookstore around. They also host several events featuring established, famous and controversial writers and literary figures.

The most notable thing about the Strand however (apart from it’s sheer size) is that this is truly a place for and staffed by book lovers. Everyone there is approachable, knowledgeable, and totally non-judgemental when you walk out with 6 books when you only meant to get 1.

Bonus: Tote bags and other swag that you can show off to your friend. I myself have bought enough snarky bookish magnets to cover my fridge.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Under the Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta


This story is set against the backdrop of the Nigerian civil war and tells the life story of Ijeoma from girlhood to womanhood. Born as the only child of an upper middle class family, Ijeoma’s life is suddenly torn apart by a air raid bomb which destroys her home and kills her father. Following this tragic event, her mother sends her away to live with a family friend, a grammar-school teacher and his wife, for safety. During this time, Ijeoma meets another child displaced by the war and she falls in love, the catch? They are from different tribes, different religions, and they are both girls.

The story unravels as Ijeoma, grows and learns to understand herself, her country, and the implications of expressing her love and true feelings in a deeply religious and conservative society. This is a gorgeous, thought provoking story that will tug at your heartstrings and leave you with a lot to thinking long after you finish the book.


Okparanta manages to evoke very complex feelings with very bare language. Description in general, of the setting, the people and even Ijeoma’s internal narrative and emotions is often minimal, leaving the reader to “color in the picture” themselves, so to speak.
This works both ways, on some occasions it serves to highlight the intensity of the circumstances on the page, other times it leaves you feeling with a feeling of detachment as you get relatively muted reactions from Ijeoma to these events.

Although it is mostly marketed as an LGBTQ book and that is a significant and overarching theme in the book, there are many other intertwining topics woven into the narrative pertaining to identity, religion, acceptance, motherhood, marriage, gender roles and violence. For example, a huge defining part of the story is Ijeoma’s relationship to her mother which is complicated and abusive in many ways and often times make you want to hurl the books across the room.

Ultimately, this is a story of a woman coming to terms with herself, about what you do and do not compromise when societal rules, family, safety dictate how one must behave. It also deals with the effects and reactions to trauma notable through Ijeoma’s muted response to many of her hardships, often responding with apathy or acquiescence to horrific treatment and demands by her mother, the grammar-teacher, and her husband, until at last she has the strength to put her own desires before those of others.
The narrative of the story is mainly chronological and divided into short chapters which often included teasers such as “I did not know at the time that this would be the last time I would see her” type lines that helped build the tension but often were a little exasperating since they often served as little spoilers to major story plot points and then you would have to read on to find out how she got there.

Rating ☆☆☆☆

This was a solid 4 star book for me. It was poignant, thought provoking, and made you feel the feels. This is a great book club pick and one that I am hopeful will expand readers empathy and curiosity about the very real dangers and prejudices faced by women and LGBTQ persons around the world. It made me pause and ponder upon identity and relationship and, mother-daughter bonds. I would highly recommend this book. The only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was the language, which at times felt too simple and actually detracted and distanced me from the full-impact of the events happening. Overall a beautiful book, I can wait to see what Okparanta has in store.

You can find the book here.

Book Preferences

I realized that I talked about my book review system (☆ ‘s) but I never said what I liked to read! *hand wringing* perhaps it’s not that important since my taste is pretty widespread but I do have some preferences and opinions, and it will probably help shape your expectations of what kinds of book reviews you will find on this blog if I list them out.

Love (like dipped-in-dark-chocolate-wrapped-in-puppy-kisses-unlimited-wine type of love)

Literary Fiction
Historical Fiction
Magical Realism
Non-fiction (Social sciences & History)

Don’t know too much abou/Haven’t read too much/Open minded about

Graphic Novels

Not my cuppa’ thank you very much

Erotica (why read porn, when it’s free on the internet?)
Religiously moralistic books/Christian fiction

Of course all of these categories are blurry and I do enjoy books that genre-bend and defy categorization. Ultimately I am a very mood-based reader and will pick up whatever sounds appealing at the time. I am always open to suggestions!

How do you get your books?

There are so many ways to get your hands on books around the city! *Happy wiggle dance*  My book acquisition methods tend to be pretty varied, and have changed throughout my life. As a high school and college student, I could rarely afford books for leisure, let alone new shiny hard covers, so I took full advantage of my school and local libraries.

Once I started working part time in college, the local used bookstore and library sales were my go-to places. That didn’t stop me from wandering through the bookstore aisles and wistfully running my hands over all the shinny books I wanted to read, dreaming of the day I could drop $30 on a new release hardcover just because I wanted it.

While I’m still not not rolling in dough, I have a little more wiggle room to think about how and when I purchase books, and I can also afford to indulge myself once in awhile.

Nowadays, I try to be a conscientious book buyer and be more selective about the book I buy. I try to buy like I buy my produce; local and organic. I try to support my local independent stores when I can, both through book buying and through promotion events like #nycbookstores and buying from street book vendors.

I have to admit that I occasionally also purchase from larger chain stores like Barnes & Nobles (I like to browse their discount section & bae’s got a membership so…) and Amazon (for rarer non-fiction books that I either can’t find locally or would cost a fortune otherwise).

Occasionally I like to trade in some used books that I don’t feel like keeping to stores like the Strand where you can get store credit to buy other books or even peruse Etsy for vintage crime novels, and of course there’s the library. The library is bae. Where and how do you find your books?