The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murukami

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we return to one of my favourite authors, Japanese writer Haruki Murukami. We will be looking at his collection of short stories, originally released in 1993, titled The Elephant Vanishes.

The Elephant Vanishes is a medium sized volume of 17 short stories, each one unique and bizarre, where realism meets with elements of fantasy, science fiction and dream-like qualities. Each story will take you to an alternate version of reality where things are very much as you expect, but always with a twist of the unnatural.

Amongst the stories included are Barn Burning, where a man at a party makes an odd confession to his passion for starting barn fires; The Last Lawn of the Afternoon, where a casual gardener mows his last lawn before retirement from the business; and TV people, where a young man, relaxing on his couch, is confronted with little people walking out of his television. My personal favourite was Sleep, a tale where a married woman discovers one day that she no longer needs to sleep, and is given the freedom to live a second life at night. This is something I’ve often thought about (“Imagine what I could do with all that time!”) so I was intrigued by the concept, and the ending to this one had a big impact.

If you are yet to read Murukami, and he is on your list, then I recommend starting with one of his novels and leaving The Elephant Vanishes for afterwards. Whilst I enjoyed the short stories immensely, I think Murukami is much stronger as a novelist, as his stories require space and go along at a meandering pace that is much better suited to a longer style.

If you are a fan of Murukami, then of course this is worth a read. You will recognize subtle references and characters that link with some of his novels. You will, however, probably be left with wanting more, as the stories tend to fly by!

For those who love short stories, I also recommend picking up this volume. You will easily read the whole thing in the space of a day or two, and his short stories have gained international recognition, one of which was printed in The New Yorker.

Have you read The Elephant Vanishes? Which story did you enjoy? Please leave a comment below!

 

Happy Reading and thank you for joining us at TBBC!

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Witches Abroad

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at the 12th book of the 41 long Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. This book is called Witches Abroad and features the three main characters previously introduced in Wyrd Sisters: the boisterous, fun loving Nanny Ogg, the stern and scary Granny Weatherwax and the wimpish amateur Magrat.

This novel sees our loveable trio step outside their comfort zone and go travelling to foreign places after Magrat is unexpectedly given the task of being a Fairy Godmother. It is her job, with her companions in tow, to seek out the young Princess who is to be her charge, and ensure that a magical wedding is prevented.

Terry Pratchett’s work always contains an element of satire, and this time, as you may guess, this book centers around the ideas of storytelling, happy endings and fairy tales. Terry takes the conventions and turns them upside down, all with his trademark humour, quips, plays on words, and funny asides.

The three main characters feel like friends, and accompanying them on their journey to fairytale lands is full of such adventures as winning their way out of being bankrupted by card sharks, putting a big bad wolf out of its misery, trying a voodoo witches gumbo (and befriending her zombie boyfriend) and tasting banana daiquiris whilst flying around on broomstick.

This book, along with all the others of the Discworld series is recommended for people of all ages and genders. It’s fun and light- hearted fantasy with loveable characters and a quick pace.

You will have a great time!

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be taking a look at the new Harry Potter story, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (Parts One and Two).

This is the eighth story of the Harry Potter series, set nineteen years after the 7th story. Harry is a 37 year old man, and himself, Ron and Hermione are all parents now. This story includes what the adults are currently up to, but mainly centers around their children, particularly Albus, Harry’s youngest son, and his best friend Scorpius.

I had a lot of reservations before reading this story. Firstly, it’s been years since a Harry Potter tale: what if it’s not as good? What if this story tramples on my childhood by being terrible on it’s own, or worse, interferes with my warm memories of reading it as a kid? As for many people, there hasn’t been a book released since that has captured that same excitement as the Harry Potter releases did growing up. I didn’t want anything to spoil that.

Secondly, it’s a play. In fact, it’s a stage show that goes for five hours apparently. What if I don’t like the play format, and that makes it tricky to read? Will this just leave me wanting a novel, and feel disappointed that it’s a play instead?

Many concerns- so many that I nearly didn’t buy the book. However my husband talked me into it.

I really needn’t have worried at all.

The story is wonderful. It is filled with all the magic (literally and figuratively!) that made the books so succesful. All of your favourite locations and people are included here. The Hogwarts Express and Hogwarts itself, as well as, through some flashbacks/memories and other devices, the characters we all love- Dumbledore, Hagrid and some of the other teachers. It contains all the people and places you’d love to see come to life on the stage.

The story isn’t afraid to step ahead into new territory either. Albus and Scorpius are new characters that are flawed but immensely likeable too. They prove that a Harry Potter story without Harry Potter can work just as well. Their scenes feel strong on their own, you aren’t reading and waiting for Harry, Ron and Hermione to show up again.

The play centers around themes of Father and Son, and the challenges of parenthood. It deals with grief and acceptance, and our desire to change the past. There is a wonderful balance of humour and heartfelt moments.

As for the problem of it reading as a play, not a novel, it’s really a non-issue. The stage directions are minimal, and only serve to add to the visualization in your mind. They are not lengthy, therefore the story doesn’t drag. After you get used to reading it as a play, you soon get into the groove and are able to read through it as smoothly and quickly as you would a novel- not that you’d want the experience to go fast!

Having said that, you will read through it quicker than a novel. It took me all up about eight hours to read it from cover to cover.

This play was written by Jack Thorne, based on an original story idea by himself, J.K Rowling and John Tiffany. It reads as though it was written by J.K Rowling herself, which is of course important to the whole experience. It also leaves hope that if JK Rowling doesn’t want to write any more stories herself, she could continue to allow others to expend the universe utilizing her ideas, and that can be successful.

J.K Rowling has said that this is the last Harry Potter story. I strongly believe that it won’t be the last story altogether- it feels like just the beginning for Albus and Scorpius. Bring it on!

Having said all of this, if you by luck are living in the UK and have the opportunity to see the stage show in the near future, definitely boycott the book and wait for the show, as I’m sure seeing it live would be spectacular. For the rest of us, we’ll have to patiently use our imagination!

I will say that I haven’t read any other reviews of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. Whether or not anyone else enjoyed it is completely unknown to me, but personally, this play has gotten me right back into Harry Potter mode- I’m reading them all again from the start and am loving the experience!

Thank you for joining us,

Let us know your thoughts down below!

Happy Reading Bosses 🙂

American Gods

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be having a look at Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

My husband is a big fan of the actor Ian McShane, and when he found out he’d been cast in a television series based on a novel, he went and bought the book for me to read. Since he bought the book I have seen Neil Gaiman everywhere, from other bloggers singing his praises, to a friend at work toting his collection of short stories. The British author is popular and, as I’ve found out, this is with good reason!

American Gods tells us the story of Shadow, a man recently released from prison who finds himself, after a sudden unexpected tragedy, on a trip home with nothing to look forward to. He then meets the mysterious and mischievous man who goes by the name of Mister Wednesday, who hires him to be his personal bodyguard.

And so begins a journey across America, a great big road trip. The only difference is, it’s to meet and greet the ancient Gods who have settled in America. It’s a mythical story which puts into modern times how old Gods would survive in modern USA. From driving taxis to working as prostitutes, the Gods that used to be so powerful have to scrape together a living, and Shadow is exposed to what life is like for these immortal creatures. There are also new Gods, Gods that people worship in this day and age- for example the God of technology- and there is a war brewing between the old and new, with potentially dangerous results.

You may think a book containing so many mythologies would be a difficult read, but it isn’t. The story is engaging and fast moving as Shadow moves with Mister Wednesday from town to town. Gaiman has obviously done a lot of research into the belief systems of a variety of cultures both within and outside of America, and he retells many old folktales in interesting ways. The main characters, Shadow and Mister Wednesday are both very likeable, and Mister Wednesday I’m sure, with his dry humour and shameless antics, will be a favourite character for many.

This novel provides food for thought in terms of what the modern person believes in, and what we think is important to us. It also will make you think about how our current beliefs fit within a history full of a huge variety of cultures, mythologies and stories to make sense of the world.

I found this novel to be engaging throughout, with a wide variety of fascinating, funny, bizarre and dark God characters to be met along the way. If you’ve got too much on your plate already, I’m sure the television series, due in 2017, will be great as the story would lend itself wonderfully to the screen.

I recommend this book for fans of American history, folklores and cultural legends, as well as those who like road trips and adventures. You will have a very enjoyable time.

 

Happy Reading Bosses!

 

Wyrd Sisters

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

 

Today we’re continuing on with the Terry Pratchett Discworld Series by jumping into one of the books from the Witches Collection: Wyrd Sisters.

 

Wyrd Sisters tells the tale of three witches: the strict and foreboding Granny Weatherwax, the fun drunkard and eccentric Nanny Ogg and the enthusiastic but inexperienced newcomer Magrat. When the King of the Kingdom is murdered and the baby prince thrust unexpectedly into their care, it is the job of the witches to find the prince a new home. Many years later, with the kingdom thrown into turmoil under the dictatorship of a madman (the replacement King, the poor bugger) and a psychopath (that would be the Queen- think Lady Macbeth on steroids), it again falls to the witches to reinstate the proper order of things and, hopefully, save the kingdom.

 

This book is filled with the wonderful sense of adventure and humour that is instilled in all of Terry Pratchett’s novels. This book sees a return of Granny Weatherwax, who featured in the previous witches novel, Equal Rites. Her no-nonsense, cut the rubbish attitude will remind you of that teacher you had in high school, but you can’t help but like her all the same. The comraderie and humour shared between the witches is the highlight of the story; they are all loveable in their own right and make for great leading characters.

 

As always there is an element of satire in the book as well- this time the world of the theatre gets a serve. There is a parody on the famous globe theatre, as well as the crafts of acting and scriptwriting getting some attention. If you are a person who has acted in a play before, or would like to, then you will find these parts of the book funny and endearing.

 

What I love about the Discworld Series is that you can easily digest one of these books over a lazy weekend, they are easy to read and you’re guaranteed a laugh no matter what age you are. Terry Pratchett’s writing style is warm and welcoming, like being read a bedtime story by an eccentric uncle. Enjoy!

 

Please join us tomorrow for a review of Huruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to the Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Equal Rites, the first book of the witches collection that makes up the wonderful Discworld series.

For those that have been following along, I’m reading my way through all 41 books of the Discworld fantasy series. They can be read in chronological order, or you can read them in terms of their themed groupings, or “collections.” I’m reading them by collection, according to whatever interests me. I’ve just gotten through the death series, now onto witches!

Equal Rites was published in 1987. It is the third book of the overall Discworld series, and the first of the witches collection.

This book is tightly focused on two main characters, Esk, a young girl from modest beginnings who’s life’s ambition is to become a wizard, and her guardian and friend Granny Weatherwax, a traditional witch who tries to teach her the ways of witchery, but eventually, if not begrudgingly, ends up helping her travel to the Unseen University, to help her reach her wizarding destiny.

The book is filled with satire and humour about gender. In this world it is traditional for girls to be witches, and specialize in the magics that involve herbs, animals and curing potions, and for boys to be wizards, who do more ‘serious’ magic, geometry and star- gazing. Esk is a rebel by nature, upsetting the status quo by demanding to know exactly why a girl can’t be a wizard.

This book is different to those of the Death Collection; it focuses mostly on the relationship, friendship and adventure of the two main characters,. It is a more intimate story, and it is filled with rich descriptions of the towns and lands through which they travel, along with Pratchett’s wonderful humour. In the Death Collection there is more action and more characters, there are various stories intertwined and very few descriptions of landscapes. It’s a matter of personal taste as to which you will like better: this story has two very likeable, funny and inspirational lead characters and the story moves at a slower pace, which is a good thing as it gives you the time to get to know them, and enjoy their journey.

This is a wonderful book for all to enjoy, but is particularly inspiring for young ladies to pursue their dreams and not let anyone tell them what girls should and shouldn’t do!

 

Happy Reading, see you next time on The Boss Book Club!

Hogfather

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be reviewing the last book of four in the Death collection of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series.

Hogfather is a delightful book that I recommend reading at Christmas time. The story centers around Hogswatch, the Discworld’s version of Christmas, where a jolly man in red visits the towns and delivers presents, sausages and assorted meats to the people, with his sleigh of wild, slobbering hogs. What happens though when the Hogfather goes mysteriously missing?

It is a fun adventure that brings together many of the characters from the three previous Death books. There is Death himself of course and his granddaughter Susan, who are both trying in their own way to restore order to the universe; there are our bumbling, wise but somewhat- lacking- common sense wizards, an assortment of new Gods that keep popping up out of nowhere, and a creepy introduction to some members of the assassin’s guild. Other mystical characters including the Tooth Fairy, Boogey-man and Jack Frost get featured as well.

As in his other books, Pratchett does an excellent job at parody and humour. In this book Christmas itself is pulled apart and rearranged in Pratchett’s imaginative image. Also, there is a hilarious interpretation of the computer that is created by the wizards.

The scope of this story is big, and there is a diverse array of subplots, characters and little stories that interweave beautifully to come together at the end. It is an epic tale that celebrates the joy of Christmas, in a weird but wonderful way.

 

This book would be wonderful to curl up with and read in the week leading up to Christmas.

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

 

Soul Music

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

This week we are back to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, this time focusing on the third book of the ‘Death’ section of the series, titled Soul Music.

This book focuses around the main character of Susan, a 16 year old girl who unexpectedly gets thrown into the family business, and reluctantly takes on the role of the grim reaper, dealing out death to those whose life timers have run out. The rest of the story revolves around a Troll named Cliff, a dwarf named Glod and a human named Buddy, three struggling musicians who inadvertently create Discworld’s first ever rock band. As the creatures of Discworld listen to rock music for the first time, there are bizarre, hilarious and even dangerous consequences.

As with all the Pratchett novels I’ve read so far of the series, they are a must for fantasy fans. This book however, will greatly appeal to fans of rock and roll and all things music. The whole book reads as an ode to the joy of music and the importance of live bands. If you’ve ever picked up a guitar, been in the mosh pit of a concert or struggled to find yourself the perfect leather jacket you will appreciate this book.

Pratchett has a wonderful way of taking a subject that is familiar and creating a fantasy/ alternate history as to how it came into being. In Soul Music Pratchett masterfully takes rock music and creates a whole new origin story as to how it was created. The ensuing adventure is imaginative, humorous and has elements that are familiar, as well as completely different. There are many moments of satire, as Pratchett gently mocks the ‘wannabe’ rock stars compared to serious musicians, the financial side of a musicians life, and the establishment that cannot deal with such unfamiliar and dangerous music. Also, there are more rock band references and puns than you could point a drum stick at!

In terms of characters, the wizards from the previous book Reaper Man make a reappearance as they struggle to understand what the sound is all about. They are a particularly endearing bunch of very wise men who have absolutely no clue about life in general. I greatly enjoyed the adventure of the trio of musicians as they strive to reach the top and the various obstacles that get in their way.

Susan’s character was complex and interesting, as she juggles her immortal responsibilities of dealing out death, with her humanity and compassion. I have to be honest and admit that for the most part I did not enjoy her sections as much as I did the trio of musicians, or the wizards. I think the reason for this is because she is written to be a very logical, somewhat abrupt person (which is part of what she has inherited and why she would do well as Death!) but this coldness made her appear rude and distant and she was therefore a little unlikeable for me. Towards the ending I warmed towards her more, but still appreciated the other story elements better.

This book has nice ties with Mort and Reaper Man which precede it in the series. I would recommend reading the other two first as you will appreciate the characters more, however it is not necessary to understand the story.

Overall, this book is excellent, and if you’re yet to take a look at the Discworld series I thoroughly recommend you do, I’m having a wonderful time!

 

Happy Reading folks,

 

See you next week on The Boss Book Club!

Reaper Man

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

Today I am going to be reviewing The Reaper Man. This is the second book of the “Death Collection” which comprises of four books within the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. If you would like to read about the first book of the death collection, or about the Discworld series in general, please see my review of Mort.

In this collection, the main character is Death himself, a skeletal figure, adorned with scythe and black hood who sends people on their way from this dimension to whatever comes next.

The premise of this fantasy novel is that Death is inexplicably given the sack, plunging the Discworld into chaos as the dead refuse to… well… die. Meanwhile for Death, he is given a chance to experience human life for the first time, as his immortal status is revoked and he is to face his own demise as soon as a new Death is hired.

 

This is the second book I’ve read of the Terry Pratchett series and Reaper Man has certainly reinforced my desire to read through all 41 of the series. If you enjoy fantasy, quirky humour, and interesting characters, then Terry Pratchett is for you.

Of course, at the beginning of the novel, Death is largely absent (which is the whole point) and the story focuses on a wizard, Windle, and his group of friends. The wizards are an enjoyable bunch of characters, who make a great parody of stuffy professors who have spent their lives locked away in learning establishments, having very little to do with the real world. This makes them both knowledgeable, but lacking in common sense, and their buffoonery (there’s a word you don’t get to say very often!) makes for an enjoyable read. I found that I did miss the character of Death though in these first sections. It’s a bit like watching your favourite television show, in an episode where they focus on one of the supporting characters. It’s still enjoyable, but you’re really just waiting for everyone to reunite and the main character to get back into the story.

However, I would say the second half of the book supersedes Mort in terms of action, pace, and building towards a suspenseful showdown of an ending. The last third of the book is full of excitement as it leads to the climactic scenes that will leave you unable to put it down. It features touching moments too, as Death goes through his own journey as to what being mortal is all about. This book will make you reflect on life and death, but it’s all approached in a lighthearted way that may leave you feeling a bit better about your own mortality!

One of my favourite parts of these books is when Pratchett will put a little asterix * amongst the text which will guide you to some extra information on the bottom of the pages. The “information” is almost always a quirky bit of Discworld trivia, history or fact which is sometimes insightful, but always funny. It is like Pratchett is prodding you with his elbow and winking, an extra little joke for you. Throughout the whole book Pratchett’s humour and love of oddness and nonsense come twinkling through the pages.

Whilst Mort has a protagonist who is young (16 years old), the main protagonist of this novel is Windle, who is very, very old. Pratchett therefore shakes up the formula and steers away from making these novels for any particular age group. Anyone of any age can enjoy these books! Also, I would say it is not necessary to have read any of the Discworld books beforehand, as both this and Mort were completely self-contained stories. However, I would recommend reading Mort first if you can, as it gives a bit of background into the Death character which will make this read more enjoyable.

I hope you enjoy reading this book, I’ll be reviewing my next Pratchett in two weeks time, called Soul Music!

 

Next week we’ll be taking a break from Pratchett and reviewing a classic, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

 

Until then, happy reading and take care, and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

Feel free to comment below on your thoughts of Pratchett, The Discworld Series, or any recommendations of what to review next!

 

 

 

Mort

Hello Everyone and welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

Today I will be starting my reviews of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. The Discworld fantasy series consists of a total of 40 books: the first which was released in 1983 called The Colour of Magic. The 41st book of the series, titled The Shepherd’s Crown is due for release in late August/ early September and, as Mr Pratchett passed away in March of this year, will be the final book of the series. 41 books over a period of 30 years is an incredible achievement, and I know Terry Pratchett has a lot of fans. As someone who is completely new to the series and the author, I am excited to give him a read.

The first thing you have to decide when jumping into the Discworld series is where you want to begin. The books are divided into different sections including: Rincewind novels, young adult novels, science novels, ancient civilisations, death novels, watch novels and industrial revolution novels. You can choose to either read from the order in which they were published and read through to the present, or alternatively jump to the theme which interests you the most and read all the books in that section first. To help explain, here’s a website that has a nice flow chart of all the books, and the order in which you can read them by interest: http://io9.com/how-to-read-terry-pratchetts-discworld-series-in-one-h-1567312812.

I have a bit of a morbid personality so I decided to jump into the “Death” novels, which consist of four books, the first of which is called Mort. I opted to buy the hardcover edition which is beautiful. It’s hard to glean from the picture but the scythe and stars are silver foil so the cover has a nice shine when you move it in the light. It contains a little cloth page placeholder in dark blue which is great if you’re constantly losing your bookmarks, as I tend to do!

The story itself is fun: good old fashioned, giggle out loud, adventurous fun, which is enjoyable from beginning to end. The story revolves around an awkward 16 year old, red- haired, gangly teenager named Mort, who is looking for a job. He is hired by the grim reaper as his personal assistant. This book follows Mort’s adventures as he acts as Death’s apprentice and the various people he meets through this rather interesting line of work! The story is light hearted, and full of comedy and vibrant characters. It never takes itself too seriously, and the story moves at an excellent pace. It reflects on life and death, and leaves you feeling a bit better about the whole death business as it takes aware the fear and replaces it with a sense of humour and adventure.

An interesting feature of Pratchett’s work is that he does not divide the book into chapters, so you leave off on the adventure whenever you like (and that little blue cloth placeholder really does come in handy!). This book’s primary audience is probably aimed at young adult, but at 27 years old I still greatly enjoyed myself. At the end of it I immediately went out to buy the next one- sometimes it’s good to be late to the literary party, I now have the other 39 at my disposal without having to wait for any releases! I am greatly looking forward to reading the next one…

Have you read Terry Pratchett? Are you interested in the Discworld series? Please leave your comments below.

My next Terry Pratchett review will be up next Sunday night, and we’ll be looking at Reaper Man, the follow on to Mort. If you’ve ever considered reading or re-reading the series, feel free to read along with us!

Until next week, happy reading and welcome to The Boss book club!