The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

“As we count up the memories from one journey, we head off on another. Remembering those who went ahead. Remembering those who will follow after. And someday, we will meet all those people again, out beyond the horizon.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 238 pages.
Read on August 17, 2018.

I tried twice to get this book from Netgalley, that is how badly I wanted to read it.  I mean, come on, most of the book is narrated by a cat! How could I not!? Thankfully I was able to a copy and absolutely devoured it one sitting. This book has been published since November 2017 but will be published in paperback on October 23, 2018.

I have noticed that I have an affinity for translated Japanese and Korean books. There is something about the style that really speaks to me. Haruki Murakami (who also likes to write about cats) and Han Kang are two of my going favourite authors at the moment and I may have to add Arikawa to the list as well. This book is translated by Philip Gabriel, the same man responsible for translating most of Murakami’s works, and I get the impression he is the best at what he does.

I am not a crier. I don’t think I have ever cried reading a book but damn, this one brought me really close. sad-cat-gif-21.gifI was on the brink of a sad but uplifting-ugly-cry with this story that will bring just about anyone to the same soppy-state.

Nana, as you come to know him, was a stray cat for most of his life and proudly so. He regularly sat on top of a silver van in suburban Japan and one day a young man greeted him. His name is Satoru. Satoru begins to leave out food for Nana, which he cautiously eats. Humans are fickle and are not to be depended on. However, one day Nana gets hit by a car and is left with injuries, that, if left untreated will kill him. He slinks over to where the van is located and screams as loud as he can for Satoru, the only human he has a remote connection with. Satoru takes care of Nana and gives him his peculiar name. Nana is similar to a cat that Satoru grew up with and was tragically separated from after the tragic accident that killed his parents. After caring for Nana for a few months, Satoru however, abruptly decides to try and rehome Nana with no explanation to the reader, despite his clear reluctance to the idea and his extreme attachment to Nana. Satoru takes Nana on a road trip to visit his old school friends in order to find a comfortable and suitable home for Nana.  None of the homes seems to fit the bill but with each visit, you learn more about Satoru’s elusive past and the tragic reason why he feels the need to find a new home for his beloved cat. Nana tries to pretend that he is fine with being rehomed but as the trip progresses he realizes that he does not want to belong to anyone else but Satoru.

Love, family, friends, and loyalty are some of the main themes in this novel all which are sure to hit you right in the feels, even if you are not a cat-lover, though ESPECIALLY if you are a cat lover. The narrative style is light and easy and the author does a great job of slowly piecing together the life of Satoru for the reader and in creating intrigue with Satoru and his mysterious troubles. By the end of the story, I will say that the majority of readers will be in some form of crying; whether withheld tears, free-flow or the all-out ugly-cry.

This story is accessible to every reader and is an easy book to recommend to nearly any family member or friend. This is actually one of those few books I will go out of my way to add to my physical library so that I can re-read and lend out again and again.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

“Tea reminds us to slow down and escape the pressures of modern life.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 384 pages.
Read from June 24, 2018 to June 26, 2018.

Apologies for the lull in posts, I have been away visiting family and did not prepare as well as I would have liked since I was fairly overwhelmed with work prior to leaving. #excuses?

It isn’t very often that I read a description that legitimately makes me want to read a book and sticks with me. It hit a few things off my list: the plot is set in rural China, which since I am living out in Hong Kong I always find intriguing, secondly, tea is a major topic and anyone that follows this blog knows how much I love tea! I found this book on Netgalley but the jerks didn’t approve me for it. The book clicked around in my head for a few months and I finally decided to cave and purchase it, I have no regrets. This is also my first Lisa See novel and at this point, I can assure you it won’t be my last.

Li-yan and her family live in a remote village in Yunnan and are a part of an ethnic-Chinese minority called the Akha. Growing up, Li-yan’s life is ruled by strong traditions, superstitions and, of course, tea. Tea is the lifeline of her family and of her people. It is backbreaking work but it is what her family has always done. As Li-yan grows, she becomes the only educated person in her family to speak the mainland’s language and when a stranger appears in their village wanting to make his own pu’reh tea on their land, Li-yan becomes his main correspondence. The connection will transform the way their small village has lived for many years.  Li-yan falls in love with a young man her family does not approve of and when he leaves for work and she falls pregnant she breaks tradition, and instead of slaying her daughter she reluctantly gives her up for adoption. When her man returns a few months later she tries to rectify her terrible mistake but she is too late, her daughter has been adopted out to a family in the United States.  She leads a terrible life with her husband in Thailand before returning to China to start her own tea business.  She is very successful but the hole left in her heart from her daughter never goes away. After a remarkable meeting with an old woman near a marriage market, her life takes a turn she could never have expected. There may be hope that she might see her daughter again…

This story is captivating yet is also a very easy read. Lisa See knows how to sculpt her characters and draw her readers in. I also really connected with Li-yan, maybe it’s an age thing or perhaps the strength of her character.  If this is what Lisa See’s stories are normally like, then I definitely need to add more Lisa See to my TBR pile.

This book would appeal to a wide variety of readers. Anyone that is interested in a happy ending, China, tea, family and survival stories would adore this book. It is a well-rounded story and Li-yan will touch the hearts of many.

The Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy

The sequel and conclusion to a unique story of a group of cats in India.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 290 pages.
Read from May 8, 2018 to May 11, 2018.

Cat lovers, if you have not come across this author and her work, you need to. It is thanks to this book that I found my way out a very deep book-rut.  I am sad to see this delightful story come to an end but I guess nothing good lasts forever. This book picks up exactly where the previous book, The Wildlingsleft off so if you have not read the first book, stop right now and go and get your hands on a copy!

Set in the sprawling streets of India, you are reunited with the main characters, our felines friends, Mara, Southpaw, Katar, Hulo and Beraal.

Thewildings4
Image from the India Bookstore.

The group is still recovering from their fight with the ferals and some drastic changes to their neighbourhood. Food is becoming scarce and the group is starving. Mara, still living with her ‘bigfeet’ (humans) is blissfully unaware of the group’s situation and has not stepped up to be their sender out fear of the outside world and the hatred she still feels from some of the other cats.  However, a frightening event at Mara’s home forces her into the outside world where she comes to learn and appreciate what it is to be an outside cat. Meanwhile, Southpaw has found himself in dire trouble and is suffering from a life-threatening injury. In desperation, the group leaves him with Mara’s ‘bigfeet’ in hopes that they will take care of him but at the time Mara was already missing from her home.  By the time Mara finds the group, no one knows the outcome of Southpaw’s fate.  In order to help her friends, Mara needs to find a way to have the other cats accept her and take on the responsibility of being their sender.

This book concludes with the hopeful ending you are expecting but that doesn’t make the rest of the story any less exciting. While not quite as action-packed as the first novel, this novel focuses more on Mara’s inner dynamics and struggles into becoming who she is meant to be. Mara has grown older and is no longer a kitten. With the help of some new friends and enemies of a variety of different species, you follow Mara on her final journey to becoming the sender of Nizamuddin.

If you are looking for an easy read with some very unique and likeable characters, even if you don’t like cats, you will still appreciate this entertaining story.