This wasn’t my favourite of all four books (that was The Travelling Cat Chronicles 😍) but I did enjoy it a lot! It was the first of all four to be truly fantastical. Our main character is a young boy who has just lost his grandfather, the man who was raising him, and is closing up the bookshop he used to run. He is greeted by a talking cat who takes him through four labyrinths in order to save literature.
I enjoyed that the four labyrinths linked to the Greek minotaur and that they all had our protagonist fighting the antagonists with his pure love of books. But I did find that Natsukawa’s message was hitting us over the head just a bit. There was no real nuance in the message, instead it was very obvious that this man was using this as a vessel to complain about current reading trends. Do I disagree with his points? No! But it was still quite heavy handed.
I also felt a little called out at points 😅 we’re so focused on reading as much as we can (okay me, I’m focused on reading as much as I can) that we don’t take pleasure in slowly revisiting a past book, time and time again. I think I need to reread this short novel at some point to really get the idea into my head that it’s okay not to be reading new books all the time!
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving an average of 7.29 and a 4* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: death, kidnapping, grief, death of parent.
Overall, this is a sweet book with a very strong message. One that heavy readers will likely appreciate but that those who don’t devote their life to reading may find overtly over the top. If you’re reading this blog? You’re likely to be a heavy reader, so try this book out! It’s a short one and you might end up loving it anyways, like me!
Another teeny tiny review again today! I actually read this book and the last book that I reviewed on the same day in the same sitting. When they’re so small why not?! This one is slightly larger at 27 pages *gasp* but still a short and sweet translation from the original Swedish.
This is a sweet little story where we see through the eyes of a young boy as a family member who left to live in the USA comes back to visit. There are a lot of family tensions which the boy we’re following doesn’t quite understand, but can definitely feel. It’s a really interesting little dive into how children perceive tension and I really enjoyed it!
For my CAWPILE rating I gave Sleet:
Which gives us an overall total of 6.43 which is a respectable 3 star rating!
I think this is such a sweet, short read, and I’m totally up for reading more from the author in the future! Have you read any books translated from Swedish?? (hint hint: Pippi Longstockings was writing by a Swedish woman!)
A tiny book, which means that this will be a tiny review. My edition of this book is only 25 pages long so it was a super quick read! This is a little Swedish classic, translated into English as unfortunately I don’t speak Swedish, that I got in a set from my wonderful friend.
This book is about a monarch anonymously visiting a small town and speaking to the priest. They have a discussion where both of them are dancing around the points they’re actually trying to make, but they both know the song that they’re dancing to and they’re partners in this.
It’s hard to say much more without spoiling this little book but I’m really glad that I got to pick this one up as I enjoyed the writing style and I want to pick up more of Selma Lagerlöf translated by Velma Swanston Howard because it’s so beautiful!
For my CAWPILE ratings I gave this:
Which gives a total of 8.57 which is a 4 star read!
Have you got any recommendations for books in translation? I adore reading from different languages and cultures! Or if you’ve ready any other Selma Lagerlöf books? Recommend them to me!
For Christmas 2020 my wonderful friend gifted me a set of Swedish classic short stories, so of course my first read of 2021 had to be one of these! Coming in at 19 pages long this book comprises of two short stories by an author best known for Pippi Longstockings. I, however, had never read anything from her before so this was a lovely introduction to her writing! I ended up giving this book 3 stars (out of 5)
Both of these stories were a little bit odd, but definitely still enjoyable!
Most Beloved Sister follows a young girl who seems to have an imaginary sister who lives under a bush in her garden. She plays with her every day, and not only is this girl her sister but she’s also a monarch of this world under the bush. I don’t want to say anything else as, with it being such a short story anything else would spoil it! It seems to be a tale on growing up and on parental love, which was quite an interesting one to read.
Mirabelle is a story about an unusual doll owned by a little girl. Again, any more would spoil it! This one seems to be more of a focus on encouraging imagination and childish wonder, and was another sweet but odd story!
This has definitely made me interested in reading more of Lindgren’s long works, I want to see what she is able to do when she has more space to flesh out characters, develop a larger plot and how she concludes her stories!
I was so incredibly excited when I heard that the other books in the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series by Toshikazu Kawaguchi were going to be translated into English! I adored the first book and it was my absolute favourite read of 2019, I even thought about it replacing The Gift as my favourite book! That’s how much I loved it! So of course when NetGalley had the arc available I requested it and was lucky enough to get it!
Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot, Tales from the Café continues to follow the staff from Café Funiculi Funicula, some familiar faces, and some new to us. Yet again this book tells the tale of individuals who need to face their past in order to move on with their future, and leaves the reader, or at least me, asking what I would change if I could travel back in time.
This is quite a short book, so it’s hard to say much about it when trying to avoid spoilers, but yet again this book just filled my soul. I adored the atmosphere Kawaguchi created around the café, how he expanded on the lore of the café itself, as well as on the history of those who work there. On top of this beautiful exploration we are also introduced to new people and are absorbed into new tales. Throughout this book, whilst I was reading it I really felt a sense of peace, of beauty. I cried, as with the first one, when I finished reading it. It’s such a touching and well written plot. And I love the path that Kawaguchi went down for this book.
I’ve already bought myself a physical copy of this book (and it’s signed!) and I’m also already excited for the 3rd and final book to be published in English! I wish that this was a longer series, but if I can’t have that then fingers crossed more of Kawaguchi’s works will be translated into English. If not then you might find me learning Japanese!
The first book in this series, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, absolutely broke my heart and I adored it. I knew I needed more instantly. When I found out that there were 3 books already published in Japanese I immediately went to see if translations were going to be made! Thankfully they are doing so and Tales from the Cafe is the second book in this beautiful series!
Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5
Author: Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot
In returning to Café Funiculi Funicula we get four more tales. Four more life stories which explore in even more depth the grief and regret these characters feel. I enjoyed that in comparison to each other and also to the first book, each individual had a different reason for sitting in the fated chair. Each of them had a different story leading up to this point, leading them to want to explore another time. Although the overall base themes of regret still run throughout each tale, as is expected when the subjects are wishing to play with time, the reasonings behind each feel unique and personal to them.
We do get to learn more about characters we have already met in the first book. I don’t wish to give too much away on this point, as I personally enjoyed discovering this for myself, but seeing some of our repeat characters get their turn in the chair as well as learning more about how their lives have progressed and developed was another aspect of the story I loved. It really adds to the overall feeling that the Funiculi Funicula presents to the reader and fleshes out the world around this impossible chair.
As with the first book the writing is very slow and intentional throughout. Also as with the first book, however, I read through this book so quickly and was loath to put it down when I had to! The pacing is very methodical and purposeful which leads one story into another. I have seen in another review someone stating that they did not like the repetitive nature of the rules each time. For me, personally, these repeated instructions add more texture to the world of the café, as I’m sure those words have been said within it many times. It also is part and parcel of the process. Just as in Doctor Who, the Doctor races around the TARDIS pressing buttons and flicking levers, just instead this method of time travel is more certain and informed. You know what to expect, as much as you can, and you know the rules laid out for you and the consequences if they aren’t followed.
I am incredibly excited for the third book to be translated! I already know that I will be so sad when there are no more books for me to read from this little series. I can’t wait to learn more about… well let’s just say the last character mentioned (I don’t want to give anything away!) as well as seeing the café family develop and how they react to new time travellers. I really do recommend picking this series up, there’s a reason that Before the Coffee Gets Cold was such a hit and I recommend diving into this beautiful and meditative world.
Thank you to NetGalley and Picador for a free eCopy of this book in return for an honest review.
The Princess Plot by Kirsten Boie was a core book of my tweenage years, I loved this book so much with its contemporary disguise masking a deeper and more poignant story so I was happy to pick this book for the “last read at least 10 years ago” prompt for February.
This book follows Jenna who sneakily auditions for a role in a movie despite her strict mother not wanting her to go. She gets the part! And she’s flown off to Scandia to meet the director of the film. But everything is not as it seems. This is such a fun book and I honestly didn’t expect so much from it.
What I mean by that is that I remembered the plot, but I didn’t expect Boie to so clearly make points about politics, classism, racism and to explain terrorist groups so well. She points out things which are present in our own societies (Boie is German but as a Brit, everything registered too) and utilises the made up country of Scandia to demonstrate the issues here without angering any one country.
That’s another point too, I had never known that this was a translated work! A surprising number of my childhood reads were translated from other languages and I love it!
Back to the review 😂
This is the first book in a duology, however, it stands on its own really well too. I think it’s a great book to give a tween/teen and a fun read as an adult too! Of course the nostalgia makes me biased, but I also genuinely believe that this is a great MG/YA book (it’s one of those rare books that targeted at the younger end of YA).
Have you read this book before? Did you know it was translated? Let me know!
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is a novel translated from Japanese about a small little cafe which seems to have a secret. If you sit in one seat, you can travel in time.
This book has absolutely gorgeous writing, if you are at all familiar with other Japanese media you’ll also likely feel that the translation by Geoffrey Trousselot has kept the emotion and feelings of the original work. It is a style unique to that culture, and it works so well for this concept.
We follow four different people through their journey to wanting to time travel and their experiences with it, whilst the back drop of the cafe and its staff remains constant. The reasons are all unique, profound, and the results are not what the individual expects but are just so perfectly imperfect.
This quickly became one of my favourite books of 2019 and in fact one of my favourite books of all time. This short novel packs a beautiful punch, and I absolutely recommend it. General fiction with touches of fantasy are always fun, and this one just does it spectacularly.
Thank you to NetGalley for a electronic ARC in return for an honest review.