The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa, a review

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa is the fourth and final “Japanese cat book” that my partner had gotten me for Christmas last year. I was reading through them all in chronological order, and I was so excited to get to the book that had inspired him to buy me all four! The first four books were I Am A Cat, The Guest Cat, and The Travelling Cat Chronicles.

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

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!

This cat book made me WEEP 😭

I love cats. I love translated Japanese fiction. So of course I was excited to read The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. My boyfriend bought me 4 Japanese cat books for last Christmas (including the original classic that inspired them all) and I’ve been reading through them in publication order. I only have one left now! But today, we’re talking about Travelling Cat.

In this book we’re following a cat named Nana (because his tail is hooked like the number 7, which is “nana” in Japanese) on a road trip with his beloved owner Satoru. They’re travelling across Japan visiting Satoru’s old friends, but Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say. Despite that they’re just enjoying the time together, seeing the sights and Nana meeting these people.

This book is told both from the cat’s perspective in first person, and also in the third person when looking at flashbacks of Satoru’s life and learning more about his relationship with these people he’s driving to see. I really enjoyed the mix here as Nana get’s a really unique perspective to read from, often apart from Satoru, and the divide also helps to keep the flashbacks clear from the present day sections of the novel.

This book is absolutely gorgeous, completely heart breaking, and as I said in the title of this post I wept like a damn baby as I was finishing up this book. In some ways, it’s a predictable ending. And I’ve seen some people criticising the book for that. But for me it was about getting to know these characters over time and coming to feel for them. So perhaps a better choice for character based readers rather than plot based?

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 10, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 9, Plot: 10, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 10, and Enjoyment: 10 giving an average score of 9.57 and, of course, a 5* rating!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: animal death, cancer, car accident, death of loved ones, miscarriage, misogyny.

I’m so very glad I read this book. It’s a perfect book for any cat lover, but also just animal lovers in general! Have you read any cat/animal based books? I’d love more recommendations!

The Book Jumper, a review

The lovely Kari from Kar-ing for Books gifted me The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser, which to me could be described as a YA fantasy version of Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde. Essentially, people can travel into books, they’re supposed to look after the book characters but (of course) things go wrong.

This book was so much fun! We follow a 16 year old German girl who is going with her Scottish mother back to her mother’s home island after a horrible time for them both back home in Germany. When they get to the island it’s revealed to Amy that the younger people from her family can jump inside of literature and she is introduced to this world.

The book was so much fun! I really loved how the plot twist was worked into the story and it was really fun for me to read this concept from a different authors perspective and from less of a British point of view. I loved the setting of the Scottish island and the warring families, as well as learning more about Amy’s mother and her childhood on this island.

Unfortunately I did think that this book wrapped up far too succinctly at the very end. I can’t say too much because, obviously, spoilers. But people didn’t discuss the reveals that were given despite them potentially holding so many explanations, and they also glossed over the acceptance of a major ending event. I can’t believe there was no transitional period between how things had been and how they are at the end of the book. It seemed super rushed and quite unrealistic.

Despite this ending having a few issues I really did enjoy the reading process. I found this book super difficult to put down and ended up reading most of it all in one day! The translated writing is just perfect for me. Gläser has written one other translated book, also literature related, and I definitely want to pick it up!

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 8, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 7. and Enjoyment: 8 which gives a 7.43 score and a 4* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: grief, fire, injury detail, death, infidelity.

I always love reading translated books (Gläser is German) and I’m so glad I’ve found another author that I enjoy the writing style of. Have you read either of Gläser’s translated books (or her books in German if you read German!)? If so please let me know what you thought of them!

The Guest Cat, a review

After reading I Am A Cat I was excited to delve into some more Japanese cat books, and given I’m going in chronological order that meant The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (and translated by Eric Selland) was up next!

This is a short little book, at only 140 pages, and I was able to read it in just two days. This. This was exactly what I had hoped for from I Am A Cat. It was absolutely beautiful.

A gorgeous discussion on the values of nature, on grief, and on the uncontrollable aspects of nature, as well as a look into the life of this kitty and the wonderful humans who loved them.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 9, Plot: 8,Intrigue: 9, Logic: 9, and Enjoyment: 9 giving a score of 8.86 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: animal death, death, grief, cancer, medical content, death of parent.

Because of how short this book is there isn’t too much else I can say. But what I will say is that this is one I’m definitely going to be reading again! Have you read anything by Hiraide?

I Am A Cat, a review

I Am A Cat by Natsume Sōseki (translated by Aiko Ito and Grame Wilson) is my first Japanese cat book. It was a Christmas present from my other half, who gave me 4 Japanese cat books in total, and I decided I wanted to read them in publication order.

Despite consciously making that decision, I didn’t fully realise that this book was from 1905 and that did have an impact on my reading experience. Completely my own fault of course. I’d expected a cat novel in the modern sense, where it’s all about the cat. This isn’t what you get from this book, instead it’s a commentary about early 1900s Japanese culture. But once I had realised and accepted what this book was actually about, it was vastly more enjoyable.

I learnt quite a bit about Japanese culture in this time, and I loved the viewpoint that the cat was able to give us. Seeing all the individuals for who they truly were, and being able to explore and go where our humans characters could not. It truly is a satirisation of the foolishness of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era.

The “book” is actually a collection of short stories that were published in ten instalments in a literary journal. The first instalment was supposed to be a one off, but the publisher and the readers enjoyed it so much that they asked Sōseki to publish some more! This means that each story can actually stand quite well on its own.

The ending was definitely a little bit of a shock for me, not what I had expected at all. And it was harsher than I had anticipated too! Partly a product of it’s time of course, but still! It was really interesting to see how Sōseki approached this.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 5, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 6, Logic: 7, Enjoyment: 5, which totalled 6.29 and gave a 3.5* rating.

I’m really glad that I’ve read the original cat book and I’m excited to delve into more now! Do you read translated works? I adore finding translated books from other cultures!

Most Beloved Sister & Mirabelle – a review

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)

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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!

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe – a review

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!

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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!

Tales from the Cafe, Before the Coffee Gets Cold Book #2: a review

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!

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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.