This is Murakami's first venture into writing a female character. I wouldn't say he's entirely successful at writing female characters - Aomame has a weird obsession with her breasts being two different sizes that I just couldn't relate to at all. But if you like love stories set in alternate worlds with two moons, an almost mute girl who authors a best-selling novel, strange beings called the Little People, and cults, this might be your book. My favorite Murakami work remains "Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World," and if you haven't read Murakami's work, I'd suggest starting there. BookRiot has also put together a reading pathway, or 3 books to start with.
Random fact: Years ago, I got to ring up Haruki Murakami's purchase at a now-defunct bookstore. Alas, I was too starstruck to say anything at the time ...
My "makes me wonder what I'm doing with my life" pick: John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars"
Green continues to awe me with his latest work, which could have been cliche, sappy, or maudlin -- if written by anyone else. The characters are teens battling cancer, and Green deftly shows the realities of living with cancer without once slipping into a pitying, condescending, falsely cheerful approach.
My "you will end up shouting at the characters because you love them so much" pick: Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief"
Some books hold you up to the truth and don't let you look away. Zusak's "The Book Thief" is one of these. I won't tell you much more because I think you need to experience the novel for yourself.
My "girl power!" pick: Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age"
Stephenson takes on questions of nature vs. nurture, society, and education in this giddily inventive novel. If you believe in the power of reading and books, you'll enjoy the adventures that are kicked off when the Primer, an interactive book created by a rich lord to subvert his granddaughter, falls into the hands of Nell, a young girl from the lower classes.
My "out of the box" pick: M.T. Anderson's "Thirsty"
Anderson's tone in this novel is what makes it so interesting: he mixes straight-up horror tropes with absurdity (annual rites to stave off the dreaded Vampire Lord Tch'muchgar are held at the White Hen Pantry). Anderson portrays a world much like our own, except for the little detail that vampires walk among the living and yearly rites keep their lord sealed out of this world. Chris is just another teen ... until he begins to fear that he's turning into a vampire himself, and has to fend off the advances of vampish (in several ways) Lolly, navigate a potluck unlike any he's ever attended, and more. I don't think Anderson's work is the kind of book I'd reach for when I need to do some comfort reading, but I am interested in exploring his other writings. (I read the first book of Octavian Nothing years ago, didn't read the second, and plan to revisit the series).
My "try again in 2013" pick: Patrick Ness' "The Ask and the Answer"
I tried, I really did. I borrowed this book twice from the library, but somehow it just did not get finished. Ness is pretty good at writing a story that roars along and sucks you in. Although I wasn't crazy about the dialectical writing in the first book (and how it seems to disappear in the second book), I was interested in how he was developing the plot. Just need to finish it ...
I found Pinterest was an easy way to keep track of books I read. Check out my 2012 board here and my new 2013 board here.