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Penance by Kanae Minato

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Penance by Kanae Minato Penance by Kanae Minato
Published by Mulholland Books on April 11, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Crime Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
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When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.

Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren't able to accurately describe the stranger's appearance to the police after the Emili's body was discovered. Asako, Emily's mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter's murder. PENANCE is a dark and voice-driven tale of revenge and psychological trauma that will leave readers breathless.

The novel revolves around a group of friends in a small, rural town. The town is known for its fresh and clean air, which results in a company which makes precision instruments moving there. The workforce is not thrilled with the move, most come from Tokyo and don’t fit in well with the locals. One of the newcomers’ children, Emily, makes friends with a group of local girls – Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko. As the blurb states, one holiday the five schoolgirls, who were 10 at the time, are playing when they are approached by a man who chooses Emily to help him with a task. An hour or more later, Emily is found violated and murdered.

At the time of this book, there was a statute of limitations during which criminals could be charged and so there is fifteen years to find the murderer. When the girls are thirteen, Emily’s mother invites them to her house and informs them that they have a choice – they must either discover who the murderer is or she will expect a penance from them, otherwise she would get revenge on them.

As the statute of limitations draws near, each of the four survivors tells us her story, both how she saw the event then and how her life has turned out. No one is unscathed, but the mother’s curse is as damaging to the girls as the actual murder was. It’s an absorbing story, both fascinating and disturbing. It’s not just about the crime, but about culture and identity, about family relationships, about rural life versus city life. It’s also about secrets and how they can haunt us.

About Kanae Minato

Kanae Minato (born 1973) is a Japanese writer of crime fiction and thriller.

She started writing in her thirties. Her first novel Confessions became a bestseller and won the Japanese Booksellers Award.

She has been described in Japan as “the queen of iyamisu”(eww mystery), a subgenre of mystery fiction which deals with grisly episodes and the dark side of human nature. Readers blurt out “eww” when they are reading iyamisu novels.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

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Earthly Remains by Donna Leon Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
Series: Commissario Brunetti #26
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press on April 4, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
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Donna Leon bestselling mystery novels have won a multitude of fans for their insider’s portrayal of Venice. From family meals to vaporetti rides, the details and rhythms of everyday life are an integral part of this beloved series. But so are the never-ending influx of tourists and the suffocating corruption. Through it all, Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti, a good man who loves his family and his city, has been an enduring figure, but in Earthly Remains, Brunetti’s endurance is tested more than ever before. During an interrogation, Brunetti acts rashly, doing something he quickly comes to regret, and in the fallout, he realizes that he needs a break.

Granted leave from the Questura, Brunetti’s wife Paola ships him off to a villa owned by a wealthy relative on Sant’Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the laguna. There he intends to pass his days rowing, and his nights reading Pliny’s Natural History. The recuperative stay goes according to plan until David Casati, the caretaker of the house, goes missing following a sudden storm. Now, Brunetti feels compelled to investigate, to set aside his leave of absence and understand what happened to the man who had become his friend.

I’ve read or listened to a fair number of the Commissario Brunetti series, but I read them out of order. It’s a bit of bad luck that both this and the one I listened to before it both deal with pollution. Yes, it’s a topic Leon keeps coming back to, apparently a major issue in Venice, but usually it’s spread out a little than it was for me this time. I would have liked a different topic, but that’s more my fault than Leon’s.

I liked that Brunetti gets out of town for a while this time around. I enjoy the early part of the story where he’s relaxing and rowing; it’s different than we usually see him. I like the people in the smaller towns, their relationships. I enjoyed the bees and how much they meant to David Casati. I missed his family a bit, but I’m sure they’ll be in the next one.

The investigation was interesting, with it’s digging into the present and the past. I was a bit disappointed, which I feel like I said about the last book of hers. I tend to want a little more resolution than she gives.

This is a great series and I enjoyed this installment. They don’t need to be read in order, however, if you’re just meeting Brunetti for the first time, I’d suggest starting with an earlier one in the series, one that’s set in Venice itself.

About Donna Leon

Donna Leon is the author of the international best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and lived in Venice for over thirty years. She now makes her home in Switzerland.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Thursday’s Tale: The Little Mermaid by Metaphrog

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Thursday’s Tale: The Little Mermaid by Metaphrog The Little Mermaid by Metaphrog
Published by Papercutz on April 4, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Graphic novel, Fairy tale
Pages: 80
Format: eARC
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The Little Mermaid is Hans Christian Andersen's most celebrated tale and is beautifully adapted here as a graphic novel by the Eisner award nominated duo Metaphrog (Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers).

The Little Mermaid lives deep under the ocean and longs to see the world above. When at last she is allowed to rise to the surface at age fifteen, she falls in love with a young prince. In order to become a human and to be with him, she makes a dangerous pact with the Sea Witch.

I’m always a little worried about re-workings of The Little Mermaid. So many of us have seen the Disney version and expect the happy ending for the prince and the mermaid. Metaphrog isn’t giving us a happy ending, they are sticking closer to the original by Hans Christian Andersen.

Our Little Mermaid does fall in love with a human prince and does make a deal with a witch, but the witch is not scary. The Witch is helping and warning our mermaid, but the mermaid still wants to have legs and the witch obliges at the cost of the mermaid’s voice. The mermaid does get to live in the prince’s palace, but the prince marries someone else. In the end, the little mermaid jumps into the sea, dissolves into foam and will live forever in the water. It’s a sad story really.

Metaphrog does cut out the more religious aspects of the original, which should make it appeal to a larger audience. The concept of souls that was so important in the original is left out here.

I loved the illustrations. They are gorgeous and full of detail. The underwater scenes are in shades of blue and green while the land scenes are warm oranges and reds. The mermaid’s feelings can be seen in her expressions. I found the panels easy to follow, which is not always the case, probably because I don’t read many graphic novels/comics.

I think this would be a good book to read with kids, but only if they are going to be okay with a the ending not being the happy wedding. My daughter would have been; I don’t know that my niece would enjoy it. It is beautiful though.

This spread is from early in the story, when the Little Mermaid is dreaming of the time she’ll be old enough to see what’s above the water.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

About Metaphrog

Metaphrog are Franco-Scottish duo Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, award-winning graphic novelists.

Their Louis series has received several prestigious award nominations including three for the Eisner Awards (the Oscars of comics), and critical acclaim worldwide.

They tirelessly promote the medium of comics and their own work, travelling to deliver talks and workshops, They are Patrons of Reading at Northfield Academy from 2013 until 2017, the first graphic novelists to fill such a role, and were Writers in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2015.

They are winners of The Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards 2016 for Best Visual Artist.

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