Chain Mail by Hiroshi Ishizaki *Book Review*

chain mail

Chain Mail by Hiroshi Ishizaki

Goodreads rating: 3.83

My rating: 4/5

Subject: would you like to create a fictional world?

Four young girls are brought together when a chain email gets sent around asking them to participate in a collaborative story. Sawako, Yukari, Mai, and Mayumi are all tired of the lives they’re living. So when the opportunity to get creative and share a secret hobby together arises, they all join in. The story has four parts and each girl can choose a perspective to write from: the female protagonist, her boyfriend, her stalker, and the detective. What begins as a fun and thrilling hobby, becomes more sinister as real life and fiction bleed together. 

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I did not expect to love this story as much as I did. The characters are given a lot of depth and they undergo significant change despite the book being just over 200 pages. The aesthetic of a group of teen girls typing out story chapters on their flip phones against the colorful backdrop of Tokyo was just (*chef’s kiss*) so enjoyable. It all brought me back to the time when I was their age and trying desperately to fit in despite drama with my friends and troubles at home. I think there’s something for everyone to relate to in this book. Hell, even the school bully gets a redemption arc. 

If you want a story that reads like a wholesome slice of life anime with some effectively creepy undertones then I’d highly recommend Chain Mail, though you’ll probably have to buy second hand to get a hold of it.


It’s been quite a while since I last posted so I appreciate you stopping by. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

-Liv

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The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa *Book Review*

memory police

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

Goodreads rating: 3.87

My rating: 4/5

A young, unnamed novelist lives on an unnamed island where, one by one, things are disappearing. It’s not too bad at first when things like birds and harmonicas are stripped from everyone’s memory. But as time goes on, more important things begin to go missing, and the rate at which they go missing increases. 

A few special individuals on the island have memories that remain intact though. Enter: The Memory Police, an Orwellian organization that makes sure the forgotten items stay forgotten. They show up out of nowhere and take people away in their military trucks, never to be seen again. 

When our protagonist’s editor is flagged by the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him away in a secret room in her house. 

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The Memory Police is a slow moving tale about the importance of remembering even the most mundane things, not because of what they are but because of what they mean. 

Ogawa’s writing calls to mind the surreal stories of Haruki Murakami. The characters and places are mostly nameless but I still felt very close to them while reading. The last half of the story reminds me a lot of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in terms of its tone and themes of autonomy versus helplessness. 

The dystopian elements are rather subtle, unlike similar works Memory Police is being compared to (i.e. Fahrenheit 451 or 1984). Even so, I really enjoyed the chilly melancholy Ogawa’s writing invokes and I think this is a story that will stick with me for quite a while.

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Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell *Book Review*

medieval bodies

Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell

Goodreads rating: 4.04

My rating: 4/5

Hartnell treats us to a fascinating and surprisingly in-depth look at life in the Middle Ages from the perspective of the human body. The book is arranged in sections from head to toe, including everything in between. The writing is eloquent but not the point of becoming overly flowery or too dense to get through. 

It was fascinating to learn about how Medieval people understood the different aspects and functions of the body. Also tied in are relevant points of context from the time. For example, in the section on the heart we learn about how the heart was studied medically, but also about how the iconic heart shape “<3” was popularized. 

Hartnell explains that in a lot of ways, the Middle Ages were more progressive than we give them credit for. At the same time though, he doesn’t shy away from pointing out the blatant racism, homophobia, and misogyny that people regularly experienced. I really appreciated this well rounded view.

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Spread throughout the pages are beautiful full-color photographs and illustrations that help add more meaning to the specific examples being discussed. 

I often struggle to read nonfiction because I lose interest so easily but Medieval Bodies was fascinating all the way through!

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