Book Reviews by Mae Clair: If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura, The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Happy Monday! I’m kicking off the week with two book reviews. Both of these stories are exquisite reads. I was drawn to the first by the title and the second by the blurb, which promised a story “inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein.”

I found them both engrossing, but will let you be the judge . . .

By Genki Kawamura

I was drawn to this book because of the title and the thoroughly enchanting cover, then I read the blurb and knew I had to pick it up. I LOVE cats, so of course I had to discover how everything played out.

In the story, a young unnamed postman discovers he has terminal cancer. The devil tells him he will die the next day—unless he accepts an offer. For each thing he agrees to make disappear from the world, his life will be extended by one day.

The devil begins with smartphones then moves onto clocks. Each day he reappears with a new object that has to be eradicated from the world. Each has a strong connection to the postman, although he doesn’t always realize it at the time.

You see where this is headed, right? Did I mention the postman lives alone, and his only companion is a cat named Cabbage?

Translated from Japanese, this is a short read, and one I would categorize as “different.” Our troubled postman does a lot of reflecting and conscience wrestling. The reader is treated to his backstory, including his relationship with both parents and a former cat named Lettuce. While I thought the beginning was a little slow, the second half of the book captured my attention (and my heart) and didn’t let go.

A most unusual read. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for review purposes. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

By Rachel Hawkins

An intensely character-driven mystery that builds from slow simmer, The Villa is an intriguing dual timeline story. In the present, Emily Sheridan is going through a painful divorce while struggling to finish her latest cozy mystery. Her long-time friend, Chess, a renown author of self-help books, invites her to vacation at an Italian villa–suggesting they can focus on writing. Although they haven’t been truly close for a while, and their friendship has had its share of ups and downs, Emily agrees.

After arriving, she realizes the villa is the same place where Noel Gordon, a notorious rock star, gathered a handful of musicians and writers in 1974 for a summer fueled by sex, drugs, music, and literature. One of those guests–Mari, a nineteen-year-old girl–would pen a book that goes on to become a classic horror novel. The end of the gathering would also leave one of the group dead and another imprisoned for murder.

What appealed to me most about The Villa are the parallels between Gordon’s summer of ’74 where Mari writes Lilibeth Rising, and the summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at his castle. It’s easy to spot who resembles who among the assortment of characters (there are a few others involved, too). Emily gets caught up in the history of the Villa and that infamous summer which leads to increasing tensions and complications with Chess.

The book moves at a slow pace, yet somehow despite nothing much happening until several twists and turns at the end, the story is still a page-turner. It’s a book to read and soak in, not one to breeze through. The ’74 timeline is by far the more interesting of the two despite the
insensitivity of most of the characters. Modeling it after the Shelly/Byron summer was a stroke of genius by the author.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thanks for visiting today. I hope one of these books caught your interest. I’d read Rachel Hawkins before (Reckless Girls) and knew she’d deliver a good tale, but Genki Kawamura was new for me. Though wildly different in style, I found both books hard to put down.

66 thoughts on “Book Reviews by Mae Clair: If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura, The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

  1. I loved the parallels between Lord Byron/the Shelleys and The Villa. It made me just sink into the atmosphere and enjoy. I could totally feel that time and place when Mary Shelley sat down to write Frankenstein. I’m glad you loved this one as much as I did. And, how about that ending? Crazy, just crazy! Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, heck. I replied to your comment earlier today, and for some reason it didn’t post.

      I am so happy I found this book on your blog, because i fell in love with it, especially the Shelley/Byron connection. As for the ending, I thought it was all wrapped up and then–WHAM! I should have expected that, given Hawkins did the same kind of thing at the end of Reckless Girls.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think I could live in a world without cats, Mae. And I can see why you were attracted to that book – love the cover. I read a review of The Villa on Tessa’s blog. That cover sure doesn’t indicate the story inside, but it sounds like one I’d really like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This one positively oozed atmosphere for me, Tessa. I am so glad I saw it on your blog and scooped it up.
      And yeah, I thought the ending was pretty much in place and then–WHAM! But then, Hawkins did that with Reckless Girls, too.

      Definitely a fabulous story!


  3. Great reviews and I’m intrigued by both. A world without cats–I’m a dog person, but imagine it would feel soulless and joyless, like a dogless world. And The Villa sounds interesting. I was surprised despite “nothing much happening”, you gave it 5/5. That really makes me want to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you could substitute dogs for cats in the first book, Jacqui, and have the exact same feelings about the story. It was just so different.

      And you’re right about the second book. As I was reading, I kept wondering why I was glued to the pages when there really wasn’t much happening. But the atmosphere and the Shelley/Byron connection carried me through.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am not a cat person but like to read how they affect the lives of people who love them. Thanks for sharing this book Mae. it is interesting to note that ‘The Villa” elicited 5 stars despite nothing happening. 😀 There must be a compelling factor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am SUCH a cat person, Balroop, it’s pitiful. But you could substitute another animal in the place of cats, and I think the book would strike a similar cord.

      As for The Villa, I kept wondering why I couldn’t put the book down, despite nothing really happening. The atmosphere and that tie to Shelley/Byron kept me reading—even though most of the characters had no redeeming qualities!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Both of these sound like unusual reads, Mae. The first one captured my attention the most, partly because I love cats too, but also because it sounds very different. I don’t mind slow reads if they’re not too long and worth savoring. Thanks for the reviews and recommendations. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The first one is highly different, Diana. It almost reads like a parable.
      The second one is a read to wallow in atmosphere—-and that very cool connection to the Shelley/Byron summer which has always fascinated me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Robbie. I’m hanging in there, still trying to manage my time.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the reviews. They were both excellent reads. I hope you and your family are all doing well too. Happy Valentine’s Day! 💞

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great reviews, Mae, and I’m especially intrigued by the first one. Anyone who names his cats Lettuce and Cabbage can’t be all bad, even after making a deal with the devil. I’m adding both books to my bloated TBR list, but Lettuce & Cabbage are probably going to pull me in first. (Fellow cat lover/fanatic here, as you know.)
    😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mae, two exquisite and thoughtful reviews – you’ve grabbed my attention with both of these. I have read a few Japanese books in the past few years and always love the unique ideas and approach to writing. I’m thoroughly intrigued by The Villa and another I hope to read! Many thanks for these two great book shares! Happy Reading! 📚😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Annika. I think If Cats Disappeared from the World was my first read by a Japanese author. It was so unusual and so good. It read almost like a a parable. And The Villa was simply engrossing. I’m glad you enjoyed both reviews. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wonder if you have read The Phone Box at the Edge of the World – set in Japan and written by an Italian who lived there for 15 years – it is an extremely moving, almost mystical book! Absolutely amazing!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hello! Many thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. I agree that The Villa was just outstanding. So glad you enjoyed it, too. If Cats Disappeared from the World was truly different. It read almost like a parable. Both were highly enjoyable!

      Liked by 1 person

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