Before The Coffee Gets Cold

This book was recommended to me by a woman in a bookshop after I asked for ideas for light reading. I never got the woman’s name but I am so grateful to her because I don’t think I would have thought to buy this for myself had she not suggested it. This is the second book in the series, so it’s a bit of an odd order to read in, but I was assured that the book makes sense as a standalone! It’s not a very long book but the story is, in a word, captivating.

The premise is simple, in the back streets of Tokyo there is a café where one can travel back in time. There are, of course, rules to this time travel: you can only travel to a point in history in the café (and you must stay in your seat) and you can’t change the past. In order to return to the present you just have to finish your coffee, but you must finish the coffee before it gets cold. It’s a thought provoking premise…it got me thinking what I would do and who I would visit if I could utilise the café.

Throughout each chapter of the book we are introduced to four unique individuals and their stories as they travel back in time for various reasons. We meet a man who is seeking advice from a friend who passed away 22 years ago, and a man who travels to see his mother whose funeral he had missed. There is also a man who travels to see the girl that he couldn’t marry and an ex-detective to travels to give his wife the gift he never got to give her. All these stories were so heartwarming and moving. There were twists and turns, tears and laughs, and the whole book succeeded in making me feel warm and comforted. I felt like I was in the café myself, watching these stories unfold and experiencing the pain and joy with the characters. It was an entirely unique experience of reading.

Kawaguchi has an incredible, undeniable talent for writing human stories. It is just so refreshing to read about real human lives, that aren’t dramatised but are still captivating. This is definitely light reading in the sense that it’s a short book with short stories, but it’s so admirable how much we are drawn into these peoples stories and lives in such a short amount of time. The setting is charming, the characters are lovable and the stories are touching.

If you’re experiencing a lull in your motivation and ability to read, I would definitely recommend this book to recapture a love of reading. It’s refreshing, heartwarming and such a good read. I’ve been told that the previous book centred around four women and their reasons for using the café, which has only enticed me more to read that book next – if it’s anything like this one I’m sure I will love it, and I’m sure you will love it too.

The Hobbit

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun snails and the moon walks”

J.R.R Tolkien

As far as blogging goes, I think it’s safe to say I’m late to the game. Which is fine! But another thing that I am most definitely late to the game with is reading the Lord of the Rings books. I don’t know why I’d never read them growing up (I haven’t watched any of the films either). For Christmas last year I received a really beautiful set of all the books so that I could start reading – and since starting I haven’t stopped kicking myself that I didn’t read these sooner! Nevertheless, it seems fitting that my first post on a blog I should have started earlier, be about a book that I should have read earlier.

Of course, being one of the most beloved fantasy novels, this book doesn’t need much introduction. But in case anyone reading this doesn’t know, The Hobbit is a fantasy novel by J.R.R Tolkien and was published in 1937. It follows the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, a timid but loveable hobbit who lives in the rural, homely and picturesque Bag End, Hobbiton. He is coerced by Gandalf, the wizard, to assist a band of dwarves on a quest to reclaim treasure that was stolen from them by a dragon named Smaug. We follow Bilbo through his quest as he grows as a character and encounters everything from goblins and trolls to elves and giant spiders. And as he traverses through various landscapes, from the vast valley of Rivendell through the deep underground of the Misty Mountains, from the black forest of Mirkwood to the final destination of the Lonely Mountain.

The one reservation I had about this book was that I knew it was part of such an expansive detailed world that Tolkein had created and I was worried that I might get lost in having to look up what each creature and place was. This was most certainly not the case. So much care has been put into this book to give a grounded, but not overwhelming, introduction to the universe. The narrator has a conversational tone and makes sure to explain the background of any new creatures or places that are introduced. The tone makes it feel as if I was being told this tale around a campfire or over a cup of tea – which just added to the comforting but exciting nature of the story.

This book, all in all, was brilliant. There aren’t many other words I can come up with to sum it up! It’s full of imagination, folklore and incredibly storytelling. The scenery is described in such vividness that you feel transported into the story, the characters are relatable and lovable, the quest is gripping and exciting, and the tone is lighthearted and inviting.

I think the beauty of this story is that despite it’s fantastical and imaginative nature, it’s relatable. I can definitely identify with Bilbo as a “hobbit” myself; I like my comfortable life, I definitely look forward to meals and I would like nothing more than to spend my evenings curled up in a hobbit hole! I think that is true of most of us. But there is also a part of us that wants adventure and wants to explore the unknown. This book allows us to explore an incredibly vast and detailed fantasy realm through the experience of a timid but determined hobbit.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a bit of escapism. It’s charming, whimsical and adventurous and my only regret is not reading it sooner!

P.S. I hope you like the pictures of the beautiful copy of The Hobbit I have – snail is included for scale!