Lilisin ROOTS in 2022!

Diskutera2022 ROOT CHALLENGE

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Lilisin ROOTS in 2022!

Redigerat: jan 8, 2023, 8:07 pm

I'm back again!

And hopefully I won't fall off from posting this year (although I did keep my ticker updated).

I used to have so much free time during work and because of it I was always caught up on my thread and even others! But now I'm just too busy with work at work (I realize I can't complain about having work to do while at work) so I have fallen so far behind. How I miss LT! My reading journey continues nevertheless.

I don't have reading goals typically but this year my friend and I have committed to buddy read one Japanese-language book every month this year. That's 12 books which will do wonders for me as I really need to get back to my goal of reading faster and stronger in Japanese. I love this language and it's stupid that I've gotten so lazy with this goal. As an additional note I'm going to try hard to tackle my manga TBR that has gotten out of hand. I've been good about not buying any unless it's a continuation of a series but I did so much damage a few years back buying huge sets that I'm not making a dent at all. Time to fix that! (Plus it's fun!)

Otherwise, I continue with my usual reads of fiction, classics, nonfiction, both in English and French.

I thank everyone who has continued to support me and my thread throughout the years despite gaps in posting lately. Last year I read 84 books/manga out of a goal of 60 so for fun I've decided to make 80 my goal this year! Such ambition!

Goal reached! 113 books/manga out of a goal of 80!

Books read in 2022:
1) John Wyndham : The Chrysalids
2) Fuminori Nakamura : L'Hiver Dernier, Je Me Suis Separe de Toi (Last Winter We Parted)
3) 藤野 可織 : 爪と目 (Nails and Eyes)
4) Honoré de Balzac : Le Père Goriot
5) 加藤 千恵 : アンバランス
6) John Steinbeck : East of Eden
7) Kazumi Yumoto : 夏の庭 (The Friends)
8) 今村 夏子 : むらさきのスカートの女 (The Woman in the Purple Skirt)
9) Jules Verne : Un drame en Livonie (A Drama in Livonia)
10) Sandrine Collette : Juste apres la vague (Just After the Wave)
11) Cho Nam-Joo : Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
12) Denis Johnson : Train Dreams
13) Elena Ferrante : The Lost Daughter
14) Amelie Nothomb : Le fait du prince
15) Antoine de Saint-Exupery : Le Petit Prince
16) Honore de Balzac : Le colonel Chabert
17) 巧 豊田 : 駅に泊まろう!
18) 住野 よる : よるのばけもの (At Night, I Become a Monster)
19) Shusaku Endo : Silence
20) Jon Krakauer : Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
21) Doug J. Swanson : Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers
22) Eto Mori : カラフル (Colorful)
23) 尾崎世界観 : 母影
24) Jung Chang : Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
25) Philip K. Dick : The Man in the High Castle
26) 原田 マハ : ハグとナガラ
27) Jules Verne : Face au drapeau (Facing the Flag)
28) Daphne du Maurier : Rebecca
29) Kaori Ekuni : Dans la barque de dieu (God's Boat)
30) 小林 泰三 : 玩具修理者 (The Toymaker)
31) きょうや 織守 : 花束は毒 (The Bouquet is Poison)

Manga read in 2022:
らんま1/2 13-18
ママレード・ボーイ 1-8
ぼくだけがいない街 1-8
極主婦道 8-10
クジマ歌えば家ほろろ 1
聖闘士星矢 1-7
5080 1
Orange 7
シュート! 1-33
タコピーの原罪 1-2
Under Ninja 1-3
Detective Conan 94-100

Previous threads: 2021 - 2020 - 2019 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015

jan 7, 2022, 3:21 am

Welcome back and happy ROOTing. I love to read about the Japanese books you're reading.

jan 7, 2022, 3:39 am

>2 MissWatson:

Thank you! I try to tell myself to at least post my thoughts on my Japanese reading as that is what most people seem to know me for and expect so I'm always a bit sad to fall behind on those. But I have plenty on my TBR waiting to be read that I can post on so I'll make a better effort this year.

For funsies so that I can compare my stats at the end of the year, this is where I'm at with my TBR pile.

Spanish 3
Japanese 37
French 61
English 43
Total 144

Ideally I'd be at 30 and below for all but just to hit that target would equal 51 books read in a year. I've gotten close to 50 books in a year but always just manage to fall below due to late in the year reading slumps. Will this year be my year?

jan 7, 2022, 4:04 am

Hi lilisin, glad to see you back for some more ROOTing. 80 ROOTs is an ambitious goal. I will cheer for you on the way to that goal. Go get them!!!

jan 7, 2022, 9:01 am

Good luck with your Japanese reading! (and all the others too, of course!)

jan 7, 2022, 12:22 pm

Happy reading in 2022 and good luck with the TBR stacks. Cheers!

jan 8, 2022, 9:09 am

Woo hoo, welcome back and good luck with your goal!

jan 18, 2022, 3:19 am

2) Fuminori Nakamura : L'Hiver Dernier, Je Me Suis Separe de Toi (Last Winter We Parted)

I chose to read this now because I wanted to get a feel for this unfamiliar author as another of his books is coming out this year in English translation. It's a thriller, which I don't read much of but do read on occasion, and I just can't wrap my head around how I feel about this one.

It's about an author who takes on a project to write a book about a man on death row for the killing of two women by burning them to death. The prisoner maintains his innocence and concurrently warns the author not to take on the project as it will bring him down into a world of darkness he is not prepared for. Our author of course ignores the advice and begins digging.

The book is very clever and the way the author connects everything together is remarkable. But I was very detached from the method of telling this story even though the method is also explained in the book. It's hard to fully explain how I feel but the gist is that it feels like I was given a puzzle with pieces A through M and before I even had a chance to start assembling the pieces, someone has already revealed the puzzle. Again, the reveal is really clever and it really finds connections behind parts of the book that I wondered what the hell this could have to do with anything, as I was reading. But the feeling of too sudden a reveal is because I don't feel like I had the chance to really sink into the characters and the situation at hand.

It was just all information that was given to me (which again, is explained very well and makes sense) like a manual to a machine I've never used before. Manuals often only make sense to the person who wrote the manual themself. It even seems redundant to them. But to those of us who have only just gotten the manual in our hands, we don't understand how switching these buttons leads to launching a rocket into space.

So again, super clever and once I was at the end, the manual all made sense, but I just wanted a bit more of a seamless lead up to the conclusion. However, I think this book will definitely appeal to many people, with the reminder that I don't read too many thrillers to begin with.

jan 19, 2022, 4:06 am

Happy ROOTing in 2022, Lilisin!

jan 31, 2022, 5:06 pm

Glad you're back!

feb 5, 2022, 10:30 am

3) 藤野 可織 : 爪と目 (Nails and Eyes)

This is an as-of-yet untranslated book that won the Akutagawa Prize in 2013, by Kaori Fujino, and it was like being on a huge roller coaster ride, this one! Wow! I ended up cackling! I don't think I've ever cackled from a book before.

There are two additional stories in the Japanese copy that accompany the prize winning novella, and I want to discuss each because it was once I read all the works that I got a better understanding of the author's intent, which is an interesting case of realistic Japanese concerns in society, blended with horror. Yes, horror.

1) 爪と目 (Nails and Eyes)
This is a story about a woman who moves in with her lover and his 3 year old daughter after his wife has died. The story is related by the daughter of the man in a future time where she is fully grown up although we know nothing about her adult self other than a brief two sentence interaction with the mistress as an older woman, giving a hint that the family seems to still be together in the future.

Interestingly the narrative is presented as a false 2nd person narrative as the daughter tells the story of the mistress by using the pronoun "you" in an almost accusatory tone. When you first met my father it was... When you first entered our home it was... When you... etc. We don't even discover the names of the characters until halfway through story and this is important because the daughter is careful to create a barrier between you and me.

Along with the interesting style with its accusatory tone we are given extra information that permeates our thoughts throughout the story. Turns out the wife died of very mysterious circumstances, locked out on her terrace, her body discovered only the following day. The daughter has been traumatized by this event and can't even enter the living room of the home because she can't lay her eyes on the terrace. We are left to wonder throughout the story what lies behind this mysterious death and if our characters were actually involved.

You is a fascinating character as she is a woman with no real direction, inspiration, thought of her own. She goes through life defying Japan's expectations on her, not because she is trying to make a point, but mostly because she just can't seem to care. For example it takes the discovery of home decorating blogs to get her to decorate the new home but it's still all motivated by nothingness; just an understanding that things should be a certain way so might as well go through with the motions.

In the meantime she is not able to foster a connection with this three year old girl at her feet. The girl is obviously traumatized but instead of trying to take on a motherly role, she just gives the girl sweets to help pass the time, and takes no notice of the child's increased obsession with fingernail biting, an obsession that matches You's seeming obsession with her contact lenses that continue to feel foreign in her eyes despite her long years of wearing.

In any case, we following My's interaction with You as she observes You, and all along you are pushed through this intense tension because the book's blurb has indicated that the book is a horror but so far we have had no hint other than the mother's death. Where is the horror? What's going to happen?

In a way though, nothing happens, and yet something crazy happens at the end, which I won't reveal (although I really want to as it is just so intense) but the book sort of ends up a reflection on two characters who don't follow the traditional roles as one would expect. They are both so locked up in their trauma that really they end up having to lean on each other but not without major consequences.

In any case, there is so much more to process but I can't really do that without revealing everything which would be a shame to do if the book were indeed to get translated at some point. However, I admit that when I finished the novella I kind of ended up with a reaction of "what the hell did I just read!?"

2) しょう子さんが忘れていること

So then I started the following short story which translated to (What Shouko forgets) which is about the horrifying topic of a grandmother who is staying in the hospital recovering from a stroke. This all seems normal but we are revealed that man has been slipping into her bed at night and she wakes up in the morning not seeming to be able to remember the happenings of the night before, but seems to have a lingering queasy feeling when she interacts with another patient who seems to not belong in the hospital wing.

This is the story that left be cackling like a maniac because I couldn't believe I was reading a story about a grandmother getting sexually abused! Who is this author and why is she doing this to me?! The author is mad!

But the story became a revelation as to the neglect the elderly experience as her daugther and granddaughter don't seem to want to listen to her frightening suspicions of the man in the hospital. There is such a disconnect with her family that she is too scared to talk to them. So you get this criticism of society with this incredibly horrific story and this is where I started to understand the author's vision. And it's insane but it actually works!

3) ちびっこ広場

This short story is just called "Kiddy Playground" and follows more traditional horror tropes. A little boy is frightened because he was caught in the playground at 4:40pm and believes that he has now been cursed and that a ghost will visit him to drag him back to the playground where who knows what will happen? In the meantime his mother is busy getting ready for a friend's wedding and is going through all the emotions of what it is like to have a young child and all the responsibilities of being a mother and how something as simple as going to a wedding is no longer as easy at it once was. It also has some fun commentary on the absurd etiquette rules of Japanese weddings (and other events), and then it all comes down to a fierce ending that is classic horror. Loved this one!

So yes, this book and its following stories made me cackle, and gasp in shock, and feel queasy and it was all very very good. I went from "I think I hate this book" to absolutely loving it and I feel almost guilty for feeling as such! I mean, come on, a grandmother getting abused! Who is supposed to enjoy that?! But it just works. The author really pulled it off in a way that very few authors could.

Boy could I write even more but I'll leave it there but yes, so good.

There is an excellent write-up here although he makes one mistake where he says the child pushed fingernails into the mistress's eyes but really it was peeled off nail varnish that came off in the shape of a contact lens which is why the girl thought it would help and I disagree with him when he says the child did it as revenge. As the girl was only 3 years old, you can't really understand the idea of revenge at that age so I don't think that was the child's motivation at all.

mar 5, 2022, 5:07 am

Wow Lilisin. You really put lots of work in your review. Very nice job.

mar 5, 2022, 1:27 pm

Love those books that make you cackle! Although perhaps not when I'm reading on the bus :D

apr 7, 2022, 4:10 am

Let's see what have I read since finishing East of Eden, which I'll have to post my comments about another time.

I have read three books in Japanese, two of which have been translated into English.
7) Kazumi Yumoto : 夏の庭 (The Friends)

I really enjoyed The Friends and thought it was a well done coming-of-age novel. Three young boys become obsessed with the idea of death after one of them returns from their grandmother's funeral. Having just seen the grandmother's body but not having witnessed the process of dying makes the concept of death bewildering for the young boys. So when it is rumored that an old man in the neighborhood is on the brink of death they decide to observe the man so they can be first on the scene when he passes. However, once the old man realizes that he is being followed, to the dismay of the boys, he instead seems to regain energy. Once the boys start to interact with the old man it creates a bond and finally, a friendship that no one expected.

We experience with the boys, who all come from troubled backgrounds, this one wonderful summer, when they start to form an understanding of relationships not based on family. And as they finally start to see what possibilities lay ahead, the book can only end in one way but I think it's in knowing the end that one can savor this quaint little book. The English translation has interestingly enough been marketed as children's fiction despite the original being slotted in with regular adult fiction and I think this is a book that doesn't read juvenile and is appropriate and enjoyable for all ages to read.

I appreciated the added look at certain aspects of a dying Japan: the old man and his experiences during the war; family expectations to inheriting the family business; the abandoning of the elderly population. While I also enjoyed unexpected elements like the troublemaker in the car who shows a caring side after he experiences the old man's homemade fireworks, igniting a forgotten flame towards his youth. There really is so much to take from this delightful book and I keep finding more I want to say as I type these words.

8) 今村 夏子 : むらさきのスカートの女 (The Woman in the Purple Skirt)
The Woman in the Purple Skirt was as surprising as I was lead to believe after having witnessed other people's reaction to it. I can see why the ending is controversial but I had fun with it. Not my favorite by all means but still glad to have finally sat down and read this one! It's about a lady in a yellow cardigan who becomes obsessed with the comings and goings of the woman in the purple skirt, who wavers between employed and unemployed and whose only consistency is the sweet bread she eats in the park every day while the local kids bet on who has the courage to tap her on the shoulder before running away.

Curious to become friends with Purple, Yellow comes up with a scheme for Purple to work in the same hotel as part of the cleaning staff. The scheme works well and to Yellow's surprise Purple is finding great success with this new employment. However, Purple is easily manipulated and the story starts to descend into chaos. It ends up becoming a book about identity, control, manipulation, and deception. Really fun although I can see why it's such a divisive book.

5) 加藤 千恵 : アンバランス (Unbalanced)
Unbalanced was a choice for my Japanese reading book club. (As was The Friends from above.) And it proved to be an intriguing book for all three of us. (We've really been enjoying all of our reads.) This is the book that does not yet have a translation in English.

Unbalanced starts off strong and unapologetic when our protagonist spots an ugly woman on her intercom camera: her husband's mistress. In shock to this discovery, we descend into the wife's mind as she rants about the woman. How could her husband be attracted to this 10, no, maybe 15 years older woman, with her knappy, tangled hair, peeling fake leather bag, smeared makeup, pudgy sides, not to mention her 3-layered stomach (三段腹). This word got me howling as a 3 layered stomach is an amazing description for a fat potbelly. I felt this woman's wrath, pain, confusion. She torments herself wondering how her husband could have sex with this woman, especially considering there own marriage is sexless. In fact, we learn they have only had sex twice in their decade long relationship, while it is revealed he has had sex 11 times with this woman. Has her husband lied about his impotency?

Now, you might think this is just another book about a woman dealing with a husband's affair but it goes so much deeper than that. It turns out the husband was sexually abused and raped by an older woman when he was about 12 years old. This has lead to his impotency, and consequently only being able to have an erection when in presence of a woman who looks like his abuser.

The book stays within the mind of her wife as she goes over the course of her relationship with her husband and questions every moment of every part of their courtship, marriage, and subsequent sexless days. It becomes a book about self-discovery but it all remains in a very real world where there are no heroes or Eat, Love, Pray epiphanies. The marriage is a dirty mess and there is no way to clean it up easily. But the wife discovers that she does have power to make a decision and this book is her lead up to that.

A really great book worth reading as it is so realistic. I really felt the wife's pain with every word and the way the book remains so realistic was, for a lack of better word, impressive.

apr 7, 2022, 4:12 am

I have also read two books in French.
9) Jules Verne : Un drame en Livonie (A Drama in Livonia)

As I always go into my Verne books blind (my 1960 editions have no summaries nor blurbs) it is also a surprise as to where the next book will take me. This time, it ended up being a great murder mystery. But of course in a very Verne manner, meaning full of adventure. No science fiction in this one at all but Verne's writing always gets me excited.

We start the book with the intense pursuit of a man who has escaped a labor camp in Siberia and is making his way back to Livonia (Latvia/Lithuania era). We then cut to a living room where a man is running late. He his a man of great esteem in the area and it is thought that he will be win the election to take back the town from the hands of the Germans, and bring it back into Slavic hands. However, a few days from now this man will be arrested for the robbery and murder of a young man carrying lots of money. We are left with a story wondering what is the connection between the man fleeing through the night, and our protagonist who is insistent on his innocence, all while dealing with an intense political backdrop.

Always a real joy to read Verne again.

10) Sandrine Collette : Juste apres la vague (Just After the Wave)
This is my second Collette after having read Rien que de la poussiere, although I actually read that one in English (Nothing but Dust) not knowing that the author was French. I thought that book was amazing (a superb translation) and really loved it and had fun with this other book of hers which seems to have an English translation that came out in 2020.

It's about a family of 11 who are the only ones left after a tidal wave has wiped out the village below, having survived only because their home was on a hill. But despite having survived, the water is still creeping up and they'll have to evacuate. However, the boat can't fit the entire family so the parents have to decide who stays behind.

The book is broken down into three parts, the first dealing with the children left behind, the second with the parents and the remaining children on the boat as they try to find higher ground, and the third part which deals with the aftermath of all this.

I thought the book could go a bit darker with looking at the parent's decision making behind which children to leave behind (I actually thought this would be a larger part of the book) but I still enjoyed the journey. The frustration I felt at the children eating through their food stock too quickly and not being savvy about their survival on the remaining island was intense as was the desperation I felt during the parents battle with a storm in the middle of ocean. The despair and helplessness was well portrayed and while I thought the end wrapped up a bit too neatly, I still still thoroughly enjoyed this one and will definitely continue to read more Collette.

apr 22, 2022, 4:35 am

Some relieve at work as the pace of work has slowed and as we head into Golden Week (basically a Japanese Spring Break but it's not limited to students). I, have the pleasure of getting a Golden Month as I have been saving my vacation days in case I could finally go home to the States and yes, I can. On Tuesday I leave for Texas where I plan on soaking up a lot of sun while drinking frozen margaritas and gaining hopefully 2 kilos based off tacos, chips and salsa, Texas bbq, and more. I haven't seen my family in two years and haven't been back to the states in three years, so I'm excited but also unsettled by some other emotions that I know will show up once I arrive. In any case, I also plan on reading and buying books. In fact, I've already ordered three books as I wanted to make sure they'd arrive while I'm there. (Turns out I didn't have to worry about that though as they arrive on Friday before I even get there. Good thing my mom can pick them up.)

In the meantime, since I've finished all my work, some commentary a Steinbeck I read a while back.

6) John Steinbeck : East of Eden
This story follows several generations, focusing on the men in the family who have been stamped with the legend of Cain and Abel. This is such a famous book that I'm not really sure what to say about it except that while I think The Grapes of Wrath is a superior book, I got along better with this book and was really entranced with the story. Steinbeck really creates an immersive experience with a wonderful backstory for both our main and side characters, highlighted by a incredible backdrop of Salinas Valley. I like that the Cain and Abel was not a subtle reference, but instead was made obvious to the audience, as it really created a stronger sense of foreboding for our protagonists. The relationship between Adam and his farmer friend Samuel, and his Chinese servant (I loved Lee), was heartwarming, and the heartbreak caused by the female antagonist, Cathy, led to a riveting story. Was a real pleasure to read this.


And after that, I just need to write commentary on two more books and then I'll be caught up with my 2022 reads. Reading only two months a month definitely makes reviewing easier, doesn't it.

apr 22, 2022, 12:32 pm

>16 lilisin: I hope you have a brilliant trip back to Texas! I love the sound of gaining weight, what fun! :D

apr 22, 2022, 6:52 pm

>16 lilisin: Have a great trip!

apr 23, 2022, 12:03 pm

Enjoy your trip home!

apr 24, 2022, 10:21 pm

Thanks everyone!
I just got my negative PCR result back today so tomorrow's flight is looking more and more like it's actually going to happen! Still won't believe I'm going home until I land in the states though.

jun 5, 2022, 6:15 am

Have a great trip en enjoy the time with your family. I think you are back in Japan right now.

jun 20, 2022, 11:40 pm

So I ended up reading 6 novellas while in Texas.

11) Cho Nam-Joo : Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
This was a most interesting book that borders fiction and nonfiction. One can't just call the book nonfiction because the characters don't exist, but it would be unjust to the women who have endured this treatment in Korea, to call this fiction.

This book is a portrait of what it is to be a woman in Korea; how you are never yourself, but you are always a characteristic that belongs to someone else: a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife. Your life was created to serve others and you won't even be given the proper support to do so despite these societal expectations. The story follows our protagonist, Kim Jiyoung, but we are only really introduced to her as a character at the beginning and then again at the end. These parts sandwich a very nonfiction heavy middle part that talks about the state of women using Kim Jiyoung, and her mother as examples. The book even goes so far as to include footnotes that denote the source of the facts included within the book.

So it all makes for a great look at South Korea, even if there isn't really a plot to the book in itself. There are many passages to annotate as you'll learn a lot and also recognize a lot of these situations in your own life.

A quick read, without much plot, but definitely highly recommended.

12) Denis Johnson : Train Dreams
The novella details the life of Robert Grainier, an American railroad laborer, who lives a life of hermitage until he marries and has a daughter, only to lose both wife and child in a forest fire, and sink into isolation again. The novella won an O. Henry Award in 2003. It also won the 2002 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction. It was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but no award was given that year.

I got this recommendation from a list of best novellas to read and I really thought I would fall in love with this. Unfortunately, despite being able to objectively understand that the book was well written and well done, I just found myself detached from the reading experience. I would still recommend this book to others but I'm saddened that it will not be a memorable book for me.

13) Elena Ferrante : The Lost Daughter
Another book that is objectively well done but I couldn't get much out of it.
This book was passed on to me by my mother who wanted to see what I thought about it (turns out she didn't really enjoy it either). It's a book about a mother's relationship with her daughters. It is furthermore a book about what it looks like when a mother chooses to remain an individual and not devote her entire life to just her children. And this is told to us on a beach in Italy, where our protagonist is on vacation by herself. She however becomes entranced by a woman at the beach who is playing with her child, which sends our protagonist contemplating what maternal affection truly is.

Me not enjoying the book is not a reflection on the book itself. It actually depicts this concept of a what a mother is in a fantastic manner and I would recommend the book to those who are interested. I just found myself incapable of producing any connection to the book.

14) Amelie Nothomb : Le fait du prince
Another Nothomb read. This one is about a man who lets an unknown man enter his apartment so as the man can use the phone. However, upon making his phone call the man suddenly dies. Instead of calling the police our protagonist decides to assume the identity of this stranger and now finds himself interacting with the stranger's wife at their home in Versailles. However, our protagonist comes to realize that he might have put himself in danger. Oftentimes I feel like Nothomb finds four super obscure French words in the dictionary and then writes a book around those four words but this was not the case this time. This was a more fun one of Nothomb's books. Still not super memorable but are any of her books memorable? I would say this was middle tier Nothomb.

15) Antoine de Saint-Exupery : Le Petit Prince
Despite being French I have actually never read this and it is as delightful as everyone says. Not only had I never read this but I also had no idea as to the plot. Turns out it is about the little prince telling our protagonist how he came to Earth from his planet. On the way to Earth he met people on other planets who all seemed to have these important tasks they just had to take care of. So this charming story is really a book about what it is to loose your sense of wonder and delight for the world once you become an adult.

16) Honore de Balzac : Le colonel Chabert
My second Balzac this year and my second Balzac ever I now find myself edging to becoming a Balzac fan. I've enjoyed both of the books I've read and am looking to pursue his other works. Colonel Chabert was so severely injured in battle that he was declared dead. However it turns out he is still very much alive and is now making his way to Paris to get his life back, which includes his wife (who is now remarried with children) and his money (which his wife inherited). But our Colonel encounters difficulties proving his identity as the people who used to know him find it much more convenient to their own matters that he remain dead.

This was a great look at the how the justice system can work against you, how hard it can be for us to prove who we are, and how once gone, how quickly we are forgotten. A sad tale that leads to a sad end that was truly wonderful to read. I hear there are other Balzac works that focus on this character so I look forward to reading those as well.

jun 21, 2022, 4:25 am

And then I finished my April and May Japanese book club reads.

17) 巧 豊田 : 駅に泊まろう!This is a simple book along the Live Love Pray type of books you get in the states except it's just Live Enjoy Eat. It's about a woman who quits her high stress lifestyle in Tokyo and moves to Hokkaido to take over her grandfather's bed and breakfast which he leagued to her. Except, it turns out the B&B with several stories and pastel curtains she dreams about is actually a train station! Turns out her grandfather created a place to stay out of an old (but still functioning) station and now, along with always being sure you catch your train (it comes only once in every two to three hours so you wouldn't want to miss it), you can also eat BBQ right on the train platform!

Turns out this book is now a series so I read the first out of four books so the first book is just her coming to Hokkaido, discovering the station inn and dealing with her first clients. It's a quaint and delightful story that serves as a nice palate refresher. I doubt I'll read the other books but the option is always there if I just want something lighthearted.

The most interesting part about the story though is the discovery that this station is actually real! There is indeed a B&B located inside a rural train station in Hokkaido where you can eat BBQ for dinner right on the train platform!

This book is currently not available in translation.

18) 住野 よる : よるのばけもの (At Night, I Become a Monster)
This book has been translated into English but I do not recommend bothering to read it at all. I hate everything about this book. In fact I dreaded picking it up just to read and only continued because it was a book club pick. I would have abandoned this otherwise. Fortunately, pushing through a read in Japanese is never a waste of time because I at least will have gotten reading practice out of it and the last 100 pages were definitely an exercise in speed reading!
This book is about Adachi who turns into a literal monster at night. One day he sneaks into the school to pick up forgotten homework and runs into Yano, a victim of bullying. Adachi is not innocent in the class's endless bullying of Yano and yet they form a strange bond from meeting at night, while he continues to ignore her during the day. So basically the whole book is a very obvious metaphor for whether Adachi's true monster form isn't when he's actually a human, while he is most human when he turns into a monster at night.

It's all very obvious and annoying, and this is worsened by the horrifying bullying in the book that makes it so hard to read. I hated all the characters, even the victim who I couldn't stop myself thinking that she deserved to be bullied. Not sure that's what is supposed to happen but I just hated everyone. So while it's an accurate portrayal of the ruthlessness of bullying by classmates, and the absolute uselessness of Japanese teachers when it comes to doing anything that could stop bullying, it was just too painstaking for me to read and I just ended up really hating this.

jun 26, 2022, 6:28 am

Nice reading lilisin.

jun 28, 2022, 3:55 am

I was requested to list the books I brought back from the States and since I'm falling asleep at work I figured this would be a good time to share. Some books were purchased and some were unread books that were left behind when I moved to Japan.

Camara Laye : The Radiance of the King
- found this on at a used book store in Brooklyn; looked interesting

Jules Verne: Mathias Sandorf, Tomes 1 et 2
- another Verne to add to my collection

Osamu Dazai : No Longer Human
- from my former TBR pile; unfortunately in the same trip had to throw away my copy of Dazai's The Setting Sun (which I have read) due to damage

Sawako Ariyoshi : Les dames de Kimoto (The River Ki)
Sawako Ariyoshi : The Doctor's Wife
Sawako Ariyoshi : Le miroir des courtisanes
- Ariyoshi's The Twilight Years knocked me off my feet when I read it and I always wanted to get my hands on The River Ki and The Doctor's Wife but they are out of print in English; I ordered them from Abebooks and I actually ended up being fortunate that Abebooks messed up my order and didn't send me The River Ki because it turned out I already had the book in its French translation; And I also had another Ariyoshi already in French; So I ended up coming home with three Ariyoshi books - an amazing score!

E.L. Doctorow Welcome to Hard Times: A Novel
- a book I had ordered a while ago but hadn't been back to the states to actually take home with me

Yuko Tsushima : Woman Running in the Mountains
- my most anticipated release of this year; love Tsushima and her books focusing on the plight of single mothers in Japan

Kayleen Schaefer : But You're Still So Young: How Thirtysomethings Are Redefining Adulthood
- my sister-in-law's book; curious to see what she has written

Doug J. Swanson : Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers
- visited the Alamo in San Antonio as I haven't seen it since middle school then found this interesting sound nonfiction in the gift shop

Bonus two books from the annual book sale at my foreign books book store here in Tokyo.
Keisuke Hada : La Vie du bon côté
- French translation of the Akutagawa winning book that has the original title of Scrap and Build

Aki Shimazaki : Fuki-no-tô: L'ombre du chardon
- this wasn't part of the sale but I've been waiting for it to come into stock as it concludes the 5 book series that I've been eager to finish

In two weeks will be the same book sale but for English-language books so we will have to see later on if I pick up any books. I told wanderingstar about the sale as well so either she or I will be clearing out the piles.

jul 10, 2022, 10:04 am

Nice list!

Redigerat: okt 7, 2022, 4:48 am

I have two more books from my Japanese-language book club to talk about.

22) Eto Mori : カラフル (Colorful)
Yet another 青春 novel (books about adolescents and their problems). After having also recently read Kazumi Yumoto's 夏の庭 (The Friends) and Sumino Yoru's よるのばけもの (At Night, I Become a Monster), my book club has decided that we will need a break from the genre.

This book is about a man who discovers he has won the lottery when he arrives in heaven. The lottery gives him the opportunity to borrow the body of Makoto, a young high schooler who committed suicide, to atone for his past and earn the chance to be reborn. Our protagonist initially refuses the task, settled with the idea of not having to go back, but ends up having to take up the offer. We then follow our protagonist as he discovers the reasons behind Makoto's suicide and decides to make Makoto's life better.

It is an obvious book and not a book I would read if I weren't using it to improve my Japanese, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it is a well done book. I can see why it was well received and is popular among different generations. Although this is not a book I would have even read in middle school (I was already Les Miserables at the time time), I can see the connection kids of that age might have to this poignant little book. Because it's a book about communication (with friends and family) and understanding that this too will pass and it often just takes a slightly different perspective to see that. Everything can be improved on and changed with help and support and not everything is as desperate as it seems. It's a book about finding the color in your invidualism and using that to create the future you want.

So, a quaint middle school book that doesn't pander down to the age group and that adults can find a connection to as well.

This book was translated into English in 2021.

As for my ranking for the three 青春 books:
1) Kazumi Yumoto : 夏の庭 (The Friends)
2) Eto Mori : カラフル (Colorful)
3) Sumino Yori : よるのばけもの (At Night, I Become a Monster)

23) 尾崎世界観 : 母影 (Mother's Shadow)
This book was a nominee for the Akutagawa Prize in 2021, but ended up losing. I have only ever read Akutagawa Prize winners, never just a nominee, so this was a fun exercise in exploring the shortlist. I was surprised at how extremely easy this book was to read. Great for low level Japanese learners who want to start looking into reading novels in Japanese.

It's a book told from the point of view of a young elementary school girl who tells us about her relationship with her mother. Her mother works in a massage parlor that is a front for sexual services. Our protagonist (who I will call Watashi from now on) lies in bed doing her homework not realizing that on the other side of the curtain her mother is giving handjobs to customers. Watashi is still too young to understand this adult world and can only feel when something makes her uncomfortable, like when she hears the moans and grunts of her mother's customers.

To convey the child's world, the author plays with language in interesting ways. Watashi, being so young, cannot read that much kanji yet so any words that contain kanji she doens't know, are left in hiragana. For example, the standard word for worry 心配 becomes 心ぱい in the text because she cannot read the latter character yet. When adults speak in the book, their dialogue is left in all kanji indicating that she doesn't understand the adult conversations.

Another play with language becomes a pivotal sentence in the book. When she overhears a customer asking if he can come (cum), she asks herself "where is he going?".

So we spend the entire book with Watashi and her perspective of the world, and everything is balanced on a foggy line inbetween the adult sexual world and the innocence of youth. You could say, that between the two is a fine line the width of a curtain.

This book does not currently have a translation available.

sep 11, 2022, 3:21 am

Hi lilisin. Just popping in to say Hi and reading about your books.

okt 4, 2022, 5:40 am

Hi lilisin. According to your ticker and to Chèli, you have reached your goal. Congrats on that.

okt 24, 2022, 4:00 am

>28 connie53:, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
Another excellent biography from Jung Chang, this time focusing on the Empress Dowager Cixi, the last important leading ruler of China before the country became communist. Chang gives us a remarkable look at this woman's life, but most importantly, attempts to give back the credit that is due to her for her role in building a modern China. As wiki writes (better than I could):

Historians both in China and abroad have debated her legacy. Conventionally denounced as a ruthless despot whose reactionary policies – although successfully self-serving in prolonging the ailing Qing dynasty – led to its humiliation and utter downfall in the Wuchang Uprising. Revisionists suggested that Nationalist and Communist revolutionaries scapegoated her for deep-rooted problems beyond salvage, and lauded her maintenance of political order. She was responsible for numerous effective, if belated reforms – including the abolition of slavery, ancient torturous punishments and the ancient examination system in her ailing years. The latter was supplanted by institutions including the new Peking University.

Chang argues that Cixi, like many women in history, has been robbed of her accomplishments due to her being a women, and thus gives back most of the praise that was taken away from her. But she doesn't fail to properly denounce Cixi's failures, like the horrible mistakes and misjudgement in policy, that led to the Boxer Rebellion getting out of hand. So while other historians or history fans might be quick to denounce Chang's biography, I think it's a very important attempt at looking at Cixi under a new perspective as male historians have been proven to have a tendency to make men the center of history.

In any case, I enjoyed this very much.

25) Philip K. Dick : The Man in the High Castle
I wanted to like this so much more than I did because it has the very interesting concept of what it would be like if Germany and Japan had won the war. But I didn't much like the direction this book took and for the majority it I felt like I was just reading words on a page instead of being immersed in a proper story. Yes, in the end, we get about two paragraphs that summarize what Dick wants us to get from the book but those two paragraphs didn't make the book as a whole worth reading to me. I ended up leaving disappointed and wishing the book had been something else.

26) 原田 マハ : ハグとナガラ
Our September book club book was a delight to read. It's not the type of book I would typically read in English but I can see why books such as these are popular as it is indeed nice to get a dose of refreshful ease and calm every once in a while.

The book focuses on female friendships, mother/daughter relationships, and gives you permission to take a detour in life.
Hage and Nagara are two friends from college who believe in the idea of working hard so that you can then look forward to breaks and get maximum satisfaction from trips. They have both accepted the fact that they will not be following the traditional route of getting married and having a family as they have now passed that age and moment. So they instead lean on each other and look forward to exploring the countryside together. We follow them in 6 stories, that are linked, but skip through time as Hage goes through the age 38, 41, 46, early 50s, 55. As they become older, their responsibilies change as they now both have ailing mothers that are proving to be quite the workload.

But they realize that no matter what, they always have each other and the looking forward to a good trip.

Again, quaint, enjoyable, with moments that are easy to share similarities with, while giving us a nice look at the beauty of a simple trip in the Japanese countryside, while also letting the reader know that it's okay if life doesn't go "as planned".

27) Jules Verne : Face au drapeau (Facing the Flag)
Always a joy to pick up a Verne.

A French inventor has invented a devastating weapon if it were to be adopted into the wrong hands, and it is so devastating that no country wishes to purchase it. So instead, the inventor ends up being kidnapped by a nefarious bunch wanting to pry the secret to this invention from him.

This leads down to a wonderful journey filled with kidnappings, and raging genius madmen, and scared companions, while giving us Jules Verne's famous science fiction imaginings but keeping us rooted in "reality". Another gripping story.

Always a pleasure.

okt 24, 2022, 5:25 am

>30 lilisin: I remember reading about the Empress in one of Pearl S. Buck's books where she comes off as a remarkable woman. Putting this biography on my ever-growing list...

okt 24, 2022, 4:07 pm

>30 lilisin: Wild Swans by Jung Chang was one of the first non-fiction books I remember reading and being totally immersed in, I definitely credit her with being one of the key authors in igniting my love of non-fiction!

Redigerat: dec 10, 2022, 10:05 pm

28) Daphne du Maurier : Rebecca

A wonderful tense story about our protagonist who marries a man she hardly knows and promptly moves into his manor where she must face the reputation of his dead wife, Rebecca. We are told how the story ends in the first few pages, but the book is still a tense ride full of mystery and horror.

I really loved this although I will rank My Cousin Rachel as my number 1 as I feel the Rachel contains higher risk and tension than Rebecca, as we are torn in every direction with the did she, did she not?. However, I have a theory that for most people, the du Maurier you love most is the one you read first.

But boy can du Maurier write. I wonder which book of hers to do next.

29) Kaori Ekuni : Dans la barque de dieu (God's Boat)

The perfect book for a long train ride. It tells of a mother (Yoko) and her daughter (Soko) as they move about city to city every few years because the mother is afraid of "putting down roots". She instead prefers to leave her fate in the hand of the gods as they float down the river (hence the title). We start with a wonderful two person family who share a beautiful love for each other but as her daughter grows from elementary school age to high school age, she starts to doubt her mother's motives. Basically the father wasn't able to stay when Soko was born but before he left he made the promise that he'd come back and find Yoko, no matter where she was. Yoko has held on to this promise all her life and this has led her to fear putting down roots lest she fall into a new life that doesn't involve him.

As we go back and forth between the mother and the daughter's point of view we, along with Soko, start to question if the mother was indeed truly in this sublime relationship, or if, like many single mothers, she fell dupe to a young man who wanted to flee responsiblity. But the mother believes, and we still want to believe with her, leaving us with an ending that I was quite happy with.

Up to the reader to now decide if true loves exists.

I would no consider this book mediocre, not awe-inspiring, but it was the perfect dose of following two people: one who is looking towards the future, and one who is stuck in the past. It was a simple read, but pleasant; it wasn't magnificent prose, but it was a tasteful jaunt through tiny cities outside of Tokyo. A delightful book that I'm happy to have read.

30) 小林 泰三 : 玩具修理者

For our October pick, my Japanese book club decided to engross in the season with some horror.
This book contains two stories: 玩具修理者 (The Toy Repairman) and 酔歩する男 (The Drunkard).

玩具修理者 (The Toy Repairman)
The first story I can't say I was engrossed with. The story was obvious just from the title and linking it to the genre. Let's see, a toy repairman, what can he not fix? Turns out he can't not fix anything. In fact, anything has potential to be fixed. So, it's no surprise that when our narrator tells about the accident that killed her brother, we find out she goes to the toy repairman and something goes wrong.

This story felt like a creative writing assignment where everyone was given the same prompt and at the end the better written story was the winner. Yes, it was well written, but there was no originality in the story and the story lacked the tension that could make even a predictable story great. So it was well done, good, but not awe-inspiring.

酔歩する男 (The Drunkard)
The second story was much better.
A man is drinking in a bar when he is confronted by a man telling him that they are best friends. Our protagonist is shocked because he has never met this man. So then the man starts the story, telling him how it is that they are best friends and what happened when they fell in love with the same woman.

We are led down a story of horrors. The woman, confronted by their love, creates a rendezvous at the train station. When they arrive they find she has fallen beneath the train tracks and has been killed. Allegedly, our protagonist, as the other man narrates, picked up the pieces of her body and vowed to bring her back to life.

Unable to pull a Frankenstein, he comes up with the idea that perhaps, if one were able to modify their brain and thus modify their perception of time, then they could travel back in time and save their love.

But unfortunately, our protagonist does that and sends both men to their ultimate punishment.

This part was the creative and intersting part as it really explores the often unconsidered consequences of time travel. And that is where we discover the ultimate horror that can come upon a man.


Redigerat: dec 5, 2022, 2:36 am

I was in France recently and came back with a bunch of classics and a few other little treasures:

Jules Verne : Le phare du bout du monde
Jules Verne : Les enfants du capitaine Grant, tome 1
Jules Verne : Les enfants du capitaine Grant, tome 2
Jules Verne : Cinq semaines en ballon
Jules Verne : De la Terre à la Lune
Jules Verne : Les Cinq cent Millions de la Bégum
- some Jules Verne in the 1960s edition to add to my collection. I'm excited at the idea of some day owning them all!

Émile Zola : La Joie de vivre
- finally got my hands on the last book I was missing in the Rougon-Macquart series. Now, not all the books in my collection are in the 1960s edition but I'm in no hurry to replace the books I have with that edition quite yet

Gustave Flaubert : Madame Bovary
- my mom passed along her copy that she just finished reading and wants my opinion on

Louis-Ferdinand Céline : Voyage au bout de la nuit
- she has also been trying to get my to read this for at least 20 years so I finally picked up a handy paperback edition so I can finally read it

Pierre Corneille : Le Cid
Molière : Dom Juan
- after having read the play Cyrano de Bergerac two years ago, I really wanted to try my hand at more classic French plays so picked these up. Now, I was already very familiar with Cyrano (thanks to the Depardieu movie I love) so these are unknown territory for me but I'm looking forward to them.

Lao She : Gens de Pékin
Zijian Chi : A la cime des montagnes
- picked up some more Chinese literature since I'm falling in love with it like I did with Japanese lit

Shi Dan : Mémoires d'un eunuque dans la cité interdite
- serendepity found me at a bouquiniste with this nonfiction, a memoir from a eunique at the Forbidden City. This will pair well with my recent read of Empress Dowager Cixi' biography. I think the bouquiniste was also very happy to have found a customer

Akira Yoshimura : Le Grand Tremblement de terre du Kantô
Shinsuke Numata : La Pêche au toc dans le Tôhoku
- I actually wanted to avoid getting Japanese lit because I initially wanted to expand my reading horizons (like maybe pick up some African reads, or eastern European reads) but nothing was sparking my interest so I went with the easy picks. The Yoshimura is the last Yoshimura in French translation that I haven't read yet; I have been avoiding it because I quite dislike the cover but they just don't seem inclined to change it so I finally gave up and bought it.


And now I'm done book buying for a while. I have oficially filled up my bookcases and have no more room for anything else. I have enough books to last a few years and I have a beautiful collection of classics I would like to start reading again. I see no need to do a huge book haul from the US or France again any time soon. And as for in-Japanese books, I've been doing well recently with buying only one book at a time and reading it upon purchasing which has led to no net decrease, but more importantly, no net increase in my TBR pile.

dec 5, 2022, 5:07 am

>34 lilisin: Oh, that puts me in mind of the Jules Verne books I have languishing on the shelves! And I need to get on with the Rougon-Macquarts. Plans for next year, maybe?

dec 5, 2022, 5:24 am

>35 MissWatson:

I read about one to two Verne books a year but next year I think I'm going to start actually tackling the Zola series. I read the first book last year and I've read a few here and there in the middle over the years but I'm ready to read with purpose and in order.

dec 6, 2022, 9:42 am

Wow, that's a really impressive haul of new books!

dec 8, 2022, 9:53 pm

>33 lilisin:

It has come to my attention that the book by Kaori Ekuni has an English translation that was published in 2012 as God's Boat.

dec 12, 2022, 3:17 am

31) きょうや 織守 : 花束は毒 (The Bouquet is Poison)

Our November group pick was a mystery.
Our young protagonist runs into his former tutor and discovers that his tutor has been receiving threating messages telling him "to stop the wedding or there will be consequences". Wanting to come to his tutor's aid, he decides to hire a detective, or rather, a wanna-be detective; a girl who had once solved a case of his when they were in middle school together. The two begin a series of interviews to discover the sender of these letters but will discover many other things along the way.

The "twists" were all very good, and even though I figured out the enigma to the book before the end, it was still a very good satisfying end. But when it comes to the path taken to the reach the end, it can be said that nothing happens in the book. From the very beginning till the end, the book is just a look at our main character and the "detective" as they interview the related parties. She shows a stern, all-knowledgeable face and searches for logic and rational, and he provides a look at the emotional decisions being made. Basically she asks the questions and we listen to him ponder over each statement with the same repeated key ideas: ah yes, her/he saying that makes sense because in this situation one would indeed think that; and if the opposite were said it also seems logical but I understand this interviewee making the statement they said. Oh poor my friend of mine, no one believes him.

There is also no actual real action as they just go from one interview to the next to gather the information they need to solve the case. So it's basically the same scenario over and over again, with no time wasted making any longwinded descriptions of anything other than the basic information needed to set the scene: no descriptions of the colors of curtains, or the way the sun beams through the window. Nope. We are given a table, we are told what kind of building it is in and who is sitting there, and then we'll most likely get told there is coffee on the table. But, while repetitive, it does mean that we the reader also have all the information to solve the case. So by all means, try to solve it!

And enjoy the twists.

dec 22, 2022, 5:39 am

Hi Lilisin. I want to wish you Happy Holidays and all the best for 2023.

>33 lilisin:, Rebecca is a great book that I've read in my teens, maybe it's time for a reread in 2023