The kadokawa website page for the first book has a 20-page sample which is about half of the first short story; so not a complete story but definitely enough to show the style.
Finished Bakuman vol 1 today. It did take me most of the volume to get used to the casual tone, but it’s really funny and one can genuinely feel the struggles of the protagonists in their pursuit of becoming mangakas.
It was mostly fine, but the last 25% of the book are “short stories” completely unrelated to the plot, and so far that was a lot of cooking. Also, pretty much going through all the past and present potential love interests one by one… The plot section was fun in this volume, but that one part just destroyed my reading flow. I am quite close to just skipping ahead to the next volume.
Update after the first 10 days of July:
I managed to read an average of 75 pages a day (total 757 pages). I’m somewhat busy with work, so I personally consider this a good average. If I manage to keep it at 75 (or even 60), I’d personally consider the Tadoku “challenge” a success.
I’ve been reading more physical books than usually, sometimes at home, but also at parks and trains. I’m happy that I’ve apparently reached a level where I don’t have to look up words at all anymore (might depend on the writer, though).
A pleasant magazine-style book about the daily life of Eiko Kadono, similar to the other one I read, but there were surprisingly few overlaps. It’s about how she designed her home, her sense of fashion (than only really started to blossom in her 40s), her favorite places in Kamakura (where she lived) and random episodes from her life. It’s very short with many pictures, so it’s a very quick read. Very bright and enjoyable, a good book to put you into good mood.
ケケと半分魔女 魔女の宅急便 特別編その3
The 3rd spin-off book of Kiki’s Delivery Service that tells a story-in-a-story, written by Keke, a side character in the main series. It’s about a “broken” girl looking for her other 半分 she never had. Her mother died when she was young (just like Kadono’s mother) and she turned into pretty rebellious girl in her teens. One day she runs away from home to embark on a self-searching journey that eventually leads her into a big, mysterious wood where time doesn’t work normally. There she meets some mysterious people and slowly unravels the mystery of the book her mother left her.
The story is naturally quite touching, but I also loved the setting: The forest is described very vividly and the air of mystery is very strong throughout the book. The short journey really feels like an adventure and I really enjoyed reading it from start to finish. I really liked the book – so much that I’d probably put it on my top 3 of the 魔女の宅急便 books.
Currently reading 香君 下 and it’s getting better and better (currently at the 45 % mark). The stakes are constantly rising, but the battle takes place entirely without weapons, really rare for a fantasy book. I’ll write more once I’ve finished it, but so far I’d consider it the best Nahoko Uehashi book yet in terms of its themes and execution. It’s just really, really well done.
I didn’t skip in the end and it went okay-ish… but volume 5 was 80% cooking. It started with her going on a quest to find rice and miso. Then she did and the next few chapters were all about miso soup, rice don, and sushi (but not using raw fish). There’s been also pound cake, which reminded me of 本好き.
That being said, among the remaining 20%, there was finally the part I was waiting for (the social season). Well, that was a bit frustrating since, due to “manners” she has to dance with more than one person (so she just cycled the potential love interests, receiving a bunch of jealous glares from the women in the audience…). Well, the season is not over (even though she is dodging every invitation to anything so far beyond the kick off party) and the book just ended on a cliffhanger. I’d love to learn more about that, but there’s a bunch of short stories in the way again.
Just a quick heads-up that the Advanced Book Club is currently polling for their next pick. We will start reading the selected book from August 27th. Have a look and join us if you find anything interesting!
(EDIT: Fixed wrong link )
Tadoku week 2: only two books this week, but the second one’s a bit harder than the week one easy books, and I was never going to keep up that early pace. Still, I’m at an average of over 100 pages a day, which for me is a lot, and I’m happy with that.
みやこさわぎ is the third volume in a light novel series in what I think of as the “cosy local mystery” genre, where the mysteries are neighbourhood ones like “why has somebody unexpectedly disappeared and left her husband to look after their triplets?”. The series setup is that our viewpoint character is a highschool boy who lives with his sharp-witted ex-geisha grandmother (his parents having had to move to Hokkaido for work). The family tradition is that the men do the cooking, and so he makes all the meals for her; there’s a lot of descriptions of food and cooking in there.
I like the Twelve Kingdoms fantasy series, but it always takes me a while to get going because they use a ton of faux-Chinese terms for everything. This volume was structured as a rotation between three different viewpoint characters, which I’m not a fan of, because usually I get more interested in one of the storylines or find one character less sympathetic than the others, and then I tend to feel “oh no, now I have to plod through this chapter about X so I can get back to the story about Y that I was just getting into”.
Pages read this week: 597 (1566 so far over the whole month).
I finished a book I enjoyed an awful lot!
It’s called 一度読んだら絶対に忘れない日本史の教科書
I would describe it as a 一度読んだたぶん忘れない日本史の教科書.
It’s a Japanese history textbook (by a high school teacher and youtuber, apparently), with a strangely inviting bright orange cover, and more of a novel-ish shape and size than “textbook” would normally imply.
And I thought it was very clear and interesting, and surprisingly fun to read! It doesn’t feel watered down at all, and there’s tons of details to cover in a small amount of time, but I think what the book succeeds at doing very well is presenting the connective tissue between bits of history. I had a pretty ok understanding of the very broad strokes of Japanese history, and various pieces and individual names within it that were especially important. But stuff like, why exactly the Kamakura shogunate was different from the Tokugawa shogunate, and what factors led to those differences, would have been completely lost on me, and I think it’s exactly that type of thing that the book excels at.
Something it doesn’t excel at is pictures – there are none.
Pretty much simply because of that, I probably wouldn’t recommend it as a first history book - something more visual (or even, 超 visual) would be better if you can’t picture at all what eras are being talked about.
What the book does have though are a lot of pretty clear diagrams - they’re well-reinforced by the text and not always incredibly informative but definitely nice to have.
The book also kinda does the “it’s like a continuing story! With main characters highlighted so you can completely avoid dates and just read it like following a character through a novel!” pitch – but in practice… the human life is only so long, and highlighted characters come and go so quickly that honestly I don’t think it’s a stand-out strength of the book at all. The lack of pictures and steady detail flow of the text mean that it’s easy for huge larger than life historical figures to get lost in the shuffle, and less memorable characters just end up a flurry of hard to remember name readings (furigana is dropped after the first instance) of emperors and shoguns and cabinet ministers and so on.
The book describes its own intended audience as being people who went through the Japanese education system and came away not enjoying history as a subject, never to pursue it further. And I think in that context… those strengths and weaknesses make total sense!
If you have a vague, slowly dimming pre-existing sense of Japanese history, that connective tissue tying it into something cohesive, and those inviting diagrams making that complexity feel approachable, are super helpful, while the pictures and larger-than-life figures are probably the parts that do stick out still in your memory.
So it feels a lot like if you provide the dots, the book will do a great job of filling in the lines for you!
And conveniently, that suited my situation quite well. I’m impressed in retrospect that the only other main Japanese history book I’ve read (along with, to be fair, plenty of references in books and movies, and anki etc.) was able to provide good enough dots for this one to build on.
Every so often, I used to try to find general history books in the library about places I didn’t know anything about, and I was always surprised at how limited the options were. Which makes being able to read high quality history books like this from the actual place one of the most rewarding parts of learning to read a second language I think!
Thanks very much for the review! I have that book on my list already (after it was recommended to me), but so far I always shied away from picking it. So far I only managed to read a children’s history book (this one to be precise) and while it covered the general outline well, I don’t feel ready to take a deep dive yet Especially when it comes to names of ministers and stuff, that book already excelled in listing them over and over again, so I don’t think I need more of that right now…
The Tadoku challenge is proceeding smoothly, but I think I’ll take it easy from now on. I’m a but burned out and don’t have any books that make me want to read dozens of pages per day. Instead I’ll try to focus on manga a bit more.
I finished Kōkun a few days ago and it was fantastic until the end. Reading the afterword was also very insightful as Uehashi explained the backgrounds of many of the concepts of the book – and how much research she did, including reading dozens of books and consulting with five specialists of various disciplines (climate, weather, geography, allelopathy etc.) That’s the reason Uehashi’s world building feels so much more authentic than the fantasy worlds of many other writers that just throw concepts they think are cool together and call it a day.
I really liked the ending overall and although Kōkun was also more plot-driven than character-driven, I felt more emotionally attached to the characters than in 鹿の王 (but less than in Erin).
In terms of its themes and execution I’d consider Kōkun Uehashi’s best book. The lore, the actual happenings and the political dimension all work together flawlessly, turning Kōkun into a work that’s intriguing on multiple levels.
It’s also the first fantasy novel I’ve read that doesn’t have a single fighting scene – though the second volume definitely does have very compelling action, but it’s more like a mystery solving chase scene. That was maybe my favorite part overall.
tl;dr: Kōkun’s great on so many levels, please give it a read, everyone.
Next I’ll read 狐笛の彼方 and then probably dive into 守り人 at long last. But until then I’ll take a small Uehashi break.
Reached the 50 % mark in 美しい村. It seems to be a simple account of Hori’s stay in a quite mountain village with lots of meandering descriptions of nature and ponderings about life. It’s generally easy to read, but a bit hard to follow the train of thought sometimes.
I read about 100 pages of 虹色ほたる 永遠の夏休み and decided to drop the book. It was one of the first Japanese books I got and I really liked the anime movie. But the book is written in a very plain and casual style that reminds me of other books I didn’t like. It’s also prone to become quite sappy.
I do like the premise, though: A boy travels back in time to spend his summer holidays in a village where a dam is supposed to be build the next year, so all villagers will have to move somewhere else. It’s a very bittersweet story, but the prose is not elegant enough to make it attractive to me.
There’s a much better take on pretty much the same story, though: 水域 by Mushishi mangaka Yuki Urushibara. It’s only two manga volumes and really good! In fact one of my favorite manga.
As for manga, I’ve read よつばと！ volumes 9-11 (a joy as always) and おもいでエマノン (pretty cool and unique manga, loved the atmosphere).
! Do you have all of the books by any chance? I’m missing the first one and started reading vol 2 at some point, but got stuck, because I’m reading too many things at the same time.
Yep, I do! I bought them all used back in Japan (minus the first two – those I’d ordered via CDJapan a year early). Still missing the spin-off books, though.
The really look pretty together.
I heard the first few books are kinda standalone, so I guess reading from volume 2 isn’t a big issue?
I would say yes and no. Vol 2 relates to vol 1 quite strongly and even though there is a glossary and list of characters at the beginning of the book, I feel like I’m missing quite a bit of the plot line .
That’s a very nice edition by the way! I have these
I think I’m missing vol 1 and some of the final books, but have the middle part. Also no spin-off novels for me, though.
I love these illustrations! Looks like all versions of these books are beautiful!
The added bonus is an old-school red string bookmark attached to each. Very convenient.
Is it out of print or something? amazon.co.jp doesn’t seem to have it in stock…
It was just released a few months ago, so definitely not out of print. Maybe it’s just in high demand, so temporarily out of stock.
Hm, looks like you’re right, CDJapan also doesn’t have it. But I bought it from Amazon just 2-3 weeks ago, so I guess they’ll probably restock it soon.
If it’s a new release I might wait for the 文庫本 edition to come out anyway…
I don’t think I’ve posted here since my first goals post, so here’s more than half a year update. I’ve finally finished 夜カフェ and can now knock off 1 of 8 books in my goal this year. It’s my first (light) novel, so it’s a great to finally reach that goal.
I’m surprised how many manga I managed to read through totaling 16 of the 10 I originally planned to read. The nice thing is most of them were free digital copies from Line Manga or Bookwalker or ones that I happened to already have lying around. I can justify buying books, but I can’t do manga because it would be endless.
Here's what I've read so far starting from the most recently completed:
絶叫学級 転生 6
絶叫学級 転生 5
絶叫学級 転生 4
絶叫学級 転生 3
絶叫学級 転生 2
絶叫学級 転生 1
Here's what I'm planning to read/finish reading in the near future:
orange 2 (probably until vol 7)
暗殺教室 1 (maybe until vol 11 b/c they’re currently free)