Not necessarily book related things, huzzah!

So... I haven't really done this so far, but I figured I may as well do a not strictly book related post. I should come up with a name for this, as all the best blogs seem to have one, but I'm lazy so.. later. Hehe.

Work is becoming stupidly busy (I'm having to do overtime... which is completely normal in Japan, but it's not normal in Jennyland, which is where I live!), so I really don't have THAT much book reading time recently. Boo. I have, however, been ending up in bookshops with nice big selections of English books and buying too many books recently, so I'm beginning to build a good TBR collection. Not sure if this is a good thing, our apartment doesn't really have that much space! Oh well! The things that I have bought recently that I am most excited about reading are Maus and Persepolis, yay! Thank you Shinjuku Kinokuniya for actually having a graphic novels section!

Ahh, that last paragraph was almost completely book related! Hehe. Oh well...

I managed to catch up on all of Breaking Bad, and am now enjoying watching it as it comes out... but I can only get the most recent episode on Monday, and I don't actually have time in the evenings after coming back from work to watch a whole episode of something, so I might ignore the internet from Sunday evening onwards until I've actually caught up.And if you haven't watched breaking bad, it's probably physically too late to watch it all before the last episode now, but you should catch up with it if you have the chance, as it's amazing! AMAZING!

One of my friends writes a blog, mostly about travelling around Japan, called Zooming Japan, and she interviewed me and several other people about dating Japanese men. You can find it here if you're interested! There's a picture of me and my husband on there too, so that's exciting?

And finally... seeing as I haven't really talked about myself much on here, a few exciting (?) facts about me!

1) I was born in Sweden. But I'm not in any way Swedish, although I do have a Swedish person number or something, which might make it easy for me to get a bank account in Sweden should I want to. Yay! 

2) I had plastic surgery when I was.. 5 or 6. Because I'm an idiot, and decided to step off a roundabout that was still going round when I was little, fell over and split my lip pretty badly... it healed strangely, and left me with a permenantly swollen looking lip (on one side) so I had (free) surgery to make it look normal (yayy, NHS!). You can still see that one side of my lip is slightly bigger than the other if you know about it. The best thing about the whole experience was being able to eat mashed bananas with brown sugar (one of my favourite childhood snacks. Not entirely sure why) and watch a care bears film.

3) I decided to study Japanese almost completely on a whim. I think my thought process was... ooh Japanese, Japan is an interesting sounding place... Japanese is difficult, I want a challenge... YAY JAPANESE! If I hadn't gone to a UCAS fair in Manchester and seen a Japanese studies stand, my life would be COMPLETELY different now. (I was going to study English or philosophy - way to choose useful degrees Jenny!)

4) I can see Mt. Fuji from my window (as anybody who follows me on instagram will be aware of, as that's pretty much the only thing I post pictures of, haha). 

5) I also really enjoy knitting and crocheting, and although I don't have enough time to do them all of the time (if I did that, when would I read?! WHEN?!?! I'm not skilled enough to do both at the same time), I have a couple of months each year where I get hooked (get it?) again. I have a crocheted Totoro and mini totoro (the white one) on my desk at work. I would post pictures, but um, they're on my desk at work so I can't. Oh well!

6) I LOVE podcasts, and spend most of my commute walking and standing time listening to them. Obviously there are a few book ones in there (Books on the Nightstand and Bookrageous being my favourites), but my all time favourite is Adam and Joe (both the XFM one and the 6 music one), but I'm not sure they are available anymore (although I'm sure they're out there if you search for them)... 
I also enjoy Answer Me This, The Bugle, Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews, This American Life, The Ones Who Knock (about Breaking Bad) and A Cast of Kings (about Game of Thrones).
If anybody has any recommendations for other podcasts, book related or not, tell me!

Jen reads... Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

I finally finished reading Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年 in Japanese) by Murakami Haruki. And I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed it! I actually ended up reading it really slowly, to savour it, as I'm getting to the point where there are very few Murakami novels left to read... Also I've been slightly stupidly busy recently, boo! 

The story follows Tsukuru Tazaki, who is an engineer who makes/remodels train stations by day, and... does the normal Murakami main character thing of being alone/cooking etc at night. Surprising! When he was at high school, he was part of a ridiculously tightly knit group of 5 friends, who all suddenly turned their back on him a year or so after everyone had gone to university. This group of friends is the main focus of the story, and spurred on by a new love interest, Tsukuru decides to try to find out exactly why his friends suddenly cut him out of the group. 

I was bound to like this book because... Well, firstly it's Murakami, and I don't think he's written anything that I actively dislike. I also like trains (not in THAT way, but there is nothing better than a good train journey. I really wish that I had more reasons to take the Shinkansen, sigh), so all of the train and station talk was good, and I've been thinking a lot about friendship recently for various reasons, so I enjoyed all of the ruminations on the nature of friendship. Also, as always, I got introduced to some nice classical music! Yay. 

The book is definitely more along the lines of Norwegian Wood, as it's almost completely realistic. There isn't really much surreal stuff going on in the background, and it definitely feels much more grounded in reality than, say, 1Q84 is. Although of course there is a bit of that thrown in, because it is a Murakami. 

I'm really curious about how they're going to pull off some of the translation, as one of the recurring themes of the book is colour (as you can probably tell from the title). This is revealed very early on in the book, so I don't think that I'm going into spoiler territory here, but the reason that Tsukuru is "colourless" is that the other people in his group of friends all have surnames with colours in. 松 (red), 海 (blue), 根 (white) and 埜 (black). Tsukuru, whose surname Tazaki (多崎) literally means many capes (um, not the item of clothing, but headlands - it would be awesome if it meant the item of clothing though!) doesn't have a colour in his name, so he is colourless. Which makes sense. But, that is going to be hellish to translate. If you can read Japanese, it's obvious that the colours are there, but it's either going to need a long winded explanation in English, or something, and I've been thinking about it, but really can't come up with a good way to get it across without just stopping the flow of the book to explain. And this is why I'm not really interested in becoming a literary translator!

I would write more, but I don't want to spoil the book for anybody waiting for the English translation... so  but if you're a Murakami fan I think that you'll like it! Yay! Be excited! And if you're not a Murakami fan (yet), it might be a good one to start with as it's not intimidatingly long, and it's not as weird as some of his other books.

Yayy, Murakami! 


Jen reads... The Last Girlfriend on Earth (updated!!)

Okay. I'm changing this post completely, so... edited to change everything! I read the post on What Red Read, and it reminded me that I did actually have a lot of problems with depictions of women in this book. Which I somehow managed to block out of my memory entirely. Um.. Yeah. So, forget what I said below (I'm going to keep it here anyway, to remind myself of the importance of maybe taking notes on stuff, and writing about things sooner!), and go read the post on What Red Read instead (it's linked above).

And this is why I have problems with sharing my opinions sometimes. I'm just wrong so much of the time, hehe.


This book marks the start of my adventures into the world of short stories. Huzzah! I actually have about 5 books of short stories on the go at the moment, but I haven't finished any of them, so it may be a while before I write anything about any of them! (Maybe I should change that policy for short stories... hmm!)

This collection is short funny love stories (I guess? Although none of them are particularly mushy or romantic) written from a male perspective, split into three sections: Boy Meets Girl, Boy Gets Girl and Boy Loses Girl. 

As always with short story collections (I say, as if I read loads of them), it's a bit hit and miss. There were stories that I found really interesting and clever, and ones which I didn't really care for. But the whole book is a very easy, quick, amusing read, so I recommend it! Although I might recommend breaking up the stories and not just reading them all in one lump like I did. I really liked the first couple of stories. The first is written from the point of view of an object in a boy's wallet (I would say what, but it took me a while to realise (because I'm slow), so for similarly slow people, I don't want to ruin it for you!). The second is about a bored girl who meets a goat wearing a three-piece suit in her mirror. Which is as weird as it sounds.

Ahh, the problem with this book really is that the stories are so short that to tell you anything more would be to basically just tell the whole story. Hehe. But I enjoyed it!


Jen reads... The Age of Miracles

So after I finished Infinite Jest I sat down and read 3 books over about 3 days. I was just so happy to be able to read other things! (I don't really have a problem reading several things at once, but Infinite Jest just required too much concentration for me to focus on anything else at the same time). This was the second - yes, I'm writing about these books out of order, because I'm a rebel that way! MWAH HA HA HA!

The age of miracles asks what would happen to the world if its rotation started to slow. But, although it covers the wider effects, it mainly focuses on what happens to one teenage girl, Julia, and her family.

Now I am all up for some good apocalypse fiction, and I am also completely up for anything that covers domestic woes, so this book felt like it was written for me to some degree. 

I felt that the way that the whole thing played out was very realistic... you can imagine that if this happened, then that is exactly how a lot of people would react. Yay realism! The way that things changed around the Julia also felt very true to life, especially what happens between her and her best friend, Hanna, who moves away with her family towards the beginning of the book.

I'm astonished that this is a debut novel, I thought it was really really well done. 

I also realise that this isn't really classified as YA, but it covers a lot of the same ground and MUCH better than a lot of YA authors seem to manage. I'm sure that if I had read this when I was 15/16 I would have loved it even more. 

The ending was also satisfying, which was what I needed after Infinite Jest!

I'm really looking forward to her next novel!

...I'm also finally starting to catch up to myself with reviews, yay! Just 5 more to go! (Okay, maybe I'm not as caught up as I thought I was, haha. I need a few quiet days at work again, and then I'll be up to speed!)


Jen reads... The Orphan Master's Son

This is a hard book to talk about. Mainly because I didn't like it that much, but I'm finding it hard to pinpoint the reason why... Also I finished it about 2 months ago, so it's not exactly fresh in my memory, hehe. (And this is why I shouldn't neglect my blog!).

For those who don't know (which I'm guessing is.. nobody? But I'm going to write it anyway!), the story is set in North Korea, and follows Jun Do (apparently a take on John Doe, which I didn't notice at all until I read it afterwards. Maybe I'm thick.) as he goes from living in an orphanage, to working to the state, and then.. well, to say anything else would spoil it, so I won't. 

First, the good things about this book. It's written well, and has some funny/horrifying moments in it (both of which I like). The plot is interesting?

..Yup that's it. 
Onto the more negative aspects...

The first one is completely my fault, but I was in no way giving the book enough attention when I started reading it, so got REALLY confused about a third of the way through... and realised the only way to end the confusion would be to go back and read the book from the beginning again. So that was irritating. Bad Jenny!

The main thing that I found irritating about this is that the characters sounded so American when they were speaking to each other. I have several Korean friends, and that is NOT what they sound like when they speak in English, and although I don't actually understand much Korean, the grammar etc. is very similar to Japanese, and the way that Japanese people express themselves is nothing like American English. It just sort of took me out of the story. There was also a part related to Japan which just strook me as slightly off.

Also, I think that this book might be interesting if you knew absolutely nothing about North Korea, but I do know stuff about it, and the stuff in the book at certain points just did not seem in any way realistic. Which is okay, but I didn't realise before I started reading it that I was going to have to imagine that it was about an imaginary North Korea. I feel like it would have annoyed me less had it just been about an imaginary country.

Anyway. I don't know. I don't really get the praise that the book is having heaped on it.. But that might just be because I didn't come into the book knowing absolutely nothing. Maybe if I had, then I would have enjoyed it more.


Jen reads... Infinite Jest


The story (?) is really confusing to explain, but I'll try... it mainly follows a tennis school, a recovery centre for drug addicts, and a film (I guess?) which is so entertaining that the people watching it completely lose interest in doing anything else (and I mean ANYTHING else). 

It is really not an easy book to read, for the following reasons:

The book has about 6 million* pages of endnotes, including a section which is a completely filmography of one of the characters, and goes on for several pages. Some of the endnotes are interesting, and some of them are just frustrating. I ended up thinking "You made me turn to the end of the book for THAT?!" quite a few times. 

There are a lot of acronyms used in the book. It gets confusing, especially as they're not flagged up the first time you encounter them. It's possible that the first time you encounter names of things, they are unabbreviated, but there isn't anything which indicates that they will be from that point on, if you know what I mean. I ended up keeping a list of them, once I worked out what they actually stood for. 

There are very few convenient places to stop reading.. which would be okay if I had a decent block of time every day to read in, but I end up spreading most of my reading over 10-15 minute slots, and I find it annoying to stop in the middle of sections. Plus, there's always the chance that a section that seems manageable in that amount of time will be full of endnotes. 

It has a LOT of different characters, who are all a bit hard to keep track of. Especially at the beginning when you're not sure who is actually important and who isn't. 

It needs to be read carefully, otherwise you'll end up even more confused by all of the above! 

My feelings towards the book changed quite a bit as I was reading... 

First 100 pages or so - Why is this book seen as so challenging? The writing style is really interesting and absorbing, and although everythings a bit disjointed at times, it's fine! <3

100 to 500 pages (ish) - Why so many characters? What? Huh? Whats going on?! Ooooh yes, I imagine that is exactly how it feels to be addicted to something... interesting!

500 pages to the last 100 pages or so - Interesting.. but can I be finished already? I have other books to read, and this one takes too much of my concentration!

Last 100 pages to last 50 pages - Hmm, I feel like things should be coming together a bit more by this point...

Last 50 to 25 pages - Really... isn't everything going to make sense at some point?

Last page - *Throws book across the room* AHHHH!**

Yeah. I had heard that the ending was very abrupt, and didn't really explain anything, but I didn't realise that that meant that it didn't explain or tie off ANYTHING. I don't mind ambiguous endings (in fact, I prefer them in most cases... yay for imagination!), but to make any sense of the ending I think I would have to go back and reread the whole thing, which is in NO WAY happening. I don't want to finish a book, and then have to go and search online for somebody to explain it to me. It makes me wonder if the people who say that this is their favourite book are just much more intelligent than I am, or if they're just pretentious (probably the first one).

In conclusion.. I'm glad that I read it, because I feel like that's some kind of achievement! And I would love to read some shorter David Foster Wallace stuff, because it was interesting, and I really enjoyed his writing style, although it's not the kind of thing I normally go for. But that ending. Urgh. I wish I was the kind of person who could like stuff, even if I'm not convinced by the ending, but I'm just not. Sigh!

*This is an exaggeration, but not much of one!

** Not literally. I could never do that to a book! (Um, but I can put them down next to the sink and get water spots all over them).