A Tale of Two Cities - Tickle tickle, pickle pickle (or, the final installment)

So it's a day late, but I finally finished a Tale of Two Cities! I say that like I was struggling to get through it this whole week, but honestly I only started reading the last bit today (in spite of what I said in my last post, I got distracted by shiny things).

Spoilers from here on in, beware!

I started reading the last bit this morning and actually got annoyed when my husband woke up and interrupted my reading. If any of you know him, don't tell him that! Hehe.

So... what an ending! I knew that Sidney was going to do something good, and I am happy to be proven right. (Although if I knew, that probably means it was super super obvious.) I knew that the last line was also famous, but I couldn't recall what it was, and didn't look it up while reading, otherwise I might have guessed the ending much earlier.

I'm sad that Lucie continued being pretty pathetic throughout the whole thing, but never mind. Her and Darnay were both pretty stupid: Darnay for going back to France when it was pretty obvious that he wasn't going to be safe, and Lucie for following after him for no apparent reason, and taking her child?! Okay, so the reason was probably love or whatever, but I'm not sure that taking the kid along was the best idea in the world. Honestly.

I also found the way that Darnay was portrayed to be quite... unrealistic. He was shown to be very brave and whatever to the end, but honestly, how many people would actually behave like that?! I think that might be one of the problems that I have with Dickens (the Dickens that I know, anyway)... The whole Sidney storyline made sense, but unless I completely missed it I don't think that any reason was given for Lucie to be so damn perfect (and irritating), or for Darnay to be that good. The other characters were all much better drawn, I think.

I'm really glad that I came into it not knowing the story at all. I think that a problem with reading classics sometimes is that the plots are generally pretty well known, so it's rare to go into a classic book without knowing really anything about what happens.

General thoughts on Dickens - I definitely don't dislike him like I thought I did. Once I got a few chapters into the book I started to get on better with his writing style, and by the end I was having no problems with it at all (although some of the things that his characters said were slightly bewildering - "I call myself the Samson of the firewood guillotine. See here again! Loo, loo, loo; Loo, loo, loo! And off HER head comes! Now, a child. Tickle, tickle; Pickle, pickle! And off ITS head comes. All the family!"... Tickle tickle pickle pickle?! What? I wonder if that was the reaction that people were supposed to have when reading, to make them think that that character was slightly insane, or whether that was actually a thing? I'm guessing that that line is not included verbatim in any adaptions of A Tale of Two Cities, hehe.

So all in all... I really enjoyed the readalong! If it wasn't happening, there is no way that I would have made it through the book this month, and I probably would have always been slightly afraid of tackling Dickens. But now, while I don't have a particular burning desire to start reading his other stuff straight away, I definitely do want to tackle one of his other books at some point, yay!

I have also realised, yet again, that I try to read way faster than I actually can. I think with some books this is okay (pretty much any YA, for example), but I kept on having to go back and reread stuff because I was getting confused. So, more careful reading in the future for me!

I'm really looking forward to my next readalong now! Yayyy!!!
Thank you to Bex for hosting it, and making me face my Dickens fears.


Jen fails at book blogging

So I am not particularly good at this whole blogging business, it seems. I have a huge pile of books that I've read but haven't talked about at ALL on here. And I'm getting to the point where I would really struggle to write about some of them at all coherently, so I think I might have to a few mini book review posts with just a few comments about stuff that I've read. I'll do better next year, I promise!!!

I have recently passed the 1000 page view mark, which I'm sure is not a big deal for most bloggers, but I'm quite shocked considering how spotty/incoherent my posting is! And happy! Thank you! *happy dance*

I have hardly had a chance to read this week at all (I've been doing stupid amounts of overtime whilst being slightly ill, this is not a combination that leads to the ability to do anything more than sit gormlessly on the sofa when I get back from work) but I'm going to try and remedy that as well! And now I'm going to go and make a start on the final part of A Tale of Two Cities now, yay!

Thank you again for reading my blog! I will try to post more regularly/more coherently from now on, although um, that may have to wait for the new year as I'm going to be stupidly busy again at work next week (which includes working on Christmas day. What a lovely Christmas present, Japan!), and then next Saturday I'm going off to my in-laws for a week. But come January, when I'm back in Yokohama, I'll be better! I WILL!


A Tale of Two Cities readalong - part 2!

So to be honest I struggled to get through this weeks bit. Happily it wasn't because of the story, but because I had a cold, ended up working late most nights (always fun when you're not feeling well!), and didn't have the time or the concentration to read when I got home. I did manage to finish off the remaining chapters this afternoon though, so I'm all caught up! Huzzah!

And as with the last post, for anyone who hasn't read the book, this post is pretty spoiler heavy so be warned!

I find myself really not being that bothered about anything to do with Lucie (also I find the spelling of that to be irritating), as she is still such a non-entity of a character. She's just there to worry about all of the men in her life, and be perfect, it seems. Boring. Also I don't know if it's just me being dense, but in the chapter where it's talking about her having children, I spent the whole time until it was specifically stated that the children existed going "Oh, has she had kids then? Is this like her seeing into her own future? Is it some huge kind of metaphor for something that I'm too stupid to get?! What?!". I think that someone should go through the books and add a little explanatory sentence for me at the side of some of the passages saying "Yes, this means that he is dead", "This is the guy they were talking about a few chapters ago", or "The children are real!!!". Hehe. I'm sure I used to have good reading comprehension skills at some point. Sigh!

I find the Sidney storyline quite interesting.. I can't quite see where it's going now, but presumably he is going to play a really important role in the last part of the book.. you don't bring in a morally corrupt man who says that he doesn't have the ability to do good without letting him do something good at some point!

I am also glad that I completely get the design of the cover of my book now! Knitting is useful! Although hearing about that really made me want to see how exactly things were being encoded into the knitting, which I'm sure is not something that most people reading would care about, hehe.

I'm really hoping I'll be able to find more time to read this week, although it doesn't seem tremendously likely at the moment. I want to know what happens next, but seeing as the first few chapters for this week didn't even touch on the major event that happened at the end of last week's section, I'm guessing Dickens might make me wait a while for it. *Shakes fist at the past*


A Tale of Two Cities readalong - Like a marine ostrich

As this is my first readalong (and I haven't actually read most of the readalong posts on the blogs that I follow, as I don't want to be spoiled for stuff that I've read) I'm not entirely sure that this post is going to be along the right lines or not, but meh, I'll try! Obviously this post is going to have spoilers in it, so if you're spoilerphobic like me and you haven't read it, stop reading now!

Before I get into the book, here's what I knew before I started reading it:

It is about 2 cities.
It features the French revolution
It was written by Dickens, and it's supposed to be one of his best
It apparently has some connection with knitting, as on my copy (the clothbound classics one, which is a pleasure to read!) has a knitting based design on the front cover.
The opening line is "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

...that's it!

The copy that I have has an introduction in it, but I'm never sure whether book introductions are going to be spoiler heavy or not, so I avoided reading it... and so went into the book knowing only the things that I've listed above. Which is unusual for me!  Normally I have at least some idea of where a book is going when I start reading it.

I also haven't been reading most of the endnotes in my edition, only the ones after sentences that really confused me, so I'm sure there is lots of stuff that has been going over my head.  Although I did look at one in chapter 9 of the second book (the last chapter I read) after this bit:

'...You know a compatriot who has found a Refuge there? A Doctor?'
'With a daughter?'

The endnote said "The Marquis's spied have evidently followed Darnay to England", which was kind of obvious from the context?! Why is that an endnote? I only looked at it because I was wondering what deeper meaning that could possibly have... So I'm thinking that my choice not to read them on the first read was the right one. Maybe! If anyone is reading the same edition and is finding them useful, tell me and I might start actually looking at them properly!

So far.. it's taken me a while to get into the writing style, but I think I'm there now. It's been a long time since I've read something that wasn't written at least in the 20th century, and I think Dickens has a particular style which is really not the kind of style that I read normally. He occasionally describes things in bizarre ways, like "The little narrow, crooked town of Dover hid itself away from the beach, and ran its head into the chalk cliffs, like a marine ostrich." ...like a marine ostrich?! What? I could understand just saying "Like an ostrich", but what the hell is a marine ostrich?! If you google it, you can find threads of people asking if that's a specific kind of ostrich, hehe.

Reading this has made me realise that it probably isn't Dickens that I had a problem with when I read a Christmas Carol, it was more that I was being forced to read it in school, and so forced to spend a long time on passages which I would have just read once if I was reading on my own. I wonder how the people in my class who weren't readers anyway felt about it...

So let's talk about the opening line... I wonder how many people thought that it was just "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" like I did. I honestly had no idea that it went on for a whole paragraph! 

I found the first bit of the book a bit confusing, as I had no idea who anybody was and have apparently completely lost my ability to remember character names (apart from Mr. Lorry... is that actually a surname? Wait... were lorries invented by somebody with the surname Lorry?!), plus although it is for the most part centered around the same few characters, it seems to jump around a bit and I wasn't entirely sure that I was following it. I enjoyed the last 2 or 3 chapters though, where it started following the Marquis. Who is a sort of nice charicaturey portrayal of a horrible person, which is exactly what I was expecting from Dickens!

Also, the first mention of knitting! I have no idea what the significance of the knitting woman by the fountain after the baby was killed is, but I'm assuming that there is more mention of knitting later. Knitting! Yay!

Writing this post has made me realise that I should probably be taking notes or something while I read this, so I can be slightly more coherent next time.

I'm not really sure what more there is to say, but I am enjoying the read, which is good because I really had no idea whether I would or not. I am going to schedule this post to go up later, because I'm pretty sure that otherwise it will be ridiculously early compared to other people's (I'm writing at 9.30 am on Sunday morning, Japan time, which is 9 hours ahead of the UK, 14 or so hours ahead of New York), but I had to write it now as the end of the last chapter made me really want to carry on reading! I'm looking forward to seeing other people's thoughts on it. Yayyy!


A Tale of Two Cities readalong

So... after thinking about it way more than I should have, I finally decided to actually join the tale of two cities readalong. How exciting! It's going to be my first readalong, which I'm a bit anxious about as the rebel in me tends to go NO! AHH!! when I have something that I'm supposed to do (even if it's a fun thing! My brain is stupid)... I'm also slightly worried about the fact that it is Dickens. I have only fully read A Christmas Carol in school, and ended up going OKAY SO HE WAS DEAD GET ON WITH THE STORY! A lot. I also tried reading David Copperfield after seeing a TV adaptation of it (with adorable tiny Daniel Radcliffe! Awwww), but got bored after a while. Or got distracted by something shiny or cheese or something. BUT I am hoping that with those experiences being at least 10 years ago when I was a teenager and stupid(er), I stand a good chance of enjoying the book.

Of course, the main reason that I'm doing it is that I wanted an excuse to get the clothbound classics edition of the book. It's so pretty. Soooo pretty.

Anyway, anyone else reading this who hasn't joined should join too! And quickly because it starts in December!

Sign up post

Yayyy!!! *excited dance*

...And I am going to get around to posting about other stuff at some point. Honest!


Jen reads... The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

As I may have mentioned on here before, although I have always considered myself a book person, I had several years where I barely read anything. When I was a student I (for some reason!!) decided to ignore the public library, and decided that I couldn't afford to buy books unless they were by authors I already knew really well, so didn't read for pleasure that much. Then, after 6 months of reading a lot at my parent's house (which is full of books!! Yayy!) and working right next door to a library (yayy library!), I moved to Japan. Where I had no money and no easy access to English books. I could probably count on one hand the number of English books I read in the 3 years that I lived in Fukuoka. This means that I pretty much had NO idea what books were out and said to be good for quite a few years.

This year I have gone from not really knowing what to read and begging my friends for recommendations on facebook, to listening to several book podcasts, reading a ton of book blogs, and having a TBR list which, at my current rate, would already take me over a year to plough through.

What does this have to do with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao? Well, Junot Diaz is someone who I heard and read a lot about, and also someone whose books are relatively easy to find in Japanese bookshops. Seeing as I am just trying to nudge my way back into the loop, I figured that it would be a good idea to try reading one of his books. I have a bit of a complicated relationship with short stories, so I didn't want to start off with a short story collection, so The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao it was! Plus, that title is pretty irresistable, no?

The book is obviously about Oscar, the main character, but it's also about his family and their history, and about the Dominican Republic, a country which I am ashamed to say I knew next to nothing about (although I do know that Carla from Scrubs is Dominican! Haha). Oscar is a huge geek, and the story... is kind of hard to explain so I won't, but lets say that one of the things it focuses on is Oscar's quest to find love. That kind of makes it sound like a horrible romantic comedy.. it isn't, trust me!

Although it took a while to get used to, I came to enjoy the way that the book was written. It has a LOT of Spanish in it, which was hard at first as I know no Spanish at all, but like when I read A Clockwork Orange, I found myself gradually coming to understand words which came up a lot, and, I won't lie, google translate helped me to figure out some of the rest. Luckily I LOVE languages, so I really enjoyed trying to figure out what was being said. I also felt like it was probably a realistic voice for the narrator to be using, as if you can speak 2 languages, you soon realise that there are some things which just cannot be expressed properly in both languages. Whenever I talk to English people living in Japan, we always end up littering our conversations with Japanese, not to show off that we know it, but because there are just some things which are easier to express in Japanese. So I found the voice pretty authentic.

It also has a lot of sci-fi and fantasy references in it... I think. The only ones that I got, to be honest, were the Lord of the Rings ones, but I'm pretty sure that there were other ones in there as well! I felt a little bit like the Lord of the Rings references were overdone, but that may be because I understood them so they stood out to me. If I was also as into sci-fi and stuff, maybe I would have got everything!

I found all of the things about the history of the Dominican Republic really fascinating, and it has made me want to go and read up on that. I honestly know next to nothing about South America, and reading this has made me eager to find out more.

I'm pretty sure that this book is not for everybody. I actually spent the first third of the novel not really liking it, and if I were to tell you the plot without being afraid of spoiling the book, I'm not sure that it would sound particularly interesting. But once I got into it, I really enjoyed it, and am looking forward to reading more of Junot Diaz's work.

One final thing... I've heard some people question whether Junot Diaz is sexist or not. The way in which the narrator and other people in the novel treat and talk about women definitely leaves something to be desired, but I don't think that that makes the writer sexist. The female characters are the most interesting part of the book (although I may be biased. Girl power! Etc.), and I don't think that their portrayal was particularly sexist. They weren't particularly treated equally to men throughout the novel, but that is more of a reflection of the society that the novel is set in rather than the author's sexism. And, let's be honest, the world is still a pretty damn sexist place. So I'm holding my judgement for the time being. I don't really know anything about Junot Diaz, and I'm happy to leave it that way, unless he's actually the nicest person in the world! I find the more I know about authors, the more chance there is that they'll disappoint me and their books will be ruined for me (unless they're J K Rowling or Margaret Atwood), so I'd rather just not know anything.


Jen reads... The Fault in Our Stars

Okay, so I have a confession to make first. When I was about 10 or 11, I was really obsessed with a series of books in my local library called Sweet Goodbyes. Basically, from what I can remember, the premise was that in each book, the main character probably had some kind of terminal disease, and made a friend/had a boyfriend/had a childhood friend who then died of either the same, or another terminal disease.Yup. I was a pretty morbid 11 year old. But for whatever reason, these kinds of stories appeal to me. I can't be the only one, otherwise that series of books wouldn't have existed, right? Right?!

So.. I kind of figured this would be like those, but well written. So I ignored the fact that a lot of blogs that I read were quite critical of the book, and had already decided to read it at some point, when I realised that one of the podcasts that I listen to (literary disco) were going to have an episode about it (yes, I realise that episode was months ago, but I'm in the middle of catching up!), so decided to read it last Tuesday morning. And by Wednesday morning I had finished it. And in spite its myriad problems, I enjoyed it! As much as you can enjoy a book about cancer, that is.

I'm sure everybody knows the main story by now, but just in case... the main character, Hazel, has terminal cancer, and she meets a dreamy boy, Augustus, at her cancer support group, and they fall in love. You can probably guess the rest of the story. There are going to be spoilers below so be warned!

The book has lots of things that could potentially be really annoying about it:

The cigarette thing (stupid. but I might have been like WOW THAT'S SO DEEP! if I had read it when I was 15)
Meeting the author that both Hazel and Augustus admire, who didn't come off as realistic in any way to me. And then him coming to the funeral? That's just stupid.
Hazel thinks that she's not much to look at, but is obviously beautiful (her and Gus are so beautiful, in fact, that random passersby tell them that they are beautiful when they are in Amsterday. Because that's a thing that happens in real life. Also people applauding them when they kiss for the first time, in the Anne Frank house. Because that is appropriate and realistic.)
General pretentiousness.

But I enjoyed it anyway!

I think part of it is that it's such a quick, easy read, and part of it is that I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. I also know that I probably would have LOVED this if I were 15 or 16, so the nostalgic part of my brain kicked in. I also like having a good cry, and this book definitely provided that. I don't really understand why so many adults are raving about it though. It is definitely a YA book.

...I'm going to ramble incoherently a bit now about Japanese dramas, this is probably only interesting to me, heh.

Reading this reminded me of one of my favourite Japanese dramas (because in my mind, terminal disease = enjoyment? I think there's something wrong with me..), which is called 1 litre of tears. It's about a girl called Aya who gets a disease which basically slowly shuts her body down over the course of 10 years. It's based on the diaries of a real girl who actually had the disease, so at the end of each episode they have an actual quote from the diary.. which is also really heartbreaking. Despite the fact that I haven't watched it for about 7 years, I can still vaguely remember the one at the end of the episode where she has to leave her school, where she says

My classmates are folding 1000 cranes for me. I want to burn this image onto the back of my eyelids so I can remember, even when we're parted. But... what I really wanted was for them to say "Aya-chan, don't go".


Ahem, anyway, if you like that kind of thing, 1 litre of tears is really really good. I'm not sure there's an official English version, but... *cough* fansubs *cough* Plus, it has good old footface Nishikido Ryo in. Yay! Footface!


Jen reads... several books about which she has almost nothing to say

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

This book follows Clay, a young web designer who ends up working at a bookshop (I'm sorry, I can't bring myself to say bookstore, it just feels wrong). The bookshop is open 24 hours a day, which is a bit unusual to begin with, and it also has a huge section of weird books which a strange assortment of people come in and borrow. The books follows Clay and his attempts to figure out what is going on.

I really enjoyed reading this and zoomed through it, but I think that I wanted the explanation for everything to be a little bit more.. interesting? I don't know. Also the WOW TECHNOLOGY IS AMAZING theme annoyed me a bit. Enjoyable though! It is a first novel though, so I'm looking forward to reading the next one!

Shadow and Bone

This is the first book in what will be.. a trilogy, I expect, seeing as it's YA. The book is set in a place obviously heavily inspired by imperial Russia, and follows a girl called Alina. She is an orphan, who grew up with a boy called Mal, who she is love with (obviously) but who doesn't notice her (obviously). Ravka, the country they live in, has a whole group of people called Grisha, who have special magical powers. It is discovered that Alina has one of these powers (obviously) so she gets taken away to learn how to use it.Ravka is also disconnected from the rest of the world by the Shadow Fold, a dangerous area full of darkness and monsters, and it may just be that Alina's power can get rid of the shadow fold forever (obviously).

...As the above synopsis suggests, this follows a LOT of YA tropes, but it's well done, and I was ridiculously grateful that it managed to avoid some of the most annoying ones, and that the main character was likeable! I bought the second book immediately after finishing this one, so that shows how much I enjoyed it.

A word of warning - if you know anything about Russia the setting may annoy you (I've read several really annoyed reviews talking about how the names etc were wrong), but I don't really so it didn't bother me. But I can understand, as anything based on Japan or Britain that got loads of stuff wrong would annoy me too. If you're the kind of person who doesn't get annoyed by that kind of thing who also likes YA, I fully recommend it!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

This book is basically a series of essays written by Mindy Kaling. They were entertaining, and I enjoyed it, but that's about all I have to say. I'm not a particularly girly girl, whereas Mindy Kaling is, so quite a lot of the time I found myself understanding her point of view, but not feeling that it really related to me that much. Not that that's a bad thing, particularly! It did make me want to just hang out with her for a while (although I'm not sure what we would have in common...)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

I really REALLY enjoyed this, but all I would want to say about it has been said elsewhere, so go read that instead!

A few more posts and I might actually catch up! 


Jen rambles... about Harry Potter and other stuff

It's another real life post! Yayyy!

Today is the last day of a 3 day weekend in Japan, yay! Although, boo, last day! I normally don't like to leave my house at the weekends, because I'm antisocial, but I've been surprisingly social for me recently. Last weekend I went to see an English version of Avenue Q in Tokyo, which was funny, although I would have appreciated it if the person sat behind us hadn't been making comments all the way through it... you're not at home in front of your TV, shhh!

On Thursday I went to a gathering for alumni of my university (I honestly have no idea what it was for, heh), which was also surprisingly fun! I don't normally go out on weekday nights, mainly because I get really tired the next day, but I think sometimes I should. It's good to break up the routine a bit.

Then on Saturday I went to a home party thrown by one of my friends from work, which was also fun! And I persuaded my husband (who is just as antisocial and averse to meeting new people as I am) to go, and he had fun too! Yayyy! Also, yum, food.

My husband is currently working his way through Harry Potter, and is currently on the Prisoner of Azkaban. He hasn't read them before or seen the films, but he's got really into them, in spite of the fact that he's made fun of me since we met for liking the books. Hehe. He was trying to tell me his theory on where the book is going, but couldn't remember Peter Pettigrew's name so called him Spaghetti instead. And then kept on going "Damn you spaghetti!!!" hehe.

Okay, that wasn't very interesting, so have a random Japan picture!

Onsen (hot springs) monkey! Yay! 

 This was taken at an onsen in Nagano prefecture, where monkeys come in the winter. Understandably, as Nagano when I went (last year in November) is FREEZING!

Aww, monkey.

Jen reads... The Talented Mr. Ripley

Seeing as I haven't been doing very well with updating, I have a huge backlog of things to post about.. so I'm going to not ramble as much as I normally do, yay!

I read this sitting on a beach in Okinawa in.. July? So forgive me if this isn't particularly detailed.
The story is about a person called Tom Ripley, who is asked to go to Italy to try to persaude his friend, Dickie, to come back to America by that friend's father. Ripley is a bit of a schemer, and has been running some scams in New York, and he slowly reveals that he's a bit of a psychopath.

This book made for good holiday reading, but it annoyed me on several levels.. First of all, Ripley complains about money and how he doesn't have much, but he still manages to get an all expenses paid trip to Italy. Pfft. Okay, so basically I was jealous of the idea that you could just go and live in another country and wouldn't have to worry about money or anything. Ahh, I wish I could do that! (Although given that I was reading this in the most sunny and beautiful place I've ever been to kind of negates a lot of my complaints, I guess!)

Reading this reminded me that I don't really like the style of writing. It's too.. emotionless? I don't know. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but I didn't really find anybody that believable.. maybe because I didn't really get their motivations for doing anything? One of my friends whose opinion about books I respect a lot loves Patricia Highsmith though, so it's probably just me.

The book is part of a series, and if I can get someone to lend me the later ones, or find a library with them (um, not terribly likely in Japan) I would be interested to read them, but I didn't enjoy this one enough to actually make an effort to get the other ones. So, all in all... meh.

(Has anyone seen the film of this? I can remember reading about it in teen magazines when it came out, but I think I was too young to actually see it (or too disinterested, hehe.))


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).


Wahhh, I'm sorry for abandoning you blog!


So... I was reading Infinite Jest for what seemed like MONTHS, and could barely keep all of the characters from that one book straight in my head, so didn't really do any other reading for a while.. and despite the fact that I have a few things to catch up with on here already, I um.. didn't? Even though I had a week off work? Hohum. 

Oh well. I finished Infinite Jest last... Thursday? And then got so excited that I'd finished it that I've already read 3 other books since (and am halfway through the 4th).. hehe. 

So normal service (um, if I can call it that as I think normal for this blog so far is regular posts for a few weeks and then a month or so of nothing, hehe) will resume shortly! I might even talk about non book related stuff! WOW!


Jen reads... Requiem

Normally I would put a picture of the book cover here, but seeing as the only picture I could find (okay so I may not have looked beyond the first few images in the Google image search I did) was… not to my taste, I haven’t this time. If I had liked the book more, I might have made more of an effort… (this bodes well eh?)

I wrote about the previous two books in the series here and here. For anybody who has read all three you can probably tell that it’s a bit of a mixed bag so far… I sort of enjoyed the books but then… hmm. This post may be a bit spoilery so if you don’t want to be spoiled about anything you can have my general feelings about the book now: Meh.

It’s been a while since I read the book, and to be honest not much of it has stuck with me, apart from frustration at the ending. It ends in a stupid unsatisfying place, and I sort of don’t mind when more… serious(?) fiction does that, but when I’m reading something as a light easy read, I want closure dammit!!!)

The other thing that annoyed me was the unnecessary love triangle. 
At some point I really need to read some YA which does not have any kind of love triangle, or hint of a love triangle in it. I HATE love triangles. I might have enjoyed it when I was 14 and knew nothing about what actual relationships are like. But now I would much prefer to read about relationships which actually seem real to me, and love triangles just don’t ever seem that realistic. I’m sure that they are something that happens in real life, but surely not to the extent that they’re featured in fiction. It would be nice to see someone in an honest, trusting relationship at some point, who isn't also secretly madly in love with someone else. To be honest, this may be more of a reflection of the kind of completely drama free relationships that I've been in, maybe if you haven't had such a calm love life as I have then this kind of relationship drama might seem more realistic.

The main problem that I have with love triangles is that whoever is at the centre of them (and it seems to be the girl a lot of the time) sort of ends up seeming like a bitch. In this book, Lena is forced into a love triangle that she didn't really do anything to create, but she does NOT deal with it in a good way. That's not to say that how she deals with it is unrealistic, but it completely made me lose sympathy for the character for long stretches of the book, and that was something that I feel that I would have needed to enjoy this more. I feel that the book could have explored the situation in much more interesting way, but just... didn't.


Anyway. The ending is stupid. Love triangles are stupid. I didn't actively hate this book when I was reading it, and I wouldn't say I hate it now, but looking back on the whole trilogy… I’m not sure that I would recommend reading it. If you are actually in the intended audience for the books you would probably enjoy them more than I did.

On the positive side though, I do think that the books were all nicely written, and although I'm not sure I'll ever pick them up and re-read them, I will keep an eye out for the next Lauren Oliver book.


If only Bernard's watch was real...

Ahh, Bernard's Watch. That was quality TV (not sure whether it was bad quality or good quality though, hehe). I wonder if the rumours that the boy who played Bernard went to the same university as I did were actually true. I should have gone to find him!

Ahem, anyway, I'm going to stop alienating most of the people reading this and get to the point (um, not that I really have one...)

 I have been feeling a distinct lack of time recently. It's not that I don't have any free time (I do!!), it's just it's all getting used up. Too many things that I want to do, not enough time. If only work didn't keep on getting in the way. 

Recently I have been.... 

Watching (amongst other things - I haven't really talked about this on here, but I do a lot of box set watching, heh):

Breaking Bad (I started watching this ages ago, didn't see what the fuss was about then stopped... after 3 episodes. Then I realised that pretty much everyone whose opinion about things I respect said how amazing it was, so started watching it again.. and was pretty much hooked straight away. Yup, I'm stupid. Anyway, I'm trying to catch up before it comes back in August.. Not sure how feasable that is!)

The Walking Dead (One of my colleagues loves it, and I'm enjoying it so far! I'm also trying to catch up before it comes back. I have a lot longer for this one though)


A Japanese book of short stories by Otsuichi, which is just as good as I hoped it would be. I haven't been reading that much in Japanese recently though. 

The new Murakami. Haven't got that far with it, because it's too short and I don't want it to be over. Which doesn't make any sense. But I need to read it before the translation comes out, otherwise whats the point of being able to read in Japanese?! TELL ME!

Inifinite Jest. Because I feel the need to pick stupidly challenging stuff, apparently, even though I'm very bad at actually seeing this kind of thing through. (This might explain my choice of degree... people say that Japanese is really difficult to learn?! Sign me up!!!) So far though, I'm really enjoying it! I remembered that I actually like not really getting whats going on, and then slowly seeing the pieces come together. The endnotes are insane though. INSANE! I'm glad I was somewhat prepared for reading it, knowing that some bits of it might be a slog helped me through them. I'm past page 200, which is apparently the point where you stick with it till the end. 

And that's it. Infinite Jest has so much going on and so much to keep track of that I don't want to read anything else in English in case it confuses me. 

Stuff coming up when I have time (who knows!):

Requiem - Lauren Oliver (not sure how I feel about this, so this might take a while!)

The Orphan Master's Son - Adam Johnson (again, not sure how I feel about this one either. Where have my opinions gone today?!)

The Last Girlfriend on Earth – Simon Rich (I will write about this before I forget what I thought and have to read it again to remind myself!)

Stuff that I'm almost definitely not actually going to write anything proper about:

Kūchū Buranko (Flying Trapeze) -  Hideo Okuda (It was interesting and I enjoyed it more than the first book in the series. Not sure I'm that bothered about reading the third one though. Too many other exciting things to read!)

That's it. I haven't actually been getting THAT much reading done recently, I've been kind of sick for the past week or so, boo. And my TBR list just keeps on getting longer and longer and longer and longer...


Jen talks about... Yotsuba&!

I wouldn't really call myself a huge manga fan. I have certain series that I like (Mushishi, Liar Game, Nana (um, until it started being stupid), Bakuman), but it makes up a really small percentage of my overall reading. So I’m probably not going to post much about manga on here.

But I’m going to make an exception for Yotsuba&!

I’m sure that I am not alone in having a stash of comfort books. Books that I can read when everything just seems to be going wrong, which either make me smile, or make me sad about other things which put my life in perspective (Or make me so sad that I end up laughing at how stupidly sad I’m getting, and then cheering up). Most of these books are ones which I read when I was growing up, and they’re all sitting on a bookcase in my childhood room.

Which is about 6000 miles or so away. Haha.

I brought almost all of the DVDs  that I own with me when I moved here, so I’m never short on comforting things to watch, but I had to find something to replace the books.

So in comes Yotsuba&! (Which is also available in English!)

Yotsuba&! is the story of a little girl called Yotsuba, who lives with her dad. She becomes friends with her next door neighbours, a family with 3 daughters, and… well, goes on adventures sounds a bit twee, but that’s pretty much it.
Most of the chapters cover one event in a day, whether it’s going to the park to catch cicadas, or just Yotsuba and her dad going shopping. So far so… boring? Maybe.

But Yotsuba&! is great for the following reasons:

  • Yotsuba is adorable. And insane. But in a really good way.
  • Yotsuba's dad is awesome. And a bit insane.
  • It’s funny.
  • Danbo!!!!
  • The panels are all nicely drawn. This is probably because it’s not a weekly manga, so there is more time to actually do a really nice job with the backgrounds.
  • Did I mention that it’s funny?
  • Given that it’s not the kind of manga that many people would find interesting from its description, it’s really surprisingly popular. I have been lending out my copies to several of my co-workers and they have all really liked it, and some of my other colleagues have seen me holding volumes of it at work, and come to talk to me about how much they love it.
  • Seriously, it’s really funny!

Although I do still miss my stack of English comfort books, knowing that I have Yotsuba&! there when I need a pick me up makes me happy.

So read it! DO ITTT!!!

(And if you can read Japanese you can read all 12 volumes! The Japanese isn't that difficult at all, so I would recommend it even if your Japanese isn't that good yet.)


Jen reads... Drop Dead Healthy

I was originally going to write about this together with The Know-It-All, but found myself talking about The Know-It-All so much that I thought it would be better as a single book post.

Drop Dead Healthy follows A. J. Jacobs as he sets about trying a lot of different health crazes and experiments in order to find the healthiest way to live. 

The thing about this book is that much as I enjoyed it, I don’t really have anything to say about it! The only thing that I took away from it really that I’m actually implementing is washing my hands more thoroughly, and spending time dreaming of a workplace that would allow me to have a treadmill desk (I HATE sitting down all day. I just end up feeling really uncomfortable after a few hours, and I could walk for hours without feeling uncomfortable).

Yup. I don’t have anything to say really apart from that. It was enjoyable, and I found myself tearing up at it at times (one of the side stories is about his Granddad’s deteriorating health, and as my Granddad died last year I found myself way more affected than this than I normally would have done). So it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it! Not at all!

If you’ve read any of his other things and enjoyed them, I’m sure you’d like this. I actually got The Know-It-All within about 10 minutes of finishing this (damn you kindle! Why must you make it so easy for me to buy stuff?), so that goes to show how much I liked it.

But yeah. Nothing else to say. So I won’t.

This was a bit pointless really wasn’t it? Oh well! It’ll help me keep track of books that I’ve read which is one of the reasons why I’m writing this blog in the first place.


Jen reads… The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

I tend to try not to know as little about books as possible before I read them. This is because I really dislike spoilers, as I figure that I’m only ever going to get a chance to read something and potentially be shocked by it once, and I want to preserve that, just in case whatever I’m reading turns out to be amazing. Because of this though, I often end up knowing really vague things about a book, and then building it up in my brain to be something completely different to what it actually is, and being disappointed with it, confused by it, or approaching it in completely the wrong way.
This book was definitely a case of the latter. The things that I knew about it before I read it were things that I got from the title, the fact that lots of people said it was very good, and that the illustrations were nice. So, in my mind that led me to believe that it would read like a fairytale aimed at children, so it would be a really easy, relaxing, don’t have to think about it too much read.

I was wrong.

What this book turned out to be was more along the lines of the Alice books. The way that it is written, while not overly complicated, requires close reading as it has so many bizarre details in it. The things that happen in the story are very nonsensical, and I do not mean that in an insulting way at all. However, I only figured this out after reading a few chapters in the same way that I would approach a typical YA novel – reading quickly, and not pausing to absorb much of the language. This was a HUGE mistake, as once I realised and slowed down my pace, I enjoyed the book so much more. If you are someone who tends to read quickly and in the process miss some things, I really recommend slowing down for this book. If you don’t, the already bizarre situation which September, the heroine of the book, finds herself in will make even less sense. It will be worth it.

The story follows September, who is taken into Fairyland by the Green Wind and the bizarre things that happen to her there. I’m sure that to summarise the plot further would just confuse everybody (most of all me), so I’ll leave it at that!

The book in itself is like a more modern version of the Alice books, but September is a much more compelling protagonist. Although the world around her may not make that much sense, the way that she acts definitely does. I’m sure that as revered as the Alice books are, there must be a LOT of people who have tried to write something similar over the years (although I’ve never come across it). I’m sure that most people would end up being a pale imitation, but the writing here is REALLY GOOD. The story itself is bizarre (as I’ve said about 10 times now, haha), but it doesn’t feel like the characters are being strange just for the sake of it, it feels like they are acting normally. I think this is a testament for how well written the whole thing is, as a lesser author would almost definitely make everything feel forced.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, I really liked it. I am looking forward to reading the other installments in the series (which also have amazing titles: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, and The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two).

Before I do that though, I want to go back to the start of this book and read it again, this time giving it the time and attention that it deserves.


Jen reads… Pandemonium

Pandemonium is the second book in the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver. You can read my thoughts on the first book, Delirium, here.

As this is the second book in the trilogy, the post will almost definitely contain spoilers for the first book, so if you have any plans to read it and hate spoilers the way I do, stop reading now!

Like I said in my post about the first book, I liked it so much that I bought the second book as soon as I finished the first… and then I didn't touch it for a month or so. The more time passed between reading the first book and starting the second, the more I felt myself losing affection for the first book, and losing enthusiasm towards the second book. Which was weird, as that almost never happens to me. Sometimes it happens the other way round, in that I can find something not so great, but then realise later (or trick myself into thinking later) that it was much better than I initially thought.

So I was a bit… wary when I started reading it. I think one of the main things that I found put me off the series was not having ANY idea where it would go from the end of the first book, where Lena is basically left on her own, without any of the characters who you've grown to like/dislike in the first book. Which would be fine if you found Lena really compelling… but I’m not sure that I do. I think I’m more interested in what she does than who she is, if that makes sense.

Luckily, I remember while I was reading it that this series is written really nicely, and it’s very easy to read. In this book, the story is split between two different time periods – the time after Lena has escaped to the wilds, and a time six months in the future. This mostly worked well, although I wanted a bit more information to fill in the gap, as there are some things in there which I think would have been interesting which aren't really touched upon.

Much as I enjoyed reading the book though, the ending was stupidly obvious, and it seems like the next book is going to go down a road which I don’t really like in general in fiction of any kind. So I’m not rushing out to buy it. But I’m sure I will read it at some point in the near future.

So, not a glowing review, but if you liked the first one in the series, I think you would like this as well. 


Jen reads… 1Q84 (book 3) in Japanese!

So 1Q84 is a bit… slow isn't it? Not in a bad way, at all, but there is a LOT of character building etc. to get through before it starts getting I can’t put it down!!-good. It may just be that I’m more sensitive to this because I read it in Japanese. I definitely read slower in Japanese than I do in English, and as a result I take in EVERYTHING in the book. Which is not a bad thing at all, but it means that I read every single word of the book (and sometimes have to take the time to puzzle out what a sentence actually means, or look stuff up in the dictionary). I don’t know how everybody else reads in English, but I definitely do not stare at every word and try to understand its meaning before going to the next one.

What am I trying to say? Well, it is definitely worth sticking around to the end, because… book 3 is awesome. I think, to be honest, that this might be my favourite Murakami so far. As soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to start again from the beginning. Good thing I have the new Murakami to read! Hehe.
If you haven’t read any Murakami yet… maybe don’t start with this one. It’s huge, and potentially intimidating. But, it is also great.

Bullet points! For the whole thing, not just book 3. If you haven’t read it yet and want to know nothing before going in (which I would recommend) don’t read this!

  • Aomame and Tengo are both awesome. Especially Aomame. I love that it seems that Murakami seems to be able to write convincing female characters now, some of them in previous books have seemed a bit.. lacking. Or a bit too manic pixie dream girly. Which I guess in some ways Aomame could have been (and that Fukaeri is, to be fair), but her character is so filled out, and complex and lovely.   
  • I’m glad I read it in Japanese, somehow the awkward sex scenes aren’t as awkward when they’re not in English! (The line about the cocoa? Not as awkward in Japanese as it is in English. I think the difference is that Japanese doesn't have to be explicit in the way that English does. It comes off as more metaphorical than the English does.)
  • I still can’t get over Aomame's name. Hehe.
  • The whole 空気さなぎ (Air Chrysalis) story is weird. I like it!

And on a Japanese related note… Murakami really stands out to me as a marker of how much my Japanese has improved, as the first book that I ever read in Japanese was Norwegian Wood. I get SO much more out of his books now than I did then, and I can go for whole stretches without coming across any words that I don’t know, which makes me happy. It makes me want to go back and reread everything by him that I read in Japanese up until... about 3 years ago, because I think that I would enjoy them in a completely different way.

I've read Murakami in both English and Japanese, but I definitely think that his stuff is better in the original. Not that the translations aren't good, because they really REALLY are, but there's so much stuff which just can't be put across in English that you get from Japanese. (Obviously it works the other way round too. Harry Potter in Japanese really bored me, but in English it's full of yay!)

Alas, my shelf of unread Japanese books is telling me that I really shouldn't do that.

Writing this has made me realise that I should really try to read more Japanese at the weekends and at night, because I am getting through his new book ridiculously slowly. But then once I've finished it, I won’t have any Murakami lined up to read! And that will make me very sad.