Look at what just arrived at my house!!!


Um, for people who can't read Japanese, it's the new Murakami! Yayyy!!!

I actually tried to get this on Saturday (it came out on Friday) but it was already sold out everywhere that I looked... crazy. I didn't realise that people here love Murakami so much, I don't really feel the love when I talk about him to my Japanese friends.


Also, I still need to finish 1Q84, so I'm not going to get round to reading this for.. as long as it takes me to finish 1Q84, because I can only deal with reading one book at a time in Japanese. 

But yay! :D 

AND AND this is my first hardback Japanese book, because normally I'm too space conscious (or cheap, hehe) to buy them, they're much bigger than paperbacks. But I couldn't wait for 3 years to read this like I did with 1Q84.

*happy dance*


Jen reads... A Dance With Dragons

I should probably say from the start that this is going to be a bit (only a bit!) spoilery. So if you are like me and prefer your A Song of Ice and Fire books to be completely unspoiled, here is my short review of A Dance with Dragons – It was GOOD!

…And now for some slight spoilers.

After sort of plodding through the last book, this one drew me right in with chapter after chapter about characters that I’d been dying to know about while reading the last book. Tyrion! BAM! Daenerys! BAM! Jon! BAM! Bran! …Meh, whatever! Generally, the book is as full of exciting things going on as the last one was slow. Not that the slowness of A Feast For Crows was that bad, but reading this made me realize just how little actually happened in the last one.   

This book made me feel really sorry for a couple of characters who I had never really liked (for obvious reasons) before, and with the first proper look at Ramsay Bolton (apparently he was in the second book, which I seem to have completely forgotten about? Haha!), gave me a new character to despise. In fact, he made me wonder if maybe I had previously been a bit harsh on some of the other characters. 

Overall, the book was really gripping, and I got through it really quickly. I still have the same reservations about how women are treated in the books, and was really dissatisfied at the way that a certain character whose fate was uncertain in the last book was handled (I wanted details and I got a brief mention! Pfft!), but those misgivings aside, I think it might be my favourite in the series so far.

At the end of the book was a sample chapter from the next book, which I don’t really get. Normally these things seem to be put in to make you start reading and then really want the next book, but it’s just cruel to put that in when the next book won’t be out until… ??? So I chose not to read it.

And now I’m happy, because nothing can spoil me for the series anymore! Until the next book comes out and it inevitably takes me ages to get round to reading it, hehe.

To anybody who is struggling with A Feast For Crows now, or is wondering whether it’s worth carrying on, it definitely is!  


Jen reads... The Gods Themselves

I have been lending my A Song of Ice and Fire books to one of my friends, and he lent me this book in return. It’s the first book by Isaac Asimov that I’ve read, and it has left me wanting to read more. Yay!

The book is divided into 3 sections. The first follows a scientist called Lamont, who is on a mission to discredit the scientist responsible for one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the time, Frederick Hallam. Hallam was responsible for setting up an Electron Pump, which trades tungsten with the beings living in a para-universe, in return for plutonium 186, a cheap, free, and clean source of energy. Lamont finds out that the pump might not be all it seems, and sets about to destroy Hallam’s reputation, a thing which proves to be extremely difficult. 

The second part of the story is told from the perspective of 3 different life forms in the para-universe: Dua, Odeen and Tritt. One of the joys of this section is figuring out how on earth (or, how in the para-universe) these life forms work, as they are completely different to us. So I won’t spoil any of that here.

The third section is set on the moon and… well, that would be telling. 

As I haven’t read any proper science fiction for years, ever since I tried out a few of the Point Sci-Fi books (remember those? Do they still exist?) that my local library had, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this. The first section starts with the sixth chapter, which is a conversation between Lamont and his co-worker, split up into bits and interspersed between the first five chapters. This I found a bit weird – not structurally, but the idea that this would be called the sixth chapter. I wonder whether that kind of structure just wasn’t common in the 1970s, and that’s why it’s done like that. Anyway, ignoring that, the first bit is interesting enough, and sets up the story quite nicely. 

Then we get onto the middle section… which is amazing! Now, this may be because I haven’t really read that much in this genre, but this is a million times better than I ever thought that descriptions of an alien (I guess?) life form could ever be. This section doesn’t just sit down and explain everything to the reader, but lets them figure out how these creatures and the society they live in work. It’s really, really nicely done. 

This all makes the third section a bit disappointing really. This starts to go into the kind of territory that I feared science fiction books would be, with the people on the moon being naked (or nearly naked) for no apparent reason (other than to write descriptions of naked women?). Not that it’s particularly lecherous, but I was a bit like… really? Really?? (It's not quite as bad as Game of Thrones though, haha). On the other hand though, there’s some nice detail about what living on the moon would actually do to humans, and the main fault of the third section is that there’s pretty much no way it could be as fascinating or as well done as the middle section. 

Overall, I would really recommend this book. It was really enjoyable, and I was really eager to find out what happened next when I was reading it. I started reading it on Saturday morning and had finished by Sunday afternoon, which isn’t an unknown pace for me, but doesn’t happen unless I’m really into the book that I’m reading! The only bad thing about this book is that the third section is a bit… bland compared to the second section, but even if the first and third sections were complete rubbish, I would recommend reading it just for the middle section.

I’m definitely going to read more Asimov books! Thank you Phil :D


Jen reads… ガリレオの苦悩 (The Anguish of Galileo) by Higashino Keigo

One of the writers that I have discovered since coming here is Higashino Keigo, who is the author of the last book that I finished reading in Japanese. When I say discovered, I mean that I walked into a bookshop and was confronted with a LOT of Higashino Keigo stuff. He’s very VERY popular, and extremely prolific, as he seems to always have some books coming out in paperback and something new coming out in hardback. He generally writes two types of stories: mysteries and more serious novels (maybe that isn’t a type? Hehe). 

 The more serious ones sometimes have a hint of science fiction/the surreal to them, such as Naoko (秘密, which literally means secret, in Japanese), which is the story of a man whose daughter’s mind becomes the mind of his dead wife after a horrific accident. Some of them are a bit more straight, like 手紙 (Letters – I don’t think this one has been released in English) which is the story of a boy whose older brother has gone to prison for murder, and how this basically messes up his whole life. Tegami is the first one which blew me away, so if you can read Japanese I really recommend it.

On the mystery side, one of his most popular series of books is the Galileo series. It’s about a police officer and a physicist who make an unlikely crime solving team. The books are a mixture of short story collections and novels, and although it doesn’t seem like the short stories have been translated into English, the novel length ones have been, starting with The Devotion of Suspect X (容疑者Xの献身 in Japanese). 

I’ve been reading these as they’ve been released into paperback form, and the most recent one that I’ve read is ガリレオの苦悩 (The Anguish of Galileo), which is one of the collections of short stories. This hasn’t been translated into English, which is a pity, because I really enjoyed it! In particular I really enjoyed the last one in this book, which involves someone who sends a letter to the police saying that he can kill anybody, and there’s no way that they’ll be able to trace it back to him. 

If you are studying Japanese, then I think that Higashino Keigo might be a good way to get into reading Japanese books, as the writing style isn’t too difficult. For that I would recommend the first Galileo book (探偵ガリレオ).

For everyone else, my mum recently read the English translation of The Devotion of Suspect X and said that she really enjoyed it, and the Japanese version was very good.


In celebration of reading

For the firt few years that I lived in Japan, I would buy English books very rarely - maybe one or two a year. Books are generally fairly expensive here, and bookshops with English book sections tend to only stock the most popular and most mainstream English books, which isn't necessarily what I want to read. So I kept myself happy with Japanese books and TV.

I have realised, though, after starting to use most of my spare time to read, that not reading was, while not actively making me unhappy, not something that I should ever let myself do again. I had forgotten how good it feels to lose yourself in a book (something which I've only recently been able to do with Japanese books - it's hard to lose yourself when you're reaching for a dictionary every few words), and how spending time reading is never something that I regret doing. 

Now I've well and truly caught the reading bug again. I find myself reading if I wake up a few minutes early, reading while I'm eating breakfast, reading on the train, reading in my lunch break when I end up eating alone (and secretly praying for more of those days), trying to read and cook (I do NOT recommend this!), and reading before I go to bed.

I owe a lot of this to Laura (of Devouring Texts), as finding her review of "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood opened my eyes to the world of book blogging, and book podcasts, which have been making me want to spend all of my time every day reading. Thank you Laura!

I have a lot of books to catch up on, the list of books that I want to read is getting slightly ridiculous, and I'm starting to leave my house to go to work later and later (just one more chapter syndrome!), but I feel so much happier now in general than I have done for a while.

In conclusion... books are great, did you know?!
Reading! Woo!!!