TOP TEN TUESDAYS | Turning Japanese

Long time no see – both for this tag and blogging in general. Life got in the way, it still is, but I need this distraction.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the Ten book recommendations for ______________: (Sky’s the limit here…examples: for Hufflepuffs, for fans of Game of Thrones, for people who don’t normally read YA, for animal lovers, for video game lovers, etc.

I was tempted to go for the “video game lovers” part but I might just fill it with Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel stuff. Plus, I already did a video game-related post so maybe check that out if you’re interested.

So I went with Ten Japanese Fiction Recommendations. As you know, it’s one of my favorite genres and I’ve collected quite a few titles. I’ve read my share of translated fiction and so far, the Japanese are nailing it. I also like how they do mystery and horror. They don’t shy away from shock, blood, gore, and sex. I feel like every Japanese book should come with a trigger warning. But it’s so worth it in the end. And I recently found out that some Japanese fiction are perfect to listen to on audio. A lot of them are pretty short so even with 1.0x speed, they’re only around the 5-hour mark.

You might recognize these titles if you’ve been on my blog for a while. Some of these are my absolute favorites not just from the genre, but of all-time. So I might not talk about them at length here. And I have so many more unread in my collection. But as of right now, here are my recommendations.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.
If you like The Hunger Games, you’re going to love this. You won’t find Peeta but make sure you’re ready for uncensored violence and gore. And oh, there’s a movie version of this!

Confessions by Kanae Minato.
I went into this with zero expectations. The blurb at the back totally sold me. This is about a school teacher whose daughter was murdered by one of her students. If that doesn’t get you, I don’t know what will.

Another by Yukito Ayatsuji.
I recommend the anime adaptation too. And also read the companion, Another Episode S/0. It’s a total mindfuck horror and psychological thriller. I admit, I enjoy the anime a bit more because you can actually see the descriptions and the scenarios but the book is quite beautiful too.

Ring series by Koji Suzuki.
Especially the second on, Spiral. But of course, Ring is probably the most iconic. Don’t expect a super faithful page-to-screen translation but it’s still pretty close.

Train Man by Hitori Nakano.
Take a break from all the darkness and read this light-hearted novel told in message board format. Think reddit. It’s about an otaku man meeting the girl of his dreams on a train. Yup.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.
To explain it easier, this is sort of like the Japanese Tuesdays With Morrie. You have an ailing professor spending the final years of his life with a housekeeper and her son. This was an amazing audio book and I would gladly listen to it again.

Orange by Ichigo Takano.
This is my recommendation for a finished manga series. I’ve proclaimed my love for this series for such a long time, I’m sure you know about this too.

Black Butler by Yana Toboso.
And here’s an on-going manga series. The anime adaptation is one of my favorites and the manga series does not disappoint. It’s different than a lot of manga because it’s not set in Japan. It’s a period piece with paranormal themes and detective work. And the anime is so awesome… such a perfect cast of voice actors! Japanese, I mean. 😉

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino.
I have so many books by this author, I should start making a dent on that pile. This is only my second Higashino read, first audio book and I am in love. When you think a case is open and shut, maybe it’s the in between that’s most interesting. What looks like a typical wife killing her husband over an affair becomes so much more complex. This was such an enjoyable audio book.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito.
Snails. That’s all. Snails.


Let me know if you’ve read any of these and if you have recommendations for me. I will read any Japanese fiction out there.

#T5W | Better Than The First

This week, we are talking about Second/Middle Books That Are the Best in the Series.

Long time no post. I have good reasons for that.

I wrote a fic! It’s in the Yuri!!! ON ICE fandom but inspired by my new obsession, Pitbulls and Parolees. It’s aptly called Poodles and Figure Skaters. It’s Makkachin-centric. Now, I’m so inspired to write more fic. I haven’t finished anything in almost ten years. I even have a Generation Kill fic that is very loosely based on Jane Eyre… 60,000 words and counting. And unfinished. It’s almost done… almost seven years ago.

Another thing that is taking my mind off blogging is Pitbulls and Parolees. Thank goodness for Animal Planet Go. They have all the seasons on there and I’m loving this show so much. If I’m not reading for Tome Topple, I’m probably watching this.

So there’s that. This week’s topic is quite a bit of a challenge. Like with other series lists, I realize that I read a lot of stand alones in the past. I have quite a few series on-going and not a lot finished. And from those I’ve finished, I’m not a huge fan of either the middle book or the series as a whole. While I agree that The Winner’s Crime is the best in the series, I’m not really impressed. I haven’t finished A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy yet so I can’t say for sure if ACOMAF is the best. And Siege & Storm is only better than the other books because of Nikolai’s introduction to the story. IMHO, anyway.

I have three books, one movie, and one anime series for you. I hope you enjoy!

Taken 3 years ago, almost to the day!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
This should be the only title in this list. Catching Fire was leaps and bounds better than The Hunger Games and Mockingjay. Even the movie was fantastic. It was all action from the get-go and it was such an adventure. I thought it was going to be tedious because it was potentially just a retelling of the events of the first book but it was so much more fun. Then Mockingkay. Well, let’s not talk about that.

Us by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy.
I loved the first book, Him. When I thought it can’t get any better, it did. Us didn’t have the angst from miscommunication and uncertainty from the first book. The relationship was already established and all they had to deal with was the effect of fame and fortune on their relationship. Plus, the new characters were awesome. So much that I actually want a book about them.

Spiral by Koji Suzuki.
I say this again and again, I rated Ring 5 stars but this, only a 4. But I thought this was better than Ring. Oh man, this was a mindfuck. I thought I would merely skim read this but I was hooked all the way to the end. I understand that this might not translate to film as successfully as Ring. This book doesn’t have a long-haired girl in white that comes out of TV sets. It has a terribly smart virus. Scary.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
This is actually – officially – my favorite movie of all time. While I can recite The Fellowship of the Ring from memory, I love rewatching The Two Towers. Especially the Helm’s Deep scene and when the ents attack Isengard. What I do is I try to track ONE ORC and see where it goes. There’s always something new whenever I watch this.

Free! Eternal Summer
The second season of the Free! anime series. I love Free! Iwatobi Swim Club but I find myself rewatching Eternal Summer more. They’re all friends in this series and everything means so much more. All of them have grown and it sort of became more of a slice-of-life than a gimmicky sports dramedy. I love this series so much! I’ve since met one of the voice actors from the anime so it made it much more special.


That’s my list! Now, let me go back to writing my next YOI fic… this time, inspired by another anime, sweetness & lightning. I’m gonna have so much fun rewatching this series!

WRAP-UP | JULY 2017

How is it August already? It’s almost Christmas!

I did quite well in my July reading even with Anime Expo at the start of the month. I did especially well in the audio book department. I discovered that Hoopla has Japanese fiction on audio. I’ve come to realize that they are awesome to listen to and a lot of them are short reads – listens – at less than 6 hours. Most of them anyway. Plus, I lucked out with the narrators. Sure, they’re not perfect Japanese pronunciation when it comes to names but I still enjoyed it.

I finally did a Jane Eyre re-read after not doing it for 2-3 years. I acquired the Manga Classics by Udon Entertainment copy and oh boy, I loved it. I am looking at getting all the other Manga Classics versions. They’re so much easier to read than the dense original text. I also finished a very hyped and beloved YA series and once again, was kind of let down by it. This month’s reading had been filled with most anticipated reads, recommendations, and audio books. Let’s see how I did!

TOTAL BOOKS READ: 11. I hit a total of 80 reads this past month.

  • Sound! Euphonium, Volume 1 by Ayano Takeda. This is the light novel source material of one of my favorite anime shows. This is a story told through Kumiko’s eyes; she is a euphonium player for the Kitauji High School band. She goes through normal high school stuff on top of band club drama. While I definitely prefer the anime (it has actual music and playing of music), I really enjoyed this one as well. My Shuichi x Kumiko heart, especially. But I’m only giving this 4/5 stars because to me, there was a bit (a lot) of queer baiting. Now, it could just be a form of fan service but this was written before the anime was aired.
  • Amazonia by James Rollins. As with every James Rollins book, I listened to this on audio. I did enjoy this. It had a slow start but it built up quite nicely. Of course, make sure your suspension of disbelief is quite strong. As much as Rollins’ books are filled with adventure, they’re not the most believable. 4/5 stars.
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. I listened to this. I also own this book. But when I saw this on Hoopla, under 5 hours, I thought it’s going to be a quick read. It was but it was so good. It reminded me of Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. A housekeeper is hired to help out at an elderly professor’s house. After a while, the professor invites the housekeeper’s son with them. They then develop a sort of familial relationship that makes such a differences in all of their lives. The narration by Cassandra Campbell is A+! 5/5 stars, favorite.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski. Book 2 in the trilogy. There were so many things going on but none of it was truly exciting. Then it just ended. Yes, it was full of political intrigue. Think of a chess game but with a lot of misunderstanding. Really, things would’ve ended much faster and cleaner if they only just talked. But then again, we have a 3rd book. 3.5/5 stars. At this point, I almost slumped… I wasn’t enjoying this.
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I was good. But it wasn’t life changing as everyone says. I actually didn’t get it much. It was a magical realism mystery novella with an asexual main character. Okay. 4/5 stars.
  • Girls und Panzer, Volume 2. I’ve since completed the Nendoroid Petit Collection 1, thanks to Anime Expo. I… didn’t enjoy this volume. They pretty much left out the whole Saunders match. It was merely mentioned but the anime has 1.5 episodes about that. I understand the choice but I would’ve liked to see more of the match on the page. 3/5 stars.
  • When It’s Real by Erin Watt. Holy crap. Holy crap, I loved this. Oh man, this was an awesome audio book read by two narrators, Caitlin Kelly and Teddy Hamilton. This toed the line between YA and NA but there’s no explicit sex scene yet it still managed to be so hot. It touched all my feelz and then some. 5/5 stars, favorite!
  • Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino. Another audio book with A+ narration by David Pittu. I enjoy his mystery novels so much and they are perfect to listen on audio. This is about a husband murdered when his soon-to-be ex-wife is on vacation. Yes, it was predictable in a way that you know who did it. The question is “how.” Amazing. 5/5 stars.
  • Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura. Based on the blurb, I should love this. This is about a journalist interviewing a man on death row after being convicted of killing 2 women by burning them to death. Then it unravels a very complicated web of accomplices, secrets, and deceit. But I had a problem with the narration. The names were badly pronounced, there wasn’t much difference between character voices. I got lost so many times. So I don’t think it’s the novel’s fault. I do own this so I may just have to read it again. 2.5/5 stars.
  • Manga Classics: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, illustrated by SunNeko Lee. You don’t know “cute” until you’ve seen Jane and Rochester in chibi form. I will give this book nothing but a perfect score. 5/5 stars.
  • The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski. I’m filing this under the same umbrella as The Grisha trilogy – hyped series that ended up disappointing me. I wanted to read this book when I heard that this featured a pianist main character and music. Well, so much for that. I did enjoy this too but there was just too much traveling and talking and not much else. I still like Arin. Kestrel’s okay too. Over all, this series is a 3.5/5, just like this book.

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#T5W | It’s Going to be Worth It

This week, we are talking about Series That Got Better.

Guys, this was hard. Sure, I had one trilogy that instantly popped into my mind but coming up with four more was not easy. I realized that I haven’t really read that many series. A good handful of what I started are not finished because I quit them… not because I don’t have time to continue on with the next books. Although, I do own a lot of finished series. Reading other people’s posts is making me reaarange my TBR. If enough of you say that it’s good, it must be, right? As for the stuff I watch, I lose interest on a TV show faster than I can log in to my Hulu account and most of the stuff I choose to watch are single-season anime.

Also, as much as I prefer binge reading finished series, a lot of them suffer from either the “middle book slump” or the “disappointing finale”. Almost always, my favorite book tends to be the first one. My favorite movie in a franchise is probably the first one. Or maybe the 2nd book is the best then it went downhill with the 3rd/final one. So many things can happen. But I will stop rambling and try to give you guys a decent list.

Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown.
I must admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first book. I thought it was info-dumpy, pretentious, silly, and overall trying too hard. But for some reason, I decided to read the next book. I loved it. So much. I loved it so much that I screamed when I finished it because I didn’t have the next book yet. (Of course, I read it as it came out.) I got the 3rd book on Kindle because I ordered a signed copy and that would take a while to ship. I read it in 2-3 days. It was phenomenal.

Him duology by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy.
This is currently my favorite NA books/series. Him was so teeth-achingly sweet provided we are talking about two sporty, muscled hockey players surrounded by their equally manly teammates. Goodness, the angst in this duology was palpable, it hurts. I loved how real it felt, their struggles within themselves and with dealing with the outside world. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, Us happened. I read this duology in two days. I would read it again in a heartbeat.

One-Punch Man manga by ONE.
Let me set this up for you. A seemingly ordinary young man is actually a pretty fcking powerful superhero who can defeat anyone and anything with a single punch, hence, the name. How can that be interesting for more than one volume? Trust me. It can. I’m on Volume 6 and I’m pacing it. I loved the anime and I hope that one continues on as well.

Free! anime produced by Kyoto Animation.
This currently has two seasons, an OVA, and three theatrically released movies… with one more coming up. It was first released in 2014 and people still love it to this day. I sure do, judging by the number of times I’ve rewatched certain episodes from both seasons. And the OVA. And the seiyuu event. Oh man, I love this series so damn much. I do prefer season 2 over the first one that’s why I included it in this list. But I recommend the whole package. (BTW, I met one of that Japanese voice actors, Daisuke Hirakawa who plays Ryuugazaki Rei, at Anime Expo 2017. It made me entire life.)

Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel JRPG by Nihon Falcom.
For the longest time, my favorite Japanese role-playing game is Final Fantasy VIII. Until this gem of a JRPG entered my life. I love it so much, I cosplayed a character from the first game twice during AX2017 weekend. And guess what, I even met the CEO of Nihon Falcom, Toshihiro Kondo, while in my Fie Claussell costume! This is a game about NINE kids in a military academy training to be “the best Thors Military Academy” can offer. This game is so rich in story while also being character-driven. I loved ToCS1 but I loved the 2nd one even more. I cannot wait for the 3rd!


I really have to work on the series that I own. I want to read so many yet I gravitate towards the stand alone and manga lately.

#TomeTopple | Readathon + Recommendations (8/4 through 8/17)

I’m finally doing it! I’ve been wanting to participate but the timing was never there. But it’s here now. I’m going to take part in the Tome Topple Readathon!

Tome Topple Readathon is created by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. She also hosts the Top 5 Wednesday weekly tag. She’s one of the booktubers whose opinions I trust. I also go to her for SFF recommendations. The GoodReads group for this readathon can be found here. If you’re looking for recommendations, inspiration, and/or buddies to read with, go check out the group.

This two-week readathon is simple: read a book with more than 500 pages. That’s it. You have 14 days to do it. Of course, there are challenges but all you really have to do is read a book with more than 500 pages. This is a chance to start/read/finish those intimidating bricks sitting on your shelf. This is the time to read them!

It’s going to be from 12AM of August 4 through 11:59PM of August 17, your time zone.

For me, that’s Pacific Time, if you want to play along. 🙂

Like I said, all you need to do is to read a 500plus-page book. Ooooor you can do these challenges:

  1. Read more than 1 tome.
  2. Read a graphic novel with more than 500 pages. (Trust me, this exists.)
  3. Read a tome that is part of a series.
  4. Buddy read a tome.
  5. Read an adult novel.
  6. Instagram challenges.

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#T5W | Books Not Set in or Inspired by the Western World

This week, we are talking about Books Not Set in or Inspired by the Western World.

(I tried for a wittier title but my brain is not working right now.)

 

Here’s the thing, I read a lot of Japanese fiction. These are books by Japanese authors translated into English. They can be manga, light novels, or full length novels. So obviously, majority of them are in a non-Western setting, both in location and tradition. This is where pretty much all of the “diversity” in my reading is coming from: Asian authors writing in an Asian setting. So this won’t be much of a challenge, right? I can just fill up the spots with my favorite Japanese novels, right?

But where’s the fun in that?! Surely, I’ve read other stuff set in other non-Western places by non-Japanese authors. However, “non-Western” is sort of tricky to define so I’ll just go with what I know. It’s actually safer to just stay in the Asian setting and avoid the whole English-speaking regions all together. However, many of these books eventually find themselves out West within the story. Either the main character immigrates or works in the US/UK but tells the story in flashback, thus having majority of the book set in their non-Western home country. I’m thinking about this too much. XD

Anyway, here’s my list. Surely all the Japanese fiction books I’ve read are good candidates but I won’t bore you with that. If you’re interested in my Japanese lit collection, here’s my GoodReads shelf for that.


The Flowers of War by Geling Yan.
This is a novella about the Rape of Nanjing where Japanese troops did unspeakable acts of massacre and rape to the residents of Nanjing, China in 1937-1938. I have never read a more powerful, a more moving piece of literature about war and what it does to those in that situation. In not so many pages, this book horrified and saddened me. But it was so rich in emotion. It’s a tough read but it needs to be read.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.
Here’s another quick yet poignant read. This book reminds me of Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom but set in Japan. An elderly professor with a failing memory hires a housekeeper. Eventually, their relationship grows into a more familial one through Math, of all things, and the housekeeper’s son. I listened to an audio book version and I absolutely loved it. It was so touching and real and funny… all the feelz.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
I don’t remember this book having a happy ending for anyone. This is one of the heaviest reads ever. We follow two characters, one stays in Afghanistan while the other finds a better life in the United States. They go through a lot and man, it’s one tragedy after another. I don’t know how I got through this book without sinking deeper into depression.

Eon and Eona duology by Alison Goodman.
This is set in a fictionalized China, I think, taking from the dragon lore and some nomenclature. Sort of Mulan-esque because Eon is really Eona. She dresses up as a boy so she could enter a competition only open to boys, trying to capture the powers of a dragon. I loved this duology so much.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang.
This is one twisted book. This is sort of a collection of short stories about a Korean family and how they deal with one of their family members becoming vegetarian. But don’t take this as a light and fluffy read based on that description. It’s anything but light and fluffy.


I realize that I stayed firmly in Asia for this list. Hey, to be safe. 🙂 I could’ve stayed within Japan for a list of 20 but variety is the spice of life.

Random question: What is your favorite Asian food?

WISHLIST TAG

Book Outlet is having a $5 off coupon today until the 14th so I figured, this is as good a time as any to post this tag. The code is TAKE5OFF, no minimum purchase – but you have to spend $35 to get free shipping. But hey, $5 off is pretty much free shipping because that’s the flat rate price for any purchase below $35. Anyway, on with the post!


I’m not so good with wishlists. I have them but no one really buys me stuff off of those wish lists. Besides, I put them there so I can buy them myself at a later date. Usually, I’m the only one who knows where to get that item the cheapest – or where to get it at all.

I hope one day my friends and/or family would think of checking out my wishlist. Not that I really care. Like I said, I can take care of it. It just gives me a bit of anxiety… what if they’ll think me strange once they see what’s on there. My wishlists tend to be so niche-y and highly specific. It’s the collector in me.

Pick the two books you most want to purchase/receive at this moment.

I saw Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh at Target the other day and the dedication had “엄마” on it or something. And immediately, I became more interested that I already was. Also, I literally just purchased The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson. I used the Book Outlet code above. I needed a hardback edition to complete my set (I bought books 1 and 3 hardback last week, also from Book Outlet). The book itself was $4.29. With the code, it’s essentially free… with $5 shipping.


Pick a book that you have wanted for the longest time.

Here’s the only wishlist that I actually care about — my Jane Eyre list. Especially the Fine edition.


Pick a sequel or companion story that you want to own.

I tend to complete series before even starting them. XD I’m currently trying out NA fiction where everything is a companion story. But I mostly get those on ebook or audio. So I guess, The Burning World by Isaac Marion, the sequel to Warm Bodies. I’ve been wanting to buy it since it came out but for some reason, I just never picked it up.


Pick an entire series (or boxed set) that you want to get your hands on.

I am notorious for acquiring an entire series before even reading the first book. I want to be able to have the option to marathon a book series – even though most of the time, I don’t do that. But lately, I’ve been thinking about finally jumping on the wagon of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Time and time again, I would ask my brother, “Is it worth it to read Cinder?” And every time, he would reply, “I liked it. I don’t know if you would.” I probably ask him this at least twice a year. Probably when Winter is released in paperback. We’ll see.


Pick a book from a favorite author of yours that you want to own.

I’m “current” with a lot of my favorite authors. At least, those books that I know will interest me.


Pick a popular book that you want on your shelves.

I was at Target this afternoon and I finally physically touched a copy of Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I’m sure you already know how gorgeous the naked book is, right? While my heart also wants the UK edition, I want that naked book on my shelf. I think I may also want A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury in hardcover. I have A Court of Wings and Ruin in the Target hardcover special. I did wait for the paperback release of ACOMAF but I think I’ll be keeping this trilogy on my shelves and they don’t match. Sigh. Years ago, this wouldn’t have bothered me. XD


Pick a book that you just recently decided that you wished to own.

A good chunk of my “to-read” list on GoodReads are books that I already own but have not read. But on my last Kinokuniya run, I saw a couple of Japanese fiction books that interested me a lot; the latest being Orbital Cloud by Taiyo Fujii. I would also like a physical copy of Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai.


Pick a book that is either in the mail or you are going to purchase next.

I am going to pre-order Warcross by Marie Lu soon. Mainly because the pre-order promo comes with a short story… Day’s POV of the ending of Champion. I am NOT ready for that. And also, Marie Lu is in my auto-buy list. But I’m waiting for her book tour schedule to see if she’s either stopping by somewhere near to me or if not, I’ll pre-order a signed copy from one of the stops.


Pick a hidden gem novel that you would like to read.

… how would I know that it’s a hidden gem when I haven’t read it or heard about it yet? 😉 So… I don’t know. What do you recommend?


Finally, pick a new release you really want to have.

I’m not much into new releases. I do have quite a few because there was a time when there were so many author events in a span of a few weeks and there were pre-order swag that I wanted. I’m not really updated when it comes to new releases either. But I’d probably would want a copy of The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro, the sequel to A Study in Charlotte. Preferably signed. 😉

***********

See, when it comes to books, I’m easy. If it’s signed, I’ll be interested. If it’s way discounted, I may pick it up. I’m a sucker for free Kindle books even though I’m never going to read them.

My anime-related wishlist is far longer than this one, trust me. An anime tag would look so much messier and all over the place. XD Hmm, maybe I’ll do that too… as a hint to my friends and family. That is, if I don’t buy them all first.