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!

#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.

#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?

#T5W | Hate-to-Love

This week, we are talking about Hate to Love ShipsBe aware of possible SPOILERS.

Okay, so this week’s list will be a bit half-assed. I’m currently in total planning mode for Anime Expo 2017 happening this weekend until Tuesday, 4th of July. They just announced the event schedules for the creators of Yuri!!! ON ICEMitsurou Kubo and Sayo Yamamoto and frankly, I’m freaking out. I’m looking at my July 1 plans and I’m low-key overwhelmed, a bit anxious, but so very excited. I never planned this extensively for any conventions but this year looks so jam packed.

(If you don’t know what Yuri!!! ON ICE is then you must remedy that right now. If you’re bitching about the book community’s lack of diversity, this anime will answer all your woes. It has LGBTQ+ themes, cultural diversity, mental illness, characters of different ages, races, species, love, life, friendship… everything!)

Hate-to-love ships. I thought this would be an easy list but as I looked through my shelves, either I haven’t read that many romances or I just don’t care about ships much. I tend to be more invested in screen ships – TV, anime, film – than book ships. I actually consider book ships more canon, if that makes any sense. Once the ink is dry, it’s official… something like that. But I managed to compose a decent list. I’m just so distracted right now with the AX2017 planning situation.

(By the way, who’s going to Anime Expo? Comment down below if you are.)

You can take your Mr. Darcy, I don’t care. I’m #TeamRochester all the way. These two have such a cat and mouse relationship. She’s no damsel in distress. His terms of endearment come in the form of insults. She honestly blurts out that he is not handsome. He teases her every chance he gets. But you know – YOU KNOW – that they have feelings for each other. It’s just that both of them are stubborn as hell.

MUSTANG & DARROW, Red Rising trilogy.
Now, Darrow “hated” Mustang at first because of she is one of the Golds. Darrow, a Red, hates that level of society as a whole. He kind of just lumps everyone in there just because. But later on, he gets to know Mustang. Mustang admires Darrow but from the outside, she had to keep up appearances, having to come from an esteemed family. They eventually find an ally in one another.

YAEL & LUKA, Wolf by Wolf duology.
Picture a world where Hitler and the Nazis won. She’s Jewish. He’s Aryan. They don’t even need to talk to hate each other. But when you experience something traumatic together, a special bond is going to form. I was rooting for these two characters from the first time they met. Yael is a strong female character and Luka is this arrogant yet goofy boy with a serious side. Sigh. My feelz!

JUNE & DAY, Legend trilogy.
Same with the above entries, these two hate each other by virtue to their social status. June is rich, Day is poor. June is the darling of the Republic while Day is Public Enemy Number One. Then they start to get to know each other, working with one another, and understanding where the other is coming from. Both of them eventually see the good in each other. The ending of this trilogy killed me. These two killed my feelz.

And I give in, guys. FEYRE & RHYSAND, A Court of Mist and Fury trilogy.
I knew from the get-go that these two will be the main ship of the series. Tamlin was just too unlikable to bear. This is a one-sided “hate” since it was only Feyre who disliked Rhysand. He’s been in love with her from the moment they met. And he’s so nice to her… granted I’ve only read the first two books. Rhysand’s Inner Circle is probably the best group of people in Fantasy YA in a long time. Everyone supports each other and all of them are likable. And I love how SJM handled this ship… I was convinced that Tamlin is going to be the one; I was ready to hate. But I felt like this change happened organically. I really like it.

This took four hours to type out, in between me doing actual work and Anime Expo stressing and planning. I hope you guys have a good rest of the week and an awesome Fourth of July weekend. I know I will.

TOP TEN TUESDAYS | Best of 2017 So Far

When I reviewed the topics for this month weeks ago, I thought to skip this topic. But when I saw that TTT is going on hiatus until August 15, I had to do it.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the Top Ten Books You’ve Read in 2017 So Far.

I admit, I honestly thought that I will have a hard time with this topic. So far, I’ve finished 69 books – most of them manga and other sequential art. I remember liking most of what I read. Loving them is another story. I went through my Read list and had to check again just to make 10. Sigh. I hope the second half of 2017 is better.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.
The first book in the Mistborn trilogy and the first book that I finished this year. The Mistborn trilogy is my series of the year, meaning I will read the books throughout the year just as long as I finish the entire thing by December 31. I’ve only read the first one so far. I love it. It’s a nice gateway from YA to Adult Fantasy. It actually feels more YA Fantasy because Vin is in that YA age, the language and world-building is very easy to follow even with how complicated it is and how many characters are in it. It’s an awesome book. I can’t wait to continue on with the rest.Orange manga series by Ichigo Takano.
Team Suwa forever! This manga series moved me. I loved everything about it in every format it came in. Anime, print, live action… it’s all perfection. I sincerely urge you to watch it or read it. It’s a 5-volume finished series about a group of friends in present day, coming together on the birthday of a friend they lost ten years ago. Then they write letters to their younger self, asking them to please save that friend in their own parallel universe. It’s not the best explanation but trust me, it will hit you in all the feelz… even those you didn’t know existed. Continue reading

TOP TEN TUESDAYS | Starting Another Series

I’ve been looking forward to this topic for weeks.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start bu Haven’t Yet.

I’m getting better with the series on my TBR; actually finishing them, back-to-back sometimes. I realized that I enjoy it that way. I get to be in the world for longer and I don’t forget anything in between books. Since I’m super late on this YA train, I have a crapton of finished series that I have yet to start. I narrowed down my ~extensive~ list to ten. Some of these I already own the whole set, some just the first book, and some I’ve yet to own the physical copy. I can’t guarantee I will get to them. That’s just the way it is. But I am interested. Very interested.

(This is a list of finished series. I have more to mention but a lot of them are still on-going.)

The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson.
I’ve been intrigued by this since the first book came out. A princess runs away on her wedding day and she’s being chased down by two guys, her betrothed and an assassin. But you won’t know who’s who until the end. So many booktubers sing its praises. I’ve picked up and put down this series so many times – including just now at the Book Outlet sale.

The Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu.
My copies of the complete trilogy are all signed. I’m planning to marathon this before the release of Warcross or before the end of the year. I will read anything Marie Lu writes. Anything.

The Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen.
At first I thought this was a YA book but I eventually started seeing it shelved with the adult SFF. I honestly don’t know anything about this trilogy but I am interested to read it. I heard it’s high fantasy but still easy to follow.

Starcrossed trilogy by Leisa Reyven.
You will see this trilogy of my TBR until I actually pick it up and start it. I have the whole thing in paperback. Now that I’m getting in to New Adult, I just might pick this up this summer.

Prisoner of Night and Fog duology by Anne Blankman.
When I heard that this was about a world where Nazi Germany won, I put it on the top of my wishlist. When I finally got a copy of the two books, I planned to marathon it. But that didn’t happen. At least not yet. I love reading duologies back-to-back. I will definitely get to this around the fall season.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
I only have book 1 and have technically started it. I think I’m on chapter 2-3? But that was some time ago and I’ve forgotten much of it. This doesn’t have the best reviews but I’m still interested. I won’t go into this expecting a grown up Harry Potter. I heard that if you do that, you’ll only set yourself up for failure.

The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett.
Again, I have all three books. This has been in my radar since the second book came out. It was offered on Blogging For Books but I didn’t have the 1st one. Then I won an ARC of the 3rd book a year later. I never forgot the blurb for the second book so I then decided to pick up the first one so I can read it.

Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo.
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of The Grisha trilogy. I was super disappointed, to be honest. But I heard that this duology is way better so I still have high hopes.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.
I literally just finished The Scorpio Races on audio about a minute ago. Her writing is magic. I’m debating whether to listen to this series on audio or read it. Or both!

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.
I was supposed to buy the boxed set today from the Book Outlet sale but in the end, I decided to skip the sale all together. It was $30 for all 4 books in hardcover including Fairest. But no thanks. Not right now. Eventually. Maybe when Winter is released on paperback. I’ve asked my brother time and again if Cinder was worth the read. He always said yes but for some reason, I never followed through. I think it’s about time I do.

I want your recommendations! Which ones have you already read? Which series should I prioritize? What else should I add to this list?