January in Japan | Readathon Wrap-Up

Those of you following along in my stories last weekend will have seen I spur of the moment decided to join in on the #januaryinjapan 10-in-4 readathon hosted on Bookstagram. So I figured I’d go over how my reading/listening went!

First up, I listened to Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Talley Takemori), which follows a woman who has worked this part-time job her entire adult life. The book absolutely skewers the societal norms that won’t let Keiko just live her life without trying to “cure her” with marriage or a career. I definitely hope for more of this author’s quirky work gets translated (one coming this year I believe)

Next I picked up my first ever manga with My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame (translated by Anne Ishii). This is a slice of life story that follows a single dad who gets a surprise visitor after his estranged twin brother dies: his husband. You see Yaichi confront engrained homophobia but also see his daughter Kana welcome Mike with open arms. My only “complaint” is that the story didn’t seem to have much of an arc from chapter to chapter or even in this first volume. I found out later it was a serialized story, so that probably attributes to the kind of flat storytelling. Not a fault of the book, just not what I’m used to. Still highly recommend, and I have the next volume on hold.

Next up, I listened to If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura (translated by Eric Sellend). It follows a man who makes a deal with the devil to extend his life by one day in exchange for removing one thing from the world. This one had similar quirks as CSW, like the devil being a doppelgänger of our narrator in a Hawaiian shirt and a talking cat, but in the end was a bit too saccharine for my tastes. But its fable-like qualities are bound to be a hit for a non-cynic unlike myself.

And finally, I finished the weekend with short-story collection The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya (translated by Asa Yoneda). Like most collections, there were hits and misses here. But a few of these stories were just the right mix of speculative and cultural critique that were phenomenal!

Overall, I really enjoyed my weekend of packed with Japanese fiction in translation. It has just solidified my goal to prioritize more non-western writing through the year (and not isolated to readathons) Last year I only read a handful of works in translation (and those were from Swedish and Spanish), so there’s much more out there just waiting for me to seek it out and enjoy!

My Favorite Books of 2018 & Reading Stats

2018 was a massive year for reading for me. I read 218 books! Some of those were graphic novels and novellas, but there were also some massive 1000+ page tomes. Out of those, I gave 50 books 5 stars. That’s way too many to put in a favorites list (but if you’re interested in them all, check out my Goodreads. So I’ve narrowed it down by picking a favorite (or 2) from each month

Continue reading “My Favorite Books of 2018 & Reading Stats”

The end of the year approaches | WWW Wednesday reading wrap-up (Dec. 5)

It’s WWW Wednesday, a tag hosted on Taking on a World of Words It’s easy to do, just answer the three questions below! 

What are you currently reading?

So, from last week I’m still reading The Terrible, the poetry/prose memoir by Yrsa Daley-Ward. I’m still enjoying it (things got even darker/bleaker/more “terrible” of course), just taking a while because it’s a physical read I don’t make time for.

I started Rosewater by Tade Thompson, a science-fiction book set in Nigeria after an alien biome pops up and started displaying healing powers and people developed new abilities. I really loved the chunk I listened to, but I’m listening on Scribd (so no due date) so I needed to switch to some library checkouts….

Which leads me to The Likeness by Tana French. It is the second in her Dublin Murder Squad series. I’m enjoying it, just not as much as I was at this point in the first book. It’s giving me The Secret History vibes (even though I haven’t read that). The audio expires in a few days, so that’s my priority for the rest of the week.

What did you recently finish reading?

At the end of last week I was striving to finish off Nonfiction November strong, so I powered through finishing 3 books in one night…

Becoming by Michelle Obama (★★★★☆)

I finished up Becoming by Michelle Obama first. I really enjoyed this. The parts before Barack became president were my favorite, especially when she talked about her family and her starting a family with Barack. The story started to drag a bit for the White House years, but mostly because Barack’s life understandably overshadowed her own. I did like the little behind the scenes snippets she added to these sections however, like her interactions with Queen Elizabeth etc. A great memoir that for the most part avoided the political memoir tropes. 

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya (★★★★★) 

This essay collection/little book packs a punch. Vivek detailed her struggles coming out as trans and tackled the gender biases she saw perpetuated by both those in power and the implicit biases some don’t realize they’re perpetuating. The choice to tell some sections through second person point of view I think was especially impactful, so it could be that she was addressing anyone about their harmful behavior, not just the person in her life. 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (★★★★★)

I’m super late to the game of this classic essay collection. It was incredibly powerful and has unfortunately stood the test of time with its messages. I look forward to reading The Fire This Time collection to see how black writers today adapt Baldwin’s message.

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (★★★★☆)

I’d heard mostly good things about this book before picking it up for myself, and thankfully agree with the good parts (and fell of the good side of some pro-con reviews). This was a really fun and imaginative fantasy quest story, with crotchety old mercenaries getting the band back together one last time to save one of their daughters. The humor in this will definitely turn some people off, but I enjoyed it. My only gripe with this story is the lack of stakes. Every time our crew came up against something that should be incredibly dangerous or hindering, they manage to make it through. Oh you’re diseased? Here’s a cure. Oh you’re wounded? You’ll sleep it off. By the end, all tension from the final battle was gone for me. I’ll still be continuing with the series, as I’m especially eager to see the women take over the story in the sequel.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (★★★★★)

This was one of my 5-star predictions and it didn’t disappoint! I’m not that big into contemporary anymore, but this is the kind of YA contemporary story I can get behind. A powerful look at xenophobia and checking your bias mixed with a realistic but also lovely first-love story AND a girl finding her passion. Pick this up!

Planetfall by Emma Newman (★★★☆☆)

And to round out the week, I get to a very underwhelming read. I think I should blame the marketing team for selling me a story that the book didn’t deliver on. What it sold me on was an epic mystery set on an alien planet when a stranger shows up to dig up old secrets. What I got was a slow burn character study with a rushed ending. I could not find myself interested in continuing for the first 70% of this book. After that the character study actually got really interesting, but then the plot started forcing itself on the story again, so the examination of anxiety and mental health got pushed aside by explosions and survival. It all came together to be a completely frenetic story for me. I won’t be continuing this series.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I most want to continue listening to Rosewater, but because I’m me, I have a ton of books out from the library I should probably get to, next up being The Sun Does Shine, a nonfiction by a man who got off Death Row after serving 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. And my next buddy read is my next in the Wheel of Time series, which I won’t enjoy but I’m so close to finishing the series now (and so close to when Brandon Sanderson takes over)!

Bonus Round

What I’ve acquired: I’m thinking about canceling my Book of the Month subscription after I’m out of credits (I haven’t been liking the selection recently), so I picked Severance as my December book, which is supposed to be a good satire, and went through the backlist to use up another credit. I read and liked Hunger last month so I decided to pick up a physical copy so I could mark my favorite passages.

And that’s a wrap! What was your favorite read of the week? Are you feeling the end-of-year pressure to get to all the books?