japanesebookrec


Book Recommendations for Japanese Books


リズム - 森絵都
niki112be

Rythm - Mori Eto
3,5-4/5

Synopsis:
Sayuki is a 12~13 year old girl who is really fond of Shin-chan, a close family member of hers. Shin-chan doesn't go to high school but works at a garage and is the lead singer in a rock band.

When Sayuki hears that Shin-chan's parents are possibly going to get divorced, Sayuki's world seems to fall apart.

Preview:
夏休み最後の日。空色のリボンを探して、机をごそごそあさっていたら、引き出しの奥からなつかしいものが出てきた。
ずっと前に書いた作文。二年三組ってあるから、五年前のやつだ。
読みかえして、ひとりでくすくす笑った。
「ふたつのわが家」って題なのに、いつのまにか真ちゃんの話になっているところがおかしい。
真ちゃんにも見せてあげよう。
あたしはその作文をたたんでジーンズのポケットに押しこみ、窓の外へと目をよった。
快晴。四角い窓からはみだしそうな青空だ。

Opinion:
The book started out interesting enough, but when I got to the end, I was a little disappointed. I felt the ending was lacking.
After letting it sink for a few days though, I understood what the author was trying to tell the reader at the end of the book. I think you should read it for that reason alone. :)

I've read some of the author's other books and I could really tell this was the author's debut. It's really easy to read, a lot of conversations and not many descriptions. The author received a prize for this book. At first I couldn't understand why, but now it all makes sense to me.

In short, if you're looking for a quick, easy read that does more than just entertain you, then go for this!


死者の学園祭
reina tanaka
arisha
死者の学園祭 (Shisha no Gakuensai)
by 赤川次郎 (Akagawa Jirou)
Amazon link
301 pages, furigana on all kanji except numbers, a picture roughly every other chapter
(I read the 2009 edition; it seems earlier editions did not include as much furigana, which makes sense to me as some of the content in this book is definitely not aimed at young children!)

The first few lines:

「真知子(まちこ)、ねえ、真知子(まちこ)。ここよ、ここよ!」
声(こえ)のする方(ほう)を見上(みあ)げた真知子(まちこ)は信(しん)じがたい光景(こうけい)に目(め)をうたがい、その場(ば)で立(た)ちすくんでしまった。鉄筋(てっきん)校舎(こうしゃ)の四階(かい)のベランダから、クラスメイトの山崎由子(やまざきゆうこ)が、校庭(こうてい)に立(た)っている真知子(まちこ)へ手(て)をふっている。しかし、なんと由子(ゆうこ)は四階(かい)のベランダの手(て)すりの上(うえ)に立(た)っているのだ。

After witnessing a classmate's suicide, Machiko transfers to a new high school. But her new classmates are soon involved in a series of deadly accidents. Can Machiko and her boyfriend figure out who's behind it all?

My feelings about this book are pretty mixed. In a way, I'm very happy to have read it, because, furigana aside, it's probably the most difficult book I've read in Japanese so far, and it's great to feel like my reading ability has leveled up. (Although unfortunately I have yet to escape this community's "very easy" tag, haha!) I can also say that this book did a good job of creating mystery and suspense, and there were a couple chapter cliffhangers that were really well done! Unfortunately, I don't have much else to say that's positive. The main character is both bland and difficult to relate to, the gender roles in this book are much stricter than I enjoy reading about, there's a teacher-student relationship that's treated as a non-issue (maybe this and the last point are just cultural differences?), and the overall plot strains credulity. Reading this book wasn't a terrible experience or anything like that, but I probably won't seek out more of the author's work. Apparently a 死者の学園祭 movie was released in 2000, though ... I admit I'm a little curious about that!

Two short story collections
reina tanaka
arisha
I'm back, with two more kids' books to share! :)

By the way, I recently joined 読書メーター and would love to have some friends on it! My profile is arisha.

***

宇宙人のしゅくだい
by 小松左京 (こまつ さきょう)
Amazon link
187 pages with furigana on all kanji and a picture for every story

The first few lines, from the story 算数(さんすう)のできない子孫(しそん)たち:

「ああ、うんざりしちゃったなア。」と良夫(よしお)くんがためいきをついてえんぴつをほうりだした。
「まったく、こんなに算数(さんすう)のしゅくだいがあっちゃ、たまらないな。」とケンちゃんもいった。
「いやだなあ、頭がいたくなってくる。」良夫(よしお)くんは、あおむけになってつぶやいた。

This is a collection of 25 short sci-fi stories, most of them involving aliens or time travelers or space travel. I expected to like this book, but - to be blunt - I did not. Almost all of the stories ended with a heavy moral message. This book is aimed at children so maybe that's all right for the target audience, but as an adult I found it irritating and would have preferred the messages to be much more subtle. I also found the stories to be quite repetitive, and, as each story is only about five pages long, the few that interested me were too short to actually go anywhere. On 読書メーター this book has generally good reviews, but they seem to mostly come from people who read it as children. I can definitely see feeling nostalgic for this book, but it's difficult for me to see anyone reading it for the first time as an adult and truly enjoying it. The only reason I could see myself recommending this book is because the level of the language in it is fairly easy; that plus the short length of the stories could make this a good choice for someone who's having difficulty finding Japanese books that they're able to read.

***

こわい!赤玉
edited by 令丈ヒロ子 (れいじょう ひろこ)
Amazon link
205 pages with furigana on all kanji and frequent pictures of varying sizes.

The first few lines, from the story お客さん by 水木ナオ:

兄(あに)のお客(きゃく)さんは嫌(きら)い。
家(いえ)にあがる前(まえ)から大声(おおごえ)を上(あ)げたりしてさわがしいし、私(わたし)を見(み)つけるとすぐに下品(げひん)なことを言(い)う。私(わたし)の反応(はんのう)をおもしろがる。
姉(あね)のお客(きゃく)さんはもっと嫌(きら)い。
「きっと、ご両親(りょうしん)のいいところを全部(ぜんぶ)もらったんだね。」と言(い)って、姉(あね)のことをべたぼめしてた。彼(かれ)は妹(いもうと)の私(わたし)には目(め)もくれなかった。

On the opposite end of the review spectrum: I LOVED this book. It's a collection of 15 scary stories (the majority of them involving ghosts) from 14 different authors. I love a good scary story and these were at both the right level of language and the right level of creepiness for me. I was afraid that it would be difficult for me to get through a short story collection, because it wouldn't have the same "What happens next???" pull that a novel does, but I was constantly so eager to find out what the next story was about that I think I read this book in three days. My favourite stories were:

お客さん by 水木ナオ, because it was super simple but super creepy,
ひろしくんのお母さん by 山崎香織, because it was just a really good story,
のろわれたクラス by 安藤孝則, because of the twist at the end, and
待ち受け by 緑川聖司, because of the mixture of modern technology with a scary story, and because of the fantastic way it ended.

If you like this kind of scary story then I definitely recommend this book. I'm looking forward to reading more scary stories in Japanese in the future. :D

Three children's novels~
reina tanaka
arisha
Hello everyone! Recently I finished a book, decided to review it, and then remembered two others I never got around to posting about ...

内科・オバケ科 ホオズキ医院: 学校のオバケたいじ大作戦
by 富安陽子 (とみやす ようこ)
Amazon link
126 pages with frequent furigana and large and frequent pictures

The first few lines:
じまんじゃないけど、ぼくは今までに二回、オバケの世界に迷いこんだことがある。
べつにすきで迷いこんだわけじゃないんだけど、どういうわけか、そのたびにぼくは鬼灯京十郎(ほおずききょうじゅうろう)先生という、あやしげなオバケ科のお医者さんの助手をつとめるはめになってしまった。

Both in English and in Japanese, I really like reading books where something magical or supernatural happens in the real world, so I was pretty happy when I found this book, which is part of a series in which a normal boy has to help a monster doctor deal with various monster-related problems. In this book, the monsters have entered are world and are hiding throughout his school, and he has to hunt them down without anyone finding out. Unfortunately, while I don't really have any specific complaints about the book, it wasn't as epic or as amusing or as entertaining as I'd hoped it would be, and in the end I felt kind of indifferent towards it. If someone gave me other books in the series I would definitely read them, and who knows, I might very well enjoy them. But I don't think I'll go to the effort of seeking them out myself.

***

ぼく、探偵じゃありません
by 後藤みわこ (ごとう みわこ)
Amazon link
227 pages with furigana on all kanji above the second grade level and frequent pictures of varying sizes.

(All apologies, it seems I didn't copy down the first few lines!)

This is a book of five stories in which a third-grade boy solves mysteries with the help (or hindrance) of his fifth-grade sister. The stories are sometimes very practical plots and sometimes they are supernatural mysteries; I really liked the mix. I didn't enjoy everything about the book - the mother of the main characters is not too bright, which kind of bugged me, and most of the characters are unrealistically nice - but overall it was cute and interesting and at an almost perfect reading level for me at the time that I read it. There are a couple other books in this series, and I could definitely see myself reading them if I found them for a good price.

***

占い魔女は消えた
by 池田美代子 (いけだ みよこ)
Amazon link
212 pages with frequent furigana (though less than either of the above books) and one or two pictures per chapter.

The first few lines:
天国まですけて見えそうな青空の下。
わたしと小谷(こたに)レイは、その屋敷までの道を歩いた。
熱気をふくんだじゃり石がカシカシ、と音をたてる。まだ五月なのに、きょうは真夏みたいに暑い。

The title of this book made me think that it would be entirely about trying to find the witch who has disappeared. Actually, she only "disappears" for one scene (i.e. she's not in her house) and then she almost immediately returns. So that's a little confusing, but anyway.

What this book is actually about is the three sixth-graders who visit the fortune-telling witch's home when she isn't there. They find an order form for items with very strange names. One of the children fills out the form and orders a pencil that grants wishes, not realizing that the price of the pencil is forty years of his life ...

I really enjoyed this book. Like I said, I really enjoy stories that mix fantasy with real life, and this book also included a twist on traditional Japanese youkai that was pretty interesting. I also liked the high stakes of the plot; it made it a bit more exciting than some of the other children's books I've been reading. I didn't love the climax of the book (and I was also frustrated that it seemed to be written at a higher reading level than any of the other chapters!), but overall this was still a great read. I finished it really quickly because I couldn't wait to know what happened next! :D I would definitely be interested in reading some of the author's other books.

13階段 by 高野和明
空&鷹
tsubasa_en11
Okay, where should I start talking about this awesome, marvellously riveting piece of work? For someone who loves to read any works involving criminal setting, this really hits me in the spot. 13階段 exposed me to the Japanese justice system, particularly over the capital punishment, leaving me strong impact that I had to ponder over what justice really means and if the system really does justice to the victims.

I'll put the synopsis of it here too, in case anyone is interested to pick up this book:

A criminal on death row who lost his memory on the moment of crime. In order to vindicate the criminal, Nangou, a prison officer, paired up with Mikami, a young man with previous conviction for murder, to investigate the case. However, the only clue the criminal could provide was nothing but "stairs" that he managed to call to mind. The limited time until the execution, could the two of them save this innocent man?

I love the way the author described the feelings and thoughts of both leads on the capital punishment and who should be considered as a vicious criminal beyond salvation. The last chapter exposing the truth of murder of Mikami also got me completely rivetted and I had to finish it in one shot. Granted, for readers with clear minds, the novel doesn't have much twists as it appears to have. Being distracted by my own thinking on justice system, though, I was surprised to find how the story unfolds. What I can tell is, after reading this, I'm so gonna be a fan of 高野和明 and if any of you guys have read his other works before, do recommend please!

As usual, I'll leave some sentences from the book that touched me as well as to show its difficulty (and to intrigue some :D).

『この国では、凶悪犯罪の被害者になった途端、社会全体が加害者にかわるんです。そして、どれだけ被害者をいじめても、誰も謝罪もしないし責任も取りません。結局、遺族としましては、全ての非を犯人に求めるしかないんです。』

『死刑囚が罪を悔い改めたからと言っても、それは死刑判決を受けたからこその結果ではないのか。つまり応報刑思想に支えられた死刑判決によって、目的刑思想の目標である悔悟の情を引き出したという皮肉な現象なのではないのか。』

『この女性は、家族を皆殺しにされながら、被告人への死刑を望んでいない。明日の処刑は、誰のために行われるのか。被害者の遺族の意志に反し、犯罪者に絶対応報を科すことは、さらに犯罪被害者を傷つける行為ではないのか。』

『肉体の傷だけに傷害罪が適用されて、壊されてしまった人の心は放っておかれるのです。法律は正しいのですか。本当に平等なのですか。地位のある人もない人も、頭のいい人も良くない人も、金のある人もない人も、悪い人間は犯した罪に見合うように、正しく裁かれているのですか。』


This book was published in 2001 and was the debut work of 高野和明. Back then I was just a beginner in Japanese language and I didn't even know of this book. I did however watch its movie adaptation in 2003 starring 反町隆史 though. Even before reading this book, the movie left an impressive impact on me and it's now still on my bookshelf as one of my favourite movies. As such, I was surprised to find this book in 2012 when I was at Kinokuniya. It's highly recommended from me if you like to read criminal works with serious food for thought. Granted, though, this book was published in 2001 and the justice system might have changed since then; however, I believe the core and argument in this book would not age ever. :)

陽だまりの彼女 Review!
MaYama
massufangirl

Hi everyone! This is my first post to the community, but I have wanted to review this book on here for a long time! I just finished it, so it's fresh on my mind, but I started it a while back and read it on and off for a while.

So I am a big Johnny's fan, and I wanted to watch the movie that was adapted from Hidamari no Kanojo, but I knew that if I made myself read the book before seeing the movie, I would finish the book faster. I am an ADD reader; I love finding new things to read but it is harder for me to commit to something unless I absolutely love it and make time for it. With books in Japanese, it's harder for me to finish books because I sometimes get frustrated if I can't read the kanji. Lately, I've been having less of that frustration, though, so I bought a ton of novels in Japanese to make myself read more.

Hidamari no Kanojo is a really good read. It starts out with a bang, unlike most other Japanese novels I've read, which are really slow and just about normal life. In this book, there is a hidden element of mystery and surprise and magic.



The level isn't hard, as most of the time it's done in conversation or it deals with everyday life. Koshigaya Osamu is a really direct writer and he doesn't like to beat around with tons of metaphors or crazy ways of explaining things. I think that's a big reason I like his style. There are some medical terms and some vocab concerning their jobs, but most of that is at the beginning and doesn't come back.

It took me a while to read this book because I would pick it up for a few minutes and go back to what I was doing, but overall it was a fast read if I just count the time that I actually spent with the book in my hands.

Since there is a movie adaptation, it's easy to check your comprehension. I have yet to see the movie, but I know it will be good because Matsumoto Jun is the main character. And I read the book to be able to see the movie.

Definitely check it out if you are sick of 'normal' type reads... I know I don't really like Murakami or Banana Yoshimoto as much in terms of storyline because I find them quite boring. This book has a great twist and will leave you thinking about it long after you put it down!


end of year survey answers
dragon
pm215

1) What is the ratio of books you started in Japanese this year vs. books you completed? How many of each?

I only finished 8 books in Japanese last year, a bit down from last year. I currently have bookmarks in 7 books, but most of those I'm either counting as "midway through" or "didn't quite seriously start yet". There's only one that I thought was so completely awful I couldn't bear to read any more (迷い猫オーバーラン!, an appallingly cliched light novel).

2) Favorite Japanese book completed or started this year? Least favorite, if you have one?

Nothing this year stood out as spectacularly better than the rest. 翻訳夜話 (a non-fiction book transcribing some conversational lectures between Murakami Haruki and another translator on the subject of translation) was interesting and a change from the predominantly fiction I tend to read.

3) Books in Japanese you plan to read this year?

I managed to get to Japan and filled up my suitcase on the return trip with books, so my to-read pile is still pretty full:

I don't expect I'll manage to read all of those, but it would be nice to manage at least one book a month this year. This would be easy if I just consistently read at least something every day. A few years ago I used to read while eating lunch at work; maybe I should get back into that habit, it would be better for me than sitting at the computer browsing the web, which is what I do now...

4) Any New Year's Resolutions pertaining to reading (in any language) or language study (any language)?

My resolutions for this year are all not-language-related; I thought about adding a Japanese-related resolution to the mix but figured I was better off not trying to spread my willpower too thinly.

5) How will you encourage yourself to stay on track with these goals? (I need motivation here, so give me your tips!)

For my non-Japanese goals I'm trying the approach of having a regular once-a-week slot where I allocate time to thinking about whether I'm on track and what I can do over the next week or two to try to make sure I'm continuing to make progress.

6) Do you use spoken Japanese in your daily life? If so, how?

Nope; about all I do these days is read books and watch anime... I was able to get by pretty well in Japan on last year's holiday in "functional" conversations (things like 'check into hotel', 'buy train tickets', etc where you can think a bit in advance about what you want to say and be fairly sure what kind of things the other person will be saying), which I was pleased about, but my general conversational Japanese has atrophied terribly (and it was never great to start with).

7) How long have you been able to read Japanese enough to understand at least the gist of what you read? How has your reading speed improved the more you've done it? Any other benefits you've seen from reading in a second language?

I was reading manga back in 2004; the first bit of full-length fiction I read (a Banana Yoshimoto novel) was somewhere in mid-2006. The nine months I spent in Japan learning the language full time over 2004/2005 were what pulled me up from "beginner" to "advanced intermediate" and made me more comfortable with reading. I could probably have started on the books earlier than I did, but I don't think I felt confident that I'd be able to work through a full-length book fast enough not to get stuck halfway. I'm definitely faster at reading now, as well as more confident; my vocabulary is bigger too so some things that would have been way too hard to read five years ago are now straightforward. I also have to rely on the dictionary a lot less and could happily read a light novel without it at all.

8) What advice would you give someone trying to learn to read Japanese?

I wrote a fairly long essay on this about five years ago now; I still agree with pretty much everything I wrote back then...


End of the Year Survey!
watcher woman
bblue23
Sorry for my late post. I started a new job in December and have been working really long hours, often starting before 8 am and coming home after 10 pm at night. Last night I worked till 1 am...I do take lunch and dinner breaks, and yesterday there was a long staff meeting midday that made my workday longer, but Monday-Friday I really have my hands full these days. Hopefully I can get my productivity up soon so I won't have to stay so late to get everything done. I do love my new job, but it is a little crazy right now and seems to have taken up my whole life.

/off topic

Anyway, I wanted to give you all a chance to reflect on your year of reading Japanese books, per our yearly tradition. I didn't have a lot of time to read this year, but I did finish Shin Sekai Yori in Japanese in 2013 and it became my new favorite book and definitely the best book I read in either Japanese or English in 2013. So the small amount of reading I did in Japanese this year was very worthwhile.

You can post your answers in the comments, or if you like, make a new post. I hope to have all members respond, even if you have not posted any reviews this year and this is your first time posting. New members, don't be shy! Let's make 2014 a great year for reading! Let's start with planning and goal setting, sharing our motivation with each other!

Questions:

1) What is the ratio of books you started in Japanese this year vs. books you completed? How many of each?

2) Favorite Japanese book completed or started this year? Least favorite, if you have one?

3) Books in Japanese you plan to read this year?

4) Any New Year's Resolutions pertaining to reading (in any language) or language study (any language)?

5) How will you encourage yourself to stay on track with these goals? (I need motivation here, so give me your tips!)

6) Do you use spoken Japanese in your daily life? If so, how?

7) How long have you been able to read Japanese enough to understand at least the gist of what you read? How has your reading speed improved the more you've done it? Any other benefits you've seen from reading in a second language?

8) What advice would you give someone trying to learn to read Japanese?

Dokusho No Aki Contest Announcement
watcher woman
bblue23
According to my count, from the start of the contest until the end,

pm215 - 1 entry
red_kei - 1 entry
amaelamin - 1 entry

Thank you for participating, pm215, red_kei, and amaelamin! I have sent you a livejournal message. Please let me know if you don't get it.

Since there was a three way tie, I am awarding each of you 3 bookmooch points (if you want to claim them, let me know your bookmooch account name) and a trophy image to use for your profile pic when posting in this community this year.

Congratulations to the winners!
Tags:

bad covers
dragon
pm215

I haven't read it yet, but this is definitely the winner of "worst cover of any book I bought in 2013":

I suppose it's not insanely awful, it just seems oddly amateurish art for something put out by a major publisher, even given that it was the 80s and the book's targeting the young-adult market.

It has inner illustrations tooCollapse )

Has anybody picked up anything worse recently?


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