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January 2021 Wrap-Up

Well! We now have a full month of 2021 behind us. 2020 was a productive reading year for me, but it seems like I’m off to a bumpy start for this year–I’ve only read three books. For January, I continued my trek through Japanese fiction (yes I know there’s a January in Japan readathon, but for me this is all year). I took my journey back to some pre-and-post-WWII classics from Mishima Yukio and Dazai Osamu, and then did a complete 180 and read a thriller by Keigo Higashino.

Star by Yukio Mishima

In Star, readers watch a very self-absorbed film actor grow increasingly more self-absorbed and unhinged over the course of it’s few pages. I’ve read Mishima before, and this novella felt different than his ever-romantic The Sound of Waves or Spring Snow. If you like dives into the human psyche though, this is for you.

Mishima wrote this novella shortly after having acted in the film “Afraid to Die,” and it is hailed as “a rich and unflinching psychological portrait of a celebrity coming apart at the seams– begging the question: is there any escape from how we are seen by others?” (via Goodreads)

Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai

Dazai’s Schoolgirl. published 1939, exists contemporaneously with the start of WWII, and is exactly what you think it would be–a dive into the daily routine and thoughts of a young Japanese schoolgirl. This book was praised, and still is, for its inventive language in Japanese. It is also praised for its deep foray into its exploration of a nation and society on the cusp of a disappearing era. (Goodreads)

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

I don’t normally read crime thrillers, but I read Higashino’s Miracles of the Namiya General Store (not a crime thriller), and I ended up LOVING his writing. So, I decided to give “Suspect X” a try. It hooked me, and I plan on reading his other crime fiction.

There was so much to unpack, and it was very unique and fresh to what little crime fiction I’ve read before. You see the crime from the first couple chapters, and then watch a cat-and-mouse game of wits and intelligence to see if the detective–the upstanding figure of Japanese society–can catch the murderer. It was so tense and exciting.

Here’s the Goodreads summary, since I couldn’t adequately summarize it myself:

“Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step.

When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko’s manufactured alibi and yet is still sure that there’s something wrong. Kusanagi brings in Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and college friend who frequently consults with the police. Yukawa, known to the police by the nickname Professor Galileo, went to college with Ishigami. After meeting up with him again, Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami had something to do with the murder. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet. (via Goodreads)

Overall, I’d say January was an okay reading month for me, but I feel like I can do more. I have a list for February that I will post soon, as I plan to continue reading my way across Japan.

What is on your TBR for this month? Let me know if the comments!


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November and December 2020 Wrap-Up

2020 was not my year. I don’t think it was anyone’s year, really. Especially so, blogging just has not been on the top of my priority list. If anything, the thought of it fueled some anxiety when all I wanted to do was read. Also, I took a look back over my planned reads for October, and I am a bit sad that I didn’t fulfill those goals. I had some exciting books selected, but October turned into a rather slumpy month for me reading-wise. What I did manage to read was driven by my mood. And really, the whole month was slumpy for just about everything. I blame the whole Covid thing–2020 just did not spark joy or feelings of motivation.

So, I’m just going to wrap this year up by taking a look at what I managed to read for November and December, and to round out this year. I’ll just start fresh in 2021.

The books I managed to read at the tail-end of 2020 are:

  1. Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami
  2. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
  3. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
  4. People from My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami
  5. Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
  6. Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda
  7. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
  8. Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
  9. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

All but one volume are contemporary Japanese fiction selections. About half-way through 2020, I rediscovered my love for an area of world literature that I have studied for years, but that I fell away from for no apparent reason. I think what helped pull me back was that most of the books offer some glimmer of hope for the self, society, or the world in general. Most selections present characters that endure hardship, failure, uncertainty, etc., and they come through it stronger and in a better place. Some even get second chances to build bridges to the people they love, or to make amends for past wrong-doings or missed opportunities. I think most of us can agree that 2020 really attacked our feelings of hope and tested our strength and will at many turns.

Moreover, many of the selections offered a chance to escape as well. Hiromi Kawakami’s People from my Neighborhood, Aoko Matsuda’s Where the Wild Ladies Are, or Sayaka Murata’s Earthlings, offered strange characters doing strange things in strange worlds that mirror or own. Such selections offered a change to peep into people’s secrets, watch a character try to return to a home planet she believes she’s from, or watch myths unfold again in a new way.

Each title from the list above is worth your time and is worth a space on your shelf (and heart). They are the books that got me through the tale end of 2020 and that are taking me into 2021. I’ve linked the titles to their Goodreads pages to check out. I won’t write out summaries. If they sound familiar, or sound interesting, please visit their little corners on Goodreads. You won’t regret it, and I recommend them all.

Now, here’s to hoping I can do better in the blogging realm in 2021. No promises, but thank you all that have stuck with me during my random hiatuses and disappearances. Sometimes life and mental health don’t allow us to do the things we want or need, but all we can do is try. 

I hope 2021 sees you all safe, happy, and that it brings you a life of joy, peace, and prosperity. 

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Yu Miri: Tokyo Ueno Station

Title: Tokyo Ueno Station
Author: Yu Miri
Genre: Literary Fiction, 21st Century Japanese Literature
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover; $25.00; 978-0-59308-802-9
Pages: 192
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤

Summary: Kazu is dead. Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Japanese Emperor, his life is tied by a series of coincidences to the Imperial family and has been shaped at every turn by modern Japanese history. But his life story is also marked by bad luck, and now, in death, he is unable to rest, doomed to haunt the park near Ueno Station in Tokyo. Kazu’s life in the city began and ended in that park; he arrived there to work as a laborer in the preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and ended his days living in the vast homeless village in the park, traumatized by the destruction of the 2011 tsunami and shattered by the announcement of the 2020 Olympics. Through Kazu’s eyes, we see daily life in Tokyo buzz around him and learn the intimate details of his personal story, how loss and society’s inequalities and constrictions spiraled towards this ghostly fate, with moments of beauty and grace just out of reach.

“Now, noises, colors, and smells are all mixed up, gradually fading away, shrinking; I feel if I put out my finger to touch it, everything will disappear, but I have no fingers to touch with. I can no longer touch, not even one hand to the other in prayer” (40).

Continue reading “Yu Miri: Tokyo Ueno Station”

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Current Reads for October 2020

I’m back and looking forward to another successful reading month as we approach the end of 2020, and thank Christ because this year has been horrendous. For September, I decided to switch gears in my reading choices, something that was slowly developing in the months prior, and those choices focused on contemporary Japanese fiction. I’ve finished a few wonderful titles: Territory of Light, Miracles of the Namiya General Store, and Tokyo Ueno Station.

October will be more of the same, but with a couple new releases that I am perhaps excessively excited about:

Earthlings by Sayata Murata

Murata made a splash with her short novel Convenience Store Woman, and Earthlings is her sophomore English release. This work seems darker, with more mature and serious themes than her first English work.

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.

Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. (Goodreads)

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

I’ve read Mieko Kawakami before and she never fails to disappoint with poignant and insightful works. Plus, Breasts and Eggs is one work that I was eager to get for it’s feminist examination of social issues important to Japan, particularly in light of how conservative the country tends to be on issues. It wasn’t originally as long as it is in English, having been expanded with a later look at the women this novel focuses on.

An earlier novella published in Japan with the same title focused on the female body, telling the story of three women: the thirty-year-old unmarried narrator, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter Midoriko. Unable to come to terms with her changed body after giving birth, Makiko becomes obsessed with the prospect of getting breast enhancement surgery. Meanwhile, her twelve-year-old daughter Midoriko is paralyzed by the fear of her oncoming puberty and finds herself unable to voice the vague, yet overwhelming anxieties associated with growing up. The narrator, who remains unnamed for most of the story, struggles with her own indeterminable identity of being neither a “daughter” nor a “mother.”

In this greatly expanded version, a second chapter in the story of the same women opens on another hot summer’s day ten years later. The narrator, single and childless, having reconciled herself with the idea of never marrying, nonetheless feels increasing anxiety about growing old alone and about never being a mother. In episodes that are as comical as they are revealing of deep yearning, she seeks direction from other women in her life—her mother, her grandmother, friends, as well as her sister—and only after dramatic and frequent changes of heart, decides in favor of artificial insemination. But this decision in a deeply conservative country in which women’s reproductive rights are under constant threat is not one that can be acted upon without great drama. (Goodreads)

Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui

I’ve had Tsutsui’s novel on my shelf for awhile, and I’m hoping before the end of 2020 that I can knock it off my TBR. I received it as a gift, and I cannot wait to see how far down the rabbit hole of weirdness it takes me.

When prototype models of a dream-invading device go missing at the Institute for Psychiatric Research, it transpires that someone is using them to drive people insane. Threatened both personally and professionally, brilliant psychotherapist Atsuko Chiba has to journey into the world of fantasy to fight her mysterious opponents. As she delves ever deeper into the imagination, the borderline between dream and reality becomes increasingly blurred, and nightmares begin to leak into the everyday realm. The scene is set for a final showdown between the dream detective and her enemies, with the subconscious as their battleground, and the future of the waking world at stake. (Goodreads)

Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda

A busybody aunt who disapproves of hair removal; a pair of door-to-door saleswomen hawking portable lanterns; a cheerful lover who visits every night to take a luxurious bath; a silent house-caller who babysits and cleans while a single mother is out working. Where the Wild Ladies Are is populated by these and many other spirited women—who also happen to be ghosts. This is a realm in which jealousy, stubbornness, and other excessive “feminine” passions are not to be feared or suppressed, but rather cultivated; and, chances are, a man named Mr. Tei will notice your talents and recruit you, dead or alive (preferably dead), to join his mysterious company. (Goodreads)

This was a pure Instagram addition after seeing it on another Japanese Lit feed. The title makes me giggle, and I love it.

One non-Japanese book I’ve started is Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, the second installment in the All-Souls Trilogy. I was in the mood the other night for something witchy and this fit perfectly with my mood. I loved the first, Discovery of Witches, so hopefully this won’t disappoint. If you like vampires, witches, elements of dark academia, with plenty of history, wine tasting, and paranormal romance done in an adult and smart way–then this is for you. 

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey. (Goodreads)

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Keigo Higashino: The Miracles of the Namiya General Store

Title: The Miracles of the Namiya General Store
Author: Keigo Higashino
Genre: Literary Fiction, 21st Century Japanese Fiction
Release Date: September 24, 2019 (originally published March 28, 2012 in Japan)
Publisher: Yen On
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover; 9781975382575; $20.00
Pages: 320
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: After committing a robbery, three delinquents find themselves holed up in an old, abandoned store when a mysterious letter drops through the letterbox. The letter seeks advice, and while seemingly innocent, it ends up sending the three boys on a journey of self-reflection and discovery as they take the role of the famous, kindhearted old shop owner who devoted the final years of his life to helping and improving the lives of others. Looking through time, the boys share and gain insight from those seeking guidance, and in the morning, the boys’ lives and those they helped, will never be the same.

Originally published as ナミヤ雑貨店の奇蹟 [Namiya Zakka-ten no Kiseki] in 2012 in Japan, Keigo Higashino’s Miracles of the Namiya General Store was an immediate bestseller, and deservedly so. This was such a full, emotional, and touching read, that I think I too learned some life lessons alongside the characters. This book was a complete, spur-of-the-moment buy while I was getting other things in my local Kinokuniya, and I am so glad I bought it.

Higashino’s writing isn’t what I expected from a writer whose main repertoire is the crime thriller/mystery. This novel was full of magical realism and an acute examination of social responsibility and the consequences our choices have on others. Aside from the opening characters (our delinquents), we meet a struggling/aspiring musician, a woman struggling with whether or not to have her baby, a girl struggling with survivor’s guilt after an attempted suicide, a hostess at a men’s bar trying to create a secure life for herself, and others who we learn over time are loosely connected to each other (I can’t say how because it’s a spoiler). As we learn the connections between characters, the story makes clear the reverberating consequences and effects our choices and actions have on others, even if we personally do not know the individual.

This is a major theme of the novel, and a common thread in a lot of Japanese literature, the idea of social responsibility and interconnected nature of society. There’s a certain spirituality to the notion of living with care that permeates this novel. It makes the reader consider the idea of living with intent to make the lives of others better, which in turn makes our own lives fulfilling. Mr. Namiya is the embodiment of this value. The novel calls us to be better stewards of life and society.

Even in translation, Higashino’s writing is fluid, evocative, and emotional. Like a lot of Japanese literature it focuses less on personal description of character and more on feeling, personality, and the things not said–“reading the air” for context into a situation. I really love these moments in this novel. Higashino still manages, even in a more magical realist novel, to surprise the reader with little reveals here and there about the histories of characters and how they connect, which makes me want to read his thriller and crime fiction. I can’t imagine how twisty those works become. He also has a skill for making relatable characters that readers can grow close to and be interested in. Each character is a unique individual yet recognizable. The setting of the story is also quaint and homey-feeling. I felt as happy to return to the Namiya Store as the characters throughout my reading.

I doubt I am adequately discussing this novel, but if you want a heartfelt, touching, and affecting story for your cozy Autumn evenings, then this is the perfect read. It is one of my favorites and most surprising picks of this year. Please try it.

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Salman Rushdie: The Golden House

Title: The Golden House
Author: Salman Rushdie
Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Random House
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover; 9780399592805; $28.99
Pages: 380
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: “On the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, an enigmatic billionaire from foreign shores takes up residence in the architectural jewel of “the Gardens,” a cloistered community in New York’s Greenwich Village. The neighborhood is a bubble within a bubble, and the residents are immediately intrigued by the eccentric newcomer and his family. Along with his improbable name, untraceable accent, and unmistakable whiff of danger, Nero Golden has brought along his three adult sons: agoraphobic, alcoholic Petya, a brilliant recluse with a tortured mind; Apu, the flamboyant artist, sexually and spiritually omnivorous, famous on twenty blocks; and D, at twenty-two the baby of the family, harboring an explosive secret even from himself. There is no mother, no wife; at least not until Vasilisa, a sleek Russian expat, snags the septuagenarian Nero, becoming the queen to his king—a queen in want of an heir.

Our guide to the Goldens’ world is their neighbor René, an ambitious young filmmaker. Researching a movie about the Goldens, he ingratiates himself into their household. Seduced by their mystique, he is inevitably implicated in their quarrels, their infidelities, and, indeed, their crimes. Meanwhile, like a bad joke, a certain comic-book villain embarks upon a crass presidential run that turns New York upside-down.” (see Goodreads)

A very timely, relevant, and important work for today’s American political climate, Rushdie explores the moment in time for American culture and politics that many considered the “Golden Age” of contemporary America: the Obama administration, which recalls a Camalot-esque atmosphere. Then we move into the twists in society and thought that led to the Trump election through his characters, particularly Mr. Golden. His writing is, as always, lyrical, witty, and artful. Rushdie really understands the nuances of social commentary and how to balance satire for a very pointed criticism of issues. Rushdie asks the important questions to “what is American culture” and asks us to critically think about who and what we are, what we stand for. The plot work and pacing is superb and unparalleled, and I find this story reminiscent of his earlier works Midnight’s Children and Fury. This book left me chilled much as Fury did with how eerily prophetic and timely it was. Particularly, if you liked Fury, you will like the Golden House.

I have read so much of Rushdie’s work, and I never cease to be impressed. However, if you have not read any Rushdie, this isn’t a bad place to start if you want an introduction to his work. I highly recommend this.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, which does not influence my opinions. My opinions are my own.

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My Current Reads for September 2020

The last half of August and now the first part of September has been really good for me when it comes to reading. I have actually started and finished quite a bit. For August, I finished Kiersten White’s Conqueror’s Saga, which includes And I Darken, Now I Rise, and Bright We Burn. It was a highly immersive gender-swapped look at the figure of Vlad Dracul. I also finished my ARC of Adrienne Young’s Fable (which is technically a September read since I finished it the other day, but I started it before the beginning of the month). I finished Hiromi Kawakami’s Record of a Night to Brief, and wow what a bizarre, twisty journey that was; it was so good. However, what am I reading now? How have I started my September? With my recent trip to Kinokuniya, I picked up the following titles that I am really excited about:

The Miracles of the Namiya General Store by Keigo Higashino

“When three delinquents hole up in an abandoned general store after their most recent robbery, to their great surprise, a letter drops through the mail slot in the store’s shutter. This seemingly simple request for advice sets the trio on a journey of discovery as, over the course of a single night, they step into the role of the kindhearted former shopkeeper who devoted his waning years to offering thoughtful counsel to his correspondents. Through the lens of time, they share insight with those seeking guidance, and by morning, none of their lives will ever be the same.” (via Goodreads)

I have never read anything previously by Keigo Higashino, and I picked this title up on a whim–it was a total cover buy. Surprisingly, it’s turning into one of my favorite reads. Higashino is one of Japan’s biggest and best-selling writers. His area of specialty is the mystery/crime thriller, and he’s often compared to Dean Koontz or James Patterson (do not discount him). However, this title is different from is usual repertoire; it is a quaint, semi-fantasy, magical-realism exploration of struggle, loss, family, and the importance of making the most of the time you have in this life. It’s also interesting how each section takes place at a different moment in world history and how Japan was situated within these events: Japan’s boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, the first time The Beatles played in Japan and how their music shaped Japanese Rock music, then the affect the death of Beatles member John Lennon had on the world. I love the writing, it’s full of emotion, and the characters are quirky and interesting. I’m about 50% of the way through, and I can already say with confidence that I highly recommend picking this up. It was a good introduction to Higashino’s writing, and I think I’m going to pick up more.

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

“Kazu is dead. Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Japanese Emperor, his life is tied by a series of coincidences to the Imperial family and has been shaped at every turn by modern Japanese history. But his life story is also marked by bad luck, and now, in death, he is unable to rest, doomed to haunt the park near Ueno Station in Tokyo.Kazu’s life in the city began and ended in that park; he arrived there to work as a laborer in the preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and ended his days living in the vast homeless village in the park, traumatized by the destruction of the 2011 tsunami and shattered by the announcement of the 2020 Olympics. Through Kazu’s eyes, we see daily life in Tokyo buzz around him and learn the intimate details of his personal story, how loss and society’s inequalities and constrictions spiraled towards this ghostly fate, with moments of beauty and grace just out of reach. A powerful masterwork from one of Japan’s most brilliant outsider writers, Tokyo Ueno Station is a book for our times and a look into a marginalized existence in a shiny global megapolis.” (via Goodreads)

I have not started Miri’s little novel yet, but I am extremely excited to get started in the next few days. I love stories that examine issues of class, generational divides, modernity, and the death of the “old ways,” and Miri’s book is right up my alley. What’s more, is this sounded like the perfect fall read when I picked it up with the promise of ghosts. In my reading of Japanese fiction, Miri’s is a unique voice as she is a Korean-Japanese writer, born in Japan to Korean immigrant parents. I am REALLY excited to read her work; this is my first.

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima

A young woman, left by her husband, begins a new life in a Tokyo apartment with her two-year-old daughter. Over the course of a year, as she struggles to bring up her daughter alone, she tells of her new home as it is filled with light streaming through the windows, so bright she has to squint as her life continues to spiral out of control. Through this, she finds herself sinking deeper into darkness, becoming unstable, unhinged. As the months come and go, she is forced to face what she has lost and what she is becoming. (see Goodreads)

I JUST finished this affecting little book by Tsushima–who incidentally, I was last week old when I learned that she is Osamu Dazai’s (the prolific post-war author) daughter. I blew through this book in a matter of a couple days, and I am still thinking about it. I love books that explore social expectation and the harmful consequences enforcing traditional gender roles can have. This book was a surprise pick-up for me, and it is now one of my favorite reads this year.

If you want to know the extent of its thematic exploration, or my thoughts on it, you can read my in-depth review here.

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Cleaning Up Around Here

Well, hello everyone! I hope everyone is staying healthy and sane during these unprecedented times. And before I get to the topic of this post, if I leave you with anything today, it is this: be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. You are going through a stressful and traumatic time, and it is okay to not have your shit together. Point blank.

That brings me to the topic of this post. After posting my two recent reviews, I realized that they were the first I had made since MARCH this year. I had initially started this entire Covid lockdown with a more perky attitude toward reading and blogging. I’m sure like many, I started out thinking, “Oh! I will have all this time to read and write while I work from home!” Well, things did not quite happen like I thought. I read, sure. I wrote. However, the mental work it took to think of daily blog posts, or to read on a set schedule for reviews ended up being more than I could handle. So, I took an unplanned hiatus. Self-care–doing things as I felt that I could do them–was how I lived day to day. I am still living my life on a “one day at a time” schedule.

However, the past few days I have actually started feeling motivated enough to return to this website and try and resurrect it from the ashes of the past six months. We will see how it goes, but for now, I will try my best.

To jump back in, I feel like this place needs a serious face lift, content-wise and aesthetically. So, you have probably noticed the new-not-so-new theme. I took an old favorite WordPress theme and updated it with a cute, current header (free for personal use, credit to angiemakes.com). Having a nice, aesthetically pleasing webpage to look at will hopefully keep me motivated in wanting to see a pretty, professional page. Further, I think I am going to establish some content changes. Over the last six months, my reading moods and tastes have changed. Currently, I find myself trending away from the Young Adult fiction I have read and written about for the last several years. Instead, I have leaned more towards reading more cultural fiction–particularly Japanese and East Asian fiction. With this in mind, I think I am going to try transitioning this website to a more literary minded, adult resource. I still have some YA ARCs I need to review, and I will not give up  YA. I simply feel like I want to lessen the amount of YA I read as a whole. Again, we will see how this goes.

For now, thank you to those of you who have stuck around during this silence. Thank you to those of you who just found this dusty old place. Let’s keep working through these uncertain times together. I know we will come out the other side, that this too shall pass.

Thank you and happy reading!

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Yuko Tsushima: Territory of Light

Title: Territory of Light
Author: Yuko Tsushima
Genre: 20th Century Japanese Literature
Release Date: February 12, 2019 (originally published in Japan 1978)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover; 9780374273217; $24.00
Pages: 192
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: A young woman, left by her husband, begins a new life in a Tokyo apartment with her two-year-old daughter. Over the course of a year, as she struggles to bring up her daughter alone, she tells of her new home as it is filled with light streaming through the windows, so bright she has to squint as her life continues to spiral out of control. Through this, she finds herself sinking deeper into darkness, becoming unstable, unhinged. As the months come and go, she is forced to face what she has lost and what she is becoming.

This novel is deceptively small, as there’s a lot to unpack, thematically, in its few pages, but in spite of its brevity, it’s wonderfully deep.

Continue reading “Yuko Tsushima: Territory of Light”


Adrienne Young: Fable (Fable #1)

Title: Fable (Fable #1)
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover; $18.99; 9781250254368
Pages: 368
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Fable is the only daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, and the sea is the only home she’s ever known. After watching her mother drown and their family’s ship sink after a brutal storm, her father leaves her on the cutthroat island of Jeval the next day with a promise–survive, make it off the island, and he will give her what he owes her. Fable ekes out a meager life on Jeval, trading and saving for her passage off the island while trying to stay alive. To get back to her father, she succeeds in hiring the help of a mysterious trader named West and his crew. However, West has enemies, and the trading industry has only become more cutthroat and deadly, and she soon learns that even West isn’t who he seems. Together, Fable, West, and his crew will have to learn to trust each other and survive if they’re to survive the seas.

I absolutely adore Fable, and I think this is one of Adrienne Young’s best novels so far. I also feel like this is a huge thing for me to say, because I usually do not gravitate toward books that are set on the high seas, deal with pirates, or such. THIS TOTALLY CHANGED MY MIND. The setting in Fable is limited compared with other fantasy novels–you see a few islands and most of the book takes place on the ocean, but Young makes a singular setting feel unique with every scene, full of its own changes. Added to this is a world full of rich cultures and people that are full of depth, richness, and are deeply developed.

Young is particularly skilled at character development and creating a dynamic cast of characters in each of her novels. This has never been more true than in Fable. Fable is a completely sympathetic and likable character with believable and relatable faults, and it’s a pleasure to read her story and go through her journey as she fights for what she wants. She is fully rounded and never stagnates through the story. The same goes for West and his crew aboard their ship, the Marigold. Each character comes with a backstory, their own fully realized personality–no one feels like just a “side” character. Everyone adds an extra layer of depth to the story, and readers will find themselves at home and in love with characters that feel like real people.

The action and plotting of Fable is high-octane and full of tension. From the very beginning, Fable is caught in the middle of back-stabbing intrigue as we watch her fight for survival among thieving dredgers and pirates. This dynamic shifts and surges once she finds her way onto the Marigold and into her place in West’s crew, which comes with its own problems. The plot points in these moments never waver, and readers will find themselves flipping pages faster and faster, wanting to know what happens next. Before they know it, they’ll come to the last page, which is where I find myself. I now have a gaping hole in my life because of THAT CLIFFHANGER at the end. I was left gasping for breath at the end, and I CANNOT WAIT for the followup: Namesake.

And yes, for those readers who love a bit of romance, Fable is full of the BEST slow-burn romance I’ve read in awhile. JESUS, I need more.

If you like pirates, high-seas adventure, fantasy, and action-adventure plots that sweep you along with a hurricane tide, Fable is the book you’ve been waiting for.

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Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review, and this did not influence my opinions. My opinions are my own.