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Two Japanese classics

Two Japanese classics

Two Japanese classicsThe Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi
Published by Kodansha on 1980 (first published 1957)
Genres: Japanese literature, Classic
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780870114243
Goodreads
four-stars

The beautiful, immature girl whom she took home to her husband was a maid only in name. Tomo's real mission had been to find him a mistress. Nor did her secret humiliation end there. The web that his insatiable lust spun about him soon trapped another young woman, and another ... and the relationships between the women thus caught were to form, over the years, a subtle, shifting pattern in which they all played a part.

So recently I read these two Japanese classics one after another, which frankly was a great decision! Both Fumiko Enchi (1905-1986) and Kanoko Okamoto (1889-1939) – the former more famous than the latter – were feminists and modern women in their time. Reading these two authors back to back was an interesting experience.

First, there was The Waiting Years. Last year I read Masks by Fumiko Enchi and wrote about her for January in Japan. My ultrashort review of Masks can be found here. Unfortunately that didn’t leave a very deep impression on me, so I didn’t expect to read anything else by Enchi. But The Waiting Years was the book club pick for the the Japanese Literature group on Goodreads so I decided to join in, and I’m so glad I did!

The Waiting Years was a very interesting and rather beautiful read. It describes life in the upper-class Shirakawa family in the late Meiji era. More specifically, it describes the lives and feelings of the women in the Shirakawa household. The women are central in this book. And while the Shirakawa household and everything about it is very traditional, and the women are forced into a position of submission, I think the way Enchi writes about them is surprisingly refreshing. The women have to endure a lot but the tone is never overly negative. The women are well rounded characters, developing throughout the novel, and they all deal with their situation in their own way.

Every aspect of this book focuses on the traditional, but Enchi gives it a (in my opinion) modern and feminist twist by not being afraid to point out unfairness through the voice of the characters. On the whole, the book was very nuanced. I don’t think it could have been written by anyone but a woman (at least, at the time it was written).

I also recommend checking out our book club discussion about the book here!

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Two Japanese classicsA Riot of Goldfish by Kanoko Okamoto
Published by Hesperus Press on 2010
Genres: Japanese literature, Classic
Pages: 113
ISBN: 9781843918523
Goodreads
three-half-stars

In early 20th-century Japan, the son of lower-class goldfish sellers falls in love with the beautiful daughter of his rich patron. After he is sent away to study the science of goldfish breeding, with strict orders to return and make his patron's fortune, he vows to devote his life to producing one ideal, perfect goldfish specimen to reflect his loved-one's beauty. This poignant and deft tale is presented along with the story of a pauper from Kyoto who teaches himself to be an accomplished chef.


Okamoto’s work is entirely different from Enchi’s. A Riot of Goldfish contains two novella’s where men are the main characters. Both A Riot of Goldfish and it’s companion The Food Demon are ‘small’ stories, they don’t have a real plot and they focus on just one specific theme.

In the first story, the adopted son of a goldfish breeder is completely enamoured by his classmate, the daughter of his rich patron. But she is out of his league, so instead he aims to create the perfect new breed of goldfish. And that despite the fact that he is really not all that interested in goldfish breeding.

In the second story we learn about Besshiro, his relationship with cooking food, and how he got to this point in his life.

Personally, I am a huge fan of these types of stories (is there a name for them?), that I only ever seem to encounter in Japanese literature. In this case, the first story was a bit too feverish for me, but I really enjoyed the second one. All in all, this thin book is a quick read and there’s no reason not to give it a try 😉

Women's Classic Literature Event

Reading Challenges & Resolutions for 2016

Reading Challenges & Resolutions for 2016

Hello 2016! I can’t quite get used to the idea that a new year has begun. Usually I feel the new year brings a fresh new start, but this year (understandably) my mind is just not ready yet.

Anyway, I finally got around to looking at reading challenges for 2016. And inspired by my fellow bloggers I also decided to write down a few resolutions!

Resolutions

  • Get my TBR down to 250 books.
    Ah, that eternal blasted TBR! In 2015, I purged many of my books during KonMari. I have since bought more books than I care to admit (but I swear they all spark joy!). My TBR is now at 287. In order to get it down to 250 I have to read plenty of books from my shelves, and not buy too many new ones… We’ll see what happens.
  • Bring my blog back to life.
    My poor neglected blog. During the last few months I posted no more than a monthly wrap-up, it seems. I want to write more reviews and other book-related posts.
  • Be a social blogger once more.
    I really miss hanging out with fellow bloggers. I have a ton of marked blog posts in Feedly that I still want to comment on, and I want to be active in challenges again. For those who don’t follow me on Twitter yet, I’m @brilliantreads. And if you’ve stumbled upon my blog, do leave a comment and I’ll come check out your blog! <3

I also have a few minor unofficial reading challenges I’m setting for myself:

  • Read 3 graphic novels.
  • Read at least 15 science fiction novels.
  • Read more women than men.
  • Read at least 3 books in Japanese.
  • Read at least 1 book in German.

Challenges

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Carola has
read 0 books toward her goal of 52 books.
hide


Of course there’s the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Like every year, my goal will be 52 books.


LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

As every year, I will be participating in another LGBTQIA challenge, this time hosted over at Pretty Deadly Reviews. I am going for level yellow, meaning I’ll try to read and review 13-20 LGBTQIA themed books.


Women's Classic Literature Event

Women’s Classic Literature Event

For the past few years it’s been my aim to read more women. I am also (still) participating in the Classics Club Challenge, so I simply couldn’t resist this particular challenge! I have quite a few classics written by women on my Classics Club Challenge TBR. These are some potential reads for 2016 (but who knows what’ll happen in reality):

  • Alcott, Louisa May – Little Women
  • Bronte, Charlotte – Jane Eyre
  • Bronte, Anne – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  • Bronte, Emily – Wuthering Heights
  • Haasse, Hella S. – De Heren van de Thee (The Tea Lords)
  • Hall, Radclyffe – The Well of Loneliness
  • Jackson, Shirley – The Haunting of Hill House
  • Le Guin, Ursula K. – The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Mitchell, Margaret – Gone with the Wind
  • Walker, Alice – The Color Purple
  • Woolf, Virginia – Mrs. Dalloway

If you know of more challenges I might be interested in, let me know! 🙂

Read-a-thon Wrap-up

Read-a-thon Wrap-up

Once again I’m late with this post. This weekend I participated in Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon and I want to write a quick wrap-up on that.

The read-a-thon started on Saturday 14:00 my time. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to start reading until 18:00 because I had a (book related, yay) meeting. On Saturday, I ended up reading from 18:00 until 02:00, with a one hour TV break. On Sunday I read from 10:00 until the end time of 14:00. So in total I only read 12 out of 24 hours, but alas.

I had grande plans for reading, and while I didn’t read everything I had planned, I’m still pretty satisfied with the progress. I started off with the last bit of The Three-Body Problem. I don’t know why, but the first 50 pages I read during the read-a-thon took me hours. After a TV break I gave up and started reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which I finished that same night. The next morning I finished The Three-Body Problem and I read a chapter from Making Sense of Japanese. I ‘only’ read 293 pages during the read-a-thon, but I’m glad I finished two books!

I really enjoyed this read-a-thon. I didn’t participate super actively mostly because I was without a laptop, but I did check social media tags (especially Instagram) regularly and shared my progress and little things on Instagram and Twitter as well. It was fun seeing what other people were up to!

If I am able to, I definitely will be participating again next time 🙂

Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon

Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon

I am awfully late with this, but I’ve decided to participate in Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon. The idea is that you spend (as much of) 24 hours (as possible) reading. I can’t do that – I have a meeting with the Japanese lit reading club I’m in first, so I’ll be starting late. And knowing myself, I’ll sleep somewhere in between too 😉

Besides that, I do plan to participate as much as possible! My reading pile has books I already started that I hope to finish, new books, and some books that I’ll only read parts of. Here it is:

The first three, Making Sense of Japanese, Read Real Japanese Fiction and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (in, yes, Japanese) I will only read parts of. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Shadow and Bone are new reads that I hope to pick up. Then on the bottom is The Three-Body Problem, my current read that I definitely hope to finish!

So, I’ll let you know on Twitter when I start. I am unfortunately with without laptop this weekend, so posts will be scarce (just writing this one on a tablet took me forever!).

[Review] Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

[Review] Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

[Review] Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins on April 7, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. (from Goodreads)

When I first heard of this book (and if you are into LGBT+ YA, I doubt you missed it as it was one of the most anticipated 2015 releases in the genre), I knew I had to read it. Well… I RACED THROUGH THIS BOOK, that’s how much I enjoyed it!

For me Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was most of all a nice mix of things I like to see in a LGBT+ coming-out themed young adult book. There’s friendship, there’s high school, there’s family. It’s got all the classic feelings of uncertainty that come with growing up and especially being a gay teenager. Everything is utterly realistic and believable without getting boring for even a moment. Does the book have anything super duper special? Not really, no. But that’s okay. Albertalli managed to write a modern, fresh book. The e-mails, Facebook, Tumblr, I really enjoyed all of that (although there’s a risk this book will get outdated soon..)

The book has a nice bit of mystery that takes up most of the plot: who is Blue? I think Albertalli managed to keep us on the edge of our seat. I couldn’t wait to find out and had to keep reading. I buddy-read this book with Cynthia of Afterwritten and since she finished it first I had a lot of fun throwing my guesses at her haha. The mystery especially made it a real page turner.

And then of course I shouldn’t forget to mention the characters. First and foremost there’s Simon and I think you cannot help falling a little bit in love with him. Simon is pretty much an average teenager and I love the voice Albertalli gave him. Simon’s friends, while a bit in the background, are still rounded characters which is great to see considering it’s a relatively short book. And I’ve got so much to say about Blue but… hah, I won’t.

So yes. Great quick read with lots of positivity. This book won’t take up lots of your time so that’s one reason to get it the moment it’s out… but it’s much more 🙂 An enjoyable and fun read and I definitely recommend it!

Also let me take this opportunity to once again promote Cayce‘s LGBT Challenge 2015. Please sign up if you are interested in reading LGBT+ literature (and this year it’s not limited to YA!). And if you’d like to do a buddy-read like me and Cynthia did with Simon, there’s a central post here where you can find like-minded people.