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January wrap-up

January wrap-up

Monthly wrap-upIn January I read six books for January in Japan. I had hoped to read more, but I was too busy and tired to get much reading done. I also intended to post more (I had at least three great post ideas) but sadly that wasn’t happening either. Honestly I wasn’t sure I was going to do this wrap-up…

I did write a guest post over at the January in Japan blog, a J-Lit Giants post featuring Fumiko Enchi!

Read in January

  1. The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
  2. Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse by Otsuichi
  3. Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami
  4. The Budding Tree by Aiko Kitahara
  5. Genocide of One by Kazuaki Takano
  6. Masks by Fumiko Enchi

Book haul
A small book haul. I intended to read the Japanese literature in January but alas.
January book haul
Why did I get Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart in Dutch when I already own and read it in English? Well…
Sputnik Sweetheart

Plans for February
I have no special plans for February. I’ve got two eARCs that I’ll probably read, and I might continue reading Harry Potter 😉

[Review] Genocide of One, by Kazuaki Takano

[Review] Genocide of One, by Kazuaki Takano

[Review] Genocide of One, by Kazuaki Takano

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

Genocide of One by Kazuaki Takano
Published by Mulholland Books on December 2, 2014 (first published 2011)
Genres: Japanese literature, Science fiction, Thriller
Pages: 512
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
five-stars

What if one day, the next - hyperintelligent - step in human evolution is born?

What if more than three decades earlier, the existence of precisely such a new human evolution was predicted as a potential scenario for the end of the human race as we know it?

Without spoiling too much: this book simultaneously takes place in the US, Japan and the Congo. We’ve got the US President and those directly surrounding him. We’ve got four mercenaries sent on a mission. We’ve got children born with a deathly illness. We’ve got a Japanese student whose father just passed away. And most of all, we’ve got a three-year-old child named Akili: the next step in human evolution.

This book is pretty damn brilliant. When I just started reading, I was afraid this was not going to be my type of book. It starts out sounding a lot like a military thriller, but it is in fact a dareIsayit perfect piece of science fiction.

The plot of the book is extremely intricate and it all fits and works. By the end we’ve got not a single loose end, and yet it never feels forced. Again without spoiling too much: to me the plot was extremely satisfying, from the beginning to the end.

And the plot is also extremely realistic. You can imagine every aspect of it becoming reality. In fact, much of this book is either describing actual events or heavily based on actual events. The book is so convincing that you will even believe in the portrayed consequences of the birth of this evolved hyperintelligent human being.
(To illustrate: Only near the end there was one tiny thing that made me go “oh really” View Spoiler » but guess what. I Googled it and it actually exists. So I hereby take back my “oh really”. Also other parts that sounded very random ended up being 100% real or based on 100% real events.)

The book really is three things: both thrilling and unpredictable, and also very philosophical. The first two will make you want to keep reading. The last one will creep you out. Because just like the plot, the philosophy is real. The book is full of what-ifs, and Takano manages to hand them to you without it ever becoming tiresome.

Now, this book also uses a lot of jargon. I’m convinced Takano is a genius, not just because he convinces me with the science, the military and the political aspects, but also because he still manages to write it down in such a way that my poor Humanities-oriented brain understands (sort of). Again without it ever becoming tiresome.

So yes. Read this.

[Review] Manazuru, by Hiromi Kawakami

[Review] Manazuru, by Hiromi Kawakami

[Review] Manazuru, by Hiromi KawakamiManazuru by Hiromi Kawakami
Published by Atlas Contact on 2012 (first published: 2006)
Genres: Contemporary, Japanese literature
Pages: 207
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Twelve years have passed since Kei's husband, Rei, disappeared and she was left alone with her three-year-old daughter. Then she begins making repeated trips to the seaside town of Manazuru.

Two years ago for January in Japan we already read The Briefcase (also known as Strange Weather in Tokyo) by Hiromi Kawakami. I really enjoyed that book! So I was hopeful I’d feel the same about Manazuru… Alas.

I just did not care about anything in this book. The story was one that doesn’t really interest me in the first place, to be quite honest – a husband who disappears one day, a mother left behind with her child, trying to figure out the reason her husband left – but if done well it will even touch my cold cold heart. No, I am just kidding about that cold heart; while I am not the most sensitive person, it’s not difficult for me to relate to or at least feel sympathy for characters in books. So imagine how bland this book was to me, that I just didn’t care at all about the story. And that while it has at least some aspects that could be so interesting if done well: spirituality, perhaps even a supernaturalness? They played an important role in the story, but somehow they still felt almost meaningless.

But not just the story was bland. The characters felt exactly the same to me. They didn’t do anything that interested me, they didn’t say anything that interested me. They didn’t relate to other characters in a way that interested me. I just did. not. care. If anything, the daughter was perhaps my favourite character but she does not appear often enough to… uhm… make me care? I did not even feel at all curious about the location, Manazuru, that the book was named after.

And that was the downfall of this novel for me. I didn’t care. When I don’t connect to anything in a book, I get bored. And that’s just about the worst for me. Manazuru was a quick read, but even so I felt relieved when I ‘finally’ finished it.

I always seem extra harsh about books I don’t like, don’t I? This book wasn’t absolutely terrible, it just wasn’t for me. I’m sure there are people out there who will feel more connected to the story and its characters. Anyway, I rated this 3 stars on Goodreads but reviewing how I feel about this book, I must admit I can’t give it any more than 2.5 stars. Just based on personal feeling.

I do not think we should compare Manazuru to The Briefcase. The only thing they seem to share is that they describe events in daily life, but that’s where the comparison ends for me. Take this from me: You will enjoy The Briefcase. And then, if you read Manazuru, you will enjoy The Briefcase even more 😉

Hello 2015! Ready for some challenges..!

Hello 2015! Ready for some challenges..!

2014 is well and truly over now. Hello 2015! Yes, I’m a few days late with this but I had a rubbish last week of the year, being sick ;(

Anyway, with a new year come new challenges! Or… new? I am actually sticking with all my old challenges, it seems… If you have recommendations for more challenges, let me know 😀

Dystopia Reading Challenge 2015

Dystopia Reading Challenge 2015
In 2014 I wasn’t an active participant but still ended up reading 7 dystopian novels. This year I will aim for Level 1: Recruit (1 to 6 books).

January in Japan

January in Japan
My third year participating in this challenge 🙂 I will read nothing but Japanese literature in January!

LGBT Challenge 2015

LGBT+ Challenge
Aww yeah I’m so excited Cayce decided to make this an all-genre challenge for 2015! I am going to aim for OMNIVOROUS BOOKGLUTTON level, in other words, read 10+ LGBT books from any genre. In 2014 I read 25 LGBT+ books, so I’m not too worried…

2015 TBR Pile Challenge

TBR pile challenge
I actually participated in this challenge before (I don’t even remember when), but failed hopelessly. I am now working on a new list and am planning to succeed this time around! The idea is to read 12 books that have been on your TBR for at least a year. My list will be up soon 🙂

Graphic Novel Challenge
This is my own idea and not yet an official challenge (I discussed this on Twitter before, but haven’t had time to create this into an actual thing). I have quite a few graphic novels on my shelves but I just don’t get around to them. This year I want to see if I can read at least 4 graphic novels.