Tag Archives: japanese

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Book Review: Shadow Shinjuku, by Ryu Takeshi

I accepted a copy of Ryu Takeshi‘s Shadow Shinjuku for review.

shadow shinjuku

The streets of Tokyo are different at night. There is darkness behind the glitter and the neon lights, and people who prefer to stay in the shadows, to dwell in the underworld – whores, gangsters, the homeless, the lost. People like Sato. He’s part of this world, he always has been, but a feeling of change is lingering in the heavy air of the bustling city. A feeling brought to life by fateful encounters of solitary souls.

my review

I have very middle of the road feelings about this book. Some aspects of it I really liked. I thought Sato was an likeable main character. I liked a lot of the quirky side characters. There’s an interesting, if light, magic world. I enjoyed the twist at the end. You see it coming, but it’s well played. I especially appreciated the last page. Kobayashi coming in like a boss! A boss, not the boss—a distinction that is important in context.

I know it’s a little cliched to say a supernatural book about Yakuza, set in Tokyo would make a great anime. But I honestly can see this working really well as one. But I also think it was purposefully written in such a style.

However, while some of the writing was very pretty, I thought it a little plebeian at other times— especially in the dialogue which tended toward clunky. Far too many characters chuck “My Dear” into conversation to flow well, for example. I also thought some of the psychosocial or metaphysical musings never really coalesced into anything concrete enough to have real meaning to the reader. And about halfway through it feels like Takeshi went, “You know what? I need to make this grittier.” So suddenly Sato was visiting prostitutes and sexual sadist villains popped up out of nowhere and I just thought, “Oh, how disappointingly predictable.” Not only because such things have been so over used as to lose emotional impact, but because it really didn’t fit the tone of the book up to that point…or after, really.

All in all, I thought this an interesting (if somewhat flawed) read and was happy to follow it up with the short story Abalone (unrelated to the events of Shadow Shinjuku but involving some of the same characters) which I also enjoyed.

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Shadow Shinjuku Volume 1 by Ryu Takeshi

 

Convenience Store Woman

Book Review: Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata

I borrowed an audio version of Convenience Store Woman (by Sayaka Murata) from Hoopla.

convenience store woman

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis—but will it be for the better?

my review

This was the breath of fresh air I needed after reading a really heavy book yesterday.

I loved this. Other than ending quite abruptly, I have almost no complaints. I found Keiko’s narrative style effective, her unwitting social commentary insightful, and a lot of her attempts to communicate hilarious (in a subtle sort of way). I know this is a short review, but I honestly just want more.

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Other Reviews:

Book Review: CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman [Book Review]

 

Book Review of Blood Stained Tea (The Yakuza Path #1), by Amy Tasukada

I was sent a copy of Amy Tasukada‘s Blood Stained Tea for review.

Description from Goodreads:
A bloody past haunts him. A devastating present calls him back…

Nao hides from his violent past in the Japanese mob by opening a teahouse in Japan’s cultural center, Kyoto. His past comes flooding back when he discovers a gravely injured man with a tattooed chest, a bloody knife, and a Korean business card.

Saehyun would’ve died if not for Nao’s help. He knows nothing of his savior’s connection with the local mafia, but Saehyun has his own secrets. He commands the Korean mafia, the mortal enemy of Nao’s former syndicate.

As Nao and Saehyun grow closer, so does the strength of the Korean mob. A shocking murder pulls Nao back into a past he’d all but abandoned. War is looming, and Nao must choose between protecting Saehyun or avenging the honor of his old mafia family.

Review:
Blood Stained Tea was a fun book to start the year with. I really appreciated that it contains a romance featuring a Japanese and Korean man, one of which is bi-sexual. Plus, being set in Kyoto, Japan is a nice change. Overall, I quite enjoyed it. I liked both the main characters, appreciated the difficult positions they found themselves in and was left wanting more when it ended.

However, Nao’s logic often made no sense to me, nor did his constant assumptions about Saehyun. In fact, they were made so frequently and asserted so firmly that I felt very much like the author was trying to convince me of something I should be able to sense without being told (repeatedly). It was like they were both keeping themselves willfully ignorant and I’m afraid that just wasn’t something I could buy into, considering how much both of them had at stake. Even when all but incontrovertible proof was presented, the two of them (Nao especially) somehow remained clueless. I just couldn’t believe it, which meant a lot of the plot felt contrived.

Similarly, the decision and twist at the end was utterly unbelievable for me.  When the book was presented to me for review it came with this note: “…this is a m/m thriller. Though there is a love story throughout the novel it’s NOT a romance, nor is it for the faint of heart. Lots of bloody violence and death.” So I get that this event at the end is what makes the book a thriller rather than a romance. But I think the story tried too hard to straddle the genres and compromised itself. It would have been stronger, in my opinion, to pick one or the other. Especially since so many readers will be disappointed. Romance lover will be let down by the ending and thriller fanatics will likely be put off by the romance. Because for 99% of the book the romance is front and centre, even if it is practically an insta-lust.

Honestly, if not for the ending, I would call it an M/M romance using the Yakuza and Jo-pok for plot. Admittedly, a romance of the tragic, Shakespearean sort—very Romeo and Juliet—but a romance all the same. In fact, I’d call this a mix of Romeo and Juliet and The Godfather. Nao makes a very convincing Michael Corleone.

The writing is pretty good. The first chapter or so is a bit rough, but it smooths out fairly quickly. The editing also never grabbed my attention, which is what editing should do, and it was well-paced. All sex is off-page, so it’s not particularly steamy, and the book has an awesome cover. Lastly, I totally agree with Nao about Oolong tea. It’s my favorite too, especially the darker, heavily oxidized ones. Yum. I look forward to reading more of Tasukada’s work.