Book review: 『ケモノの城』by Tetsuya HONDA

About the book

Title: 『ケモノの城』(けもののしろ)
Author: Tetsuya HONDA (誉田哲也)
Published by 双葉文庫

It is the first time I read Tetsuya HONDA, but I know that he is a very famous author of thrillers and mystery novels. I also think that some of his work is translated into English.


The police is investigating a shocking case involving abuse, torture and maybe murder. Through questioning and field work, the police tries to understand what really happened in a case where the boundary between victim and persecutor is thin.


I think that 『ケモノの城』is a good novel with a good story and an interesting investigation. However, I was not expecting so much violence and it was at times difficult to read. A lot of scenes describe physical and psychological torture, and I have several times considered giving up the novel because reading it gave me stomach ache.

While you would expect horrible things to happen in a thriller, you also know that everything is fictional. In 『ケモノの城』, the way things were described make them feel extremely realistic, to the point when I was relieved whenever I found unknown vocabulary in the descriptions!

Apart from this, the story is great, with enough suspense to make me want to finish the book in spite of everything. It also raises interesting questions about the victims’ attitude towards their aggressor and their situation. What the book describes is hard to believe (something similar to the Stockholm syndrome), but worth thinking about.

To conclude I would say that 『ケモノの城』is a good thriller, but I don’t personally recommend it, and I would never choose it as a gift for someone. I am used to reading thrillers that stage all kinds of horrible murders, but there is something in 『ケモノの城』that really disturbed me. Maybe this only shows that Tetsuya HONDA is a great writer…

Book Review: 『新参者』by Keigo HIGASHINO

About the book

Title: 『新参者』(しんざんもの)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO 東野圭吾
Published by 講談社文庫

『新参者』is the 8th (out of 10) book of the detective Kaga series (加賀シリーズ). The series feature detective Kyoichiro KAGA (加賀恭一郎). The series spans 30 years, the first novel was published in 1986 (it was Higashino’s second novel) and the last one was published in 2016.


Detective Kyoichiro KAGA has just been dispatched to the police station of Nihonbashi. He is a “newcomer” (新参者) in the neighborhood. When a woman is found dead in her apartment, Kaga starts an unconventional investigation through which we get to know the life of several shopkeepers and inhabitants of the neighborhood.


Keigo HIGASHINO is my favourite author of genre fiction (regardless of the country) and among all the novels and short stories I have read by Keigo Higashino, the books of the Kaga series are my favourites. And among the books of the series that I have read so far, 『悪意』, 『私が彼を殺した』and 『新参者』are my favourites (in this order). Needless to say that I have loved this novel.

What I particularly enjoy in the Kaga series is that some of them are really surprising. While they still offer what the reader of detective stories is looking for, some titles of the series are revitalising the genre of detective stories.

『新参者』has a very interesting structure and is simply a delight to read. We get to see how Kaga investigates and solves mysteries while meeting engaging characters. But just as I thought that this novel was more a series of puzzle solving than a true investigation, I was surprised to see how everything falls into place and how consistent the story is.

As you certainly expect, I heartily recommend this book if you like mystery and detective novels. I also think that 『新参者』can be appreciated by a lot of readers, even those who don’t necessarily like crime fiction.

JLPT N1 round 2: Start!

Since January 2019, I am studying to pass the JLPT N1. My goal is to pass the test in December, but I also took the test of July to gain some practice. It was helpful, but it also gave me a sense of achievement, and it is hard to get back to the JLPT preparation now!

After the test of July, I went on holiday, but it has been several days since I came back, and I still haven’t done anything for the JLPT or my blog. This post is long due!

I have tried to identify what makes it difficult for me to go back to studying for the JLPT when I usually don’t have to struggle to study Japanese.

  • First of all, waiting for the results (of the JLPT of July) is frustrating. It is hard to get back to the preparation of the JLPT without knowing where I should put my efforts. On the other hand, the results won’t come out before the end of August, so waiting would mean losing a precious month.
  • In January, when I started my preparation for the JLPT N1, everything was new, particularly the textbooks. I just had to start with the first lesson. Now things are a little more complicated. I have started several textbooks, and I don’t always remember where I had stopped before I went on holiday 😅 It is less motivating to go back to an old textbook than to start a new one. I also feel that 1- I don’t know where I should pick up, and that 2- it does not matter anyway because I have forgotten everything I had learned before.
  • Speaking of which, I have to go back to Anki and my grammar flashcards, and it feels like I haven’t touched them for years and have forgotten everything.

I find the second point very frustrating. I am obviously the same person now and before the test of July, but it feels like it was a complete stranger who prepared so feverishly for the JLPT back then.

Just one month ago, I knew exactly which lessons I had studied, which ones remained to be done, what I should learn next, how I should do it, and so on.

And now, after three weeks away from the JLPT, I feel like a newcomer who has been handed over a pile of files belonging to someone else and has been told to just continue whatever it was that this person was doing.

It is annoying, but… getting started is the most difficult step. After that, I am sure that everything will go smoothly again.

New study plan?

I don’t really have a study plan for the next four months.

Back in January, I had planned on studying with the Shin Kanzen series during the second half of the year, but I have bought several Korean textbooks since then, so I don’t think that I need the Shin Kanzen too. I am also wondering whether I need to study with a textbook for listening and reading, but I think that it is best to read and listen a lot to native material. I will wait until the results (of the July test) and decide then.

Focusing on native resources instead of textbooks is more interesting and motivating, but it is hard to measure one’s progress. If I spend one hour watching an anime on Netflix, have I studied for the JLPT? It will be hard to gain a sense of achievement and feel that I have actually studied.

I still don’t know how I will concretely study until December. I know that I need to increase my vocabulary, review the grammar, listen to more Japanese and read more non-fiction, but I lack a concrete study plan. I will try to put together a strategy, and in any case, I am back to studying Japanese now! Round 2 of this JLPT year has started! 🤜