February wrap up

February has not been a good reading month to me… I don’t know if I picked the wrong books or if I was simply not in a reading mood, but all the books I have read this month have been a disappointment in one way or another. Even though I ended up liking most of them in the end, none has been a great excitement.

My reading goal for February was to read four books:

I did not read アキラとあきら, instead I read 博士の愛した数式 by Yoko Ogawa, and I am still reading Kotaro Isaka’s 『AX』. 

Books I finished

『むかし僕が死んだ家』 by Keigo Higashino

With every book by Higashino that I have read so far, I have been dragged in the story right from the beginning. With 『むかし僕が死んだ家』, it took me 100 pages to get into the story, so it was a disappointment at first. If it was not a Higashino, I would have given up I think. I am glad that I read it until the end though, because the book turned out to be a real page-turner after a while and I devoured the last 2/3 of it!

This book was the easiest to read to me this month. It only took me 3 days to read it.

『一寸法師|何者』 by Edogawa Rampo

I still love Kogoro Akechi, but I did not like this book as much as the first one. The first novella 一寸法師 was not as good as the other ones. This being said, I loved the second one 何者, which has become my favourite read this month.

This book was also more difficult to read than the first one of the series. I found the second novella, 何者, to be relatively easy, but the first one, 一寸法師 had very challenging parts.

The difficult parts are all describing action scenes. I found that the opening scene of the story was particularly difficult compared to the rest of the book or even the first book of the series. Similarly, there is an action scene towards the end that I also found difficult. I can understand what happens, but it is sometimes quite strenuous, especially because these passages tend to be quite long.

I did not have the courage to really work on these parts or look up words.

On the contrary, there are other difficult parts that were quite interesting to study. For example, there is the description of a knot in 何者:

ではそれはどんな結び方かというと、私共の地方で俗に立て結びという、二つの結び端が結び目の下部と直角をなして十文字に見えるような、つまり子供のよくやる間違った結び方なのです。

The important thing is to understand that the person who did this knot did not do it well. But I was not able to picture how the knot was made and how it should have been done. I had to look up how to make a knot and I found that what is written 立て結び in the book is certainly 縦結び, which is the wrong knot whereas 直結び is the right knot. This page explains how to make a knot.

『博士の愛した数式』 by Yoko Ogawa

I liked this book overall, but not as much as I expected. I knew a little bit of the story before reading the book, so I knew that mathematics would be present in it, but it was sometimes more advanced than I expected. Overall, this did not prevent me from liking the book, but it did make reading it strenuous at times.

For a work of literary fiction, this book was overall easy to read for me, but passages that involved mathematics and baseball were a real pain. I had to skim through some of the mathematical explanations because I am not super interested in them, and I doubt whether I would have been able to understand them in my mother tongue. And of course, there were a lot of unknown words in Japanese and to be honest, I didn’t feel like looking them up. If I had read this book in my mother tongue, I think that I would have ended up skimming through the same passages as well.

At first, I did make some effort to understand and look up words, but at some point, I decided to give up. There is a passage in particular, that I cannot quote here because it is too long, that I did not have the courage to read thoroughly. It is situated between pages 192 and 198. It is about Fermat’s Last Theorem and Euler’s formula, and no matter in which language you try to explain it to me, it just does not interest me. Worse, my mind completely goes blank, my brain shuts down, and just even trying to understand feels like a incommensurable effort.

I did read those pages, but I did not understand much and did not try to.

My reading tracker tells me that it took me 9 days to read this book, but I read it over a period of 22 days. This means that every time I read this book, I read it for a decent period of time (around 30 pages per session), but there are 13 days where I did not touch the book at all…

Still reading

『AX』 by Kotaro Isaka

I really did not like this book at first, but then it grew on me and I started liking it more and more. In the end, I am still not a fan of the style overall, but now I understand why this book has so many positive reviews.

One thing that I found disappointing is that this book is not really a novel. There are 5 chapters, but they are all separated stories. We do follow the same main characters, and the story follows a chronological order, but each chapter deals with a separate topic, different secondary characters and a complete different story.

I might be mistaken, but to me, the summary tricks you into believing that the book is a novel:

「兜」は超一流の殺し屋だが、家では妻に頭が上がらない。一人息子の克巳もあきれるほどだ。兜がこの仕事を辞めたい、と考えはじめたのは、克巳が生まれた頃だった。引退に必要な金を稼ぐため、仕方なく仕事を続けていたある日、爆弾職人を軽々と始末した兜は、意外な人物から襲撃を受ける。こんな物騒な仕事をしていることは、家族はもちろん、知らない。物語の新たな可能性を切り拓いた、エンタテインメント小説の最高峰!

Am I missing something? I wish that the summary had added that the book contains several different stories. On the contrary, the way the summary is told gives the impression that you will read a novel with one main story. In fact, this summarises only one of the five stories.

Well, I guess that calling this book a “novel” is not false, because we do follow the same characters in a chronological order, but the chapters still feel very independent from one another and there are 5 different stories instead of one story that would develop over 5 chapters.

That’s funny, because this is the second book I read by this author, and I had exactly the same problem with the first one: the publisher advertised it as a novel while it was clearly a collection of short stories.

So far, I have read 4 of the 5 stories, but I need to take a break because I find the pattern of the stories a little repetitive.

DNF

『幸せは口座に預けることはできません』 by Toru Takamura

This book is the biggest disappointment of all, but it has nothing to do with the story itself… once again, I find that the publisher made a strange choice regarding the summary on the back cover.

The summary reads:

失敗ばかりでクビを恐れながら銀行に勤める青年カズマ。内気ではあるが、一般的な銀行員の常識にとらわれない、ユニークで人間味豊かな男だ。幼い娘の口座をつくりに来た母親、遺産相続を巡って争う姉妹…。カズマのもとには、金にまつわる悩みを抱えた人々が次々と訪れる。「営業ノルマとか、本社の指示とか、他銀行との競合とか、お客には関係ないじゃないか」カズマはそうつぶやきながら、金銭じゃ買えない温かな幸せを、穏やかな笑顔とともにお客たちに与えつづける。

What the summary does not tell us is that our protagonist comes from the future!! A future so far away that the 21st Century is totally unknown to them. Our protagonist is part of a research mission and is sent in our time to work as bank employee. From there, the story certainly fits with the summary.

I don’t understand why this fact is not mentioned in the summary at all! I mean, it is not a detail, it defines the genre of the book! I don’t like and very rarely read SF. I would never have bought this book if the summary said that the protagonist comes from the future! I thought it would be a more realistic depiction of the work at the bank and that our protagonist would just be a normal employee who finds ways to help the people he meets.

As it is, I only read 30 pages and gave up. There is nothing wrong with the book, I just don’t like SF. All the talks about the protagonist’s time and its particularities were just boring for me. It was simply not the kind of story that I wanted to read.

March

That’s it for February! Maybe I was not in the right mindset, maybe I was just too tired most of the time to really enjoy what I was reading… but yes, there are times when you feel that everything you read is unexcited… 🙁

To get out of this reading slump, I have decided to completely change things up for March:

I almost never read manga, so this challenge feels very exciting to me. I don’t think that I will write separate reviews for each manga, but I will sum up my experience and talk about all the manga I read in my March wrap up!