I skipped both my 20th Century reading challenge and my MWJ Award project this month. I mainly read in Korean, but I ended up with two DNFs 😬 August is always a bad reading month to me it seems. Now that the weather has cooled down a bit, I feel excited for September and I am making an unreasonable long list of books to read.
『オレたち花のバブル組』by Jun Ikeido (池井戸潤)
This is the second book in the Naoki Hanzawa series, and it was as good as the first one. It was also more difficult to read, especially the first chapter. I really like how the books of the series jump straight into the story, but it was a lot to take in at the beginning of this one. Chapter 1 was a bit of a struggle to me, but things got much easier afterwards.
I am still listening to the Korean audiobook while reading in Japanese. I love doing this exercise, and I also always enjoy voice actor Sang-baek Kim’s (김상백) performance.
I watched the beginning of the drama adaptation, and I was very surprised by their depiction of Naoki Hanzawa. This is not the image I had of him at all, he seemed much more calm and composed in the book. I also disliked one of the opening scenes where he visits an small factory, tours the production process, and looks with admiration at the produced nails, to finally tell a desperate CEO that he will get his loan after all. This is absolutely not Naoki Hanzawa, this is Akira Yamazaki from 『アキラとあきら』! I wonder if drama adaptations tend to blend all the characters of Ikeido together to always give this uniform version of the perfect banker.
Akira Yamazaki would visit small family-run factories and look with an appreciative eye at the manufacturing process, then do everything he can to support these small businesses. We don’t see Naoki Hanzawa acting like this in the first two books, he has other problems to tackle.
『希望の糸』by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)
I finally read the latest book of the Kaga series!! I am very happy, because I love this series very much and Kyoichiro Kaga is one of my favourite fictional detectives. I knew that 希望の糸 was not centered on Kaga, but on his cousin, Shuhei Matsumiya, who is also a police detective, so maybe it was inevitable that I should love this book less than the rest of the series.
I found the first half to be excellent, but the second half felt a bit repetitive at times, with the story more focused on the different characters than on the mystery (which was solved anyway). I really love how the latest books of the series (the Nihonbashi ones) had a good mix of investigation, mystery and police procedures on the one hand, and people personal life, secrets and past on the other. Here it felt like at some point, the investigation entirely gave place to the exploration of the characters’ problems and past. This was really well done and interesting I found (in spite of some repetitive passages), but the Kaga series is a detective series, so I felt a bit let down by this book in the end.
I decided to ignore the prompt this month, but when I went to the bookshop to choose a something, I could not decide between two books, so I ended up buying both.
<밀지 마세요, 사람 탑니다> Short stories by Jeon Geonu 전건우, Jeong Myeongseop 정명섭, Jo Yeongju 조영주, Shin Wonseop 신원섭, Kim Seonmin 김선민 and Jeong Haeyeon 정해연.
I bought this book thinking it would be about little anecdotes that happen in the subway while you are commuting, focusing on daily life and daily struggles. However it was not about little anecdotes, but rather big adventures that could happen (but probably won’t) in the subway, like fighting traitors, chasing monsters, running away from zombies and travel to different times and dimensions. The result was a highly entertaining anthology with each story being more creative than the other.
The language level was fine for my level, but the stories were not all equal (which makes sense, since they are written by different authors and display different styles and genres). Some were very easy to read, some more difficult to me, especially all the ones that describe action scenes.
I feel like I tend to be disappointed by half of the Korean books I read, and I am generally happy when I ended up liking a book and being able to finish it. As a result, I am very excited to have found one that I truly loved and that will make the list of my favourite books read in 2022.
<안녕하세요, 자영업자입니다> by Lee Inae 이인애
This is one of the two books that I have DNFed this month (though I might pick it up again). It is about an employee who quits his job to open a study cafe. We follow him step by step as he plans and concretises his project, while social distancing measures seem to never end. Here is the book trailer:
The novel felt very dry, it almost felt like reading a manual to open a study cafe. I liked how realistic, precise and detailed it was, and I also like that it gives a lot of numbers, but this is all there was. It lacked emotions, feelings, and everything that would make the protagonist a real character. If a textbook to start your own business would use a fictional character as example, this would be our protagonist.
It was really frustrating, because the book makes you go through all the steps (including of course, a lot of difficulties and frustration) to open a study cafe, but scenes that I expected to find in the novel were not there. For example, the opening day and how the protagonist felt when he welcomed the first customers of the study cafe. After going through all the stress of the preparations with the protagonist, it felt frustrating to not share the joy and emotion of seeing the project take life. At some point, the study cafe had just opened, and the protagonist was tackling the next problems (social distancing measures).
The protagonist also interviews other people who, like him, run small businesses, and who, like him, suffer from the restrictions caused by the pandemic. These parts were more interesting, but it also gives a strange structure to the novel, as the interviews feel a bit cut from the main story. Maybe it would have been better to follow different characters in the same novel or have different short stories.
Overall, I think that this book tackles a very interesting and important topic, but for a work of fiction, it lacks a lot of essential things to me.
<철수 삼촌> by Kim Namyun (김남윤)
This is another DNF… It is an entertaining book and rather easy to read, but it is not what I was expecting and it is not the kind of books I enjoy. So nothing wrong with the story here, it is just a “not for me” situation.
This is not something that I always do, but I did read the summary before buying this book. Both the summary and the beginning of the book felt like it was exactly the kind of story that I would enjoy: a real crime story with police detectives, copy cat murder, and how to get away with murder. However, this is only the setting, and the story then shifts to something completely different: the cohabitation of a serial killer and a police detective with his wife and children in the middle. This makes for funny situations and misunderstandings, but the style, the tone and the plot are not what I enjoy reading when it comes to mystery fiction.
That’s it for the novels I read in August, but I also started the manga Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo (遠藤達哉) in the Korean translation by Seo Hyeona (서현아), which is very addictive.
I also finally finished the first chapter of 《13.67》by Chan Ho-Kei (陳浩基), this is by far the biggest achievement for me this month! I think that this book (at least the first chapter) is relatively easy to read for Chinese learners. There were some difficult parts concerning technical details of the murder weapon, but overall, there was a lot of recurring vocabulary and the whole chapter is almost entirely based on dialogues which is easier to read. It took me a while to read, but now I feel warmed-up to tackle the rest of the book. The story of the first chapter was just excellent and the fact that each chapter tackles a different case makes the book less intimidating to me. I’ll try to read chapter 2 in September!
Finally, I finished listening to Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe, and I still don’t know what will be my audiobook for September.
I will resume both the 20th Century and the Mystery Writers of Japan Award reading challenges in September 🙂