I am on Mastodon!

Post illustration created by Dall-e. The orientation of the book is off, but I like this illustration very much!

I am not on many social media, and the only one that I have used consistently is Twitter. With the recent events happening over there, I did what many did: I opened an account on Mastodon.

This is my Mastodon account

I’ve been using it for ten days now, and I am really loving the experience there. I’ve put together some of the features that I particularly love, and how I am using Mastodon, but as I am very new to it still, feel free to correct me if I am mistaken. Also, it looks like the app does not work well and does not give access to all the features. I am using the browser directly (Safari).

When I opened an account on Mastodon, it felt very lonely at first. I felt like I was the only one learning Japanese and that no one would be interested in hearing about Japanese or Korean novels. I joined a small server of 100 people (mindly.social), but I did not dare posting at first because I was afraid to pollute their local timeline with my niche content, haha. But with more and more people coming from Twitter, the 100 people on our server became 10,000 (!) and things became suddenly more lively, with a growing community of language learners finding themselves through #langtoot and #languagelearning.

The best thing on Mastodon is that there is no algorithm deciding what to show you. No content is pushed to you in order to make you spend more time on the platform and generate profit. You can favourite a post (like), but it is only a way to tell the person that you liked what they wrote, it will not increase the popularity of a post, or how far it can travel. The only way to help a post reach further, is to boost (retweet) it, so that it can reach more persons.

Similarly, you have to use hashtags to allow new people to find your posts.

On the timeline, you cannot see how many stars (the likes, similar to the heart icon on Twitter), or how many boosts a post had. I really like it, because it makes you appreciate a post for its content, not for its popularity. You can see the number of likes and boosts if you click on the post, but they are not prominent, and it is not what matters at all. What matters is just whether you found the content of the post interesting or not.

There are three timelines on Mastodon:

Home: posts from people I follow.

Local Timeline: posts from people on my server.

Federated Timeline: A lot of posts from a lot of people… I’m not sure to be honest, I never use it.

Ideally, you join a server restricted to a topic that interest you. For example, let’s imagine that there is a server devoted to language learning. This means that all, or at least most, of the posts in your local timeline will be about language learning or posted by people who are into language learning.

In parallel, you are perfectly free to follow people that are not on your server. For example, I am also interested in fountain pens and ink, literature, cats, etc. I can follow people who post about these topics and see their posts on my Home.

Unfortunately, there is no server devoted to language learning yet. So what I did is join a general server (not restricted to a topic), and I manually follow people who are into language learning or anything related to Japan/Japanese. This means that my local timeline is a bit more random, with people with all sorts of interests, whereas my Home is only about topics that I am interested in.

There are some features on Mastodon that also improve your experience and allow you to connect more easily with people who share similar interests.

  • You can follow hashtags! This is a fantastic feature that allows you to easily find new people to follow, or simply see single posts related to this topic but from people whom you might not necessarily want to follow. I personally follow #langtoot, #languagelearning, #Japanese, #Korean and a couple more.
  • You can add feature hashtags on your account. I personally added #Japanese, #Korean, #Chinese and #Books. When people arrive on your account, they will see your posts and the ones you boosted. But let’s say that someone only wants to see what I posted about Japanese, and they are not interested in my posts about Korean or Chinese. They can choose the option #Japanese and will only see my posts with this hashtag. They can also see how many posts I published with this hashtag, so they know if this is a topic I discuss often or not. (This only seems to appear when I am on ipad, not on my phone though.)
  • You can create lists. If you follow a lot of people and don’t always have the time to scroll through your Home, you can create lists of people by topics for example, or a list of people whose posts you don’t want to miss. I follow a lot of language learners because I am interested in language learning in general, even if I am not myself learning these languages. But obviously, I am even more interested in posts about learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese. So I created a list for these three languages and added the people who learn them.
  • In any timeline, you can choose whether or not you want to see posts that have been boosted. Boosting is great, because it is the only way to increase the visibility of a post, but your Home can sometimes feel overwhelming if people are boosting a lot. If you need to, you can toggle the boosts off, and you will only see the posts effectively posted by people you follow.
  • You can decide who can see your reply to posts, from anyone to the person you’re replying to only.
  • You can add a note to people’s profile that only you can see. I haven’t used it yet, but it could be useful to write something like “the person who recommended this book to me”, so you can go back to them if you read the book.

As a result, I have many ways to spend time on Mastodon.

  • I have a lot of time and just want to spend time on social media: I can scroll through the local timeline and see posts from people who share the values of the server like “sharing knowledge”, “positivity”, and “bettering each other”.
  • Most of the time, I only read posts on my Home with the boosts toggled on. This way, I see posts from people I follow and the posts they boosted, as well as posts with the hashtags that I follow.
  • Let’s say I have less time, or I haven’t been online for some time and there’s a lot to catch up on. I toggle off the boosts and have much less posts to go through. I often do this in the morning, because due to time zone, there’s always a lot happening while I sleep and it can feel daunting to catch up.
  • If I really don’t have much time, but want to check out what people who learn Japanese are up to, I only go through my list. Here again, I can choose whether I want to see the boosts or not.

For someone like me, who does not spend much time on social media as a baseline, but who still wants to stay in touch with people who share common hobbies, Mastodon is the perfect place.

It is a lot of work to find people to connect with, but the experience is also very rewarding, because the number of likes and followers does not feel as important as interacting with people, sharing knowledge and experiences. For language learners in particular, people are very active at the moment to re-create the #langtwt community on Mastodon (#langtoot). If you are new, write an #introduction post with hashtags, and people will find you.

I am still on Twitter, because a lot of people I follow and whose content I really love are not on Mastodon (yet), but if they were, I could see myself changing completely 🙂

Reading update and November plans

Post illustration created by Dall-e.

I have not been very motivated to read lately, hopefully this will change! I did start a promising book, so let’s hope it will be engrossing enough to make me read more.

The book in question is 『蒸発』by Shizuko Natsuki (夏樹静子). She is apparently best known in the English-speaking world for her novel Murder at Mt. Fuji, (translated by Robert B. Rohmer), but it is the first time that I am reading this author.

『蒸発』has won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1973. I have only read 126 pages out of the 486 pages of the novel so far, but it is excellent, with a good mix of mystery and character building.

In the novel, the term 蒸発 (じょうはつ: evaporation /mysterious disappearance) is explained as a trendy term (in 1970) used to talk about the people who disappeared, included those whose disappearance has not been reported to the police.

I looked a bit further, and found a site explaining the difference between several words meaning “disappearance”:

行方不明・ゆくえふめい: The reason why the person disappeared is completely unknown. The person could have disappeared intentionally, or they could have been victim of a crime or accident.

蒸発・じょうはつ: the person disappeared intentionally, but the reason for their disappearance is completely unknown. The person is not considered to be involved in an accident or criminal case.

失踪・しっそう: the person disappeared intentionally and is not involved in an accident or criminal case. Even though the reason for their disappearance is unknown, people who knew the person like family members and colleagues can, to a certain extent, guess what the reason is.

家出・いえで: the reason for the person’s disappearance is easy to guess. They often come back eventually or, if they don’t, they still maintain a social life.

駆け落ち・かけおち: The reason for the disappearance is known: lovers who didn’t get their parents’ approval run away to live together or get married.

Finally, the term 夜逃げ・よにげ is just describing a way (by night) by which people intentionally disappear. I see this word quite often in novels, and if you don’t play Animal Crossing for a while and then come back, the “コワイ” character would say he thought you had 夜逃げ.

According to the same site, the term 蒸発 has started to be widely used as “disappearance” (and not just “evaporation”) with the film 『人間蒸発』(1967). This film is a pseudo-documentary (Japanese word is モキュメンタリー for “mockumentary”) about a woman looking for her fiancé who has disappeared.

Anyway, it was interesting to learn all these nuances. My goal is to finish 『蒸発』and read two other Japanese books this month, that I have ordered (but not received yet).


I finished 재생 by 정명섭 (Jeong Myeongseop). I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of the novel. It was suspenseful, funny, and the time loop was really well done. I kept wanting the character to go further and learn the truth while also enjoying seeing him failing and doing everything all over again.

The end is not bad, but there is clearly a shift in the narrative and even the genre changed a little. It felt like reading a completely different novel, one that was less my kind of book.

Still, I found the book overall entertaining and both classic in its genre (the zombie situation in there is pretty much what you would expect) and also original and unique (the time loop brings an exciting aspect to the story). Except for the last part, which again felt like reading a different story, the book is very easy to read, with a lot of recurring scenes, hence recurring vocabulary.

The prompt for November #22tlreadingchallenge is “a book with a movie”, but I could not find anything that I wanted to read or watch. As I was not super motivated to start a Korean novel anyway, I decided to just continue reading Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo (遠藤達哉) in Korean for this month’s challenge (translated by 서현아).

I was hoping that there might be Korean dubs for the series, but I only have access to the Japanese version with Korean subtitles. In the end, it is actually more fun this way. I am first reading the Korean translation, then I watch the series in Japanese with Korean subtitles.

I don’t know if I will be able to catch up with the 10 volumes this month, but I’ll try to read as many as possible. I have already read the first 4 volumes.

Finally, these are the books that I have finished recently.

First, I finished 『乱れからくり』by Tsumao Awasaka (泡坂妻夫) and ended up not really liking it. I was hoping that it would be a murder mystery where mechanisms (like toys, labyrinth, etc.) would play a part, but it feels more like the reverse. Parts explaining the history and particularities of mechanical toys where a bit too long and detailed, and the murders occurring in the novel felt strangely anecdotical. It was hard to understand the characters’ actions and reactions to things, and I also disliked our protagonist.

Unfortunately, I feel like most of the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award that I have read so far fall in this category of books that were okay, but not astoundingly good. I enjoyed reading most of them, and even 『乱れからくり』did not make me want to DNF it, but they are not extraordinary good either. I must say that for now, I am a little disappointed by the selection, but on the other hand, it lets me read authors that I didn’t know and would not have read otherwise.

I also picked up 『迷宮』by Fuminori Nakamura (中村文則) because it just got translated into Korean and I saw the Korean version in a bookstore. Upon reading the summary, I thought it would be a book for me, and I ordered the original version on the bookstore website instead of buying the translation.

The summary had caught my eye when I read it in Korean. It looked like a good howdunnit, with a locked-room mystery and a very intriguing setting for a murder. The mystery is good, but this is not really this kind of book either. It is much darker than I had expected, and quite depressive too. I don’t think that this book is for everyone as it deals with childhood trauma and abuse.

If you are looking for an exciting locked-room mystery, you can certainly find other books that are not so heavy. I personally liked the book, but it did not make me want to read other books by this author, or at least not in the near future.

Finally, I want to read books that deal with time, so I picked up a classic: 『時をかける少女』by Yasutaka Tsutsui (筒井康隆). It is a novella of 115 pages first serialised in 1965 and published in 1967. The story feels surprisingly contemporary, I was shocked when I learned that it was written more than 50 years ago!

The story is very good and really engrossing. The end was less convincing to me, but I still enjoyed reading it from start to finish, even though I am neither a big reader of light novel nor a fan of SF.

There are numerous adaptations, including an anime movie from 2006.

The book was easy to read, and it is available in the Tsubasa collection, which has complete furigana.

And that’s it! My goal for November is to finish 『蒸発』, and it will certainly be the only award winner that I am reading this month (because it is quite long). In parallel, I hope to finish the two books I have ordered this month as well.

Finished two books, started two more!

Post illustration created by Dall-E.

I finished 홍학의 자리 by 정해연, and it was excellent! I read it as part of the #22tlreadingchallenge, and I really recommend it to fans murder mysteries and crime investigations.

When I finish a book, I often like to have a look at the reviews posted by readers. For 홍학의 자리, I found people saying that they were disappointed by the “shocking twist” promised by the publisher.

The commercial banner for the book promises a 충격 반전 (shocking twist) and warns that 스포 절대 금지! (Spoilers are strictly prohibited!). It advertises a 전무후무한 반전과 예측 불가능한 결말 (a twist never seen before and an ending impossible to predict) and adds again that this is 최고의 반전 소설 (the best novel with a twist).

I understand that publishers have to advertise their books, but they sometimes tend to promise more than the book (which can be a really good book) was meant to deliver.

If you read 홍학의 자리 for the big twist, I guess you might be disappointed. It sure takes you by surprise, but it is not shocking in the sense that you see the whole novel in a different light, that you immediately flip back pages to re-read passages, and that suddenly, the whole murder case takes a different meaning. It is strangely not really related to the case, and does not feel necessary at all.

This is clearly not the best novel with a twist that I have read, but it is without a doubt one of the most entertaining and engrossing murder investigation that I have read in Korean or Japanese. I did start to have a good idea of what happened at some point, but I did not get everything right and some elements of the end did surprise me.

The novel is also really easy to read, it definitely belongs to the list of easiest books that I have read in Korean. I really loved how the chapters alternate between our protagonist (who finds himself in a very awkward position and has to find a way out of it) and the police detectives (who are really good, it was really a joy to follow their investigation). The chapter are also short, the story has a good pace and the book is a real page-turner. I think that all of this is good enough! It is a shame that the publisher focuses on the twist as if it was the best part of the book.

I also finished 妄想銀行 by Shinichi Hoshi (星新一) and loved it. These are SF short short stories, with an average length of 10 pages. I read this book in my project of reading all the available winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, and this one won the prize in 1968.

I must say that I am very surprised that this book should have been eligible for the prize. I guess you could give a very loose definition of “mystery” and say that some of the short short stories in this collection have elements that connect them to the genre, but I am still surprised. All the winners that I have read so far strictly belong to the crime genre and are exactly the books that I expected to find.

I looked at their website to see if there was an explanation but did not find one. However, Shinichi Hoshi’s testimony on receiving the prize is quite funny: http://www.mystery.or.jp/prize/detail/10211.

I will not hide that I am a little worried, because I don’t really like SF and I hope that not too many prize winners belong to this genre. Unfortunately, the prize winner of 1974 is 日本沈没 by Sakyo Komatsu (小松左京) 😱 I really don’t feel like reading this novel to be honest. First, again, I don’t love SF. Then, I am afraid that Japan Sinks will be quite difficult to read. And finally, it is relatively long.

I made it a point of honour to read all the books that I could find and to finish them (even the ones that I did not like), but here I will have to skip.

I read Sakyo Komatsu’s testimony, and he says that he was very surprised when he won the prize and immediately telephoned Shinichi Hoshi, who was the first SF writer to have won the award:


In any case, I hope that there won’t be too many SF works among the list of winners. Surely, there are prizes for SF as well. I find it a little bit unfair to give the mystery prize to great works of SF instead of rewarding authors of mystery novels 🤔

Speaking of winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan award, I started 乱れからくり by Tsumao Awasaka (泡坂妻夫). It won the prize in 1978.

I am trying to read the winners in chronological order to see how the genre has evolved over the years, but I made an exception here. Most of the earlier winners were out of print, and it was impossible for me to find them in paper. As a result, I read them digitally, either on Booklive when available there, or on Bookwalker (If I am given the choice, I prefer Booklive, but some titles were only available on Bookwalker). Now that I am reaching the 1970s, more and more books are available in paper, so I browsed the titles and bought a bunch of them:

I am a bit tired of reading digitally, and when I received my books, I could not wait to start one, even though this means that I am jumping from 1968 to 1978. I will catch up with the others later 🙂

I am almost halfway through 乱れからくり and I am not sure that I am liking it. Something just happened that will certainly boost the story, so hopefully the second half will be more exciting than the first one. It is not bad at all, but I find it hard to connect with the characters and understand some of their actions. The tone is also on the lighter side, whereas I prefer more realistic and serious murder stories. We’ll see! I hope to finish it this month.

Finally, I started another book for the #22tlreadingchallenge: 재생 by 정명섭 (Jeong Myeongseop). The wrapping band says that it is a 좀비 타임루프 그릴러 (zombie time loop thriller), and it is exactly that! It reminds me of the film Happy Death Day, except that the day resets when the protagonist is bitten by a zombie instead of being killed.

I like zombie films, but I have rarely read novels about zombies. This one is really good, with really good scenes, a good dose of humour too, and the time loop makes things really exciting. It would be great if this novel received a movie adaptation.

외국 영화나 드라마의 좀비들은 느릿한 편이었지만 뭐든 빨리빨리 움직이는 한국에서는 좀비조차도 빨라다.

I am not quite halfway through the book, but I can already recommend it as very entertaining and easy to read. 홍학의 자리 is also on the easy side, but I would say that 재생 is even easier, with the time loop mechanism leading to a lot of recurring vocabulary.

That’s it for now, hopefully I can finish these two last books this month!

Currently reading: one easy and one difficult book

Starting now, I have decided to use DALL-E to illustrate my blog. I used to draw my own illustrations, but it took me too much time, and I started updating my blog less and less because of that.

Now that I don’t have to worry about the drawing part, I will try to post more often. I have decided to replace my monthly wrap-ups with smaller but more regular updates like this one 🙂

Post illustration created by DALL-E.

#22tlreadingchallenge (check out the prompts here)

I am halfway through 홍학의 자리 by 정해연 (Jeong Haeyeon), and it feels really good to finally have a Korean mystery that is both very entertaining and very easy to read. I rarely have to look up words, the reading is smooth, and I can read a bit faster than I usually do with Korean.

The story is quite simple, but it contains everything to make me happy: a good murder, a protagonist who finds himself in an awkward position, police detectives who are actually good, an engrossing investigation and all along, the question “but who killed Dahyeon?”

Let’s hope that the second half will be as good as the first one!

그런데 다현은, 누가 죽였을까?

It was with this kind of book in Japanese that I managed to improve my reading level. Looking at Japanese publications, it was easy to find engrossing mystery novels that were easy to read.

I find it much harder to find Korean mysteries that are similar. They are either engrossing but much too difficult (and they leave me with the impression that my Korean level is too low to read novels), or easy enough but with a story that is not for me.

홍학의 자리 is really the perfect book to me, I wish that I had found more books like this one when I started reading in Korean. I’ll check this author’s other books as well!

Interesting vocabulary
I learned a new word in this novel: 효도폰 (孝道phone), a phone mainly used by elderly people with functions limited to the important tasks like calling someone in case of emergency, communicating with family members, etc. They are meant to be easy to use, with a simpler display. They are generally given by the children to their elderly parents (hence the name “filial piety phone”), but as they are cheaper and not always of good quality, the term 불효폰 (不孝phone) has also appeared to describe them.

Mystery Writers of Japan Award winners – reading project.

On the contrary, the book I am reading in Japanese at the moment is quite difficult to read. Even though my Japanese is better than my Korean, I struggle more with 腐食の構造 by Seiichi Morimura (森村誠一) than with 홍학의 자리. The book is very long (over 600 pages), and the author goes in a lot of detail to explain the tensions between the scientific, political and business world about nuclear power. It is interesting but difficult, and I find that the way information is delivered to the reader is a bit dry.

Instead of being blended with the story, explanations are given in lengthy passages that are difficult to read in Japanese, but also feel like you are reading a non fiction book on nuclear energy and the development of big trading companies in Japan. There is a passage where the author quotes a specialised book (総合商社 by 内田勝敏), which feels really weird in a novel.

Things more directly related to the story are also described in a lot of detail. I just finished a chapter that gives a lot of geographical information. I try to understand as much as I can, but I am also not too worried if I miss details.

I found that the book started strong and seemed interesting, but now I find it a bit slow and not providing enough enjoyment to make up for all the efforts I need to provide in order to read it.

I don’t think that I will finish this book this month, and I will start other Japanese books in parallel as well. My goal now is to focus on finishing 홍학의 자리 and 妄想銀行 by Shinichi Hoshi (星新一), another MWJ award winner that I started at the beginning of October.

September readings

Summer is over, finally!! (Or at least, the Summer heat is gone!)

Mystery Writers of Japan Award – Project

Read all the available winners of the MWJ award for fiction (in chronological order).

I resumed reading the Mystery Writers of Japan Award winners, and the first one I read this month, 『風塵地帯』(winner of 1967) by Toru Miyoshi (三好徹) was very good. It was an engaging thriller/crime mystery set in Jakarta just before the abortive coup of 1965. Our protagonist is a journalist (like the author) who finds himself investigating the death of a colleague while being taken in the turmoil of the political tensions between the military and the PKI (the communist party) which led to the coup.

The novel gives a fictional version of general Suharto, but the events described in the book are very close to what really happened, included the beginning of what will become the Indonesian Communist Purge.

The historical setting and the interpretation that the story gives of what really happened made what was already an engrossing book into something even more compelling.

Next I read 『孔雀の道』(winner of 1970) by Shunshin Chin (陳舜臣), and even though the story seemed promising, I ended up caring less and less for the characters and the mystery. Rose is a young woman, half Japanese, half English who returns to Japan to understand the circumstances of her mother’s death and the involvement of her father in an espionage case during the war. I think that solving mysteries that happened in the past is always less thrilling than real time mysteries, and you have to care for the characters to feel involved in their quest. The protagonists slowly discover the truth by talking to people who each hold a piece of the puzzle, but the whole process felt a bit unexciting to me, especially because we arrive very close to the truth at some point and later accounts only confirm what we already know.

I don’t think that the book is bad at all, it just did not really work with me. I also disliked the main character, Rose, and some reflections she makes about how her Japanese and English blood affect her experience in Japan:

(お寺で安らぎをおぼえる。……これはきっと、あたしのなかにある日本人の血がそうさせるのだわ) ローズはそう思った。

その夜、ローズは机のうえに日本探究のノートをひろげた。 さすがに正坐には疲れて、両脚を畳のうえに投げ出した。(この行儀のわるさは、イギリス人の血のせいにちがいない)

Finally, I am reading 『妄想銀行』(winner of 1968) by Shinichi Hoshi (星新一). I am surprised that Shinichi Hoshi won the Mystery Writers of Japan award. Sure, you can say that his short-short stories are mysteries in some way as they present you with a strange situation and you want to know what will happen, but I still find it a bit strange.

This is the second book I read by this author, and even though SF is not my favourite genre, nor the short-short stories my favourite format, I always enjoy reading them.

Strangely, while I can see that these stories are quite easy to read in terms of Japanese level, I always have a hard time reading them. I need to be extra focused and concentrated. I often end up just going through the lines without really understanding them, with the result that I constantly have to go back and re-read the paragraph I just read. I already had this experience when I read 『ボッコちゃん』and it is happening again now. It is strange because this book is clearly easier to read than the two other winners mentioned above, yet this phenomenon never happens with the other books.

I am halfway through it.


Read one book per month in your target language (I chose Korean). Check out the prompts here.

The prompt for September was “fantasy” and I chose to read the Korean translation of The Deer King by Nahoko Uehashi (鹿の王 by 上橋 菜穂子, in Korean: 사슴의 왕, translated by 김선영)… and this is clearly what has consumed all my energy of September.

My reading level in Korean is not high, this is why I am taking this challenge in Korean. But this book is extremely difficult to read for me.

First of all, it is fantasy and it describes a lot of historical events and particularities about the fictional world. This means that I cannot rely on the usual guesses and deductions to fill the blanks. I more or less have to look up everything in some passages, otherwise I simply cannot follow. As the whole series is very long, I want to make sure that I understand everything so that nothing comes back to haunt me later.

There are also a lot of words that I would have known if I had read the book in Japanese, but I either did not know or did not recognise in hangeul. This is very frustrating, because almost every time I look up an unknown word, I immediately understand it by looking at the hanja. For example, there was a sentence that said that the king sent 사자 to the clans. The first thing that comes to mind is that 사자 means lion, but it was obviously not that. So I tried to guess what were the kanji behind the hangeul. I immediately knew that 자 must be 者, but the only thing I could think of for 사 was 死 and I became very confused. Why would the king send dead people to those clans? If the book had been written with hanja, I would have read 使者 (emissary) and moved on.

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that some names are difficult to identify as names in Korean. Best example is 반 or 사에 that kind of blend with grammatical patterns, similarly to names that end with 한 or 가. It is okay once you know them but can be confusing when you encounter them for the first time (or maybe my Korean is really just too bad!) I guess it would be okay if the rest was easy, but given that the book is full of unknown words, it just adds to the difficulty.

Finally, I find that the sentences tend to be long and difficult, to the point where I sometimes do not understand a sentence even though I know all the words. Sometimes it also takes me two or three times re-reading a sentence or paragraph to understand it.

I remember this sentence that I read and immediately felt discouraged because I didn’t understand it at first and didn’t have the courage to study it:

홋사르는 오우한 제후의 차남 요타르를 태우고 앞으로 걸어가는 검은 갈기의 갈색 말이 발을 헛딛는 것을 보자 혼잣말처럼 중얼거렸다.

This is an example of sentences whose structure is a bit complex and where the introduction of new names makes things more difficult.

I am halfway through the first book, which means that I have read 1/4 of the whole story. I was not expecting to finish the first book this month, and I am very proud to have read half of it. Even though I did not finish my book, I consider it a success. I will move on to another book for the prompt of October, but I will continue to read the Deer King in parallel.

20th Century reading challenge

Read a book set in each decade of the 20th Century in chronological order (publication date does not matter).

I have reached the 1970s and decided to read about the Vietnam War. A quick research told me that Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes was one of the best books I could read on this topic. As it is quite long, I decided to read it over September and October. I will still have November to cover the 1980s and December for the 1990s, so it’s perfect. (I think that the story of Matterhorn takes place in 1969, but let’s say that it counts.)

This book is incredible, and it will be one of my favourite reads of the year for sure. I have read several novels and non fiction books on war before, and there are always things that are difficult to understand for someone not familiar with all the jargon and for which English is a foreign language, which makes it difficult to understand slang for example. Matterhorn is certainly one of the easiest book on war that I have read. Tactical manoeuvres, description of terrain and positions, weapons, etc. Everything that could be hard, is made very easy to follow even for someone with zero knowledge about military things. There is a solid glossary at the end of the book that helps a lot.

Another thing that I find impressive is how much each character feels real. The story cannot spend too much time with each character, and yet, it manages, sometimes with only a few pages, to give you a good idea of each soldier’s personality, problems and likely response to certain events.

I am at 40%, and even though I want to finish it in October, I am also taking my time because I don’t want to reach the end too quickly.

That’s it for my reading challenges of September. I also read one Agatha Christie and I I started the Hawthorne and Horowitz series by Anthony Horowitz, a detective series where the author himself is helping an ex-police detective to solve a case while writing a book about it.

August readings

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.

Japanese books

『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.

Other books

<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 🙂

July readings

I am currently waiting for the Summer to end, and the good news is that July is over! I haven’t read as much as I wanted, and I did not finish my book for the #22tlreadingchallenge. I also only read one winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award.

Mystery Writers of Japan Award – Project

Read all the available winners of the MWJ award for fiction (in chronological order).

I only read one book this month:『華麗なる醜聞』by Yo Sano (佐野洋)

I started this book at the beginning of the month, and although it is under 300 pages, it took me the whole month to get through it.

We follow journalists who are obsessed with finding the meaning and origin of the word ”high hostess” and the police who is after a serial bomber. I found the story with the bomber to be interesting, but the high hostess thing did not trigger my interest. Overall, the story was not compelling enough and while the conclusion and some connections seem obvious very soon, it takes forever to eventually get there.

Overall this book left me disappointed, especially because I expected the prize winners to be, if not mind blowing, at least a little more special.

20th Century reading challenge

Read a book set in each decade of the 20th Century in chronological order (publication date does not matter).

July brought me to the 1960s, and I have decided to explore Maoism with two books by Yan Lianke (阎连科).

The Four Books (translated by Carlos Rojas) describes the lives of intellectuals sent to camps in the countryside, their epic battle to meet the quotas of agricultural production and steel smelting, and finally, their going through the devastating famine that followed. I loved everything in the book, from the unique structure to the sarcastic tone, while the absurdity of what is described gave me the chills all along. This is a fantastic book that I highly recommend.

In comparison, I found Serve the People! (translated by Julia Lovell) to be less powerful, although it looks like it is more popular than The Four Books. Serve the People! is more focused on the relationship between the two protagonists than the historical background, so it made it a little less interesting to me. There is a Korean film adaptation of the book, but watching the trailer did not make me want to watch it 🤔


Read one book per month in your target language (I chose Korean). Check out the prompts here.

I chose to read a book about Korean popular music and how it became the k-pop we know today: <가요, 케이팝 그리고 그너머> by 신현준 (Shin Hyeonjun). However, this book was a bit too specialised for me. I would have preferred an introductory book about the history of popular music in Korea, but this one also has long parts that theorise on popular music in general. A bit too complex for my purpose!

I haven’t finished it, but I did learn a lot of things. I don’t know much about k-pop, and this book allowed me to learn about key moments in the Korean pop history.

Other books

『オレたちバブル入行組』by Jun Ikeido (池井戸潤) is my favourite book of the month. I cannot recommend it enough, it was highly entertaining. I haven’t watched the drama adaptation, but I heard that it has been a huge hit in Japan.

I did something completely new with this book: I read it while listening to the Korean audiobook (한자와 나오키 1, translated by 이선희, read by 김상백). At first, this felt impossible, and I had to pause the audio to catch up. But soon, things became easier, to the point where I could read and listen for longer periods of time without having to pause to re-read something.

This exercise is actually much easier to do than it sounds. Korean and Japanese have a similar structure, and the Korean translation kept very close to the Japanese, meaning that most of the time, you had the exact same sentence, but in Korean. For example, the beginning is:

秘密스러운 指示에는 이유가 있게마련이다. 協定破棄다.

産業中央銀行에서 電話가 걸려온 것은,

8月 20日, 밤 9時가 조금 넘은 時間이었다.

相対는 就業希望者用 要請資料를 보내줘서 고맙다고 말한뒤,

아직 産業中央銀行에 関心이 있는지 물었다.

I wrote the Korean hanja words in characters so even if you don’t read Korean, you can see that the sentences look similar. There are some minor differences here and there, but most of the time, the Korean structure mirrors the Japanese one.

When it came to casual discussions and topics, my brain registered the Korean audio first, but for passages with a lot of specialised words that explained bank-related concepts or procedures, the Japanese would suddenly become much easier to me.

I must add that the voice actor 김상백 (Kim Sangbaek) is just incredible, that was a baffling performance.

『殺人現場は雲の上』by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)

This is the easiest book I read this month. Each of the stories is around 40 pages long, but they felt much shorter and read very quickly.

It is not a realistic depiction of police procedures or how a murder would actually be solved, but it is entertaining and the mysteries are good. If you are looking for light mysteries that are easy to read, this book is perfect. As someone who prefers more serious and realistic murder or mysteries cases, I was a little disappointed. But it was still entertaining enough, and it was refreshing to have a book that I could read quickly and that felt very easy to read.

I haven’t progressed much on《13・67》by Chan Ho-Kei, but I will try to finish the first story in August.

I still have two stories from Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe, which was my audiobook for July.

June readings

I more or less managed to finish all the books I wanted to finish this month:

Mystery Writers of Japan Award – Project

Read all the available winners of the MWJ award for fiction (in chronological order).

Similarly to last month, I only read one book in July. Maybe I should just admit that I am not a big fan of the mysteries from the 60s 🤔

『殺意という名の家畜』by Tensei Kono (河野典生) – winner of 1964

When it comes to crime fiction, I love all sub-genres and will be happy with anything, from whodunnits to legal thrillers, from locked-room mysteries to police procedurals. But there is a big exception: hardboiled fiction. It just does not work for me most of the time.

So it is no surprise that I did not really like 『殺意という名の家畜』even though I think that the novel is good. I could not stand Okada, our protagonist and a writer who leads the investigation. It looks like he despises women, but he decides to do all he can to investigate the disappearance of a woman he hardly knows. He does not seem to even care about her (he only met her once), so why should I care as a reader?

In 《13・67》, a novel by HK author Chan Ho-kei (陳浩基) which I am using to study Chinese, the police detective says:


A literal translation would be something like: The police has to stand by the victim’s side, and give voice to them who are silenced. (Or maybe just “take the side of the victim”? 🤔)

That’s what I want to hear my detective say! I like this kind of ideal, the desire to bring justice that drives most detectives in fiction. But in 『殺意という名の家畜』, there is no emotions, no sense of justice, no passion for truth. So… good book but not for me!


Read one book per month in your target language (I chose Korean). Check out the prompts here.

I decided to ignore the prompt this month (most beautiful book on TBR) and just picked a mystery (but the cover is awesome, so I guess it is not that far away from the prompt. I also want to add that the cover has a gummy feel to it, I don’t know how to describe it, but it is very pleasant to the touch).

Since the tremendous success of books like 불편한 편의점 (김호연) and 달러구트 꿈 백화점 (이미예), there is a Korean trend of feel-good books that take place in a store. But 기억 서점 by 정명섭 (Jeong Myeongseop) is not such a heart-warming story. It is a a story of vengeance. We have got a serial killer, a bunch of suspects, and a vengeance carefully prepared over 15 years.

The book is easy to read, not the best mystery I have ever read, but still very entertaining. I am looking for more Korean mysteries that would have this level of language difficulty. There are so many such books in Japanese, but there are not many Korean authors of mystery fiction, and a lot of the mysteries I have read were much more difficult.

20th Century reading challenge

Read a book set in each decade of the 20th Century in chronological order (publication date does not matter).

For the 1950s, I chose to read about Vietnam at the end of the First Indochina War, as French colonialism is starting to break down and make room for what Pyle, in The Quiet American by Graham Greene, calls a Third Force.

I did not like this novel at all at first, and it is only when I reached the middle of it that I started to find the characters and the story interesting, and I ended up loving the second half of the novel.

The first half talked about Pyle, but I did not find him an interesting character at all at first. The dispute between Pyle and our narrator Fowler over the young Vietnamese woman Phuong were just interesting in that it showed some racial prejudice of the time (for example, that Vietnamese women cannot feel love and passion like Westerners), otherwise, I found these parts rather boring and repetitive.

The turning point has been the night where the two protagonists are trapped in the guard tower and talk about their views for the country. I understood Pyle better at this point, and his opinions, his idealism and naivety, as well as his actions which we learn about later, started to take shape and foretell the danger to come.

From this moment, I found both the story fascinating and could not put the book down whereas it took me forever to read the first half.

Other books

I also read two contemporary mysteries this month, and though they are from different authors, they also felt very similar.

In both books, a murder happens at the beginning, and the story, while still providing an interesting mystery as to who the culprit is, also offers an intense journey into people’s relationship with each other, people’s past, how colleagues, friends and family members see each other, and what everyone secretly think about the ones they see on a daily basis.

『白ゆき姫殺人事件』by Kanae Minato (湊かなえ) has the most interesting structure were a journalist interviews several people, but in the accounts of the interviews, we only get to hear the interviewee’s voice. I found this extremely well done and well written. We have directly access to each person’s testimony without the interference of a narrator.

『白光』by Mikihiko Renjo (連城三紀彦) has a more classic structure, but we get to hear different versions of the same events. I admire how the author managed to give several plausible explanations for what happened, but similarly to Kanae Minato’s book, we have to understand the characters’ psychology to understand the murder.

Both books were really relaxing to read in terms of language level. Sometimes, books that won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award can be more difficult to read, and I need to be very focused and occasionally look up words. 白ゆき姫殺人事件 and 白光 were really easy to read to me.

Finally, I have no interest whatsoever in the copper mines of Montana, and I had never heard of the Butte disaster of 1917, but somehow, Fire and Brimstone by Michael Punke, appeared in my Audible recommendations and I gave it a try. This book is not just about the accident that cost the life of 164 men, but also the whole story of the copper mines, how some made a fortune through them, political scheme and growing tension during WWI, the life of the miners and of course, their battle to survive during the disaster.

I must say that this book managed to get me involved and interested in a topic that I knew nothing about prior to reading it.

There are also several books that I started in June and still haven’t finished, and I am still studying Chinese with《13・67》. I am halfway through chapter one, and I am enjoying this book more than I can tell.

Mid-month update

Once again, I am reading too many books at the same time 🤯 I’ve decided to write a mid-month update because I need to try and focus on finishing my current books before starting new ones. I also need to finish some of them before the end of this month.

Books I’d like to finish this month

First of all, I am not really liking The Quiet American by Graham Greene, which is surprising because the books I choose for my 20th Century Reading challenge are all great works of literature, and I have loved every one of them so far. Another problem is that I don’t feel like I am learning much about Vietnam through it, but the story is also not compelling enough that it makes me want to do my own research. (For example, I read every single Wikipedia article related to the Boxer Revolution and the main actors of the time when I was reading Sandalwood Death). The novel is very short though, so I really want to finish it.

I am only at page 43 of 175 pages. I still have 132 pages to read, so roughly 9 pages per day. Given that it is in English, it should not be a problem.

I am loving the book I read for the #22tlreadingchallenge, which is 기억 서점 by 정명섭 (Jeong Myeongseop). I first picked another book for this challenge, but it was not for me, and I gave it up and chose another one. I am glad I did, but it also means that I started it a little bit later in the month. It is easy to read and the story is engrossing (a story of vengeance that takes place in bookshop? sure!), so I have no doubt that I will be able to finish it on time. I just need to prioritise it a little over other books.

I am at page 116 of 281, so I still have 165 pages to go. It’s only 11 pages a day, but it’s in Korean so… focus focus.

Finally, I really want to read at least one winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan award per month, but I still haven’t started one yet… The next winner on my list is 殺意という名の家畜 by Tensei Kono (河野典生). It is described as hardboiled fiction which is really not my favourite genre when it comes to crime fiction, so I have not been very motivated to start it. It is short (259 pages), so if I started it today, I would have to read 17 pages a day to finish it in June, which is going to be tough, especially given that I have the other two books to finish too. It really depends on the book I think, both the level and the story.

These are the books I would love to finish this month. Obviously, nothing bad will happen if I don’t, but I would feel better if I do, so I’ll try!

Other books

One of my favourite books from my current reads is 白光 by Mikihiko Renjo (連城三紀彦). I am really loving it though I also wonder if it will be able to stay engaging until the end. I am about halfway through, and I feel like we are going over the same things again and again. We’ll see!

I am also reading two books in Korean that are translated from Japanese. This is part of my project to read Japanese fiction in Korean translation to improve my Korean through novels that both correspond to my level and trigger my interest. I really have a hard time finding good and easy crime fiction written by Korean authors, whereas there are tons of entertaining detective/mystery novels in Japanese that are easy to read.

오 해피 데이 by Hideo Okuda (奥田英朗) (translated by 김난주, original title 家日和) is not a mystery though, but I absolutely loved another book I read by Hideo Okuda in Japanese, so that’s why I picked this author. I must say that I don’t love 家日和 as much as the other one, but it is still fine… and easy to read. Good thing is that the book is a collection of short stories so I can put it aside for longer periods of time, come back to it, just read one story and move on to other books. I read 3 out of the 6 short stories, so I am exactly halfway through it.

At the beginning of the month I also started 밀실살인 게임 by Shogo Utano (歌野晶午) (translated by 김은모, original title 密室殺人ゲーム). I have never read Shogo Utano in Japanese yet, but I will for sure, given that one of his novels have won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 2004. As for 密室殺人ゲーム, it is okay but not as exciting as I thought it would be. It is also very long (475 pages) so starting it when I have so many other books to read was certainly a mistake. I am only at page 82, so what I should do is to read a little bit regularly to not forget the story.

And finally, I decided to learn Chinese because… why not? I studied it at school, but I haven’t touched the language for years now, and I have forgotten a lot. I still remember most of the grammar though, and I have kept in touch with characters through Japanese, so I figured I could just pick a novel and use it to study the language and learn new words. I chose 13•67 by Chan Ho-kei (陳浩基). The first chapter was really difficult and I had to look up tons of words, but the second one was much easier. It is a slow progress though, I guess that it will take me several months to read the whole novel…

My favourite books so far are 13•67, 白光 and 기억 서점.

I will try to finish the “June” books, but I doubt that it is realistic to start and finish the winner of the MWJ award 😬

In any case, I won’t start another book unless I finish at least 3 or 4 books from this list!

May readings

A good part of my readings of May have been about WW2, mainly because my 20th Century Reading Challenge has brought me to the 1940s this month. I only read one winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, so that is a bit of a disappointment, but I am keeping up with all the challenges!

20th Century reading challenge

Read a book set in each decade of the 20th Century in chronological order (publication date does not matter).

I chose to read about the Pacific War, mainly because this is an area that I am less familiar with than the war in Europe. When I read about WW1 in February, I chose to read a German and a French book together, and I loved the experience, so I decided to do the same for the Pacific War, choosing a Japanese and an American book.

“They died gloriously on the field of honor for the emperor”, is what their families would be told. In reality, their lives were wasted on a muddy, stinking slope for no good reason.

With the Old Breed, Eugene Sledge

『野火』by Shohei Ooka (大岡昇平) | With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge

As I feared, 『野火』was very difficult to read for me, and unfortunately, I was not able to finish it. I read it very slowly and made it to about half of the novel.

The novel is really a big surprise to me. I was expecting Shohei Ooka to describe the training, the combats, the harsh conditions of living, the comradeship between the soldiers… but our protagonist, Tamura, is completely and utterly alone. This makes for long description of the nature around him and thoughts about life and death which were hard to read in Japanese.

With the Old Breed was an incredible read, it is both very detailed and easy to follow for someone who is not familiar with military tactics and jargon. Eugene Sledge describes how the prolonged shelling, the stress and the conditions in which they were fighting (the rain, the mud, the stench of dead bodies…) affected the men and pushed them to the boundaries of sanity. But something remains unshaken until the end: the comradeship between them. Sledge talks of “loyalty”, ”devotion” and ”love” and ends his memoir saying ”That esprit de corps sustained us”.

It is that ”esprit de corps” that is lacking to Tamura. Rejected by his company because of his illness but not admitted to the hospital either, Tamura is alone. Harassed by the constant shelling, Eugene Sledge made a promise to himself: he might die, but he will not loose his sanity. Tamura is not under enemy fire, he is not fighting, but his mind starts to break. The two books are like a reversed image of each other.

I will try to find the English translation of 『野火』and read in parallel to finish it.

Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown

I did not read Facing the Mountain as part of my 20th Century Reading Challenge, but as it was also about WW2, I will include it here.

Facing the Mountain will certainly be the most important book I have read this year. Daniel James Brown gives a fantastic account of how the attack on Pearl Harbor affected Japanese-American families living in the US, mainland and Hawaii. I feel ashamed because I never really thought about it before, and even if I had, I would never have been able to imagine the extent of the discrimination and the injustice they suffered. I also didn’t know about the 442nd Battalion who fought in Europe.

The book is fantastic, so well written and based on so much research. I listened to the audiobook version read by Louis Ozawa, and it was so intense, I could not put it down.

Mystery Writers of Japan Award – Project

Read all the available winners of the MWJ award for fiction (in chronological order).

I only read just one book this month, but it was such a good one!

『夜の終る時』by Shoji Yuki (結城昌治)

This book is a 警察小説 or police procedural, and this might be one of my favourite sub-genre when it comes to detective fiction. Shoji Yuki describes in a very realistic manner the work of the police, the problems that arise internally, and the conditions in which the detectives work (long working hours, low pay). We learn about the hierarchy and how much easier it is to achieve a higher rank through education than through internal promotion, which leaves some veterans bitter. Another interesting fact, was the difference between the older generation of policemen who are entirely dedicated to their work but whose methods are not always ethical, and the younger generation who is not ready to give up their personal life and hobbies for their job.

The different short stories emphasise a lot the relation between police and yakuza, how they inevitably come to work together, and how it can also lead to corruption or difficult choices.

The first story, 夜の終る, which is more a novella than a short story, was by far the most impactful and engrossing. The other stories, much shorter, felt a bit repetitive after a while, but they were all equally good.


Read one book per month in your target language (I chose Korean). Check out the prompts here.

The prompt for May was ”a translated book” so I chose to read a Japanese book I had on my reading list for a while.

여섯명의 거짓말쟁이 대학생 (六人の嘘つきな大学生) by Akinari Asakura (浅倉秋成), translated by Sohyeon Nam (남소현)

I did not really like this book, but I think that it was not a book for me in the first place. I might have let myself be influenced by all the hype around it. The cover is awesome, the setting interesting, and after all, it is a mystery.

But in terms of mystery, this one was rather a light one. I did not find the premise on which the mystery is based to be very exciting, but the problem is that the whole novel revolves around it. Of course, there are numerous twists and we get to see things from different angles, but there are not really new elements or new events added to the first mystery.

I also found that the book tended to explain things that were obvious, which was a bit annoying. The first part, which might be the most interesting one, felt very frustrating to me, because, from my point of view, the characters’ actions and decisions were all wrong. The second part was a bit weaker in my opinion, again, certainly because the novel keeps on exhausting the same premise without adding enough new elements. Finally, I really did not like the end, not that it is bad, but it showed that this is not the kind of book that I enjoy reading.

There are numerous other little things that I did not like, but I don’t think that it is worth pointing them out. The book was simply not for me. If you like a lighter mystery (no murder, nothing really bad happening), you will certainly find this book great. It has numerous twists, characters that you are bound to grow attached to as the novel progresses, some good moments of deduction, interesting reflections on the absurd competitive marathon students must go through to find a job, and even a heart warming touch here and there.