November wrap up

I didn’t know what to draw to illustrate November, so I just drew my cat 🤷‍♀️

Japanese books read this month

Aではない君と by Gaku Yakumaru (薬丸岳)

Based on the other books I read by this author, I was expecting a thriller with a little more action than Aではない君と contains. The novel is quite slow but stays engaging all along with an interesting topic: what happens when a minor is arrested in a murder case.

This is the fourth Yakumaru book I have read now, and Aではない君と contains topics that were already treated in other books: school bullying in ガーディアン, murder committed by minors in 天使のナイフ, and more generally, the protagonist is often a father who leads a normal life until something tears his life apart, and he has to fight for truth or justice (天使のナイフ, 約束).

I would say that Aではない君と was my least favourite of all four books. The pace is slow with a lot of repetitive scenes, and I could not feel any sympathy for our protagonist’s son, the character around which the whole novel revolves.

最後の証人 by Yuko Yuzuki (柚木裕子)

This book is the first in the Sadato Sakata series, and it was excellent! Sadato Sakata used to be a public prosecutor, but we learn that he resigned years ago to become a lawyer. In this novel, we follow Sakata as he takes a difficult case and finds himself fighting prosecutor Mao Shoji in court.

I was a bit disappointed at first because I was expecting the whole novel to be about court proceedings, but we also follow the narrative of what happened from the point of view of the characters involved. As a result, the court scenes where we hear witnesses talking about the case can sometimes feel unexciting as we think we know what happened already.

The end was surprising though, and the chapter recounting the last day of the trial was extremely engrossing.

Interestingly, the following 3 books of the series are all collections of short stories about the time when Sakata was a public prosecutor. I happen to have already read the second book of the series because I did not know that it was the second book when I bought it. There was nothing on the cover, the obi or even inside the book that told me “this is the second book in a series, you should start with that one”. I really hate when this happens as I prefer to read a series in order, even if it does not have much impact with this series.

妖怪博士|暗黒星 by Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)

This is the 11th book in the Kogoro Akechi series that I am reading this year. There are 12 books in the collection I bought, and my reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book a month, so I am close to completing my challenge!

妖怪博士 belongs to the Boy Detectives Club series, and it was extremely good. I cannot say if it was my favourite because all the novels I read from this series are all equal in quality. If you love one, you will probably love them all. One thing with this series though, is that you really need to read them in order. 妖怪博士 in particular is much more enjoyable if you have read the first adventures of the Boy Detectives Club. It even contains some spoilers as to how the previous cases were solved.

暗黒星 belongs to the regular Kogoro Akechi series, and it was a pure delight. It belongs now to my favourite books of the series together with 魔術師 and 吸血鬼. There are two types of plot in the series. One is when a villain is introduced as the worst criminal of all time who is terrorising the city, and the story is then a Akechi vs Villain adventure. The other type is when some weird and inexplicable events happen to a family (usually living in a big house) and Akechi is called to investigate, the crime is then more intimate and personal. Sometimes, both lines are mixed, but I really do prefer the latter. This is the kind of story with have here in 暗黒星 and I did not want it to stop. I wish that the last two remaining novels (only one book, but it contains two novels) are in the same line.

Korean reading project

I’ve learned Korean before learning Japanese, but unfortunately, I have never been able to read comfortably in Korean. I did manage to finish several novels (maybe 4 or 5), but I never reached that cap that I had with Japanese, where reading progressively but steadily becomes easier. The lack of kanji (I should say ”hanja”) is really killing me, and I have given up trying to read whole novels in Korean. The fact that the book scene in Korea is not really focused on mystery fiction also did not motivate me to put in the extra effort.

But now, I have decided that things must change 😠 !! I will apply the same method I used for Japanese to read Korean books. I will report on the books I read in my monthly wrap ups and I’ll try to read one Korean book per month. I might also write short reviews for them, but I will certainly group 3 or 4 books in the same blog post.

아몬드 (Almond) by Won-pyung Sohn (손원평)

The book I read this month is 아몬드 by Won-pyung Sohn 손원평. It has been translated into English under the title Almond by Sandy Joosun Lee. Interestingly, this book was labelled as Young Adult fiction when it came out in Korea, but after reading it, I would say that it is more correct to just classify it as literary fiction.

Our protagonist and narrator, Yunjae, is born with a brain condition that makes it impossible for him to have emotions and to identify or understand other people’s emotions. Yunjae is our narrator, so we see the world through his eyes and interact with other characters through him as well, which is what makes this book so interesting.

As for the language level, 아몬드 is definitely on the easy side, though it is not the easiest book I have read in Korean (for example, I am reading 일의 기쁨과 슬픔 by 장류진, and I find it is easier). With the English translation available though, I think that it is a very good book for Korean learners.

6 thoughts on “November wrap up

  1. Thanks for the book reviews. Oh yeah, you also learn Korean, right? I’m starting to learn the Hangul alphabets now. I would like to ask for your recommendation on which Grammar, Vocabulary textbook you use for Korean? Is there any Korean books similar to the Japanese JLPT books? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hello! For grammar, I really recommend the “Korean Grammar in Use” published by Darakwon. There are three levels. I think it is very good. Darakwon also publishes “2000 Essential Korean Words”, which the book I use.

      You can also have a look at Talk To Me In Korean. They publish books for beginners and have courses on their website too. I think that they are very popular among Korean learners.

      The equivalent to the JLPT is the Topik, but I don’t have a particular title to recommend.

  2. wow! so surprised to hear that you read a novel in korean. I also love the typo; it adds to the suspense. i read that one too but i read it on an ereader with hanja inserted via hanjaro I have a couple physical k-novels so those definitely will be hanja-less which is fine but if i have an ebook without the drm i always run it through hanjaro.

    i looked into how many books i read this year and the gist is 30 something books in english, 15 books in japanese, and 6 books in korean (mostly e-books) . A couple years back I was only reading novels in Japanese but as of now i want to read books in all 3 languages haha. So currently English is taking precedence and Korean is on the back-burner but it’s better than reading 0 books in Korean.

    so are you learning korean and japanese now with anki etc? did you look up words during or after reading? for me, when i read on an ereader i look it up then and there and if the dictionary doesn’t find it and i care i highlight the sentence(s) so i can export it at the very end. also the dictionaries saves the look-ups by generating txt file with all the words i searched in it so I do stuff with that too.

    when i read a physical book I underline in red as I read and don’t look up 99% of the time. I only look up if it’s absolutely crucial info which is never the case because my korean vocab isn’t tiny and i don’t read physical books that aren’t at my level. so i pretty much look up nothing. Before I flip the page I copy the words into a notebook then I later type up the words and mass generate cards via tagging(But I haven’t done this step in forever lol).

    I am currently enjoying 제국의 빛 by 김영하 on my ereader. I like this author’s writing style so I plan on reading a bunch of his works. btw the vegetarian is definitely harder than almond. I was very fortunate and happy that I could read it on my ereader… one novel per month sounds like a lofty goal! I know I can’t hit that lol. I’m very happy I hit that quota for japanese novels this year.

    1. I think that I have never been able to get into reading in Korean because I was reading physical books. A couple of months ago, my computer let me down, and I decided to get an ipad instead. Now I’m reading Korean books on ipad, and it is so much easier. It is so easy to look up words. I use ridibooks, and I really love the Naver dictionary.

      What I do is that I save the words I looked up in folders on the Naver dictionary (one folder per book) and review them from there. I am not using Anki for Korean, but this method works well. Look up words when reading on ridibooks, save them on naver dic directly from the ridibooks app, and review them on the naver dic app. I try to review them once a day, but it is not the end of the world if I miss a day or two.

      I did not even try to read the Vegetarian in Korean (I had this feeling that it would be difficult), and I bought the English translation instead. I must be one of the rare persons who has not loved this novel. I absolutely loved the first chapter, I found it super powerful, but the second one? I found it so uninteresting and weak compared to the first one that I gave up the book. Maybe I should give it another try now, I could read the Korean and English together.

      I remember reading a book by 김영하 in translation and liking it. I should try another one of his books.

      I am not using Anki at the moment, but thank you for your proposition!

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