May reads: a slow month

May has been a disaster in terms of reading, especially in Japanese. I think that learning Chinese has become my main hobby right now, and I haven’t dedicated much time to reading.

My main achievement this month is the creation of a single user instance on Mastodon, where I post about learning Chinese while playing Genshin Impact. I see it as a mini blog to record my progress, and I really like having my own personal space in the fediverse. There’s not a lot of people over there that are into language learning (even though some people say that they are learning languages, they rarely post about that – or maybe I just still haven’t met enough people), and the Genshin community is really small, so it was really hard to find an appropriate server or anywhere I felt I could fit in.

I have read a bit in Chinese as well, I finished 坏小孩 by 紫金陈 (Zijin Chen) that I started in April. I love this author more than I can say because his books are incredibly easy to read while being very engrossing. It’s the perfect combination to start reading in a foreign language. I heartily recommend Zijin Chen if you are learning Chinese. Both 无证之罪 and 坏小孩 are great (I preferred 无证之罪)! I still have one novel to read, and it’s the last one in the 推理之王 trilogy (it’s called a trilogy, but you don’t need to read them in order): 长夜难明.

Before starting another novel though, I wanted to read some short stories, so I chose a collection of stories that won the Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award in 2022. I am now obsessed with this prize, and of course, I plan to read all the winners! Interestingly, the prize only honours short fiction, and the shortlist is published in a collection each year. This is perfect for me, because it’s less intimidating to read short stories than to start a novel, and I can buy them digitally on readmoo. I also have access to the zhuyin on the digital version, which makes looking up words much easier. I finished the first short story, 冰涼的殺意 by 青奈, and it was really great and not too difficult. But the second one, 冰室 by 馬丹尼, is really hard to read, and I have given up on understanding everything. I’m still halfway through, but I’ll try to finish it.

As for Japanese, I finished 化人幻戯 by Edogawa Ranpo, a Kogoro Akechi novel that I had started in April. Even though it belongs to the Kogoro Akechi series, it was written after the War and differs a bit in genre. The Kogoro Akechi series is more adventure than detective to me, it’s always Kogoro Akechi against a big villain, it relies more on tricks and action than deduction. 化人幻戯 felt very different right from the beginning, it started like a whodunnit, with a classic setting, a really good mystery, a small cast of characters and a murder to solve.

Interestingly, both Edogawa Rampo and Kogoro Akechi are featured as real characters in the fiction. Characters talk about how Edogawa Rampo wrote the adventures of Akechi but made up half of it. It really picked my interest, because Akechi is portrayed as a hero in most novels, he always knows in advance what his opponent will do and anticipates everything, his disguise mastery is so advanced that it’s not funny, and he has tons of tricks in his sleeve (I think I remember a scene where his opponent was menacing him with a pistol, but Akechi somehow just took the pistol from his opponent’s hands). If these deeds were “made up” by Rampo, then we might be able to see the “real” Akechi!

But even though the novel has a really strong start, it ended up being a little disappointing in the end. When I thought we will have a real whodunnit where alibis and motives are the core of the investigation, the novel used tricks that I really didn’t like. One felt very conform to the ones we usually find in the Kogoro Akechi series, and another one was used twice in the story! Also, the motive, though not bad per se, felt like cheating in this novel.

Well, it was still an enjoyable read, I like the atmosphere and characters, and even though it was easy to foresee what would happen, and even though Akechi was again his all-knowy all-mighty self, I still liked it overall.

I also finally started the collection of short stories 黒い画集 by Seicho Matsumoto, but I am only (barely) halfway through it, when my plan was to finish it in May…

I read the first four short stories, and even though I liked them overall, they are not as impactful as the ones collected in 顔・白い闇. Also, I liked each of the stories I read a little less than the previous one. So I really enjoyed 遭難, and I liked 証言 quite a lot. 天城越えwas less for me, even though I found the concept interesting. As for 寒流, I did not enjoy reading it at all, I found it slow without tension and not much happening. As a result, I’m lacking some motivation to continue the book, but there are still three short stories and novellas remaining.

One thing is certain now, I won’t complete my Spring challenge…

And that’s it for Japanese, I really haven’t read much this month!

As for, after starting and DNFing several Korean books, I finally found one that I like. It’s #기묘힌 살인사건 and it is a collection of short stories by three different authors: 엄성용, 홍정기, 송한별. Each author has several short stories (between four and seven), and I really like this concept because it’s a good way to get to know an author’s style. I am now reading the first author, 엄성용, and I really love their stories so far!

I am not making any plans for June, because my priority is still to improve my Chinese, and I just don’t feel motivated to read these days, so forcing a schedule won’t work I think. I also completely give up on my project to read several Seicho Matsumoto books before the end of Spring.