The Book Aesthetics Tag!

The Book AestheticTag (1)

Rules

  • Thank whoever nominated you (maybe you’re bitter that you have another tag to do on top of the billions you already need to do (#relatable), still though. Someone thought of you. Be thankful. At least pretend to be.)
  • Credit the creator of this tag; Michelle at The Writing Hufflepuff.
  • There’s no limit of how many aesthetics you can make for a question, but think of your poor readers.
  • Make your own aesthetics, please don’t steal them from someone else. Also what’s the fun in that?

I was bored, and I felt like changing my pace a bit, and so I decided to do the Book Aesthetics Tag!

I really wanted to do the Blogger Aesthetic tag/award but I thought that I should probably wait to be tagged for that one. ;;

A warning in advance: This is my first, and I mean my very first time creating aesthetic boards, so I’m sorry if these aren’t up to snuff. :I

Also, I own nothing. I found most of these pictures on Pinterest, and the rest I found on Google.

Favourite book of the year

Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

I have quite a few books that would fit the “favorite of the year” description, but I decided to go with Hate List because I feel like it’s the most generalized out there. It really impressed me with its empathy and realistic characters, and it’s important to understanding the psychology behind school shootings.


Character you relate to a lot

Simon from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

Honestly, there wasn’t anybody else. Even though Simon and I aren’t exactly alike (though he is the one that introduced me to Elliott Smith <3), I relate to him on a spiritual level. We have the same personality, I think, though he’s more confident in himself.


A character you look up to

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

I was really impressed with Pride and Prejudice and I loved Elizabeth on the spot. She’s smart, knows who she is, and doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do, even if it’s what’s accepted by society. She’s not perfect, as seen by her initial prejudice toward Mr. Darcy, but she’s still the kind of woman I hope to grow up to be.


An underrated gem 

What Angels Fear, by C.S. Harris

I was extremely impressed with What Angels Fear and was surprised when I found out that it wasn’t as popular as I thought it would be. It’s a really invigorating and complex mystery, set during the later years of the Georgian era under the reign of King George III. The history was so well-researched and detailed, and it didn’t hurt that Sebastian was such a strong protagonist who followed his own rules. It’s my favorite historical fiction to date.


Dearly, Departed, by Lia Habel

I read this one years ago, so my rating can’t be trusted. I get it: zombies don’t make good boyfriends, so a zombie romance is ridiculous and was probably just swept up in the overwhelming zombie craze a few years back. Still, I don’t think it was all that bad. I remember liking the characters and finding the world of New Vitoria very interesting.


A character that deserves more love

Rhy Maresh from A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

I don’t think people hate Rhy – I just don’t think they love him as much as I do. I understand that he wasn’t as much of a character in the first book, but I adored the small parts that he had and I cared about him very much. I was attracted to his personality, from his bubbly, flirtatious side to the dark layers beneath. He was my favorite character throughout all three books. Personally, I love him more than Kell.


An underrated OTP

Alex and Miles from Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia

It’s no secret that I love this book, but please do not underestimate just how much. Re-reading books is a rarity for me, and I have to really, really love a book in order to do it – as seen by my thrice read The Raven Cycle. I re-read this book earlier this year to hype myself up for Eliza and Her Monsters, and I fell in love with it all over again. I love the dynamic between Alex and Miles, that subtle line between “I can’t stand you” and “I’m desperately in love with you”.


All right, I’m done~.

I tag Delphine @ Delphine’s Babble on Some Good Reads | icebreaker694 | Sophie @ Blame Chocolate.

Please only do it if you want to.

Until next time!

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My website has not been hacked, + HAPPY 100TH POST ON THE GRUMPY LIBRARIAN!!!!

First off, I just checked my stats and learned that I am at 99 posts, which makes this one the 100th post!

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(K-Pop gifs because K-POP.)

Secondly, if you glance at my homepage, you will discover that my blog looks a little different.

Just a little.

No, someone did not hack into my account and throw a bucket of pink paint onto my blog – I did this. I’ve been wanting to remodel my blog for a very, very long time because every time I stared at it I felt very…unsatisfied. It made me anxious because I didn’t feel like the person who designed this blog was the person I am now. So, I changed it.

That’s right. This is supposed to represent who I am on the inside.

I am a giant ball of cotton candy.

I’m much happier with how it looks now, though it does make the title a bit ironic. (Though that was kind of the whole point anyway.) Regardless, I have finally done it.

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That is all I wanted to say. I plan to post more soon, since work is finally settling down a bit. (Though I am getting scheduled more hours. D: ) I may not be reading as much, but I have more motivation to read than ever before!

Until next time! ❤

Review: Under the Midnight Sun, by Keigo Higashino

28220706Under the Midnight Sun, by Keigo Higashino

Genres: Adult, Mystery-Thriller, Japanese Literature

Rating: ✮✮

“Sometimes I feel like I spend my life under a midnight sun.”

TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains depictions of rape. Please be advised.

I was enjoying this book up until the very end – and I mean the last few pages. Perhaps two stars is too bitter, but to tell you the truth, I’m pissed off.

For the past week, my life has been work, K-Pop, and Under the Midnight Sun. I would squeeze as many pages as I could into my break and before I went to bed, sometimes staying up until 3:00 a.m. because I couldn’t put it down. Keigo Higashino has an engrossing and yet somewhat straightforward way of telling his stories, as I saw when I read Malice not too long ago. Under the Midnight Sun is broader and more character-driven, which meant dedicating not just more time, but more energy into reading it.

The plot is like a target: one giant bulls-eye surrounded by other, smaller points that span over the length of twenty years. It branches off to explore both Yukiho and Ryo’s lives after the murder, sometimes telling the story from the most obscure characters to get the picture of how it affected them. Toward the end when Sasagaki, the detective who was first assigned to the case, gets back into the picture, things began to move toward the center as everything that has happened points back to twenty years ago.

But not everything gets answered.

A lot of things are assumed, but not everything is answered directly, especially the finer points concerning the connection between Yukiho and Ryo. This is critical because it would define the terms of their relationship, their individual personalities, and motive. Questions are asked and never clarified – for instance, was Yukiho in love with Kazunari? Did she set up the attack on Eriko, her best friend, because she was dating him? Or was Kazunari’s ex-girlfriend to blame?

These are all things that are brought up, and a reader can imagine it however they like, but what’s more fun than figuring the mystery out for yourself is getting the answers to find out if you’re right. The biggest one – who the murderer is, obviously – is easy in comparison. What’s more interesting is everything that is tied to it.

Also, this is is just a personal opinion, because I can see how they relate to the story in the end, but the sex scenes made me uncomfortable. They’re abrupt and fly a bit out of nowhere, and I was relieved to get through them.

Reading this book is a commitment, but I don’t think it is a very gratifying one.

Project Bungou Stray Dogs: Mandarins: Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

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Original Title: 蜜柑 (Mikan)

Author: Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (芥川 龍之介, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke)

Translator: Charles De Wolf

Genres: Literature, Japanese Literature

Rating: ✮✮✮

Image result for Akutagawa gif


He could not help despising himself, even as he was equally compelled to think that when we peel back the skin we are indeed all the same.


Project BSD

Stories in this book:

  • Mandarins
  • At the Seashore
  • An Evening Conversation
  • The Handkerchief
  • An Enlightened Husband
  • Autumn
  • Winter
  • Fortune
  • Kesa and Moritō
  • The Death of a Disciple
  • O’er a Withered Moor
  • The Garden
  • The Life of a Fool
  • The Villa of the Black Crane
  • Cogwheels

I’ve read enough of Akutagawa’s work that I feel like there’s very little left for me to say. A writer’s work speaks for the writer, and Akutagawa’s voice is loud and clear.

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa despised humanity – but above all, he despised himself.

Why have you too come into this world so full of vain desire and suffering? And why is this your burden of fate: to have the likes of me as a father?

Mandarins contains stories that I’ve read before under a different translator, such as The Life of a Fool (also known as The Life of a Stupid Man), Mandarins, and Cogwheels (also known as Spinning Gears). Though Akutagawa is well known for the bizarre and the grotesque, as seen in stories such as Hell Screen, Rashōmon, and Kappa, he is also known for his psychological undertones that expose the ugliness of humanity. The stories inside of Mandarins are about the changing times of twentieth-century Japan and the misfits that cannot adapt – such as Akutagawa himself.

The translation is beautiful. The Life of a Fool is one of my all-time favorite short stories, and Charles De Wolf matched, if not exceeded the translation done by Jay Rubin in Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories. I also enjoyed Kesa and Moritō and The Death of a Disciple, though Cogwheels did not improve, unfortunately. It has autobiographical elements such as The Life of a Fool, but the latter is better written and told than the former.

The other stories were good, but I don’t think they stand out as strongly as the others. I think Akutagawa’s strength was irony, or perhaps tragedy – the brutality of human beings that he was so fond of portraying. Many of these shorts felt light in comparison, and perhaps a bit dull. That is why I could not bring myself to give the collection four stars, despite how much I love Akutagawa.

Review: The Devil’s Whisper, by Miyuki Miyabe

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The Devil’s Whisper, by Miyuki Miyabe

Genres: Japanese Literature, Mystery-Thriller

Rating: ✮✮

“Living beings have a natural instinct to protect themselves.”

Warning: I get a bit weeb-ish. Gifs are used.

This wasn’t a bad book, but for a mystery, it was terrible.

I’ve had an interest in Japanese mystery and detective novels lately, and The Devil’s Whisper was one of the first that I came across. It has an intriguing synopsis that draws you in: three women die in quick succession, and all of their deaths appear to be accidents or suicide, but they share a link that raises questions on whether or not they were murdered. That link is uncovered by Mamoru, the nephew of the taxi driver who is arrested after hitting and killing the third victim, Yoko Sugano.

It walks a fine line – mysteries solved by teenage detectives are always a bad idea unless they’re children’s books – but Mamoru isn’t that presumptuous. He begins the investigation to try and prove his uncle’s innocence, comes across some dirty laundry by happenstance and wound up getting involved. He is completely likable – however, he is also very dull. All of the characters are. Miyabe doesn’t take the time to explore their personalities or interests, and so they feel like stick figures. I had to be imaginative and come up with some ideas in my head, just to get an idea of what they looked like. Quite a few of them had familiar names, and so they often appeared as different celebrities. Mamoru, for instance, looked like Mamoru Miyano.

tenor

Not that I mind, of course.

It also has the blandest mystery I’ve ever read. There are very few clues for Mamoru to follow; everything falls into his lap. When he tracks down a writer that has a connection to the girls, the guy literally tells him everything that he needs to know. The killer continuously makes contact with him and supplements the rest. The only twists this book has aren’t related to the mystery at all, and they’re minor. People getting attacked, collapsing, trying to commit suicide – those kinds of things. On top of that, there’s Mamoru’s relationship with his father, who abandoned the family when Mamoru was four years old after getting busted for a money-laundering scheme. That is held more important than the murders, and I don’t understand why. It doesn’t have any relevance to the crimes, nor any connections, yet it’s still what Miyabe uses to tie up her story, leaving a very unsatisfactory ending.

On top of being boring, it’s predictable. How is this person killing these women? Spoiler: I literally said about halfway through, “Please don’t let it be hypnotism.” It’s cheap and lazy, and it makes the title sound like a joke. There could’ve been a devious mastermind who manipulated those girls into killing themselves, but instead, they took the easy way out. I know it can be done. I’ve seen Durarara!!, you know.

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^Exhibit A.

The bottom line is, this is a poor excuse for a mystery. It’s lifeless, with watered-down characters and a very mediocre storyline.

Project Bungou Stray Dogs: Poems of Days Past, by Chūya Nakahara

439359Original Title: 在りし日の歌 (Arishi Hi no Uta)

Author: Chūya Nakahara (中原 中也, Nakahara Chūya)

Translator: Ry Beville

Genres: Literature, Poetry

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

 


Today, hopes that resonated in me long ago

Are turning a sharp indigo and falling to me from the sky.


Project BSD

Note: Due to length, the quotes used in this review are excerpts, not the entire poem.

It’s official: Chūya Nakahara is my favorite poet of all time.

I can’t get enough of his poems. His rhythms, his framework, his imagery, his terminology…it’s all so captivating. These poems are the most beautifully written things I’ve ever seen. I have to give immense commendation to Ry Beville, because he translated them with so much care.

The tips of the leaves clinging to the lower branches

Held the glistening drops of water, and my gaze

Poems of Days Past is a bit different from Poems of the Goat. The poems are a bit more abstract and repetitive, and that lets Chūya’s lyrical style shine. Even so, they contain the same haunting melancholy, the same quiet, harrowing agony – the sense that the poet is one push away from falling apart.

It’s evening outside, and leaves are rustling.

It’s a Spring evening of subtle reminders.

And I – I’m quietly dying,

Sitting just as I am, fading away

Not all of them are like that, of course – but the ones that are remain the strongest.

Chūya’s poems are like an aesthetic – at least, that’s what they look like to me. Soft, elegant, and interwoven with a kind of sadness that transcends the natural world.

Project Bungou Stray Dogs: Blue Bamboo: Tales of Fantasy and Romance, by Osamu Dazai

306559Original Title: 竹青 (Chikusei)

Author: Osamu Dazai (太宰 治, Dazai Osamu)

Translator: Ralph F. McCarthy

Genres: Literature, Japanese Literature, Fantasy

Rating: ✮✮✮

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“People born to misery are destined to remain forever in misery.”


Project BSD

Stories in this book:

  • On Love and Beauty
  • Cherry Leaves and the Whistler
  • The Chrysanthemum Spirit
  • The Mermaid and the Samurai
  • Blue Bamboo
  • Romanesque
  • Lanterns of Romance

I didn’t enjoy these stories as much as I did the ones in Crackling Mountain. A lot of the ones in Blue Bamboo are kind of meh.

They’re more whimsical than his other work, definitely. I don’t think there’s anything about them that isn’t appealing; it’s just that they have a hard time sitting well. The two that I loved the most were Cherry Leaves and the Whistler – a sad story about a woman whose sister is dying from an illness – and The Mermaid and the Samurai, which is about a former samurai who kills a mermaid at sea, then struggles to prove his honesty when the world is turned against him at the hands of a rival. The other stories were all pretty gray.

I think the problem is certain elements that were included that outright piss me off. Blue Bamboo, for instance, and the relationship between the protagonist and his wife. That, along with a really sloppy ending that put an even worse taste in my mouth. Then there’s Lanterns of Romance, a sequel to the first story, On Love and Romance. I didn’t have any particular qualms with the first story – besides the fact that it seems kind of pointless – but in Lanterns of Romance, which is actually a story within a story, one of the characters includes a certain Biblical passage that made me spit fire and want to throw the book out the window. (I’m sure most of you know it. Something about Adam and Eve and who came first? Ring a bell?) I don’t doubt that Dazai was speaking for the character and not for himself, but why he should choose to insert that passage instead of letting them speak for themselves, I have no idea.

So, it’s not that any of these stories are bad, it’s just that not many of them are that good. In comparison to some of Dazai’s other work, few of them stand out. Blue Bamboo showcases Dazai as an idealist, but this is far from the work that he’s come to be reveled for.

An update on where I am now.

I have been a horrible blogger this past couple of weeks, and I decided that before I blast into outer space on my own personal rocket ship and leave anyone who might be worried wondering where I am (again), I would give an update on what’s going on in my life, and why I might not be as active in the future.

To begin – and I don’t want to say this, but it feels important that I be honest – last Saturday, I had an anxiety attack. I’ve had Generalized Anxiety Disorder since I was sixteen, maybe before, but I’ve never had an attack as bad as that one. I scared the shit out of my parents. The truth is that having graduated this year, I’ve been stressing myself sick while I try to figure out what I plan to do with my life. I’d decided to take a gap year, but then I began to wonder if that was a mistake, and I didn’t have a job or anything to fall back on, and I wasn’t doing anything to better the situation – on and on and on.

Eventually, I calmed down. I started to think of short-term instead of long-term goals – things that I wanted to accomplish in the next year instead of the next ten years. Narrowing my scope actually made me feel a lot better, because then it was easy: First of all, I wanted a job. It didn’t have to be glamorous, but I wanted a source of income so I could become financially independent. Second of all, I wanted to earn my driver’s license. My disorder has inhibited me from driving in the past, and so I’ve had to rely on alternate transportation – and I’ve grown sick of it. I live in a very rural area, and the nearest store is about seven miles from my house. The bus system is sketchy at best and the taxi service is shit. Thus, the rational course of action is to learn how to drive.

Now, things have begun to look up. I actually do have a job, though I haven’t started yet. It’s definitely not glamorous at all – it’s a starter job, at the general store in my crack of a town – but I’m pissed enough at myself that even if the work is grueling, I plan to keep it until a better opportunity crosses my path. I have also begun to drive, and even though I am still scared to death that I’m going to hit something/someone, I’ve found that I actually do like driving. It helped when I realized that no one, and I mean no one, is a perfect driver.

It is because of said job that I might not be around to post much; it will probably take me a lot longer to finish a book. Additionally, because I’m focusing on real life, I’ll be putting less attention to reviews and updating my blog. This is troublesome because I decided that I want to be an editor – there is actually a really funny story behind that, by the way – and because, even if no one else cares about it, I’m still passionate about Project Bungou Stray Dogs. I’ve decided that I will post when I have the time and review when I want to, instead of forcing myself to juggle too many things at once.

So, that is all. I am not going away completely, but in case I’m not around as often, I wanted to let everyone know. The last thing that I want is to abandon this blog and this community that I’ve grown so fond of. You are all so caring and supportive, and I don’t want to leave any of you behind.

Until we meet again. ❤

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(^I just started watching Uta no Prince-Sama. I don’t know if it’s the worst or the best thing that’s ever happened to me.)

Project Bungou Stray Dogs: Stories of Osaka Life, by Sakunosuke Oda

1703287Original Title: N/A

Author: Sakunosuke Oda (織田 作之助, Oda Sakunosuke)

Translator: Burton Watson

Genres: Literature, Japanese Literature

Rating: ✮✮✮ +½

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“We bumbled through the period of our youth in an attitude of ambiguity, understanding things and yet not understanding them, not knowing whether we were young or old.”


Project BSD

Stories in this book:

  • Hurray for Marriage, or Sweet Beans for Two!
  • Six White Venus
  • City of Trees
  • The State of the Times

Note: all mentions of ‘Odasaku’ refer to Sakunosuke Oda.

In Bungou Stray Dogs, Odasaku only appears for four episodes, but the effect he has is buried deep. His influence is evident in many different moments throughout the show, particularly in Dazai’s behavior. This relates so well to the authors behind the characters in Bungou Stray Dogs: many of them died tragically while they were very young, whether through disease (particularly tuberculosis) or suicide, but they still left a lasting impression on Japanese society.

Stories of Osaka Life is true to its name and is made up of four stories all taking place in Osaka, Odasaku’s place of birth. Contradicting the ideals made by higher-class citizens – bureaucrats, intellectuals, and social leaders – who were conscious of Japan’s moral state, Odasaku chose to write stories about the merchant class and the sordid aspects of Osaka life, simply because he wanted to. This resulted in a lot of his work being censored, both due to regulations at the time and because of World War II. After those regulations were lifted and Odasaku started to gain in popularity, he was put in the burai-ha, or “hooligan” school of writers, along with Osamu Dazai and Ango Sakaguchi. (Coincidence? I think not. Definitely not.)

I wouldn’t consider these stories obscene, though I am speaking for myself. I can understand why a lot of officials would wrinkle their noses.

What followed was all a dream: the distinctive odor of bodies, the moist sensations, breathless warmth, squirmings, the arms and legs going every which way, the rhythm that drove me senseless…how could I have been so stupid as to think that a woman merely lies there grudgingly and lets herself be manipulated!

^And the thing is, this story (The State of the Times) is supposed to be autobiographical, as one of the characters refers to the narrator as “Oda Saku”. Poverty, infidelity, and crime are also things that are threaded through these stories (though not necessarily all of them). Considering that Japan is a country that holds honor and pride in the highest respect, it makes sense why they would be reluctant to publish subject of this matter.

There are no particular points to any of them; they are, as the title says, stories of people in Osaka. I think this could be a breaking point for a lot of people, and the translation snags on a couple of points. Additionally, the right reader may interpret them in different ways. For instance, in Hurray for Marriage, or Sweet Beans for Two!, a man named Ryūkichi elopes with a geisha named Chōko. Ryūkichi is lazy and doesn’t work, while Chōko is supporting him with her earnings and trying to encourage him into different businesses. There are instances where Chōko is scorned for being unfeminine by other characters (meaning that she is doing work that women at the time weren’t considered capable of doing), and to one person, this may seem sexist – but as the translator mentions in the introduction, Odasaku intended to make fun of the Japanese concept of marriage and the roles of husband and wife. The reader obviously sees how hard Chōko works to keep the two of them on their feet, how she keeps a budget and saves every penny she makes, and that Ryūkichi is the one who should be ridiculed for spending so much of their money. Additionally, in Six White Venus, the main character, Narao, tries to assault a young girl before he realizes what he’s doing and then later attempts suicide because of it.

When he had threaded his way through the pine grove and come out on the sandy shore, it suddenly occurred to him that when a woman became someone’s mistress, that was the kind of vile treatment she would have to endure.

Like I mentioned, how the reader chooses to view the situation determines the outlook, like deciding whether a shade is one color or another.

I like Stories of Osaka Life overall, and I want to read more of Odasaku’s work in the future. Hopefully more translations will appear in the future.