Project Bungou Stray Dogs: The Moon Over the Mountain: Stories, by Atsushi Nakajima

9811918Original Title: 山月記 (Sangetsuki)

Author: Atsushi Nakakima (中島 敦, Nakajima Atsushi)

Translator: Paul McCarthy and Nobuko Ochner

Genres: Japanese Literature, Chinese History

Rating: ✮✮ +½

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“We are all of us trainers of wild beasts, it is said, and the beasts in question are our own inner selves.”


Project BSD

Stories in this book:

  • The Moon Over the Mountain
  • The Master
  • The Bull Man
  • Forebodings
  • The Disciple
  • The Rebirth of Wujing
  • Waxing and Waning
  • Li Ling
  • On Admiration: Notes by the Monk Wujing

I try not to be apologetic when I review books, but this is one case where I feel truly terrible – and my rating isn’t even that low.

Atsushi Nakajima is famous for his stories on Ancient China, and is considered to be a master of the sub-genre by keeping his stories faithful to their original source. He’s highly regarded in Japanese Literature and praised for his work – an annual festival is even held in his honor – and his writing style is one full of rich philosophical idioms about what it means to be the “self”, and why things are the way they are. According to the translators, Nakajima’s original Japanese is “erudite” and hard to read, which might be why this is the only collection of his stories published in English.

To the accuracy of the content, I cannot verify; I studied Ancient China once, but it was years ago, and it’s all but forgotten. The first few stories – including, of course, The Moon Over The Mountain – are beautiful. They’re absolutely beautiful.

Having chanced to go mad, I became a wild beast

Calamity piled upon calamity – I cannot escape my fate.

Who could now withstand my fangs and claws?

Yet in student days I shared your bright promise –

Now I have become a beast crouching in a thicket,

While you ride grandly in an official’s carriage.

Tonight I gaze at the bright moon over the mountain.

Unable to sing an ode, I can only howl.

The problem with his style, though, is that it’s unbalanced. Though it might be accurate, most of these stories are “related” and not “created”, just as Sima Qian laments about in the novella Li Ling. Basically, these stories are recounted fact for fact, until it stops reading as a story and becomes a textbook. While in the shorter stories the effect is softened, in longer ones such as The Disciple, The Rebirth of Wujing, and Li Ling, it’s exponential. The events that take place in these stories are indeed full of blood, power struggles, politics, and war – there’s even a castration. Ouch – but due to the way it’s written, it’s hard to get enraptured and easier to fall asleep. It’s exactly the same as medieval history: it seems exciting until you start studying it.

This could be a big case of, “It’s not you, it’s me”. For him to be so highly respected, I have to think that my feelings are more due to personal taste than Nakajima’s abilities as a writer.

This or That Book Tag!

ThisorThatBookTag

This was a freebie that I snagged from Icebreaker694! Because it’s not like I haven’t done 9,999 tags already.


Rules

  • Mention the creator of the tag (Ayunda @ Tea and Paperbacks)
  • Thank the blogger who tagged you
  • Choose one of the options, you don’t have to tell the reasons why you chose that but you can also do them if you want to.
  • Tag other people to do this tag to spread the love!

READING ON THE COUCH OR ON THE BED?

I tend to read more in bed, despite the fact that I’m always falling asleep.


MALE MAIN CHARACTER OR FEMALE MAIN CHARACTER?

Female – though ironically, I prefer to write from male perspectives.


SWEET SNACKS OR SALTY SNACKS?

Sweet~. ❤


TRIOLOGIES OR QUARTETS?

Quartets. The more books, the merrier!


FIRST PERSON POV OR THIRD POV?

Third-person. Putting some distance between myself and the main character helps me figure my feelings out for myself, instead of basing it off of their own emotions.


READING AT NIGHT OR IN THE MORNING?

Reading at night. I’m too busy during the day to get much reading done, so most of my reading is done in the evening and night time.


LIBRARIES OR BOOKSTORES?

Libraries! I get almost all of my books from there.


BOOKS THAT MAKE YOU LAUGH OR BOOKS THAT MAKE YOU CRY?

Books that make me laugh are always the best.


BLACK BOOK COVERS OR WHITE BOOK COVERS?

Black. They don’t get as dirty that way.


CHARACTER DRIVEN OR PLOT DRIVEN?

Plot-driven. Although I have to admit, a certain character can make a boring book twice as enjoyable.


Okay, now to tag some freaks.

Sophie @ BlameChocolate

Emma @ TheYaHunt

Jess @ TheMudAndStarsBookBlog

(As always, only do it if you want to!)

See you next time!

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Project Bungou Stray Dogs: Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination, by Edogawa Rampo

196150Original Title: N/A

Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川 乱歩, Edogawa Ranpo*)

Translator: James B. Harris

Genres: Horror, Mystery-Thriller

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

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“The living world is a dream. The nocturnal dream is reality.”

— Edogawa Rampo


Project BSD

Stories in this book:

  • The Human Chair
  • The Psychological Test
  • The Caterpillar
  • The Cliff
  • The Hell of Mirrors
  • The Twins
  • The Red Chamber
  • Two Crippled Men
  • The Traveler With The Pasted Rag Picture

Edogawa Rampo is referred to as “Japan’s Edgar Allan Poe”, and to that there are multiple reasons why:

  1. Edgar Allan Poe was Rampo’s mentor; he was an avid reader of both American and European mysteries, and a big fan of Poe’s work. (Eddie’s swelled head would blow up at that.)
  2. Similarly to Poe being the creator of the modern detective story, Rampo created the first original Japanese mystery story.
  3. Edogawa Rampo is the Japanese pronunciation of Edgar Allan Poe. The author’s birth name was Tarō Hirai (平井 太郎, Hirai Tarō).

These stories are more suspense than mystery. At any rate, those that contain murder are not about whodunit, but how they were caught, such as in The Psychological Test and The Twins. Some of them are horrifying and some are grotesque, but all of them are very, very peculiar.

Take The Human Chair, the first and probably the best story in the entire collection. A man that defines himself as “ugly beyond description” writes a letter to an authoress. In the letter, he recounts how he created an armchair that could inhabit a human being, how he holed himself up inside of it, and his experiences with all of the women that have sat in it – all of them unknowing that there is a man underneath them, caressing their body.

Gives you the absolute creeps, doesn’t it?

Then in The Hell of Mirrors, a man obsessed with optics creates a perfect sphere of mirrors and accidentally gets locked inside of it, and the images reflected cause him to go raving mad. In The Twins, one of two identical twin brothers confesses how he murdered his other half and took his place, then proceeded to carry out crimes as his true self while he continued to pose as his brother. In The Red Chamber, a madman recounts how he caused the deaths of ninety-nine individual people without lifting a single finger.

I was disturbed over and over again.

Another great thing about these stories is that they’re written in a way that feels timeless, like they could take place anywhere, anytime. Though the style of these stories is without a doubt Japanese, the translation gives it a Western feel, and this is due partly to Edogawa Rampo’s love of Western mysteries as well as his contribution to the translation. (According to the translator’s preface, Rampo could both read and comprehend English, but was unable to write it or speak it; the translator could speak Japanese but could not read or write it. Thus a painstaking five-year project commenced, with the translator turning out sentence after sentence until Rampo was satisfied with how it was read in English.) So even though Japanese mysteries are largely unknown to English readers, it’s easy to integrate into Edogawa Rampo’s writing, since he knew how Western mystery stories were crafted.

Today there is a Japan Mystery Writer’s Club, which Rampo founded, meaning that there is a whole vein of writers of the genre that have yet to be discovered. Still, there is no better place to get started than the man who started it all.

*Note: 乱歩 has been romanized as both ‘Rampo’ and ‘Ranpo’.

Project Bungou Stray Dogs: No Longer Human, by Osamu Dazai

Original title: 人間失格 (Ningen Shikkaku)194746

Author: Osamu Dazai (太宰 治, Dazai Osamu)

Translator: Donald Keene

Genres: Literature, Japanese Literature

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

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“Mine has been a life of much shame. I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being.”


Project BSD

No Longer Human is considered to be Dazai’s masterpiece, and it’s without a doubt one of the most depressing books that I’ve ever read. Considering the elements that relate to Dazai’s personal life, including suicide, it’s no wonder that people consider this more of an autobiography than a work of fiction.

The story follows the life of Ōba Yōzō, who feels alienated from other people and creates a cheerful facade in order to dispel his true nature. As he grows older his fears increase and prevent him from integrating into society, and he falls to smoking, drinking, drug abuse, and adulterous affairs with women. He reveals on multiple occasions that he wants to die, and considers a violent death a blessing.

During the course of my life I have wished innumerable times that I might meet with a violent death, but I have never once desired to kill anybody. I thought that in killing a dreaded adversary I might actually be bringing him happiness.

Definitely not a cheerful book.

This is a book where the relationship between the reader and the narrator is not definite. Even though I constantly felt sympathetic towards Yōzō’s situation, there were many times where I was frustrated with him as well. I think that was Dazai’s point, to not make him completely likeable, to emphasize how troubled he is. To create a character that is simultaneously likeable and dislikable is an amazing thing.

Overall, what this book highlights is how some people are unable to cope with everyday life, with the trials of “being human.” As a result, they are isolated and lonely beings who go through life as if in a living hell. In that aspect, although we don’t want to face such things as grief, guilt, and fear, if we avoid them we will only suffer more.

This book was dark and depressing, but a quick read, and beautifully written and translated.

Announcing Project Bungou Stray Dogs!

Project BSD

All right, guys. Here is where I announce a new project that I’m starting that is both for the public and for myself. Will it benefit anybody? I have absolutely no idea, but I feel a sense of duty.

First and foremost: have any of you ever heard of Bungou Stray Dogs?

Image result for bungou stray dogs ending gif

It’s an anime/manga by Kafka Asagiri and Sango Harukawa. The characters have supernatural powers and are named after famous literary figures in Japan (Bungō, or 文豪, means “Literary writer” or “Literary master”), and their “gifts”, as they call them, are based on their most famous work. They even bring in famous American authors as well, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louisa May Alcott, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Basically, it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread.

Naturally I’ve heard of the American authors, but my curiosity was piqued about the ones from Japan. I started researching them, and I realized, with harsh clarity, that Japanese literature in English-speaking countries is practically scarce. Despite the fact that these authors are so acknowledged in Japan, elsewhere, they are virtually unknown.

I love Japan, but I have to admit that my list of known Japanese authors is about the length of a post-it note. I felt a little…ashamed.

I’ve decided to use Bungou Stray Dogs as a guide. I want to read these works not only for myself, but to bring Japanese literature closer to other people. Many of these stories, books, and poems have been translated into English, so it’s not like it’s due to a lack of availability. It’s simply that Japanese literature is isolated, and I want it to spread out.

These posts will be a lot like reviews, but I want to focus more on the book and less on opinion. Whether or not I like it is inconsequential; it’s not about me. I’ll keep a documented list of the work that I’ve read, and hopefully this will bring it into another reader’s hands.

*phew.* That was a mouthful.

I hope you’ll enjoy them in the future! I’m excited to get started.

“What Cats Do” Book Tag!

-What Cats Do-Book Tag

I was tagged by the lovely Sophie @Blame Chocolate! This tag is wonderful. Both books and cats. How could I resist?


Rules


PURR- AS CATS DO THIS WHEN THEY’RE HAPPY OR RELAXED, WHAT IS THE BOOK THAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST OR RELAXED?

I know I talk about these books way too often, but they are really the only thing that keep me sane sometimes.


SLEEP- WHAT IS A BOOK THAT PUT YOU TO SLEEP OR WAS JUST BORING?

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I’m sorry, guys! I tried to read this, and I kept passing out. I don’t think J.R.R. Tolkein’s books are for me.


TWITCH WHILE DREAMING- HAVE YOU EVER DREAMT OF A BOOK YOU READ?

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*happy sigh.*


SEEMS TO PLAY NICE…UNTIL THE CLAWS ARE OUT- WHICH BOOK HAD THE BIGGEST PLOT TWIST(S)?

I’ll have to pick these two! I definitely didn’t see the twist coming, that’s for sure.


 CUDDLES- WHICH BOOK CHARACTER WOULD YOU GIVE A HUG TO?

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Wesley from Victoria Schwab’s The Archived! He’s so adorable, funny, and kind. Definitely one of the best love interests of all time.


CATNIP- WHAT’S A BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAVE WARM AND FUZZY FEELS?

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There’s a lot of controversey over this book, but I really liked it! There was a lot of romantic tension, and I kept squealing. Plus, it’s set in Paris, so the setting was very beautiful. ❤


CAT BREEDS- WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS?

These two! The rest of them can be seen on my favorites shelf.


GETTING THE CAT- HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR FAVORITE BOOK(S).

Through Goodreads! I’m always searching lists and checking out what other people read in order for my next favorite. I don’t have many people to recommend me books in real life, since most of the time, our tastes are very different.


THE VET’S OFFICE- YOUR LEAST FAVORITE  BOOK:

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I literally cannot stand the sight of this book.


BEING IN PLACES THEY SHOULDN’T- LEAST FAVORITE CLICHÉ:

Bitchy mean girls/girl-hate/slut-shaming, etc., etc.


FINAL QUESTION: THE GOOD OLD CARDBOARD BOX- MOST UNDERRATED BOOK SERIES. 

I received this book from Netgalley, and I really enjoyed it! I haven’t read the rest of the series, yet, but I want to.


I will tag….

Tiana @The Book Raven

Stephanie @Between Folded Pages!

As always, feel free not to do it if you don’t want to. (Though this is a cool tag, so you should!)

Until next time! ❤

Seven Deadly Sins Book Tag!

I’ve been doing so many tags lately. I think I’m procrastinating.

I found this over on Blame It On Chocolate! I wasn’t tagged, but I almost never am, and I wanted to do it anyway. 😀


Greed

What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?

My copy of Animal Farm was originally 50¢ back in 1956, and I bought it for 10¢ at a garage sale! That makes it my cheapest book by far. My most expensive book is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, since it’s the original hardcover edition. It’s $35.00, which makes it even more expensive than some of my reference books. (Lucky for me, it was a gift from my brother. Thanks, bro! ❤ )


Wrath

What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

 

The identity of Tsugumi Ohba is unknown, so I don’t know who he/her/they really are. As much as I loved Death Note, I have a massive problem with the misogyny. It’s something that appeared in the series Bakuman, too, which Tsugumi Ohba also wrote. And I love Poe to death, but he was a pretty big kind of a narcissist. I mean, he wrote anonymous reviews of his own work. Come on, man.


Gluttony

What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?

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Simon is my spirit animal. ❤


Sloth

What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

I really, really want to read Anna Karenina, but the 900+ page length scares the crap out of me. The same things goes for David Copperfield, but even more so because it was a gift (a gift!) from a beloved teacher. It’s just that every time I start a Charles Dickens novel, his writing style throws me off. I find it so cumbersome and melodramatic.


Pride

What book do you talk about in order to sound like an intelligent reader?

Pick one.


Lust

What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?

Well, I like blondes.

I like my male characters two different ways: sweet and caring (think Zeke from Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules) or bad-to-the-bone and twisted AF, with a tiny soft spot that shows they’re not a complete monster. With my girls, I just want them to kick ass, whether that means with physical or mental ability. I don’t want them to be petty or self-absorbed. They don’t have to be Lara Croft, but in some way, I want them to be strong.


Envy

What book would you like to receive as a gift?

I’ve been reading a lot of V.E. Schwab lately, and I really want her Shades of Magic trilogy! I’d like The Lost Prince and the rest of the Call of the Forgotten trilogy to complete my collection of The Iron Fey. Finally, I don’t own a lot of manga (just because it can get really pricy), but I’d love to own all of the volumes of Haikyuu!!, since it’s my favorite.


All right, and that’s it! This one was a lot of fun. I don’t usually tag, but this time I’ll nominate Emma @ The YA Hunt and Olivia @ Heir of Glitter, since I love their blogs so much! (Of course, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Don’t mind me.)

Have a good day, everyone! See you soon.

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Review: A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab

Genres: Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

“Everyone’s immortal until they’re not.”

(Spoiler-free review for both the first and the second book! There’s a couple of minor things, but for the most part, I have exempted all spoilers.)

Dear Victoria Schwab:

I already thought that A Darker Shade of Magic was fantastic, but A Gathering of Shadows is incredible. It manages to pull off the impossible: it is a middle book that is obviously a middle book, and yet it is still entertaining from beginning to end.

I’m sure many of you have encountered “middle-book syndrome”, when the second book in a trilogy (or perhaps more, depending) suffers due to the fact that nothing monumentally important happens. There isn’t a sense of urgency or danger, and as a result, there’s this sense of idling, and the book suffers from a slow pace. A Gathering of Shadows feels like one of those books, those “spaces between”, as I like to call them, and yet, it is never boring at all.

This is probably due to the fact that in A Darker Shade of Magic, the world is being introduced to us even as the plot moves forward, but in A Gathering of Shadows, we have settled in comfortably, and the pace picks up. It’s still a magnificent world full of magic that continues to surprise and excite, and V.E. Schwab doesn’t let it grow dull. Everything is still developing. We begin to learn about the different countries that neighbor Arnes, about what’s inside of Black London, about magic itself. It’s a world that continues to grow and grow.

The characters are getting more complex as well, and I love it. Kell’s dark side is revealed, showing him a bit more hot-headed and temperamental; Lila, though still reckless, is learning to control her magic; and even Rhy, my precious ray of sunshine, is multiplying, exposing different sides to himself. He’s still the flirty boy that I remember, but he’s darker around the edges, and I didn’t realize how much I needed to see him as a flustered schoolboy until Alucard arrived.

Rhy hesitated, unsure what to say next. With anyone else, he would have had a flirtatious retort, but standing there, a mere stride away from Alucard, he felt short of breath, let alone words. He turned away, fidgeting with his cuffs. He heard the chime of silver and a moment later, Alucard snaked an arm possessively around his shoulders and brought his lips to the prince’s neck, just below his ear. Rhy actually shivered.

“You are far too familiar with your prince,” he warned.

“So you confess it, then?” [He] brushed his lips against Rhy’s throat. “That you are mine.”

Dear Victoria Schwab:

My poor fujioshi heart.

I tend to hate it when books save most of the action for the end, then leave me hanging on until the next book, since it feels like bait, but A Gathering of Shadows did just that – with the best cliffhanger ever, I might add – and yet, it doesn’t feel like it was misplaced, or all shoved into one area. The danger is being built up behind the scenes, and as the ending draws closer, it builds a sense of dread, which is a far more effective method than just having everything blow up in the last few chapters. If I didn’t have A Conjuring of Light waiting for me on my bookshelf, I would be screaming. But I do. So ha.

Dear Victoria Schwab:

Your books are the work of gods.

Mystery Blogger Award 5.0/6.0!

mystery

Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.
Okoto Enigma


THE RULES:

1. Put the award logo/image on your blog.

2. List the rules.

3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog!

4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link to their blog as well.

5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.

6. You have to nominate 10-20 3 people.

7. Notify each of your nominees by commenting on their blog.

8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify).

9. Share your link to your best post(s)


 

I can’t believe I was tagged. Holy shit! Thank you so much, Emma! 😀 (Check out her blog, she’s amazing.) ❤

Facts:

  1. I’m learning Japanese! It’s my favorite subject, and though it’s difficult, once you understand the structure, it’s a bit easier to understand. I want to live in Kyoto when I’m older, so learning the language was a necessity.
  2. I play the piano. Not well, mind, but I do play and I love it. There’s something really relaxing about a piece coming together. I also really want to learn the violin, but I can’t afford the lessons at the moment. 😦
  3. My best friend introduced me to BBC’s Sherlock and now I’m in hell. Help.

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Emma’s questions!

What quote has changed your life (name the book it’s from!)?

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my favorite books, and it’s very quotable. The one above is the one that stuck with me the most, though, because it’s so simple, yet it relates to something we all feel: the complexity of human emotion, how we can feel multiple, contrasting things at once. I thought I was the only one that had ever felt like that until I read that quote.

What’s the best book you have ever read?

I’m going to have to nominate Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, since it’s my favorite, but also because I’ve never read anything like it, and that’s not something that I can say very often, you know?

Favourite character from a book/movie/anything?

Tobio Kageyama from Haikyuu!! I should actually make a list of these, because I think it would be interesting.

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Do you buy books knowing you’re never going to read them?

Oh yes. All of the time. It’s a bad habit. I’ll buy a book because I’ve heard of it, or because it’s a classic and I just have to have it in my collection, but the truth is that I’ll probably never get around to it, especially if it’s really long.

 I’m going to steal Kayla’s question. What song is stuck in your head right now? (Link it if you can!)

YES! I love this question. Right now, it’s “カンタンナコト” by The Oral Cigarettes. (That roughly translates to “Something Simple.”)

I listen to too much J-rock.

Have a look!


Okay, my turn!

If you could go back in time to any period, which one would it be?

Do you have a song that reminds you of a person/place?

If you could slip inside of a book, which one would it be?

Which book/TV character would you marry, and why?

What’s your favorite inside joke?


I tag….

Sophie @ Blame Chocolate

Crystal @ Lost In a Good Book

Gretchen @ ChicNerdReads

That’s if they want to or if they haven’t been tagged already, of course. 😛 *Has no backbone.*