At the start of the year I announced I was participating in YARC 2019, which is the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge. The whole point of the challenge is to read books by Asian authors, no matter the format, length, etc. You can read more about my intentions for this challenge in my sign up post, where I’ve also linked all the creators and hosts of the challenge.
I set my goal as Philippine tarsier in January, which is to read 1-10 books by Asian authors in 2019. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but I “only” read around 70 books last year and I had no idea how much I’d be able to read this year.
So I thought it would be easier to aim for the lowest level, which is this cute little animal, and possibly end up achieving more than expected in the end!
As it stands, it’s the end of March and I think I’ll have no problem reaching this goal. Why? I’ve recently fallen in love with manga and starting ordering and reading more and more of it. They’re (obviously) all by Japanese authors, and so do count for this challenge.
so what have I read so far?
Naoko by Keigo Higashino – ★★★★ – really liked it
> author is Japanese, novel is translated
I picked this novel up in my local library, and had no idea what it was about. I’d never heard anyone talk about Naoko, but the cover and synopsis seemed pretty interesting so I decided to give it a try. I ended up really enjoying it! I wouldn’t necessarily call this a mystery novel, which is what it’s marketed to be, but it’s for sure one of the most fascinating fiction novels I’ve read in a while. If you want to know more of my thoughts in detail, you can find my review here.
An everyman, Heisuke works hard at a factory job to provide for his wife, Naoko, and young daughter, Monami. He takes pleasure from the small things, like breakfast with both of them after a night shift. His placid life is rocked when, looking up from his microwave dinner one evening, he realizes the TV news that he wasn’t paying attention to is reporting a catastrophic bus accident and the names of his loved ones. When Monami finally wakes from a coma, she seems to think she’s Naoko, who has died protecting her daughter. More disturbingly, the girl knows things only Naoko could know.
A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa – ★★★★.₅ – loved it
> author is Japanese-Korean, book is translated
A nonfiction read! I had owned a Kindle copy of this book for a long time, and never read it. Honestly, that happens to me so often… This will be a lesson in reading the books I own! A River in Darkness is the author’s biography of his life in Japan and North Korea, until his eventual escape from the country. His family moved to North Korea when he was a teenager because all of the promises made through propaganda. When they arrived, they discovered it was nothing like they images they’d been sold but it was already too late. They were stuck. This is a heartbreaking read. Seriously, it’s hard to read at times. I can’t even imagine having lived through it. Would highly recommend! I haven’t written a full review yet, but I’m hoping to do so soon.
Come Drink With Me by Michelle Kan – ★★★★ – really liked it
> author is Asian, book is inspired by Chinese mythology and Cantonese opera
This is a novella, and I wish Michelle Kan would make it into a whole novel. Or write a book with these characters. It’s an #ownvoices aroace fairytale, inspired by Chinese mythology and Cantonese opera. Come Drink With Me is brilliant, and I need everyone to read it. I’ll write a full review soon!
A Dragon, a Phoenix, and an Opera House. Bonds that transcend time, loyalties that defy hardship, and the magic of the places we call Home. An Aromantic Chinese Fairytale.
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate – ★★★★.₅ – loved it
> author is Chinese-American
This seemed like the perfect book for the YARC challenge, because I had owned this novel for months already. It’s an adorable YA contemporary novel about a girl called Jordan Sun, who has been denied a spot in all the Musical Theater productions in her school because she’s an Alto 2. She has a beautiful voice, but most leading roles for women are sopranos. So she dresses and acts like a guy to become part of the all-male a cappella group in her school, the Sharpshooters. I absolutely loved this book! I especially appreciated how Jordan often thinks about how she’s taking up space in the queer community she doesn’t really belong to. For example, she feels like she’s invading a safe space for trans teens because even though she doesn’t identify as male, she is pretending to be.
It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight. But then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped . . . revered . . . all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.
Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 1 by Hiromu Arakawa – ★★★★.₅ – loved it
> author is Japanese
I bought this volume last year from better world books, because it was quite cheap if you chose a used copy. If you know me, you may know that I love to buy secondhand books. I’m not someone who needs their books to be in pristine condition – no shade if you are though. Fullmetal Alchemist is such a famous manga and anime series but I had never read or watched it. I decided to give the manga a try first, and am so glad I did! I really loved it, and immediately purchased volumes 2-7. They’re on their way to me now.
Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill.
I Hear the Sunspot Vol. 1 by Yuki Fumino – ★★★★★ – a new favorite
> author is Japanese
This was such a random pick, to be honest. I saw it on MangaRock, and thought the synopsis sounded pretty good. I started it after I finished a book that made me feel so gross and disgusted, and left me wanting something cute and wholesome. What did I get myself into with this? I want to scream about this manga to everyone in the entire universe!! When I found out the first three volumes were recently translated into English, I immediately purchased them all. PLEASE READ THIS. The manga volumes on MangaRock are translated by fans, by the way. The app is free. I’ve written a full spoiler-free review on the first three volumes, which you can read here.
Because of a hearing disability, Kohei is often misunderstood and has trouble integrating into life on campus, so he learns to keep his distance. That is until he meets the outspoken and cheerful Taichi. He tells Kohei that his hearing loss is not his fault. Taichi’s words cut through Kohei’s usual defense mechanisms and open his heart. More than friends, less than lovers, their relationship changes Kohei forever.
I Hear the Sunspot: Theory of Happiness by Yuki Fumino – ★★★★★ – a new favorite
> author is Japanese
Like I mentioned earlier, once I started reading the first volume I immediately searched for official translations and discovered there were three volumes published in English. I bought all of them, and read them as soon as they were delivered to my house. Volume 2, Theory of Happiness, was so long – and I loved every single page. Seriously, this manga is so good. Once again, you can find my review on the series here. Don’t worry, I don’t go into any spoilers!
I Hear the Sunspot: Limit 1 by Yuki Fumino – ★★★★.₅ – loved it
> author is Japanese
This is the third volume, and while I did still love it, I do think it was a tad too short. I don’t know why they didn’t include the next chapters published in the Limit volume in one? I still ended up loving it, though. I also read the chapters after this one that were published in Japanese, and translated by fans on MangaRock. Now I have to wait for news on the sequels, and I CAN’T DEAL. I need to know what happens to my babies! You can find my review on the first three volumes here.
Bye Bye Liberty Volume 1 by Ayuko Hatta – ★★★.₅ – liked it
> author is Japanese
This was another random MangaRock pick, albeit not such a successful one as I hear the sunspot. I did enjoy this volume, which follows a girl who has never had a crush, and an extremely popular boy at her school. I did enjoy this, but it bothered me somewhat how easily she threw the word love around. I might continue with the manga, but I’m not in a rush to do so.
I think I’m definitely going to achieve my Philippine tarsier level! I do realize that I managed to pick up books only by Chinese and Japanese authors, so that’s something I want to broaden during the rest of the year. However, I’m already happy to have read some amazing books! I think there’s an obvious trend here too… I enjoyed all of them!
How is your #YARC2019 going? Do you have any recommendations for me? Some I’ll definitely pick up soon are sequels to the manga I mentioned, and The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco. That one is my second most anticipated novel of the year, and I just got it in the mail.