No cover images tonight because Amazon Japan is being uncooperative.

Just Finished

終点Unknown 2 - 杉浦志保 (Shuten Unknown vol. 2 - Sugiura Shiho)
The second volume of Sugiura's new series. The basic premise is that two members of rival criminal/slave organizations (one vaguely medieval European, the other vaguely medieval Asian) are the only survivors of their respective group's efforts to unearth a valuable artefact. Said artefact is an ornamental bracelet that has permanently attached itself to their wrists. It prevents them from moving more than 10 feet away from each other and shoots magical beams of light when they're trying to locate something/being altruistic in the most blatant deus ex machina ever. The series is built around our two protagonists' journey to a faraway island where a craftsman supposedly lives who can remove the artefact from them. Valuable lessons will likely be learned along the way. For some reason it took me forever to get through this volume; the characters just aren't immediately compelling like they were in Sugiura's previous two series. That said, Sayatoki (Shuten's iteration of Narushige or Rapunzel) did grow on me, so hopefully it starts hitting its stride in the third volume.

In the Line of Fire - Pervez Musharraf
It pains me greatly, but I cannot just stop reading a book. Even if I put it down for close to a decade (as is the case here) I must go back to finish it. This vanity memoir is a quick read, but it's also filled with passive voice and a subject who does his best to obscure the more unsavory aspects of his time in office. Meh.

In Order to Live - Yeonmi Park
This memoir is also a quick read, but that's because it's gripping and inspiring. Get ready to sob repeatedly over the horrors Park underwent in order to escape from North Korea. This is perhaps the most moving defector memoir I've read.

Currently Reading

Silver Diamond 24 - 杉浦志保 (Sugiura Shiho)
I am stalling so hard to avoid reading the final volumes in this series, because once I do, it will be over. It's crazy to think I've been following it for 12 years now. More thoughts when I've completed the volume.

ふかい森のなかで - 水原とほる (Fukai Mori no Naka De - Mizuno Tohoru)
I loved Mizuno's Karato no Tsubara, for all that it was dark, dark, dark. This novel, however, seems more standard BL fare: a rich but absent father hires a high school student to spend three afternoons a week at the apartment of his college-dropout hikkomori son. Inevitably, they will begin shagging. I can read huge swaths of this book at a time, but neither the plot nor the characters are grabbing me.

竹光侍 1 - 松本大洋 (Takemitsu-zamurai 1 - Matsumoto Taiyo) 
A reread, also to avoid reading the final volume in this series, which is one of the best manga out there, period. Our story begins with an eccentric samurai coming to Edo from the rural province of Shinano. He befriends the young son of a carpenter, who begins to wonder if the samurai is more than he at first appears.

幸村殿、艶にて候 4 - 秋月こお (Yukimura-dono, En nite Soro vol. 4 - Akizuki Koh)
Our heroes have finally arrived in Kyushu, and look set to begin committing 350-odd pages of intrigue and sabotage in the name of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The opening picture insert contains a HUGE spoiler that makes me wish I could just be at the final scene already, even though I'm sure what precedes it is going to be awesome.

Sir Lancelot the Great - Gerald Morris
I love Morris' A Squire's Tale series, and although this volume belongs to the The Knights' Tale companion series for younger readers, I can already tell it possesses much of the same charm.

Okay, let's do this! I have a ridiculous number of books going on right now, but here are the main ones.

幸村殿、艶にて候 - 秋月こお (Yukimura Dono, En nite Sourou - Akizuki Koh) This is the first in a seven-book series by Akizuki Koh, who is one of my favorite authors. She makes me wish I could download Japanese into other people's heads so that they could directly experience why.

This series is historical fiction that begins in 1589 in Japan's Warring States period. The protagonist is Sanada Genjiro Yukimura, the second son of the lord of a small fief in what is present-day Nagano who somehow managed to fend off an attack from powerful warlard Tokugawa Ieyasu (yes, that Tokugawa Ieyasu). Yukimura's sent as a hostage to Uesugi Kagekatsu of the much larger and more powerful Echigo (current-day Niigata) to secure the Uesugi's support to keep Tokugawa from trying again.

Kagekatsu is summoned to Osaka to attend on Kampaku Toyotomi Hideyoshi and takes Yukimura with him. ('Kampaku' is the title for the emperor's chief advisor, but by this point, Hideyoshi basically ruled large parts of Japan). Yukimura's beauty catches the Kampaku's eye, and he tries to take Yukimura on as a wakashu, or male concubine, but Yukimura instead talks him into sending Yukimura as a spy to Choshu (modern-day Kyushu), which was ruled at the time by our friends the Mori clan, to gather information ahead of Hideyoshi's planned invasion. And thus begins our adventure.

Japan has tales of The 10 Sanada Heroes similar to Western tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and we meet most of them in this book: the ninja Sarutobi Sasuke and Kirigakure Saizou, the pirate Nezu Jimpachi, the naval officer Kakei Juuzou, the warrior priests Miyoshi Seikai and Miyoshi Isa, and Yukimura's pages, Unno Rokuro and Anayama Kosuke.

But, this being Akizuki Koh, it's also BL. )

Akizuki's Yukimura is a really intriguing character. He's a manipulative little shit, but then, the survival of his family depends in part on his being one, and we get little flashes of him here and there that indicate he's far kinder and far, far lonelier than he lets on. Kagekatsu is cocky and self-confident, as you'd have to be to annihilate your adopted brother's family in a dynastic struggle at the age of 21, but also far gentler and more genuine than the other characters.

Sasuke and Saizou both suffer for their untouchable status, but in different ways - Sasuke by trying to completely efface himself in service to Yukimura and Saizou by pretending he doesn't care about anyone or anything but himself. Kosuke was literally raised on a battlefield and starts the book mute and vicious. Rokuro and Juuzou, by contrast, were raised in privilege and theoretically should be bushido masters, but are largely ineffective in real-world situations. And so on.

I blew through over 1300 pages of these things during Blizzard 2016 and will probably finish the rest in short order. Damn, they are good.

Yes, yes, I did. And it would have been much, much worse save for that LibraryThing account that lets me see at a glance just how ridiculous my TBR pile has become.Read more... )


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