In English

  • Fantasy,  In English

    The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

    The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is an extraordinary work of fiction. It’s heart wrenching, yet also light. It’s mysterious and fantastical. Then there is the passion that oozes from every single page. Axie Oh has crafted a beautifully balanced novel with The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea. There is honestly something for everyone within its pages. While based somewhat on the Korean folk story “The Tale of Shim Cheong,” The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea takes a different approach to it. The character of Shim Cheong is in the story, but she is not the protagonist. Instead, she is the catalyst for the true main character…

  • Fantasy,  In English

    Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

    Sue Lynn Tan’s debut novel, Daughter of the Moon Goddess is an absolutely stunning work. Everything about it is great. While based on the Chinese legend of Chang’e, Tan has masterfully integrated her own characters and story into the preexisting narrative. Her characters are compelling and multilayered. The settings are vivid and vibrant. It seems like there is nothing Tan missed when writing this novel. The flawless execution of the story is exactly what makes Daughter of the Moon Goddess stand out so much. It provides a solid fantasy story, a glimpse into Chinese mythology and culture, and importantly, a strong young woman as the protagonist. Daughter of the Moon…

  • General Fiction,  In English

    Pearl City: Stories from Japan and Elsewhere by Simon Rowe

    Pearl City: Stories from Japan and Elsewhere is an eclectic collection of short stories. The author, Simon Rowe, has clearly put in an immense amount of effort to ensure that everything about the stories is varied. From Japan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia, to Australia and New Zealand, readers are kept on their toes with the different locales presented. That variety extends to the stories and themes themselves too. Each story is easily able to stand on its own. There isn’t a single story in the collection that relies on another. Not only that, but the actual content remains unique for each individual story too. There are historical stories and…

  • General Fiction,  In English

    The Color of the Sky is the Shape of the Heart by Chesil

    The Color of the Sky is the Shape of the Heart by Chesil and translated by Takami Nieda seems like a coming-of-age story. It some ways it is. However, more dominantly, it is a story about the anger and trauma of a young Zainichi Korean girl named Ginny Park. The term “Zainichi Korean” refers to the Koreans and their descendants who originally came to Japan before 1945. Their history is wrought with discrimination and hardships – many of which continue to this day. This is important to note when reading this book. Ginny’s hardships and the trauma she faces are not unique. Rather, hers is a story of many who…

  • In English,  Science Fiction

    The Humans by Matt Haig

    The Humans is a book of a peculiar genre. It involves a nameless alien and the technology of their home planet. This would classify it as science fiction. However, unlike the typical science fiction book, The Humans isn’t at all concerned with the technology of this alien species. Instead, it is merely a means to an end in this story. Instead, Matt Haig has chosen to focus on the experiences of our alien friend and their meaning. Those who have read other works from Matt Haig will not be surprised by this – he is a champion of dealing with the human condition and mental illness in his writing. However,…

  • Fantasy,  In English

    Heaven Official’s Blessing Vol. 1 by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu

    Heaven Official’s Blessing by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (MXTX) comes long awaited by fans looking forward to an official translation. Translated from Mandarin and edited by Suika and Pengie, Heaven Official’s Blessing was originally published online before subsequently being released in print. Now in print in English, this dramatic and heartbreaking story has a lot to share with readers. It is a fantastical story revolving around the gods, ghosts, and the Mortal Realm that their existence depends on. While supernatural in nature, Heaven Official’s Blessing is also very much so about the human condition – including the more negative aspects of life. Be prepared for death and sorrow and for…

  • General Fiction,  In English

    The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

    The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is one of those books you aren’t looking for – instead you pick it up randomly at the bookstore and just happen to take it home. That being said, the author, Mitch Albom, is probably familiar to many. He wrote the popular book Tuesdays with Morrie. The books differ in their genres, non-fiction vs. magical realism, but the tones remain similar. There is a beginning, there is growth, and then there is the emotional ending. No one ever said that Mitch Albom couldn’t write a book to pull at the heartstrings. However, in the case of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, this is…

  • In English,  Literary Fiction

    Kanazawa by David Joiner

    The story contained with the pages of Kanazawa is both compelling and sometimes frustrating. It’s a story that many (white?) immigrants who live in Japan can appreciate – especially those with Japanese partners. Not unlike Life is Elsewhere/Burn Your Flags, martial conflict and personal identity are a big part of the story. However, the approaches are vastly different. Kanazawa is slow and meandering and the path to the final conclusion is initially obscured. Yet this doesn’t make the story boring. On the contrary, the protagonists dialogue manage to remain engaging throughout. Both the title, and perhaps the cover itself, suggest a cultural story. This is true. Various aspects of culture…

  • In English,  Literary Fiction

    Almond by Won-pyung Sohn

    The debut novel of Korean author Won-pyung Sohn and translated by Sandy Joosun Lee, Almond it is a story about monsters. What is a monster and who gets to decide when someone is a one? In a world where monsters roam, things are not as simple as they appear – even the idea of the monster itself. These issues are at the core of Almond and Sohn has dealt with them beautifully. Through Lee’s translation, the author’s words are preserved with clarity and precision and all events in the book are described with perfect balance. However talking about monsters comes at a price. Almond contains its fair share of gore…

  • Historical Fiction,  In English

    The Little House by Kyoko Nakajima

    Stories that take place during Japan’s peak imperial era are often received critically – and rightfully so. However, The Little House by Kyoko Nakajima, and translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, is a different kind of book. The story largely takes place through the protagonist’s memoirs of times in the early Showa Era (1926-89) – namely before, during, and a bit after the war. Yet Nakajima approaches the topic with an immense amount of care. The war is neither front and center or ignored. The novel’s memoir style is very fitting for this approach. The world of The Little House is very believable in how it approaches the period as a…