Tag Archive | Japan

J is Japan and MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE, by Rachel Cohn (YA book review)

book cover of My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life, by Rachel Cohn. Published by Disney/Hyperion | recommended on BooksYALove.com

From nice house to shabby apartment,
apartment to terrible foster homes,
foster care to luxury hotel?!

Elle is stunned when ‘Uncle’ Masa arrives at her latest foster home (showers allowed once a week) with her new passport and an invitation from her biological father in Japan – happy 16th birthday after all.

Being so obviously hafu (half-Japanese) and gaijin (foreigner) is no big deal at her prestigious new school attended by kids of diplomats and business people from all over the world, but utterly scandalous to Elle’s new grandmother (no wonder Kenji was forbidden to marry her Native American/ African American mom).

Not sure she’s willing to believe all the gossip about Ryuu’s past or her dad’s convoluted business dealings

When have you been suddenly the outsider?
**kmm

Book info: My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life / Rachel Cohn. Disney Book Group, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy from the library; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Swept from foster care in Maryland to a Tokyo highrise, sixteen-year-old Elle must figure out where she fits in her biological father’s family and the social order at an elite international school.

Once the painkillers hooked Mom after that car wreck, drugs took their house, Elle’s security, and put Mom in jail.

When her never-seen dad offers Elle a home in Japan with him, she’s wary but goes along – to an amazing apartment in his skyscraper hotel with 24-hour room service…and his displeased mother and sister nearby.

Elle has to work hard at school to catch up, wondering why fellow swimmer Ryuu is shunned by the popular Ex-Brat crowd who inexplicably adopted her.

Will she always see her father by appointment only?
Can her new grandmother accept Elle’s mixed-race maternal heritage?
What happens if things don’t work out with her family in Tokyo?

As Elle and Ryuu get to know each other at swim practice, some Ex-Brats go beyond pushy, and business pressures are affecting her dad, badly.

Running with Cosmos Flowers, after Hiroshima bombing, by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall (book review)

book cover of Running With Cosmos Flowers: The Children of Hiroshima, by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall. Pelican Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.comAfter the A-bomb hits,
surviving winter in Hiroshima is so hard,
then flowers bloom in spring – and perhaps hope also?

Among the packages of desperately needed clothes and food sent to these Japanese schoolchildren when World War II ended were simple gifts of paper, pencils, and crayons from a church in the USA.

So they drew their thank-yous, sent back to the church which displayed and preserved them until today.

Ask for this story of war’s aftermath as seen through children’s eyes and art at your local library or independent bookstore.

The author’s documentary film “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” includes the restored children’s drawings sent to All Souls’ Church in D.C. as well as archival footage showing life in Hiroshima in the days and months after the bombing.

War…
**kmm

Book info: Running with Cosmos Flowers: the Children of Hiroshima / Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall. Pelican Publishing, 2014.  [book website] [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Now her turn to evacuate in summer 1945, Hana-chan arrives at her aunt’s country village shortly before her mother departs with students going home… to Hiroshima.

Struggling to travel from the mountains into the city after the A-bomb strikes, Hana and her aunt are aghast at the devastation, yet try to help where they can.

Back at school in one of the few buildings remaining upright, 7 year old Hana and her young classmates worry about whether radiation sickness is contagious and how they will cope with oncoming winter weather.

Then packages arrive from America – with clothes and food and paper and pencils.

Can small gifts of paper and crayons begin to heal these broken lives?

And their thank-you drawings are sent to the USA, seen by thousands and remembered over the decades.

Based on the author’s experiences as a young girl born in Hiroshima just after World War II ended, hearing survivors’ stories and becoming part of a rebuilding nation. As usual in Japanese fiction, quotation marks aren’t used in the dialogue, but readers will soon be caught up in the story without need of this punctuation.

N is Name of the Blade calling Mio to danger & love, by Zoe Marriott (book review)

US book cover of Name of the Blade, by Zoe Marriott, published by Candlewick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.comGrandfather said she would become guardian of this katana at age 16, as Yamatos have done for over 500 years.

Surely it’s okay if Mio takes the ancient sword from its hiding place a little early, while Mom and Dad are away…

Monsters and gods, worlds of humans and spirits, from Japan to London to the depths of despair to first love – the katana connects them all to Mio as she struggles to master herself and the legendary blade’s powers.

Glide into Mio’s no longer boring life by reading the first chapter here free (courtesy of the publisher). Yes, all 3 books of the trilogy are available in the US!

Family secrets – what to share?
**kmm

Book info: Name of the Blade (Name of the Blade trilogy, book 1) / Zoe Marriott. Candlewick Press, 2014. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J is Japan in Last Leaves Falling, by Sarah Benwell (book review)

Knows he is dying,
losing body control, bit by bit –
and finally finding friends who don’t care?

Have a hankie at hand when you read Abe’s determination to get the last word over the ALS that’s attacking his 17 year old body and his almost-too-late joy in meeting peers who look past his condition to help him when he needs it most.

Read the first chapter free at the publisher’s website here (scroll down to Excerpt), then discover the rest of this Japanese teen’s story at your local library or favorite independent bookstore in hardcover or paperback.

What would you do to help a friend?
**kmm

Book info: The Last Leaves Falling / Sarah Benwell (or Fox Benwell). Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015 (hardcover), 2016 (paperback) [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Seven Days of You… not enough! by Cecilia Vinesse (fiction)

US book cover of Seven Days of You published by Poppy Little Brown  | recommended on BooksYALove.com

US cover

Why does he show up now?!
Just as she’s leaving everything she loves, forever.
Hmpfff! Hmm… Oh!

Reading this took me back to my September visit to Tokyo – konbini convenience stores, punctual and safe metro, meeting near Hachiko statue at Shibuya. And just like Sophia, I had to move back to the States just before my senior year (not recommended by either of us).

The complication of parted-in-anger Jamie returning just before she leaves? That is Sophia’s alone, and three years of deliberately not emailing each other really hasn’t erased their feelings…

Happy book birthday to Seven Days of You !

Which book cover do you prefer? (that woodblock print on the UK cover is so Japanese to me!)
**kmm

UK book cover of Seven Days of You published by Poppy Little Brown  | recommended on BooksYALove.com

UK cover

Book info: Seven Days of You / Cecilia Vinesse. Poppy, 2017. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Not fair! Having to go back to the States just before senior year, not visiting Dad’s new family in Paris, knowing that Jamie will be back before she leaves Tokyo, remembering their horrible argument 3 years ago…

With a week to pack up everything, say goodbye to best friends Mika and David, and re-experience her favorite things in Japan, 17-year-old Sophia gets more stressed with every second that clicks by on her countdown watch.

And suddenly Jamie is here – still funny, still cute, still complicated. He’ll get to finish high school at Tokyo Academy with their friends from around the world, while she’ll be back in New Jersey with just Mom.

Can time slow down for just this week?
Can they heal their fractured relationship in just seven days?
Can she leave him behind if they succeed?

Her departure date hasn’t changed, but Sophia’s reasons for wanting to stay have multiplied in this contemporary story weaving together bitter and sweet.

Shield of Kuromori, by Jason Rohan (book review) – save all or save her?

book cover of Shield of Kuromori by Jason Rohan published by Kane Miller | recommended on BooksYALove.comEvil ogres attacking Tokyo.
Ninja colleague not yet recovered.
Hero has to wonder who wins this time!

Second in the Kuromori Chronicles, raising the stakes even higher for prophesied warrior Kenny, as the teen soccer player starts learning new sword skills and how to ID evil beings in the supernatural line-up just as the bad guys try to remove him from the picture entirely!

I like that Kane-Miller asks folks to buy their books at a local independent bookstore rather than selling through their own website. Of course, you should ask for it at your local library also, so that more readers can enjoy this exciting series! (my recommendation of Book 1 here, with no spoilers)

After experiencing typhoon rains in Tokyo during my first week there, then an earthquake while waiting at the airport to leave, I can well imagine supernatural creatures below the earth or warring gods among the clouds!

Still wondering… any yokai (evil or benign) where you live?
**kmm

Book info:  Shield of Kuromori (Kuromori Chronicles, book 2) / Jason Rohan. Kane Miller, 2016. [series Facebook page]   [publisher site]   [distributor site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A new threat to his adoptive land and his ninja partner’s growing anger keep Kenny jumping as the young hero foretold in Japanese prophecy strives to master supernatural warfare, stay away from school bullies, and keep Kiyomi calm enough to fight by his side.

With Kiyomi’s behavior becoming more erratic, Kenny must decide whether to search for a way to cure her or to pursue the mysterious threat just uncovered by Japanese gods.

Who is so unleashing so many evil yokai at once?
Can two teenagers really save Japan from slow death?
A mirror or a shield?

Ancient Japanese stories, modern technology, and ages-old greed of man – all collide as Kiyomi and Kenny must unpuzzle this devious plot before evil wins the day. Follows The Sword of Kuromori in the series.

Birth of Kitaro, by Shigeru Mizuki (book review) – Japanese supernatural Yokai!

book cover of Birth of Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki published by Drawn & Quarterly | recommended on BooksYALove.com Last of the ghost tribe yokai,
helped by his magic hair (and dead eyeball dad),
fighting evil beings in Japan!

While I didn’t meet any (obvious) supernatural beings during my recent trip to Japan, I am delighted to share this first volume in a new English translation of Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro series. The Japanese manga master died in December 2015, leaving a legacy of yokai tales and other graphic novels, which Drawn & Quarterly is bringing to western readers.

Visit the publisher’s page here to download a free excerpt of Kitaro’s adventures. Next book in the series arrives soon!

Any supernatural folk in your neck of the woods?
**kmm

Book info: The Birth of Kitaro (Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro) / Shigeru Mizuki; text translated by Zack Davisson. Drawn & Quarterly, 2016. [artist’s obituary]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Fighting evil creatures is Kitaro’s specialty, but the one-eyed spirit boy and his eyeball-father aren’t always sure that the people of Japan are worth battling monstrous beings of legend.

Single-eyed newborn Kitaro digs out of his mother’s grave and quickly finds himself embroiled in struggles with malicious yokai who want to overrun modern Japan.

Can half-cat, half-girl Neko Mutsume help him outwit greedy Nezumi Otoko?
How long will his late father’s spirit animate the eyeball?
What’s the best way to banish a frightful buru-buru haunting the mountain highway?

Kitaro’s wooden geta sandals clip-clop away from each supernatural encounter, and a letter in just the right forest postbox will always bring him back, as these 7 episodes from his earliest manga appearances show. First in a series, with new English text by Zack Davisson complementing manga master Shigeru Mizuki’s well-loved illustrations.

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K for Kenny & the Sword of Kuromori, by Jason Rohan (book review) – summoned to Japan against evil

book cover of Sword of Kuromori by Jason Rohan published by Kane Miller Books | BooksYALove.comMysterious messages and mythic messengers,
motorcycle ninjas and undead attackers,
dream visions and the end of the world?

Kenny never dreamed that his granddad’s diplomatic work in post-war Japan would bring him face-to-face today with villains (human and otherwise) who try to keep the teen from stopping worldwide destruction.

Check out the book’s Facebook page for a tour of sites and monsters found in book 1.  I’m traveling in Japan this summer, so I will see torii gates and temples, but hope that I don’t encounter any nukekubi!

Any multi-tailed foxes in your dreams?
**kmm

Book info: The Sword of Kuromori / Jason Rohan. Kane Miller, 2016.  [series Facebook page]  [publisher site]  [author interview] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Kenny thinks he’ll finally meet up with his grieving father in Japan, but the British teen finds himself detained by government officials, rescued by his grandfather’s old allies, and expected to prevent the world’s destruction using a missing sword… in just nine days!

Maybe it starts with the raccoon-thing on the plane that only he can see, or maybe when the police stop him at the Tokyo airport, or when he’s snatched from them by a ninja on a motorcycle…

His grandfather’s connections with Japan from decades past help Kenny locate the fabled sword that shares his last name so he can learn its secrets and tap into its powers, for he is the only one who can stop a slumbering dragon from being awoken to destroy the world – it is prophesied.

Messages from spirit world allies arrive in his dreams, the daughter of grandfather’s old friend teaches him martial arts moves and essential Japanese phrases, and mythic beings try to kill them in broad daylight!

Who exactly is threatening the USA west coast with a tsunami?
How can an old sword stop an unearthly weapon?
Will Kenny ever see his dad again?

First in a series filled with Japanese culture and mythological creatures, questions about loyalty and family, plus lots of adventure and humor. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Ink and Ashes, by Valynne E. Maetani (book review) – Dad’s secrets, her peril

book cover of Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani published by Tu Books | BooksYALove.comStepdad knew their late father?
Business trips were really what!?
Is that black SUV still following us?

When Claire discovers that her long-dead father was part of a Japanese organized crime gang, her whole world begins shaking – and here come the bad guys who want to make sure that the Utah teen goes under for good!

If your local library or independent bookstore doesn’t have this summer 2015 release on the shelf, ask for it!

Family secrets – key to one’s own history or ticking time-bomb?
**kmm

Book info: Ink and Ashes / Valynne E. Maetani. Tu Books, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Claire’s search for answers on the tenth anniversary of her father’s death inadvertently alerts the yakuza to her family’s location – and the race for survival is on!

The Japanese-American teen can’t believe that her stepfather knew her father and never told her, that a simple phone call could unleash a horde of bad guys intent on wiping out her family, that best buddy Forrest could think of her as more than a friend…

The letters that Claire wrote to Otochan in the years after his death appear throughout the book, as the straight-A student weathers accusations of cheating at school, uncovers many strange things about her late father, and must rely on her group of guy-friends more than ever when objects symbolizing death start arriving at her Utah home.

Why would Mom lie about her father’s past?
Why does the Japanese crime gang care about her family after all this time?
Can she stay alive long enough to figure out Forrest?

Action, intrigue, friendship, love, and revenge – watch out for black SUV following you!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

T is Tokyo in When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney (book review) – love, loss, secrets

book cover of When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney published by Little Brown Books For Young ReadersEmpty home,
full medicine bottles,
not enough information!

Did Mom’s doctor in Japan convince her to stop taking traditional cancer treatments? Why else would she have died just weeks before Danny’s graduation, her big goal during her five year fight?

Kana is like a big sister to Danny in Tokyo as they visit the clinics and temples that Mom frequented. If only he could figure out what went wrong between him and love of his life Holland, who now wears a necklace honoring Sarah, her friend who died at college…

“All the things my mom will never see and never know flash before me. She will never know what I will study in college, who I’ll marry… She will never learn golf or qualify for a senior discount at the movies. She will never grow old,” Danny muses. (p. 206)

Find When You Were Here  at your local library or independent bookstore, and walk Tokyo’s busy streets with Danny as he tries reclaim the joy that his mom found in her too-short life. (paperback comes out June 24, 2014)

**kmm

Book info: When You Were Here / Daisy Whitney. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013 (paperback June 2014).  [author’s Twitter]  [publisher site]  [author in Tokyo videos] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Bereft and angry, Danny travels to Tokyo after graduation, trying to discover why his mom gave up fighting her cancer just two months short of their shared goal.

Even though she was a year older, Holland was perfect for Danny, but when she left for college last fall, she broke up with him, never giving a reason.

His parents did business in Japan, Danny was born there, his dad died suddenly there six years ago. His mom spent her final cancer treatment time there, before returning home to enjoy the last days of her life.

When the young woman who helped his mom in Tokyo asks Danny what’s to be done about Mom’s apartment there, he decides to leave the empty, memory-filled California house (and not-girlfriend-now Holland, home from college) to spend time in Japan and find out what changed his mother’s mind about holding on until he graduated.

Secrets are powerful. Death is inevitable, but perhaps love and hope are possible in this strongly emotional novel where an unconventional Japanese girl and the scent of lilacs help an angry young man search for answers. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)