Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bon Jovi "The Circle" Japan Tour 2010 / ボン・ジョヴィ “ザ・サーカル” ジャパンツアー 2010



Okay, so it's been almost two months since the actual concert. Two shows at the Tokyo Dome with the first one on a Tuesday, November 30th. Just chalk it up to my procrastination for writing this post long after Bon Jovi has rocked Tokyo. As I've been to the last two tours - "Have a Nice Day" and "The Lost Highway", two days each, that would make this my 5th Bon Jovi concert. As we bought our tickets through the Bon Jovi Fan Club, I went to the Tokyo Dome early (Mikako had to work until 5pm the first night) to pick them up. The set list below for the two nights was provided by my MIXI (Japan's version of Facebook) friend who I also had a chance to meet before the show started.

ま~、ライブから約二ヶ月も経ちました。東京ドームで2日連続ボン・ジョヴィライブ!自分が怠け者と凄い分かるでしょう。前回の「ロスト・ハイウェイ」と「ハブ・ア・ナイス・デイ」ツアーも見ましたので、両方も2日連ってことで、今回は5回目のボン・ジョヴィライブとなりますね。チケットはボン・ジョヴィファンクラブから混入したので、ちょっと早めに東京ドームに行きました。美香子はバイト中だったので5時以降に合流。今回のセットリストはMIXI仲間からいただいたものです。久しぶりに会えて嬉しかった。




DAY 1 November 30, 2010

1. Blood On Blood

2.We weren't born to follow

3.You Give Love A Bad Name

4.Born to be my baby

5.Lost Highway

6.Whole lot of leavin'

7.When we were beautiful

8.It's my life

9.I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

10.We got goin' on

11.Bad Medicine~Pretty Woman/Shout

12.Lay Your Hands On Me

13.What Do You Got?

14.Make A Memory

15.I'll Be There For You

16.Something For The Pain

17.Someday I'll Be Saturday Night

18.Work For The Working Man

19.Runaway

20.Have A Nice Day

21.Who says can't go home?

22.Keep The Faith

ENCORE

23.Wanted Dead Or Alive

24.Livin' on a Prayer



DAY 2 December 1, 2010

1.Blood On Blood

2.We weren't born to follow

3.You Give Love A Bad Name

4.Born to be my baby

5.Lost Highway

6.Whole lot of leavin'

7.When we were beautiful

8.It's my life

9.I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

10.We got goin' on

11.Bad Medicine~Roadhouse Blues

12.Lay Your Hands On Me

13.What Do You Got?

14.Make A Memory

15.I'll Be There For You

16.Someday I'll Be Saturday Night

17.Work For The Working Man

18.Runaway

19.Raise Your Hands

20.Who says can't go home?

21.Keep The Faith

ENCORE

22.Wanted Dead Or Alive

23.Livin' on a Prayer



For a tour that labels itself "The Circle" Tour, it was unfortunate that they only played about two songs from their new album - "We Weren't Born to Follow" and "Work for the Working Man". This looks more like a Greatest Hits tour than "The Circle". Also, when I saw Bon Jovi for the first time on their "Have a Nice Day" tour, the set lists for both nights were quite different and you felt like you saw two different shows. Once again, as with "The Lost Highway" tour, the second night's set is almost identical to the first.

「ザ・サークル」ツアーと宣伝されてるのに、セットリストを見ると気付きましたでしょうか。新曲は2曲しかやってない。「ザ・サークル」というより「グレーティスト・ヒッツ」のツアーじゃないか。ちょっとがっかり。2日目のセットリストもほぼ一緒。これもまたかなりがっかり。セットリストが一緒なら2日も行く必要はない。



The highlight for me though was when Bon Jovi did a short acoustic set, the stage from where the they sang was just a few feet away from our seats. I imagine the people who payed for the VIP seats felt a little cheated at that point. It was also announced on the day of the show, that pictures and videos would be allowed. If I had known that, I could have taken some great pics. I did bring my camera the following day, but the seats weren't as great as the one's we had for the first show. I was happy that they played "Something for the Pain" which is one of my favorite Bon Jovi songs. They did a great cover of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" as well. Also on "Lay Your Hands on Me", Richie Sambora took over the vocal duties. The encore were two of Bon Jovi's staple songs.

今回のツアーのハイライトはやっぱりミニアコースティックセットの時。メインステージより前のほうで歌ってた。その場所はなんとうちの席から超近かった。当日撮影オッケイのアナウンスもあてみんながパシャパシャ写真を撮りまくてった。自分もそれが知ってたらカメラを持ってきたのに。次の日カメラ持ちましたが、最初のライブの席よりちょっと遠かった。アコースティックセットの時はVIP席を買った人たちちょっと可哀そうと思った。だって、VIP席からアコースティックセットの時、ボン・ジョヴィの後姿しか見れないからだ。自分が得したけどね。僕の大好きな曲“Something for the Pain”もやってくれました。最高!初日の“Pretty Woman”おカバーも良かった。 あと“Lay Your Hands on Me”の時、リッチーがメインボカルになったのも良かったと思う。エンコールはやっぱり名曲だったね。

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Maruchan Chibi Maruko-chan Nostalgic Shio Ramen / マルちゃん ちびまる子ちゃん ノスタルジック塩ラーメン



Sometimes I find myself buying instant noodles just because of the package. That was the case with this one which features popular Japanese cartoon "Chibi Maruko-chan"

たまにはパッケージが可愛いからつい買ってくるカップ麺。ちびまる子ちゃんの絵があって、それだけで買いました。


I'm not a big fan of shio (salt) flavor but it's nice to eat every now and then.

自分は塩味がそんなに好みじゃないですが、たまには良いね。




Bon Appetit!

いただきます!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Funky Cars / 面白い車

Okay, I don't think you'll catch me driving something like this around.

なんだこれ? こういう車は絶対乗りたくないな。


Ah, this is more like it. I like the color too.

これなら良いね。色も良い。


Monday, December 20, 2010

Gen / 源


Oops, I had meant to take a picture of the name of this place, but took a picture of the red lantern which says "Sake Dokoro", which means this is a place to drink! You see, a co-worker invited me out one evening after work and took me to this izakaya in Nakameguro called [Gen]. My wife was going to join me but I ended up working overtime that particular day, so it was just me and my co-worker. It's been a while since I've gone out for just drinks, food and talk. Nothing like good food and good company. But of course, what makes these places great is the food!

あっ、店の看板を撮ろうとしたら赤提灯のほうがメインになってしまた。この間会社の同僚が飲みに誘ってくれて、中目黒にある居酒屋「源」に行ってきました。妻も一緒に来る予定だったが、その日に限って、自分が残業したせいで、飲みに行ったのは僕と僕の同僚だけ。凄い久しぶりに飲みに出かけたので、結構良い気分でした。やっぱり良い酒と良い友達と飲みに行くと最高だね。で、こういう所はやっぱり食べ物ですね!



A main staple of izakaya cuisine - hiya yakko (that's tofu topped with bonita flakes, ginger and onions, and then add a bit of soy sauce) / 居酒屋の定番 ‐ 冷奴


Chicken skewers & chicken hearts / 焼き鳥とハーツ


Tripe soup / もつ煮


This was interesting - it was listed as guts on the menu. It was actually quite tasty!

初めて食べた物かも。メニューでガッツと書かれた。でも以外と美味しい!



Ham cutlets / ハムカツ


Whole roasted garlic, more U.S. restaurants should have this on the menu!

にんにく焼き。アメリカのレストランもこれを追加するべきと思う!


Green peppers / シシトウ


More green peppers / とういうよりシシトウとピーマンの違いは何だろ?



Onions / ねぎ


Tomatoes - I luv tomatoes! / 冷やしトマト ‐ 大好きやねん!


Haha - I went out drinking and forgot to take pictures of booze. Well, I only had beer and Hoppy but I guess I will have to fill you all in on Hoppy another time. Bon Appetit!

ははっ - 飲みに行ったのに、酒の写真一切撮ってなかった。ま~、飲んだのはビールとホッピー。ビールは普通ですけど、また今度ホッピーという酒を紹介します。いただきます!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yotteko-ya / よってこや

After the FT Island event, it was time for lunch. We checked out the food court near Mega Web first but the place was so crowded and we couldn't find a table so we decided to go out for some ramen instead. We settled on a place called [Yottekoya]. This ramen shop may seem familiar because I went to the one in Ebisu that serves a Genovese and Pescatore Ramen. As this is the same chain, I thought they might serve those here too, but apparently not. So I ordered the Aka Tonkotsu ramen while Mikako settled for the Ganso Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen and we split an order of gyoza.

FT Island のイベントの後は昼食の時間。最初はMega Webの近くにあったフードコートに行っきましたが、凄い混雑して、空いてるテーブルも全然ありませんでした。それでラーメンを食べに行く事を決定。
ラーメン「よってこや」に行きました。以前にも紹介しましたが、恵比寿にある店舗はジェノヴェーズやペスカトレラーメンがあるからこの店もあると思いましたが、そうでもない。僕は赤とんこつラーメンを注文して、美香子は元祖醤油とんこつラーメンをチョイス。餃子も半分に分けました。


Aka tonkotsu ramen / 赤とんこつラーメン


Ganso Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen / 元祖醤油とんこつラーメン



Gyoza / 餃子


Sign describing the secret of their soup



Bon Appetit!

いただきます!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

FT Island Hi-Five Event / FT Island ハイタッチイベント

A few Sundays ago, I got up early on my day off and headed out to Odaiba so I could stand in line for over two hours with Mikako so we could hi-five the band members of FT Island. What's FT Island you ask. Only one of the most popular bands to come out of Korea. So, how did we get to hi-five the band members you ask. Well, if you bought their latest single released in Japan (all three versions of them), there is a ticket in each version (a, b, & c). Then you trade in the tickets for a ticket to hi-five the members. Oh, the single is their latest release. Before the fans get to the hi-five, the band will also perform their new song as well.

ちょっと前の日曜日だったんですが、お休みの日なのに、早起きして、お台場に行って二時間半超行列に並んで、FT Islandのハイタッチの整理券を貰う為に。FT Islandって何?それは今韓国や日本で超人気のアイドルバンド。どうやってそれが手に入るのって?それはFT Islandの最新のシングル3枚を同時に買えばシングルの中にA、B, Cというチケットが入って、チケットを3枚を交換してハイタッチ整理券を貰う。というのは初回版A (CD-DVD)、初回版B (CD-フィギュア)と通常版の3枚です。や~、男の姿はほとんどいませんでした。僕がみたのは3、4人位。でもハイタッチだけのイベントではない。ちゃんと最新のシングルも披露する予定。



Yep, it was one really long line! 本当に凄い行列でした!



Did I tell you how long the line was? あの行列はどの位長いのか言ったっけ?



The FT Island Promotion Truck / FT Islandのプロモーショントラック




Photos and videos were allowed during the event / 会場の中の撮影は禁止

Getting closer to the event space / 会場にやっと近づいた


The event was to take place twice in one day. Once at 12pm and again at 3pm. After waiting in line for two and half hours, there was announcement that tickets for the 12pm event as almost over. Fortunately, we were able to get our and didn't have to wait until the 3pm show. As soon as we traded in our tickets, we headed to the area reserved for ticket holders. The event took place in a building called Mega-Web. The band performed their new single "So Today" and two other songs also on the single "Boom Boom Boom" and "I Change for You". After a brief intermission after the performance, it was time to hi-five the band members. The members must be used to their women fans of which there were many. When it was my turn, the singer of the band, Lee Hong Gi, gave a surprised "Ohhh!" seeing a middle-age white guy at this event and then said "What up" to me which in turn surprised me! It was a pleasant way to spend the day off (aside from the 2 1/2 hour wait of course).

ハイタッチイベントは二回行った。昼の12時と午後3時。二時間半も並んで、やっと3枚のチケットを交換出来る頃に、12時の整理券は間もなく終了しますというアナウンスがありました。二人でえ~と言いながら良かった事に12時のほうに間に合いました。ハイタッチする前にバンドが新曲の「So Today」を演奏しました。シングルのカップリング曲「Boom Boom Boom」と「I Change for You」も披露してくれました。メンバーたちが慣れた様子でファンとハイタッチを楽しそうにやってくれました。ハイタッチしながら、なまった日本語の“ありがとうごじゃいます”の連発。そして僕の番が来た。僕も普通にハイタッチをして、“かっこよかったよ”と言ったら、“ありがとうごじゃいます”。最後ハイタッチしたのはボカルのホンギ。ホンギが僕を見て、驚いて“おおおうう!”と言いました。そのあとに英語で“What up”と言われた!印象にのこったのかな。でもやっぱりこういうイベントって楽しいね。

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Onoji / 大野路




After enjoying the Shiroito Waterfalls and Fuji Safari Park, it was time to head back to Tokyo. But first, we had to stop somewhere for lunch. We came upon this nice little restaurant called [Onoji]. We were actually looking for a place that served houtou (a one-pot udon dish) which is indigenous to Yamanashi Prefecture and cannot be found in Shizuoka Prefecture which we were currently in. This restaurant is part of the Onoji Camp Site. As we walked into the restaurant I noticed a signed picture of the disgraced Nori-pi (Noriko Sakai). While Yukio ordered the zaru soba with tempura, I opted for a buttered stir-fried beef dish, while Mikako and Reiko decided on the pork nabe set.

白糸の滝と富士サファリパークを堪能した後、そろそろ東京に戻る時が来ました。でもその前にどっか昼食をとらないっと。本当はほうとうの店を探しましたが、ほうとうは山梨県の名物。私たちはまだ静岡県に居た為もちろんほうとうの店は見つかりませんでした。でも道の途中で「大野路」という店を発見。ここに決定。ここは大野路キャムプ場の一部でした。レストランに入るとノリピーのサイン入り写真が展示してた!友達の幸男はざる蕎麦と天ぷらを注文して、僕は牛バター炒め。美香子とレイコは豚の鍋料理をチョイス。


Zaru soba / ざる蕎麦


Tempura / 天ぷら


Stir-fried Buttered Beef Set / 牛バター炒めセット


Yum! / 美味しい!


The Pork Set / 豚鍋セット


After lunch, we took a short walk and came across Totoro!

食べたあと、ちょっと散歩したら、トトロと出会った!




We made one more stop at a service area for snacks and a nature break. It was here that I found a melon bread shaped like Mount Fuji. And they were freshly baked and so delicious!

東京に帰るまに富士山が見えるサービスエリアに止まった。そこで富士メロンパン発見。焼き立ては美味しいわ!!





Oh no! We ate Mount Fuji!

あっ!富士山を食べてしまった!

Ern's Monthly Visual Victuals (November 2010)

*映画に関するネタ日本語は書き込みません

Well, as you can plainly see, I didn't watch a lot of movies in the month of November. My first choice isn't even a movie. It's a collection of original Looney Tunes cartoons. However, the two movies I did watch were both Japanese productions. No Hollywood blockbusters, no artsy foreign films and no mini theater choices either. That's because I spent most of this month reading fiction. Yes, books! Another one of my pleasures. But books take more time to read than it does to watch movies. But have no fear, I plan on renting a lot of movies next month, including Hollywood blockbusters that I have yet to see - Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland", "Iron Man 2", "Sherlock Holmes" - they're all waiting for me to watch them!! I did watch one other movie this month but as it was broadcast on network television and I think I may have reviewed it previously, I decided not to include it. Just for the curious, it was "The Bucket List" with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.


LOONEY TUNES (2009) – A Japanese company called Takarajimasha has been releasing DVD box sets of old American cartoons! Classic ones at that. This “Looney Tunes” box consists of two DVDs with 30 cartoons on each disc. As these are the original classics, they will still make you laugh and bring a smile to your face. All your favorite Warner Brothers characters – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, etc. by some of the greatest animation directors – Chuck Jones, Virgil Ross, Robert McKimson. And how can you not mention the voice characterizations of Mel Blanc and the music of Carl Stalling? These are some of the best cartoons you may remember from your childhood! “Wabbit Twouble”, “Rabbit of Seville”, “What’s Up Doc?” which are featured on the first disc. The second disc includes great classics such as “Rabbit Seasoning”, “Duck Amuck”, and the award winning “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century”!! “That’s All Folks!”



RAILWAYS ~49歳で電車の運転士になった男の物語~ (2010) – This is one of those feel good movies I like to be entertained by every now and then.  To be honest, I don’t think the original Japanese title really needed a subtitle, but it translates to “The Story of a 49yr old Man who Becomes a Railway Conductor” which pretty much gives away the plot of the movie. Quite simply, an elite salaryman Hajime Tsutui (Kiichi Nakai) working in Tokyo who is so focused on his job that he works long hours and goes on frequent business trips doesn’t realize that he is drifting away from his wife and daughter. When he gets news that his mother has collapsed, he goes back to his home town in Shimane Prefecture. At the same time, one of his friends who entered the company at the same time dies in an accident. With those two events, Hajime begins to reconsider his life. When he was a little boy, it was his dream to become a train conductor on the local line in his home town. So, at the age of 49, Hajime makes a life-changing decision. He decides that he will follow his childhood dream. He gives up his high paying job and applies to become a train conductor. And as you can tell from the subtitle, we know Hajime will have his dream come true. Very predictable but still enjoyable and great cinematography of Shimane Prefecture.



ダーリンは外国人 [Darlin wa Gaikokujin] [My Darling is a Foreigner] (2010) – This movie is based on the graphic novel of the same title which was originally published in 2001. It is the story of an aspiring manga artist, Saori Oguri (played my Mao Inoue) who marries American, Tony Laszlo (played by Jonathan Sherr) and their ups and downs of being in an intercultural marriage. I attempted reading the manga when it first came out but my Japanese reading abilities were not yet up to par. And being a product of a cross-cultural marriage as well as being in one myself, there was no doubt that I would eventually watch this. As the movie is told mostly through the eyes of Saori and edited for the silver screen, the courtship between Saori and Tony seems to take place at excessive speed, but hey, it’s the movies. It’s a nice little romantic film depicting the ups and downs of a cross-cultural marriage between an American and a Japanese. The film features other couples as well speaking to the audience (a la “When Harry Met Sally”) of some compromises one or the other had to make. The language differences, the traditions. All in all, it’s just a cute movie. And now that the first book in the manga series is available in a bilingual edition, I may have to try reading it again (even though I'm sure I can manage the Japanese this time around).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ern's Monthly Page Turners (November 2010)

*一部日本語書き込んでます

It's the first week of December, all to soon, it will be Christmas and then the year will end. Depending on how many books I read this month, I don't know if I will reach my goal of reading at least 100 books (I only have 3 books left to reach that mark). But before you all praise me, I must admit that my list includes a lot of children's picture books, photography books, and graphic novels. This month's choices includes three books of fiction. A couple of travel essays (including the one written in Japanese), one magazine and one freebie on choosing books for kids.



DOG LOVES BOOKS by Louise Yates – As with last month’s title, “It’s a Book” which promotes reading books, I discovered another title with a similar theme. This time it’s a dog who loves books. He loves books so much that he decides to open his book store. With easy to follow illustrations, we see dog unwrap, unpack and stack books to get ready for his grand opening. Dog loves books so much, he loves the smell of them, the feel of them, and just everything about them. But when he opens shop, he doesn’t get a lot of customers. Instead of becoming depressed, dog chooses a book and starts to read. When he reads he forgets about being in a bookstore. However, when his first real customer does come in, dog knows just what to recommend! And like dog, I love books too so I highly recommend this one!


THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING 2010 edited by Bill Buford – It’s that time of year again when Mariner Books publishes their annual “Best American Writing” series. I have not missed a volume of “The Best American Travel Writing” since it first started in the year 2000. This book is a collection of travel essays taken from a variety of publications – from mainstream magazines to literary publications, travel sections in newspapers to travel websites that were published in the previous year which is then sent to a guest editor – this year being Bill Buford who picks the best twenty or so from the hundreds to choose from. Travel essays are another one of my favorite genres to read. If I had more time and money, I would love to travel to many of the destinations that are written about. This year’s collection takes us on such journeys as spending time with the homeless in Fresno to looking for the place where Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus in Jerusalem. From wandering around the Sighisoara in Romania where the real Count Vlad Dracul lived, more commonly known as Dracula to spending the week with the Hadza in Northern Tanzania who are one of the remaining hunter-gatherers. A couple of my favorite articles in the year’s collection would have to be Simon Winchester’s “Take Nothing Leave Nothing” which is about the reason he had been banned from visiting the English outpost of Tristan da Cunha and Steven Rinella’s “Me, Myself, and Ribeye” which could easily be another chapter in Mark Schatzker’s book, “Steak”. Another interesting piece was is Peter LaSalle’s “Walking : An Essay on Writing” where he reads his favorite authors where the stories are set.


チーズケーキの旅 by 山本ゆりこ[Cheesecake no Tabi] by Yuriko Yamamoto ‐Most of my readers know that I don’t usually read a book twice no matter how good I thought it was. However, there are some titles I make an exception to. One was J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, a story I could probably read a dozen times and never get tired of. I reread this title for another reason though. As you can tell from the title, this is a Japanese only publication. The title translates in English to [A Cheesecake Journey]. In my opinion, one of the joys of life is eating desserts! And because my favorite dessert just happens to be any type of cheesecake, it was without question that I had to read this book. The author, Yuriko Yamamoto is a graduate of the Kagawa Nutrition University located in Sakado City in Saitama Prefecture. After graduating, she moved to Paris and continued her studies at the prestigious Ritz Escoffier School and Le Cordon Bleu where she received her Le Grand Diplome, and continued to hone her skills at Michelin three star restaurants and hotels. Having spent many years living in France, this gave her the opportunity to travel throughout Europe. Her travels take her to cheesecake’s country of origin – which happens to be Greece. She also travels throughout the Russian Federation and Central and Eastern Europe and delights in the cheesecakes and cheese-filled desserts in countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria. Of course, she spends more time on the cheese desserts of Italy and France. Just one word of warning – don’t read this on an empty stomach! A more detailed review will be featured on the “Asia by the Book” blog in the near future.

さてさて、今月も一冊日本語で書かれた本を読みました。私は同じ本を一回以上読む事はほとんどございません。でもこの本は以前も読んだ事がありま。同じ本読まないのに、何故この本を二回も読んだのは理由があります。実は私が別のブログでアジアの著者やアジアが舞台になってる本を紹介するブログにも本論を書いてます。英語のみですけど。今回そのアジア向きのブログにアップする為、もう一回読んだほうが良いっと自分が思いました。読む前に、一つの注意頃がございます。お腹空いた時に絶対読まないほうが良い。タイトル通り、この本はチーズケーキがメインです。著者の山本ゆりこはパリ在住の時、ヨーロッパの国々に旅出来る様に恵まれ、旅した国のチーズケーキとチーズデザートを紹介する本を出しました。チーズケーキの発祥と言われてるギリシャや、ドイツ、ポーランド、ロシア、など。もちろんイタリアとフランスのチーズケーキも。世界でこんなに種類があるとは圧倒されますよ。カラー写真も載ってますので、本当にチーズケーキが食べたくなる。



THE PUFFIN HANDBOOK : THE PERFECT LITTLE GUIDE TO THE 70 BEST BOOKS FOR CHILDREN – Puffin, which is the children’s line of Penguin Books is celebrating their 70 anniversary by providing their readers with this free guide to some of their best children’s books. The guide is set up in a chronological order of learning to read. Starting with books to read to your baby. Followed by recommended picture books and then to young adult series as your child grows older. Puffin Books have a line of books for every age and interest imaginable. And one must not forget Puffin’s incredible line of Puffin Classics featuring all those titles and authors we had to read in school – “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, “Tom Sawyer”, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the list goes on. The guide also includes “expert advice, exclusive articles, brilliant books for children of all ages and much more…” Reading through this guide reminded me of my own reading history. I fell in love with Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” that my second grade teacher read to the class. And my earliest memory of choosing my first book was Eleanor Cameron’s “The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet” and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” which probably lead me to my love of fantasy and science and fiction. As an adult I discovered the joys of Jon Scieszka’s “The Time Warp Trio” and his funny picture books “The Stinky Cheese Man” and “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” which may not have been published by Puffin but that’s beside the point. With Christmas just around the corner, this would make a great stocking stuffer and may give your children (or yourself for that matter) an idea of what they might want to read.



FORD COUNTY by John Grisham –
Yep, that John Grisham. Writer of “The Firm”, “The Pelican Brief” and a bunch of other titles that were adapted for the silver screen. To be honest though, I have only read one other Grisham novel and it was one that was not made into movie called “Playing for Pizza” which was definitely not a legal thriller. It was a story about a 3rd string quarterback in the NFL who threw 3 interceptions and blew a 17 point lead in one of the team’s most important games which could have led them to the Superbowl. He of course is cut from the team and no other team in the NFL wants him. So his agent finds him a contract with the Parma Panthers – a minor football league in Italy. But I’m getting away from the book I actually read. “Ford County” is a collection of short stories that take us back to Ford County, Mississippi which was the setting for his first novel “A Time to Kill”. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not a big fan of short stories because by the time you really get into the story, it’s over. The stories range from a family going on a road trip to see one of their kin who is on Death Row. Another is about a hometown boy who comes back after years of being away but is shunned by everyone because he has a sickness everyone fears – AIDS (kind of reminded me of the movie “Philadelphia”). A lawyer meets a victim from one of his past cases and fears for his life. The stories are entertaining and keep you interested, but like I said before, short stories make you yearn for more. You find that you keep asking yourself, “And then what happened?” I suppose short stories could be great for people who commute by train or bus and have a little extra time where they can read. Then again, these short stories could be a good introduction to John Grisham as well.



THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett – I can’t believe I picked another book to read that’s set in Mississippi again (okay, it was a gift and I had just finished reading “Ford County”). This time it’s Jackson, the year is 1962. I can see all your heads spinning. Deep South! Early 60s! Jim Crow ring a bell? An embarrassing era of our country. This is an incredibly great story for a debut novel. I really couldn’t put it down, and I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a book I would have chosen on my own. You see, I may have been born right before the Civil Rights movement (or somewhere in the beginning or middle), but I was an army brat. Born in France, moved to Japan. I never heard of Jim Crow or knew what prejudice was until I moved to the States when I was about ten. But let’s get back to the story. This is written from the perspective of three main characters – Aibileen, a maid who’s raising her seventeenth white child; her friend Minny, another maid who speaks her mind which gets her fired from most of her jobs; and Skeeter, a young white woman back from college who has dreams of becoming a writer, but who’s mother would just like to see her get married. How the three of these become friends is an interesting plot in itself. Skeeter has an idea for a book and needs Aibileen and Minny to accomplish her goal. Which is to write a tell-all book about what it’s really like for a black maid to work for white families in the deep South. At times intense and at times quite humorous, I had a hard time putting this book down. I highly recommend it. I also discovered that film rights had already been purchased and a movie based on the book is scheduled for release some time next year.


THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Laarson – I had recently watched the original Swedish movie which was based on this book. The original Swedish title is “Man som hattar kvinnor” which translates to “Men who Hate Women” and might give you a little idea as to its subject. Apparently, Hollywood thought this was a great film as well and is currently doing a remake which will star Daniel Craig. Unfortunately, because the original movie is all in Swedish, and because I live in Japan, the subtitles are all in Japanese, I may have missed out on some important aspects of the story. To resolve that matter, I decided to read the book in English. The story starts off with a journalist named Michael Blomkvist who has just lost a court case for libel against a major industrialist. The disgraced journalist is then hired by one of Sweden’s wealthiest man to solve a mystery that’s been haunting him for the past forty years. Harriet Vanger had disappeared in mysterious circumstances and her aging uncle is hoping for one last chance to find out who her killer was. Blomkvist is joined by a young tattooed and pierced prodigy named Lisbeth Sander who helps him solve the case. As Blomkvist and Sander dig deeper into the lives of the Vanger Clan, they find out a lot more than just one murder mystery. I can’t wait to read the next two books in the series.




THE PRESENT by Bob Gill – This is such a simple story about the true meaning of giving. Just perfect for Christmas. Arthur is a little boy who has discovered a beautifully wrapped present in his parent’s closet. Arthur’s birthday is coming soon and he believes that the present is for him. As a boy with a very vivid imagination, Arthur wonders what the present might hold inside. A basketball? A baseball glove? A globe? As his birthday gets closer, he keeps imagining what the present might contain. What makes this picture such a delight is that every page is filled with black and grey, only the present being in color. The day before Arthur’s birthday, the doorbell rings. A woman is going door to door to collect toys for the poor. It’s at this point in the book which is the heart of the story. But as a reader who does not want to give away the climax, you will have to read for yourself what kind of action Arthur takes. The answer may be quite obvious but still, it is worth reading for yourself. And as I always mention when reading children’s book, stories like these are not only for kids but can be enjoyed by adults as well. I should know, since I happen to be an adult (at least believe that I am). But I’m still a kid at heart!




FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION July/Aug 2010 Issue – Yes, yes, this is a magazine but includes many short stories, novelets, poems, and other stuff which makes it worthy of being reviewed. In this issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, new novelets from Sean McMullen, “The Precedent”; Richard Bowes, “Pining to Be Human”; Albert E. Cowdrey, “Mister Sweetpants and the Living Dead”; John Langan, “The Revel” and more. Also short stories from Ian R. MacLeod, “Recrossing the Styx”; Richard Norwood, “Brothers of the River”; Brenda Carre, “The Tale of Nameless Chameleon”; Heather Lindsley, “Introduction to Joyous Cooking, 200th Anniversary Edition” and more. Recommended books by Charles de Lint, book reviews, coming attractions, film review of “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and this issue Curiosity – “But for Bunter” by David Hughes, published in 1985.