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POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Update: Week Thirteen

How’s everyone doing this week? I had to venture out to the grocery store on Wednesday morning to pick up a prescription and replenish my kitchen cabinets, which were beginning to look rather bare. This was my first time going anywhere (other than for a walk) since March 14th, and I have to confess that I found it very stressful. I’m at-risk to get Covid-19, due to asthma, so I am very conscientious about social distancing. Fortunately, my grocery store is taking the pandemic seriously. I was able to get most of the things I was looking for, and you’d better believe that I washed the heck out of my hands after I got home.

My reading goal for this week was to complete my last three remaining “Advanced” prompts, which, I am delighted to say, I did manage to accomplish! In addition to finishing books that fulfilled these three prompts, I was also able to complete one additional book for the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

A book from a series with more than 20 books…

I began the week by reading the first three volumes of the Rurouni Kenshin manga series, by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Rurouni Kenshin is a 28-book series that takes place in Tokyo, Japan, during the Meiji Era.

My first encounter with Rurouni Kenshin came about when I was a college student. One of my roommates had the anime series on DVD, and offered to let me borrow it. Rather than traveling home for Fall Break that year, which would have taken up about half of my days off, I elected to stay on campus. During the 4-day break, I watched the entire series and fell in love with it. Rurouni Kenshin is directly responsible for my love of samurai dramas, and got me interested in Japanese history (particularly the Bakumatsu and the Meiji Era). I eventually got a copy of the anime for myself, and picked up the manga series a few years later.

The first book, Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Era Romantic Story, begins with the meeting of two of the main characters, Kenshin and Kaoru. Kaoru is chasing a murderer calling himself the Hitokiri Battōsai (or “Assassin” Battōsai), who is killing people in the name of her father’s dojo, when she happens to see a stranger walking late at night with a sword on his hip. Because the people of Tokyo have been forbidden to carry swords, Kaoru assumes that he is the killer she is hunting, and acts accordingly. The swordsman, Kenshin, introduces himself as a wandering samurai who has just arrived in Tokyo. As the book progresses, Kaoru begins to learn more about Kenshin’s past and discovers that there is much more to the wanderer than she could have imagined.

A book set in Japan, host of the 2020 Olympics (Well, now the 2021 Olympics, as the games have officially been postponed until next year.)

This book also introduces two other main characters to the series. The first is Yahiko, an orphaned boy from a samurai family, who is forced to pickpocket to survive, until he is taken on by Kaoru as her student. The second is Sanosuke, a very strong young man who thinks fights are best when they’re tough, and who is determined to fight Kenshin.

The second book in the series is Rurouni Kenshin: The Two Hitokiri. This volume features Sanosuke’s fight with Kenshin, as well as a story arc involving another assassin from the Bakumatsu, who has developed a taste for killing and is assassinating influential government men. Most of the second book is concerned with their conflict, and Kenshin’s attempts to keep his friends safe from the madman.

A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics… (Tokyo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964.)

Book three, Rurouni Kenshin: A Reason to Act, begins a story arc that introduces another main character named Megumi, a physician’s assistant who has been forced to take part in the manufacture of a new, more addictive form of opium. She manages to escape the man who is forcing her to make the drug, and meets Kenshin and Sanosuke. Unfortunately, her employer is nothing if not persistent, and sends a group of ninjas, known as the Oniwabanshū, after her.

I really enjoyed reading the first three books in this manga series, but since I had already watched the anime, I was already familiar with all of the story arcs. The Rurouni Kenshin manga is extremely well drawn, and I was very impressed with how the artist chose to represent the action sequences during Kenshin’s frequent battles. One of Kenshin’s strengths is his speed, and the artist did a great job of representing that in his art. While I’ve seen the anime several times now, this will be my first time reading the manga from start to finish. I plan to continue reading the series over the next few weeks.

A book written by an author in their 20s…

My final book of the week was Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh. Hyperbole and a Half is probably best described as an illustrated memoir, in which the author shares a variety of significant life events, as well as thoughts on issues such as motivation and depression. Each section of the book focuses on a different topic, and includes very clever illustrations that were drawn on the computer. Even if you haven’t read the book, you’re probably already familiar with some of the images the book contains, since they have been frequently used in memes.

I’ve loved this book ever since the first time I read it! Hyperbole and a Half is very funny, and I always find myself laughing out loud every time I read it. And when you consider that I’ve now read the book five times, that says a lot for the quality of the book. But what I love most about the book is how relatable it is. While I’ve had different life experiences than Brosh, there are portions of the book where I always find myself thinking, “She gets it.” A great example of this is the section entitled “This Is Why I’ll Never Be An Adult.” Fair warning, the book does contain a significant amount of profanity. But if you’re looking for a funny, relatable book to read while you’re spending time at home, Hyperbole and a Half is a great one to pick up.

Since I have now officially completed more than 60% of the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, I’m going to be changing up my approach for a couple of weeks. Rather than continuing to focus on reading prompts that I can complete quickly, I will be spending the next few weeks reading some of the books that I know will require a little more time. The first book I will be reading is Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, which I’m very excited about. As always, I will update you on my Reading Challenge progress next Saturday.

I hope you have a wonderful week. Please check back frequently next week for book recommendations, a movie review, and some new ideas for avoiding boredom while social distancing. Stay safe, healthy, and at home…and don’t forget to wash your hands!

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