Monday, February 27, 2006

'View of Delft'

'View of Delft' Johannes Vermeer
Mauritshuis, The Hague

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Nick Hornby says...

I like this quote, also from The Polysyllabic Spree (a collection of 14 months of his essays from The Believer Magazine).

"Being a reader is sort of like being president, except reading involves fewer state dinners, usually. You have this agenda you want to get through, but you get distracted by life events, e.g., books arriving in the mail/ World War III, and you are temporarily deflected from your chosen path."

Book #7 - How to Breathe Underwater

How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

Rating: 4.5/5

Comments: I first heard about this collection of stories when I read The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby last year. This is what he had to say about it:
"Orringer writes about things that everyone writes about - youth, friendship, death, grief, etc. - but her narrative settings are fresh and wonderfully knotty. So, while her themes are as solid and as recognizable as oak trees, the stuff growing on the bark you've never seen before."

It's a wonderful, well-written collection of stories. There was only one story that I didn't care for as much (a style issue/ personal preference thing) but even that story had a great ending. All the stories were thought-provoking and very real! This is her first book, but she's apparently working on a novel which I'll definitely read when it comes out!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


But Delft was definitely the highlight of our trip to Holland.


A friend in my Japanese class is going to Amsterdam next month for a holiday. As we were talking about it over lunch, it reminded me of our trip there last year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Book #6 - The 25th Hour

The 25th Hour by David Benioff

Rating: 3/5

Comments: Not exactly a typical crime novel or thriller, it's about what goes through a man's mind on the last night before being sent to a Federal Prison for a 7-year sentence, his friendships, and dodgy business acquaintances, and how he takes his leave of them. Atmospheric with an emotional twist.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Kamakura in Autumn

Since part of "Zen Attitude" was set in Kamakura, here are a couple of pics from last December.

Book #5 - Zen Attitude

Zen Attitude by Sujata Massey

2nd Book in the Rei Shimura series

Rating: 4/5

Comments: Good fun! I was in the mood for something light and fun and this fit my mood perfectly. It wrapped up a bit quickly at the end, or so it seemed to me, but it was an enjoyable read. The Japanese setting is great since I'm familiar with some of the places and the cultural tidbits are always fun too! I'll definitely continue on with the series when I get a chance.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sunset at Gokoku-ji

Gnarly tree!

Book #4 - McSweeney's 18

McSweeney's Issue 18 Edited by Dave Eggers

Rating: 2.5/5

Comments: I'm enjoying short stories more recently than I have in the past so I decided to try out a subscription to McSweeney's. It's pretty rare, at least for me, to like all the stories in a collection of various authors with widely different stories and styles, but it definitely exposes me to authors I might not read otherwise. Fave stories in this collection: "Bad Habits" by Joyce Carol Oates, and "New Boy" by Roddy Doyle.

First bit of "Bad Habits": "They came for us at school. They didn't explain why. In their faces was the warning Don't ask."

This bit from "Happiness Reminders" by Rachel Haley Himmelheber, did make me stop and ponder for a moment.
"Ever think about where things end up?" the receptionist asks. "Like a toy you lost in the second grade; if it's plastic or whatever, it hasn't melted away. It must be somewhere. You just don't know where."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Book #3 - The Book of Secrets

The Book of Secrets by M.G. Vassanji

Winner of the Giller Prize 1994

Rating: 2/5

For a rather short book (324 pages) it was quite a slog to get through. I usually enjoy the themes in this novel - how we can never truly know someone else, or the past, but I didn't find this particular book engaging at all. Overall, I'm disappointed that this Giller Prize winner did nothing for me. I've heard good things about his more recent book, also a Giller Prize winner, so I will try this author again someday.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hello Japan!

Hello Japan! mini-challenge

Anyone, anywhere, who is interested in Japan is welcome to join in.

A monthly mini-challenge (except December) focusing on Japanese literature and culture.

It is hosted here at In Spring it is the Dawn.

A new topic will be posted at the beginning of every month. You have until the end of the month to complete the task for that month, and submit the link to your post to be eligible for that month's prize.

If you don't have a blog but would still like to play along, you can write a comment on the Hello Japan! post for the month telling us what you did to complete the task, or you can email me inspringthedawn at gmail dot com and I'll include it in the wrap up post at the end of the month.

To experience a little taste of Japan no matter where you live, and to learn more about the fascinating country that is Japan.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Japanese Literature Read-along

Japanese Literature Read-along

Running concurrently with the Japanese Literature Book Group, this is a casual reading group for those selected titles that are perhaps longer, for which we could all use some mutual cheer-leading, or that would benefit from a closer reading. The schedule will vary depending on the length of the books.

Japanese Literature Book Group: Previous Selections

Japanese Literature Book Group

For information about the group, including the current and upcoming selections, please refer to the Japanese Literature Book Group Page.

Previous selections

November 2009
The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata
The Old Capital: Discussion post
Cultural Context, Places and Events

January 2010
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
The Housekeeper and the Professor: Discussion post