Thursday, August 30, 2007
2. I am SO glad ... it's been cooler the last couple of days.
3. Where in the world is ... that winning lottery ticket? ;P
4. Long weekends are ... always appreciated.
5. Coming up next: some housework, unfortunately.
6. I adore ... tomatoes. I'm thinking tomato and eggplant pasta for dinner.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to ... reading and perhaps a bit of TV, tomorrow my plans include ... spending time with H and Sunday, I want to ... sleep!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
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Pub. 1956, some essays published previously 1949-55
Paperback, Three Leaves Press- Doubleday, 359 p.
(Book #37 for 2007, Banned Book Challenge - Book 5, Japan Challenge - Book 4)
The greatest writings of the twentieth century’s foremost authority on Zen are here brought together to form the most accessible and definitive overview of Zen philosophy available today. The collection includes a basic historical background as well as a thorough overview of the techniques for Zen practice. Each of the essays included here goes far beyond other sources for its penetrating insights and timeless wisdom.Based on this book and the other book on Buddhism I read earlier this year, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t get Buddhism, especially Zen. I tend to be fairly logical and this seems to be the antithesis of Zen, so maybe I need to just accept that fact. The other book was frustrating in its repetition and almost condescending way of writing. This book also had lots of repetition, which seems to be an essential method of Zen, but it was written in a much more authoritative, educated voice. A bit too scholarly for this reader though. While the text was never annoying like in the other one, many of the essays simply lost me as he tried to delve deeply into the ‘essence of Zen’ and I have to admit that I skipped a bit during the last 100 pages. Except for the very last chapter, my favourite, that addressed the influence of Zen on Japanese culture, such as haiku, painting, tea ceremony. It’s those aspects of Japanese culture that have always fascinated me and maybe where I should direct my reading in future, rather than attempting to understand the Buddhism behind them.
Overall, the book started well but I struggled to finish it. It seems that Suzuki's writings are well respected so I do believe it’s my personal inability to grasp Zen rather than a particular failing on his part. I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone new to Buddhism but perhaps someone looking for a more in-depth look would appreciate it.
One final note. This was my final selection for the Banned Book Challenge. (Really!) According to The Forbidden Library:
Challenged at the Plymouth-Canton school system in Canton, Mich. (1987) because "this book details the teachings of the religion of Buddhism in such a way that the reader could very likely embrace its teachings and choose this as his religion." The last thing we need are a bunch of peaceful Buddhists running around. The horror.My Rating: 2/5
"Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom."
“Zen is like drinking water, for it is by one’s self that one knows whether it is warm or cold.”
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
(clicking on the title will take you to my review)
1. All She Was Worth - Miyuki Miyabe
2. Knots & Crosses - Ian Rankin
3. Forty Words for Sorrow - Giles Blunt
4. Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear
5. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith
6. The Interpreter - Suki Kim
Best book I read for the challenge:
I guess I'd say Forty Words for Sorrow since it kept me turning the pages, and made me stay up too late to finish it. But I also quite enjoyed several of the others.
Book I could've done without:
I wasn't overly impressed with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency but the most disappointing was All She Was Worth. I guess I'd expected something else from it.
Authors I'll read again:
The Interpreter and All She Was Worth are standalones, as far as I know, whereas the other 4 are the first books in a series. I won't go out of my way to read another book by Miyuki Miyabe, although if it's from the library I may give it a go. I'll gladly read Suki Kim's next book whenever it's published. Of the series books, I'd like to read more by Ian Rankin, Giles Blunt, and Jacqueline Winspear. I already have the 2nd book in the Inspector Rebus series by Ian Rankin so I hope to read it soon. I'll give Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana series another chance but I'm not holding my breath.
Best thing about the Challenge:
I keep putting off starting series books because I know it'll lead to reading and buying more books, but I'm so glad I finally got around to some of these that have been waiting impatiently for a while. I also found that mysteries are the perfect kind of read for me during the summer as the heat saps my energy and attention span. I haven't read a lot of mysteries in the past but I think I'll be reading more from now on. I may have to have a mystery month (or two) again next summer, or if Liz and Bob host another challenge next year, I'm sure I'll be up for it. Especially since I still have plenty more authors to try. Thanks for a great challenge!
Monday, August 27, 2007
Picador USA, paperback, 293 p.
(Book #36 for 2007, Summer Mystery Challenge - Book 6)
Suzy Park is a twenty-nine-year-old Korean American interpreter for the New York City court system who makes a startling and ominous discovery about her family history that will send her on a chilling quest. Five years prior, her parents – hardworking greengrocers who forfeited personal happiness for their children’s gain – were brutally murdered in an apparent robbery of their store. But the glint of a new lead entices Suzy into the dangerous Korean underworld, and ultimately reveals the mystery of her parents’ homicide.I quite enjoyed this one, my spontaneous purchase at the bookstore the other day. It’s not a fast-paced mystery, but it was still suspenseful and atmospheric. Beyond the mystery element, it was an interesting glimpse into the Korean immigrant community in New York. A little bumpy in places and I’m not sure what I make of the ending, but overall it was an intriguing read. This is her debut novel and as such it shows promise so I’ll certainly look out for her next book.
My Rating: 3.5/5
Interview with the author HERE.
Friday, August 24, 2007
The challenge, 'a celebration of all tales gothic, eerie, creepy, and dark,' runs from September 1st to October 31st.
And I'm opting for ..
Peril the First:
Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.
My Peril Pool:
Tales of Moonlight and Rain - Akinari Ueda
Season of the Witch - Natasha Mostert
Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
The Haunted House - Charles Dickens et al
The Ladies of Grace Adieu - Susanna Clarke
Plus I reserve the right to substitute in any other books that cross my path.
A separate blog has been set up for the R.I.P Book Reviews.
(Click on button for access)
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
1. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman - Haruki Murakami
I noticed it was out in paperback, and I liked the cover so I picked it up. Never mind the other unread Murakami books on the shelves!
2. The Interpreter - Suki Kim
Thanks to the Summer Mystery Challenge I've been in a mystery mood lately and this one caught my eye at the bookstore last week.
3. The Rights of the Reader - Daniel Pennac
I've forgotten where now but I saw this mentioned on a blog or two and couldn't resist.
4. Tales of Moonlight and Rain - Akinari Ueda
Saw this in the bookstore a couple of months ago but it was so expensive there that I didn't buy it. But I kept it in mind for the R.I.P II Challenge and recently got it online for much cheaper.
5. The Ocean in the Closet - Yuko Taniguchi
I had to get this one after Nancy's rave review!
6. First Among Sequels - Jasper Fforde
I've heard some not so great reviews of this latest book in the Thursday Next series, but I've loved the others so I couldn't NOT get it!
7. Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure - Emma Campbell Webster
Again I've forgotten where but I saw this mentioned on someone's blog and then flipped through it at the bookstore last week. It looks very fun so it got added to my recent order.
8. In Other Words - Christopher J. Moore
I'd had this on my wishlist for ages but Lotus' wonderful review has spurred me on to finally get it.
9. Quicksand - Junichiro Tanizaki
10. The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi and Arrowroot - Junichiro Tanizaki
I've been wanting to read something else by Tanizaki after reading and thoroughly loving The Makioka Sisters earlier this year.
11. Death of a Red Heroine - Qiu Xiaolong
Someone, I forget who (surprise, surprise!), mentioned it and then recently Bellezza read it and loved it!
12. Blind Justice - Bruce Alexander
Mailyn mentioned this series a couple of times and how much she likes it. I found a cheap copy so it's another mystery series for me to try.
13. Falling Blossom (US title: Sword and Blossom) - Peter Pagnamenta, Momoko Williams
I think I first heard about this one from Danielle, who posted a fantastic review of it. How could I resist, loving Japanese stories like I do?
Probably not too surprising (along with my terrible memory) is the fact that most of these I read about on blogs! Only the first 6 are already in my possession, and the rest will arrive sometime in early September. Lots to look forward to! But darned if you all aren't bad for my bank account!! Have you bought any new books lately?
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Abacus paperback, 233 p.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series - Book 1
(Book #35 for 2007, Summer Mystery Challenge - Book 5)
Wayward daughters. Missing husbands. Philandering partners. Curious conmen. If you’ve got a problem, and no one else can help you, then pay a visit to Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s only – and finest – female private detective.This wasn’t on my list of possible choices for the challenge but a friend lent it to me recently so I read it as my 5th book for the Summer Mystery Challenge. So many people seem to love it, I think I’ll be rather in the minority by saying that I didn’t really care for it. I found the writing and storylines really simplistic and it just never grabbed me. Rather than one main mystery, it was a lot of simple, little cases that Mma Ramotswe solves, all of which were rather predictable. I’m just getting into reading mysteries but I think I prefer a stronger plot, suspense, and characters that I want to know more about. Based on this one I don’t know if I’d bother with any more in the series, but my friend also lent me the 2nd one so I’ll try it and see if Precious and the others grow on me. Otherwise I might be interested in trying one of the Edinburgh-based series to see if a different setting and characters prove more appealing to me. Any recommendations?
My Rating: 2.5/5
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Vintage Canada, trade pb, 407 p.
As a young English teacher in Japan, Canadian humorist Will Ferguson set out on a journey like no other: his goal was to become the first person in recorded history to follow the cherry blossoms as they sweep from one end of Japan to the other. Hitchhiking all the way, and relying on the kindness of weird and wonderful strangers, his journey was full of misadventure and revelation, and the result is a real treat for Ferguson fans: a book that may just be one of the funniest and most illuminating ever written about Japan.“Nowhere on earth does spring arrive as dramatically as it does in Japan. When the cherry blossoms hit, they hit like a hurricane. Gnarled cherry trees, ignored for most of the year, burst into bloom like fountains turned suddenly on.”
What a fun, informative read! He really captured the love-hate relationship that many gaijin (foreigners) have with Japan and its countless contradictions. There were plenty of situations that I could relate to and his dry sense of humour and observations had me often laughing out loud. Well-researched, I also learned about some customs and places that I wasn’t familiar with. I would definitely recommend Hitching Rides with Buddha to anyone who is interested in Japan or has spent any time there.
A couple of favourite quotes:
“If God had wanted me to learn kanji, He would have given me a bigger brain.”Note on this edition:
“I speak Japanese the way a bear dances. It’s not that the bear dances well that impresses people, it’s the fact that the bear dances at all.”
This book was previously published in the US and the UK under the title Hokkaido Highway Blues, along with an abridged British pocketbook version. The full version has been restored for the Canadian edition, along with the title I always wanted: Hitching Rides with Buddha. (That title was nixed by the American publisher on the complaint that it sounded too religious. Sigh.) - Will Ferguson
My Rating: 4/5
(Book 34 for 2007, Non-Fiction Five Challenge - Book 3, O'Canada Challenge - Book 3)
The small print: Links in this post to Amazon contain my Associates ID. Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission. For more information visit my About Page.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
*complained about the heat A LOT! Justifiably so since last week saw record high temperatures in Japan!
*ate a fair bit of ice cream
*finished 2 books (reviews forthcoming)
*watched a lot of Prison Break (24 episodes! The characters and scenes from the show are now invading my dreams!)
Even though we didn't go anywhere this year, and I didn't end up getting much done that I'd hoped to, it was still nice to have a week off.
A nice end to the holiday was being nominated by Nymeth for a Thoughtful Blogger Award.
Thanks Nymeth! H asked me recently why I spend so much time online. It's because of all the thoughtful, interesting bloggers that I read! I always have a hard time choosing who to pass these on to so if you're reading this consider yourself nominated!
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
One book at a time? Or more than one? If more, are they different types/genres? Or similar?
(We’re talking recreational reading, here—books for work or school don’t really count since they’re not optional.)
Well I don't have any required reading for school or work so all of my reading is recreational. I'm usually a one book at a time person but occasionally I'll have a couple more on the go as well. Like right now for instance. The one I'm mainly focusing on is a travel memoir. My bag/commuting book is a mystery for now, but I'll probably finish it off at home once I finish the travel book. And the third is a Non-Fiction that was going pretty slowly and why I started the others in the first place, to balance it out. I really need to finish it though because I've found that if I set one aside for too long to read other books, I may never get back to it. I also start feeling distracted if I have too many on my nightstand, so a small number seems to work better for me. The format does play a small role in my decisions. Hardbacks always stay home, they're too big and heavy to lug around. If I'm really into the hardback, I'll read magazines on the train, otherwise I'll have a paperback with me. But I guess I'd say that if I have more than one in progress, they're most likely to be from different genres. You?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Cool Weather (or not sweating instants after showering or leaving an air-conditioned room) - It's 37C today! And humid! Need I say more?
Trees - There aren't many trees around our neighbourhood. Being surrounded by concrete and the lack of green really gets to me some days.
Water - One of the first things I like to do when I visit 'home' is take a walk along the Ocean, and smell the sea air. I never realised how much I'd miss being near water until living in this concrete jungle.
Breakfast Cereal - The selection in Japan is so small. Essentially it's Corn flakes or muesli. Lately I've been craving Cheerios and Grape-Nuts.
Salt & Vinegar chips - I know chips aren't good for you but once in a while is ok, right? The standard flavours here are salted or nori (seaweed)!
Rhubarb - Oh how I'd love to have some rhubarb pie, or a rhubarb crisp!
Raspberries - When I was growing up we had our own raspberry bushes (and rhubarb too for that matter) and I'm so missing fresh raspberries. They're very very very hard to come by here. Even raspberry jam is rare. :(
My Mom's Cooking - I recently shared my mom's recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cake and it's got me craving it and many of the other dishes and baking that my mom was so good at.
Red/Yellow peppers that don't cost $2 each! - The little Japanese green peppers are cheap but also have less flavour. Buying bell peppers is a real splurge.
Zucchini - Zucchini is even more ridiculously expensive here, when it's even available that is.
Deli meats - OK, sandwiches aren't exactly typical Japanese food but it would be nice to have something other than ham, ham or... ham to choose from.
Brown Bread (more than one kind) - For some reason the Japanese adore white bread. 95% of the bread in the stores is white. I'm tired of having the same brown bread over and over.
Cheap Books - Of course I have plenty of unread books already but even when I do browse here I hesitate to buy because of the price of imported English books. Thank goodness for The Book Depository!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Back to real life- H and I are on holiday this week, due to the Japanese celebration of Obon. Last year we went to Sendai during this time but this year we decided to stay home. It was actually my ultimatum after last year's trip, which was interesting, but oh so too very hot! So I declared that this year it was either somewhere distinctly cooler or nowhere! And nowhere it is!! If only I could sleep better it would be a great time to relax and enjoy being sloths. But we are getting some reading time in and we're almost finished our Prison Break Marathon, so it's not entirely wasted! I do believe we're going to brave the dreaded heat and venture into the big city today. I'm in serious need of some book retail therapy!
Monday, August 13, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
John Murray paperback, 288 p.
Maisie Dobbs series - Book 1
(Book #33 for 2007, Summer Mystery Challenge- Book #4)
London, 1929. Having set herself up as a private investigator, Maisie Dobbs is relieved when her first client arrives. Christopher Davenham suspects that his wife is conducting an affair. But Maisie’s investigations confound her expectations at every turn. And she is forced by her findings to revisit her own turbulent experience of the Great War. For Maisie, the boundary between her private and professional life is suddenly blurred.It’s appropriate that the first book in the series is titled ‘Maisie Dobbs’ after our heroine and sleuth because it really is Maisie’s story. There is a mystery that wasn’t terribly surprising, instead it was the considerable portion of the book dedicated to Maisie’s life and how she came to be the woman she is now, that I found most engaging. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the writing bothered me somehow- maybe a little too forced at times? But I quite enjoyed this first instalment and I look forward to trying the next one.
This is a world still reeling in the aftermath of war, a world in which many secrets lie buried. But Maisie is determined to hunt down the truth, however painful it might be…
My Rating: 3.5/5
“Tomorrow will be our last day together.” said Simon. “I wish I understood time, Maisie. It vanishes through one’s fingers.”Also reviewed at:
A Striped Armchair
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
What is your favorite kind of pie?
Rhubarb. Boy am I missing rhubarb lately!
Name something that made you smile this week.
The Boys. They always make me smile.
What do you do to cool off when the weather is hot and humid?
Stay indoors where there is air-conditioning with a good book and ice cream.
You receive $1,000 in the mail with a letter that says you can only use the money to redecorate one room in your home. Which room do you pick, and what do you buy to spruce it up?
Our 2nd bedroom that we use as a study. I'd get some more bookshelves to fill the wall and some nicer desks and chairs for both of us. The ones we have now were really cheap and aren't the greatest. With any money left over I'd of course buy more books for those lovely new bookshelves!
Fill in the blank: My _________ says __________, but I __________.
My mirror says 'Exercise!' but I say 'It's too hot!'
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Fiction/Crime/Canada, pub. 2000
Random House Canada, mm pb, 388 p.
Detective John Cardinal series, Book 1
Winner - British Crime Writers' Silver Dagger Award, 2001
(Book #32 for 2007, Summer Mystery Challenge- Book #3, O'Canada Challenge- Book #2)
When four teenagers go missing in the small northern town of Algonquin Bay, the extensive police investigation comes up empty. Everyone is ready to give up except Detective John Cardinal, an all-too-human loner whose persistence only serves to get him removed from Homicide. Haunted by a personal secret in his own past, and hounded by a special investigation into corruption on the force, Cardinal is on the brink of losing his career – and his family.I have to say I loved the setting. Set in mid-winter, the snow and ice sounds quite appealing right now. I’m not very familiar with Ontario, but it was still fun to read a Canadian mystery this time. His writing has apparently been compared to Ian Rankin, so it’s fun timing that I read it just after Rankin’s Knots & Crosses.
When the mutilated body of thirteen-year-old Katie Pine is pulled out of an abandoned mineshaft, only Cardinal is willing to consider the horrific truth: this quiet town is home to the most vicious of serial killers. With the media, the provincial police and his own department questioning his every move, Cardinal follows increasingly tenuous threads towards the unthinkable. Time isn’t only running out for him, but for another young victim, tied up in a basement wondering when and how his captors will kill him.
About half-way into the book, we find out who the killer is and then it becomes a race against time to save the current victim, or as it’s otherwise known, a ‘howcatchem’ (heehee! Love the term!). It was a fast-paced, page-turning read. I’ll be sure to pick up the next one in the series (there are 4 in all so far), next time I’m in Canada.
My Rating: 4/5
The Inuit, it is said, have forty different words for snow. Never mind about snow, Cardinal mused, what people really need is forty words for sorrow.Interesting fact: Murder is a rare event in Canada. So rare that most of the country’s ten provinces are allocated only one forensics unit, usually in the province’s biggest city. (p. 96)
Friday, August 03, 2007
So why do I blog?
For the money and fame of course!! Doesn't everyone? :P
* Photos - I started blogging for a couple of reasons. One was to have a place to share some of my pictures. I know there haven't been many lately but there will be again. It's just too hot right now for much in the way of outdoor pics. I'm very hermit-like in summer here. Maybe I'll troll through my old pics and choose some favourites to share.
* Reading Log - Taking pictures is just a part-time hobby so I didn't want to have a strictly photo blog, and since I already keep track of the books I read on my computer I thought it would fun to keep a record on a blog as well. The marriage of two hobbies and my blog was born!
* Community - I have really enjoyed getting to know other bloggers and being part of the book blogging community. It's wonderful to chat about books with other book lovers, to get feedback on what I've read, and recommendations on future reads. I only wish I had more time to read and comment, I'm perpetually behind. You should see the state of my Google Reader!
* Challenges - A by-product of the book blogging community is all the wonderful reading challenges out there and how, thanks to them, I've been able to read many books that have been languishing in TBR purgatory for years. I used to belong to several Yahoo groups that would chat about books and read a book a month. I found though that I'd end up buying the books that were voted on but then I wouldn't always have time to read them and so they would sit there looking forlorn on the shelves, and multiplying. With the challenges, I choose books that I've been meaning to read and usually already own so it's been great! I do miss the book chat there sometimes but unfortunately there just aren't enough hours in the day.
* Fun - It's fun! It's become a major part of my life. I try to post regularly and even though that doesn't always happen, I'm often thinking about my blog or what I've read on others blogs. And I probably spend more time online than I should but I look forward to it. There are days when I feel like I'm talking to myself but it's satisfying to see my posts accumulate and have people, who I've never met but feel like I know at least a little bit, comment on them. Like Danielle said, "I'm addicted and can't stop now."
A big thanks to everyone who has visited me! If it weren't for you I'd probably have given up by now.
I won't tag anyone specifically because I've lost track of who's already done this one but if you'd like to please do continue it. Let me know if you do, I'd love to read your reasons.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
My favourite read this month was easily Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Whereas my least favourite and the most disappointing was All She Was Worth.
Books completed: (clicking on the title will take you to my review)
26. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
27. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling
28. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
29. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
30. All She Was Worth - Miyuki Miyabe
31. Knots & Crosses - Ian Rankin
Reading Challenges Progress Report:
M&N's Summer 7 Challenge: COMPLETED!
Summer Mystery Challenge: 2 done, 4 to go (by Aug. 31st)
Non-Fiction Five Challenge: 2 done, 3 to go (by Sept. 30th)- No Change from last month
TBR Challenge: 5 done, 7 to go (by Dec. 31st) - No Change
Japan Challenge: 3 done, 9 to go (by Dec. 31st)
O'Canada Challenge: 1 done, 11 to go (by Dec. 31st) - No Change
Book Awards Challenge: 0 done, 12 to go (by June 30th, 2008) - No Change
Reading Goals for August:
4 mysteries for the Summer Mystery Challenge
2 NF for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge
1-2 Book Award winners
And in other book news, don't forget to check out the latest edition of Estella's Revenge.