Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy New Year!

In Japan, Christmas is purely a fun, imported event whereas New Year's is the time for families to get together and eat traditional food. H's holiday started today so tomorrow we're off for a few days to visit with the in-laws.

As for blogging, I've finished the 2007 challenge wrap-ups and I'll post my best reads of 2007 and other book stats for the year, when I get back in January. In the meantime I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

P.S. As much as I keep wishing, no, we haven't had any snow. (Although there's a chance it'll snow where we're headed. Fingers crossed!) But I felt like a change to something wintry so the new header picture is from the one snow day we had on Jan. 21st, 2006. See you next year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Japan Challenge wrap-up

For the last 2 years I've set myself a personal challenge to read more Japanese Literature. In 2006 I read 9 books by Japanese authors and this year I decided to keep track on my blog, setting myself a goal of 12 books. I didn't quite make it but I'm still pleased with some of the reading I did do.

Books completed:
1. The Bridegroom was a dog - Yoko Tawada
2. The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki
3. All She Was Worth - Miyuki Miyabe
4. Zen Buddhism - D.T. Suzuki
5. Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata
6. The Dancing Girl of Izu and other stories - Yasunari Kawabata

I also read 3 books by non-Japanese writers, set in, or about Japan, which I think should count too, since my interest is in all things Japanese, not only Japanese authors.
7. Hitching Rides with Buddha - Will Ferguson
8. Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne - Ben Hills
9. Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan - Lafcadio Hearn

So all together I figure 9 out of 12 isn't too bad.

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
Easily The Makioka Sisters. I really enjoyed this one and it'll be in my Top 5 for the year.

Book(s) I could've done without?
Unfortunately I could've done without The Bridegroom was a dog which I just found a bit too bizarre for my taste, and Zen Buddhism since a fair portion of it was simply beyond me and made me feel a bit discouraged about ever understanding Zen Buddhism. I also wasn't crazy about All She Was Worth, but I'd been noticing her books in the bookshops for ages so it was still worth trying one.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
All the authors were new to me! The ones I'd most like to read more from are Junichiro Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, and Will Ferguson. I'd also like to read more of Lafcadio Hearn's writings on Japan, specifically the old myths and ghost stories.

Best thing about the challenge? What did I learn?
That there are so many more books by Japanese or about Japan that I'd like to read!
Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge has helped get me back in the groove and even when her challenge ends early next year, I plan to continue reading Japanese Literature whenever I have the chance. Instead of setting a specific goal though next year I'm going to treat it more like a long-term personal project. I'll post more about this again in the New Year.

O'Canada Challenge wrap-up

I had such high hopes, at the beginning of the year, that I would finally get some of my Canadian books read. Well, I only managed to finish 4 this year, out of a hoped for 12!
Books completed:
1. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
2. Forty Words for Sorrow - Giles Blunt
3. Hitching Rides with Buddha - Will Ferguson
4. The Love of a Good Woman - Alice Munro

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
Forty Words for Sorrow because it was a fun, exciting mystery, and Hitching Rides with Buddha, a very amusing travel memoir of a Canadian in Japan which I could relate to on many levels.

Book(s) I could've done without?
None. I enjoyed all of them and am actually quite pleased to have read them.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
Giles Blunt and Will Ferguson were new-to-me authors and I'm so glad I finally read them. When I was in Canada this autumn I picked up books by both of them so I'll definitely be reading them again. Atwood isn't new but I had resisted reading The Handmaid's Tale for a very long time. I'm glad I finally did because it was a bit of a turning point for me. I'm not quite as intimidated by her writing as I used to be. This was my second time to read Munro and I liked this collection of stories better than the other one I read, as I mentioned in the review, so I would certainly pick up another of her books at some time as well and I believe I do have one more buried somewhere in the stacks.

I don't plan to set myself another Canada challenge next year, even though I've got plenty here, but I do hope to add them into my reading mix from time to time. I've got a couple on my list for the Book Awards Challenge so that's a small start. There really are too many books, not enough time!

'The Love of a Good Woman'

by Alice Munro

Fiction/Short Stories, 1998
Vintage UK, trade pb, 339 p.
Winner of the Giller Prize, 1998
Unruly, ungovernable, unpredictable, unexpected, funny, sexy and completely recognisable – these are the women that Alice Munro exposes in this brilliant new collection that confirms her genius for entering the lives of ordinary people and capturing the passions and contradictions that lie just below the surface. The Love of a Good Woman is not as pure and virtuous as it seems: as in her title story it can be needy and murderous. Here are women behaving badly, leaving husbands and children, running off with unsuitable lovers, pushing everyday life to the limits, and if they don't behave badly, they think surprising and disturbing thoughts.
I’m beginning to understand now why people rave about Alice Munro, calling her “one of the world’s masters of the short story”. I read Runaway a couple of years ago and wasn’t terribly impressed. It was my first time to read anything by her and while I enjoyed the stories and the characters, in that collection, the stories seemed to become quite formulaic as I read on, each story following the same pattern. I wrote in my book log: ‘thoughtful ideas but not worked to their full potential’. But what do I know because it did win the Giller Prize in 2004 after all. I finally decided to try Munro again and put The Love of a Good Woman on my Book Awards Challenge list, this one having also won the Giller earlier on, in 1998. This time around, except for the loose theme of women and love tying them together, each story was quite different. The characters really came to life and the unexpected twists were realistic, sometimes dramatic, but never predictable as I’d felt they were in Runaway. I like how Amazon describes this collection as “classic Munro: secrets, love, betrayal, and the stuff of ordinary lives”. Munro is like the proverbial fly on the wall, making no judgements on right or wrong, but simply letting the characters make their choices and then dealing with the consequences. Each story was engaging and while I have already forgotten some of them, others refuse to leave, bits of them still lurking in my thoughts. I’m glad I gave her a second chance. I won’t be quite so hesitant to read more by her in the future.
What if people really did that--sent their love through the mail to get rid of it? What would it be that they sent? A box of chocolates with centers like the yolks of turkey's eggs. A mud doll with hollow eye sockets. A heap of roses slightly more fragrant than rotten. A package wrapped in bloody newspaper that nobody would want to open.
Interview with Alice Munro

My Rating: 3.5/5

(#51 for 2007, Book Awards Challenge #3, 2nds Challenge #4, O'Canada Challenge #4)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2nds Challenge completed

I ended up reading 4 books (one more than the challenge goal of 3) that qualify as 2nds for me, having only read one book previously by these authors. The Rankin and the Munro I mentioned in my original list of possibilities but the other 2 just happened into my reading plans, as books are apt to do sometimes.

Books completed:
1. Rises the Night - Colleen Gleason
2. Hide & Seek - Ian Rankin
3. The Dancing Girl of Izu and other stories - Yasunari Kawabata
4. The Love of a Good Woman - Alice Munro (review pending)

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
Rises the Night. What a fun series Colleen Gleason has created!

Book(s) I could've done without?
None. I enjoyed all the books. OK, I didn't love Hide & Seek but it's partly my fault for reading it is such small snatches and I still want to continue on in the series.

Will I read these authors again? Going for 3rds?
Definitely! I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles and the next one in Rankin's Inspector Rebus series. The Dancing Girl of Izu and other stories made me want to read more from Kawabata. And for Alice Munro, this second read was better for me than the first was so I'll be reading more from her as well. A successful challenge all round!

This was a great idea! Thanks so much for hosting it, Joy!

Austen Mini-Challenge

Here's the last of the current batch of challenges that I'm joining for 2008.. for now anyway.
The goal of this challenge is to read and/or watch at least two Jane Austen novels/movies in 2008.
(click on the button for details)

This one shouldn't be too hard. I usually watch the BBC dramatization of Pride and Prejudice at least once a year and I'm pretty sure I can manage at least one more book or movie. I'd actually like to reread all of her books and other writings, as it's been a long time since I first read them, but I'm not sure I'll get to all of them this year. It would be a fun project though. I also look forward to seeing some of the newer TV adaptations. Hopefully I'll be able to lay my hands on some of those as well. I never mind spending time with Jane!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

from Scarlet and Chloe.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas 2007

Whew! Yesterday* was a busy day! First we went to an import supermarket to pick up a few supplies for Christmas dinner. Then to Shinjuku to pick up our Christmas cake.
Some of the Christmas lights on display there. Then we stopped off at home to put the cake in the fridge before heading out again for our 3rd annual 'Christmas' sushi. (When we moved back to Japan, we started a tradition of eating sushi at Christmas!) The sushi chef and a sample of what we had. Then back home to eat our Christmas cake. If you were around last year (click on the link to see what we had last year) you might remember me telling you that for some reason the Japanese think Christmas cake is the essential Christmas food. And it usually has strawberries and whipped cream because red and white are Christmas colours! This year though we decided to have something a little different and H chose this German chocolate and nuts creation. Tonight we'll have a mini Western style Christmas dinner just the 2 of us.

*Dec. 23rd is the Emperor's Birthday and a National Holiday. Since it fell on a Sunday this year, today is also a day off. Tomorrow though, the 25th, is back to work, just a regular day.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's in a name?

This one just sounds so fun, plus it's only 6 books instead of 12 for the year, we can overlap with other challenges, and change our list at any time. Just the kind of challenge I'm liking these days!

"What's In A Name?" Reading Challenge
Dates: January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008

The Challenge:
Choose one book from each of the following categories.
1. A book with a color in its title.
2. A book with an animal in its title.
3. A book with a first name in its title.
4. A book with a place in its title.
5. A book with a weather event in its title.
6. A book with a plant in its title.

(click on the button for more info)

Here are my initial choices:
Colour: My Name is Red - Orhan Pamuk
Animal: The Elephant Vanishes - Haruki Murakami or
Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood
First name: Daisy Miller - Henry James
Place: Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi
Weather: Tales of Moonlight and Rain - Akinari Ueda
Plant: Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Friday, December 21, 2007

PhotoHunt: Light

Sunset amid the pampas grass.
Photo taken last month at Showa Kinen Park.

Friday Fill-in #11

1. Snow .. reminds me of my childhood and always makes me smile. (These days, if I'm lucky, I might get 1 or 2 snow days so I never have to deal with ice, shoveling, etc. etc.)
2. I'm looking forward to .. having some time off. This has been a really busy week!
3. Jiro.. is the best .. cat .. ever! (I had to say that because he's watching! Right now he's sitting on my lap, purring and giving me his 'I'm so cute and so loveable' look! But shhh... don't tell Bailey!)
4. One of my favorite old tv shows is .. Sesame Street ?? ;-) Actually I'm pretty fickle about TV shows and my favourites now are modern ones. When I see the shows I used to love, I cringe at how cheesy they seem now.
5. I'm almost done with .. teaching for this year. Only one more lesson next week.
6. The most enjoyable thing around the holidays is .. relaxing, spending time with H, and eating lots of good food.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to .. curling up in bed and reading, tomorrow my plans include .. maybe a bit of shopping for Christmas supplies.. and Sunday, I want to .. eat sushi (our Christmas tradition!) and pick up our Christmas cake!

Fall Into Reading Challenge wrap-up

Well, it's the 21st and the last day of the Fall Into Reading Challenge. Besides this one I still have 3 more challenges to wrap-up by the end of the year and only one of them is successfully completed. Sigh. Anyway, for this challenge I had hoped to read 5 books that I chose from other challenge lists in an effort to get them read. Unfortunately that didn't seem to help. The fact that I had a really slow month in November, didn't help either. Oh well, I did manage to finish 2 from my original list and I'm part-way through a third (from my extras list) that I do hope to finish this weekend.

Books completed:
them - Joyce Carol Oates
Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata

Since I only finished 2 I don't think I'll discuss favourite and least favourite but I'm glad to have read both of them. Kawabata was a new-to-me author and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. And I already have another couple of books by Joyce Carol Oates here in the stacks so I'll be reading more from her as well.

Overall, I've learned that I need to be more selective about the reading challenges I join and to not take on more than I can realistically handle. Also, choosing books for this one from the books that I'd already been putting off for many months wasn't a great idea. I should've just gone for something new that I really wanted to read, and I should've taken my trip into consideration. I never do read as much as I think I will when I'm away from home. Oh well, chalk it up to experience. Thanks for hosting, Katrina!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #11: Neglected Books

Banner courtesy of Harlekwin

Another book list this week. This one inspired by Danielle.

13 Books I wanted to read this year (but didn't get around to)

The Night Watch - Sarah Waters
Natural Flights of the Human Mind - Clare Morrall
number9dream - David Mitchell
Suite française – Irène Némirovsky
The Birth House - Ami McKay
The Crimson Petal and the White - Michel Faber
Inkheart (and Inkspell) - Cornelia Funke
Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Tale of Genji - Murasaki Shikibu
My Name is Red - Orhan Pamuk
Mercy Among the Children - David Adams Richards
Across the Nightingale Floor, etc. - Lian Hearn
Sabriel, etc. - Garth Nix

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

2007 TBR Challenge wrap-up

I had high hopes of reading the 12 from my main list and then going on to my extra credit list! Ha! I only ended up reading 6 books for this challenge and I'm pretty sure I won't be reading any more in the next week and a bit. Oh well, one, but not the only, of my year long challenges that I didn't manage to finish.

Books completed:
1. The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
3. The Shipping News - Annie Proulx
4. White Teeth - Zadie Smith
5. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
6. them - Joyce Carol Oates

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
I'd say both The Good Earth and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Although very different, they were both engaging reads.

Book(s) I could've done without?
None really. Even though I didn't like Love in the Time of Cholera as much as I'd hoped, and them was a bit of a slog, I'm glad to have read them.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
I'd only read Annie Proulx and Joyce Carol Oates before so Pearl S. Buck, Zadie Smith, Susanna Clarke and Gabriel Garcia Marquez were new-to-me authors. Of the six, I think I'm most looking forward to reading more by Susanna Clarke and Joyce Carol Oates but I'd read more by any of them and for most of them I already have other books of theirs on hand.

Best thing about the challenge?
Well, I guess I did get 6 books read from the TBR stacks and I also learned that I'm not great at year-long challenges with a fixed list. Even though all the books on my list are ones I've had for a while and would like to read, my inner moody bookworm didn't like the feeling of being pressured to read them. I'm a terrible procrastinator at the best of times! So except for the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge I posted about yesterday, I've decided to stay away from year-long challenges with a minimum list of 12 books. But good luck to everyone who is taking part in the 2008 TBR Challenge! I'll cheer you on from the sidelines.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Year of Reading Dangerously

I want to try to cut down on the challenges I join for next year, especially the year-long ones, but I can't resist this one, hosted by Andi and Heather for Estella's Revenge. A bit of arm-twisting to finally read some of these authors is definitely a good thing. Who knows when I'll get around to reading them otherwise!?
"My Year of Reading Dangerously: A Challenge" will begin on January 1, 2008 and consist of some very simple rules. Namely, read authors or genres that intimidate you.

You can:
1. Read along with the "official" Estella's Revenge "Dangerous" novels.
2. If you don't want to read our list, your other choice is simply to complete 12 books that you deem "dangerous" and intimidating.
3. A combination of numbers one and two.
(click on the button for more info)

I'm going with option number 3. I hope to read along with some of the "official" choices but will substitute in other books for some of the selections. As in all the challenges I join, I'm trying to read from my shelves as much as possible but I also enjoy the 'excuse' to search out some of the ones that I don't already have. You naughty girls forcing me to buy more books! ;)


January: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (since Estella is our namesake) --> A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
I've already read Great Expectations and I've had Tale on my shelves for far too long.

February: The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (African American) --> Beloved, by Toni Morrison
I already own Beloved so I'll read it and then if that goes well I may be encouraged to try more.

March: Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood (Atwood for Atwood's sake)
I don't have this one but since I'm not as averse to reading Atwood as I was a few years ago, it's a good chance to read another of her books.

April: Transformations, by Anne Sexton (Poetry) --> In keeping with the poetry theme, I'll read Ariel, by Sylvia Plath, and then maybe The Bell Jar as well, which I've never read.

May: Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote (Southern) --> I'm not sure yet whether I'll read this title by Capote or not. I read In Cold Blood last year and I already have the Capote biography by Gerald Clarke so I may read that instead, or maybe something else entirely.

June: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (Russian)
I've been meaning to read Lolita for several years now. It's time I finally did.

July: The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (adolescent) --> Daisy Miller, by Henry James. Henry and I don't always get along so I'd like to try reading something else by him. I also have A Portrait of a Lady on hand.

August: Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman (Graphic Novel, Pulitzer winner)
Another I've been meaning to read for some time.

September: The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy (Independent)
Ever since Nancy raved about this and then interviewed Simon I've had it in mind to read so I think I'll just have to finally order myself a copy.

October: The Human Stain, by Philip Roth (Contemporary/Jewish)
I've never read anything by Roth, and I've been interested in reading this since seeing the movie a couple of years ago.

November: A Month of Classic Short Stories, Various - watch for a list
OK. I'm game for some short stories.

December: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (Dusty) --> The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Just because I feel I should.

Whew! That should keep me busy. Hopefully reading along with others, at least for some of them, will encourage me to read them on schedule. Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Festival time

(click on image to enlarge)

Saturday was the annual tori no ichi (rake fair) festival at the local shrine, which I also posted about last year. It's a day when the usually quiet shrine is crowded with people and the streets around the shrine are lined with stalls selling all manner of things to eat.

Top row (L-R): row of stalls selling the good luck rakes (kumade), mixing shichimi ('seven spice'), selling obanyaki- similar to pancake dough with various fillings. Traditionally it's azuki (red beans) but nowadays you can have chocolate or cheese or various other flavours too.

Middle row (L-R): making okonomiyaki, roasting salted fish, and the less traditional but now standard fare at these things.. chocolate covered bananas.

Bottom row (L-R): making takoyaki (octopus balls), a street-side izakaya, and a random street shot.

'The Dancing Girl of Izu and other stories'

by Yasunari Kawabata
Translated from the Japanese by J. Martin Holman

Fiction/Japanese/short stories, written between 1923 - 1929, The Dancing Girl of Izu first published in Japanese in 1925, this English translation published in 1998
Counterpoint Press, trade pb, 162 p.
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1968
One of the most influential figures in modern Japanese fiction, Yasunari Kawabata is treasured for the intensity of his perceptions and the compressed elegance of his style. Written between 1923 and 1929, these works form a shadow biography of the author’s early years, revealing fresh glimpses into Kawabata’s haunting vision of loss, longing, and memory. In moving selections that sketch the outlines of the author’s life of survivorship, J. Martin Holman’s graceful translation captures the delicate nature of Kawabata’s enduring prose.
I found this at the library just after I’d finished Snow Country and I thought it would be interesting to read some of his early writings. Many of the stories are semi-autobiographical and I enjoyed these very much, especially the title story, The Dancing Girl of Izu. It was interesting to see him work through some of the same themes in various pieces and I imagine it shows how these themes would affect his future writings as well. I can’t really comment on that though since I’ve only read one of his novels so far. Even though I didn’t love all of the stories, I’m very glad I read this collection. It’s made me much more curious about the writer himself and equally curious to read more of his work.
What seemed strangest to me when I found this diary was that I have no recollection of the day-to-day life it describes. If I do not recall them, where have those days gone? Where had they vanished to? I pondered the things that human beings lose to the past. (Diary of my Sixteenth Year)
My Rating: 4/5

(#50 for 2007, Japanese Literature Challenge #2, Japan Challenge #6, 2nds Challenge #3)

Friday, December 14, 2007

'Snow Country'

by Yasunari Kawabata

Fiction/Japanese Literature/Classic
First published in Japanese in instalments between 1935-47, final version published in 1948, first English translation in 1956
Vintage International, trade pb, 180 p.
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1968
With the brushstroke suggestiveness and astonishing grasp of motive that won him the Nobel Prize for Literature, Yasunari Kawabata tells a story of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan, the snowiest region on earth. It is there, at an isolated mountain hotspring, that the wealthy sophisticate Shimamura meets the geisha Komako, who gives herself to him without regrets, knowing that their passion cannot last. Shimamura is a dilettante of the feelings; Komako has staked her life on them. Their affair can have only one outcome. Yet, in chronicling its doomed course, one of Japan's greatest modern writers creates a novel dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.
Reading this really made me regret that I can’t read Japanese (or speak it for that matter). Although Edward G. Seidensticker is well regarded as a translator, I got the feeling that it would be more beautiful, more lyrical in the original. Kawabata’s style is often compared to haiku poetry and you get definite glimpses of that here but I couldn’t help wondering constantly what it read like in Japanese. So throughout the story I could never quite forget that I was reading a translation. That said, I enjoyed the book and many of the images from it still linger in my mind. It’s a story of beauty and sadness that should be savoured, not rushed.
But, drawn to her at that moment, he felt a quiet like the voice of the rain flow over him.
When he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the Nobel committee apparently cited 3 of his novels including Snow Country. I look forward to reading the other two (Thousand Cranes and The Old Capital) at some point.

My Rating: 3.5/5

(#49 for 2007, Japanese Literature Challenge #1, Japan Challenge #5, Book Awards Challenge #2, Fall Into Reading Challenge #2)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #10: Winter Titles

Banner courtesy of Harlekwin

I recently read Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (review pending) and I love winter and snow so that got me thinking about other books in my TBR stacks with winter-themed titles.

13 winter titles I own but have not yet read

The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin

If on a Winter's Night a Traveller - Italo Calvino

The Winter Mantle - Elizabeth Chadwick

The Frozen Deep - Wilkie Collins

A Spell of Winter - Helen Dunmore

The Snow Geese - William Fiennes

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow - Peter Hoeg

Cave in the Snow - Vicki MacKenzie

Encyclopaedia of Snow - Sarah Emily Miano

Snow - Orhan Pamuk

Light on Snow - Anita Shreve

Ice Road - Gillian Slovo

The Ice Palace - Tarjei Vesaas

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Autumn in Kamakura

We went to Kamakura on Sunday to catch the last of the autumn leaves for this year. I know you're probably sick of all my pictures of leaves lately but I'll have something else next week, promise.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

5 Things

I was tagged by Amy for this one so here goes...

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago:
-Living back in Canada after my first year in Japan on a one-year Working Holiday Visa.
-Selling souvenirs to tourists. (Oh the joys of working retail!)
-Relying on public transport- not fun at all with the infrequent bus service.
-Wishing for snow! (Some things never change!)
-Wondering what to do next. (I would end up going back to Japan the following year, where I met my husband and the rest, as they say, is history...)

5 Things on my T0-Do List today:
-Make my New Years cards
-Print some photos
-Plan some lessons
-Have a nap?

5 Things I would do if I were a millionaire:
-Buy or build a house somewhere nice.
-Have a custom library built in the house with ceiling-high shelves, a fireplace, comfy chairs...
-Invest some of it.
-Donate some of it to charity.

5 Things I'll never wear again (or have never worn):
-mini skirts
-stiletto heels
-French maid Halloween costume
-long, curly hair

5 Favorite Toys:
-digital camera
-DVD player and projector

5 People to tag:
A lot of people have already done this one so I won't tag anyone specifically but if you haven't and would like to please feel free to grab it. Let me know if you do so I can come see your answers.

Friday, December 07, 2007

PhotoHunt: Long

This photo I posted a few months ago would be a good example of a long way down! But how about this one, taken during my trip to Canada, for a long way up!?

Friday Fill-in #10

1. I .. love the festiveness of.. Christmas.
2. White.. is my favorite color for the Christmas tree lights.
3. The candles in the window have bulbs. Nothing in the window but I will have some candles inside.
4. Love, Actually.. is one of my favorite Christmas movies.
5. My favorite Christmas lyrics are .. ;)
"You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last."
--Fairytale of New York by The Pogues
because the song makes me smile every time I hear it!
Watch the video here.
6. I'm dreaming of a .. white Christmas (yup just like the song).
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to.. relaxing, tomorrow my plans include .. probably going out somewhere to take pictures as this'll be the last weekend for autumn leaves .. and Sunday, I want to .. finally do my New Years cards!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

fountain of light

Another view of the same fountain previously shown here and here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Reading Update: November

My trip to Canada and the ensuing jet lag really cut into my reading in November. I only finished two books! Very disappointing!

Books completed:
47. Hide & Seek - Ian Rankin
48. them - Joyce Carol Oates

Since I did only finish two there's not much point in discussing my favourite and least favourite although I did rate them slightly higher. They were both good reads and were both by authors that I plan to read more of in the future.

Reading Challenges- Progress Report:
Fall into Reading Challenge - 1 done, 4 to go (by Dec. 21st)
2nds Challenge - 2 done, 1 to go (by Dec. 31st)
TBR Challenge - 6 done, 6 to go (by Dec. 31st)
Japan Challenge - 4 done, 8 to go (by Dec. 31st) -- No Change
O'Canada Challenge - 3 done, 9 to go (by Dec. 31st) -- No Change
Book Awards Challenge - 1 done, 11 to go (by June 30th, 2008)

Plus I've joined the Japanese Literature Challenge, and for that I'll be reading at least 3 books by the end of January.

Reading Goals for December:
As you can see from the above list of my reading challenges, there's absolutely no way I'll finish all of them. I usually try to choose my challenge lists from books I already own though so at least I've gotten some of them off the stacks. My priority this month will be reading one more for the 2nds challenge, maybe a couple more from the other challenges and then focusing on Japanese Lit. I'll also be making some lists of books and posting about the challenges I hope to join in 2008. It's hard to believe this year is almost over!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

red leaves and swan boats

Inokashira Park on Saturday..
More red photos here.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


by Joyce Carol Oates

Fiction, 1969
Ballantine Books, mm pb, 473 p.
Book 3 of The Wonderland Quartet
Winner of the National Book Award 1970

(#48 for 2007, Fall Into Reading Challenge- Book #1, TBR Challenge- Book #6, Book Awards Challenge- Book #1)
Loretta Wendall, her daughter Maureen, and her son Jules are "them"—three characters held together by corroding hatred and mute love.

"Them" are also the forces that tear at their happiness—ignorance, intolerance, the loneliness of being a part and yet apart; the differences between rich and poor, white and black, the loved and the lover.

Through a complex field of time and space—Detroit and its environs between 1937 and 1967—the three Wendalls experience their everydays in the midst of ominous history, trying by almost any means to cope with the "thems" they cannot understand, each seeking desperately to placate a driving restlessness with a freedom of abandon, to find his own identity, to define his unique, invulnerable self. From the Depression of the thirties to the violence of the sixties, Miss Oates penetrates the point of view of each character to show the impact of events upon him, the subtle relationships of each to the other, the innermost feelings and emotions that spur each to his own dream and action.
As there often is in Oates’ stories, there’s a lot of violence in this book, and desperation and delusion and it’s quite depressing how the characters never seem to escape their past, how certain events continue to affect their lives long afterwards. Alternating the narrative among the main characters helped keep the story moving and made the characters really take shape even if I didn’t particularly like or sympathise with them much of the time.

If I remember correctly, I heard this book mentioned a few years ago during a discussion of Middlesex, primarily since it’s also partly set in Detroit during the riots, and I'd had it in the back of my mind to read it ever since. It took me quite a while to get through and it’s certainly not uplifting but I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. This is the sixth book of hers I’ve read, and while The Tattooed Girl remains my favourite, followed by Beasts, it was interesting to read one of her comparatively earlier novels. The others I’ve read are The Falls, I Am No One You Know (short stories) and Black Water. I do have another couple of her books on the shelves and I’d like to read more by her. I just wish she’d slow down a bit, she’s too darn prolific! I’d have to read nothing but her works for the next couple of years to even dream of reading everything! I guess at least it means there’ll never be a shortage of her books to choose from.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Academy of Achievement Interview

PhotoHunt: Red

Taken today at Inokashira Park.