Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Fill-in #18

1. I'm looking forward to ... another visit to the library and maybe stopping by the bookstore ... next week.
2. I don't handle ... early mornings ... very well.
3. Pasta ... is something I could eat every day.
4. Warmth and sunlight ... filtering through a canopy of trees would be nice.
5. Hayfever Spring ... here I come!
6. I ... don't have any ... tattoos.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to ... finishing my current book, tomorrow my plans include ... going out to eat and also hopefully taking a few pictures since we haven't taken any (!) since our trip over New Years (darn weather lately!) ... and Sunday, I want to ... move my desk to the other room. Yes I'm still in the midst of reorganising but it is coming along!

'The Great Gatsby'

by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fiction/Classic, 1926
Penguin UK, mm pb, 167 p.
Everybody who is anybody is seen at the glittering parties held in Gatsby’s mansion in West Egg, east of New York. The riotous throng congregates in his sumptuous garden, coolly debating Gatsby’s origins and mysterious past. None of the frivolous socialites understand him and among various rumours is the conviction that ‘he killed a man’. A detached onlooker, Gatsby is oblivious to the speculation he creates, but seems always to be watching and waiting, though no one knows what for.

As the tragic story unfolds, Gatsby’s destructive dreams and passions are revealed, leading to disturbing consequences. A brilliant evocation of 1920s high society, The Great Gatsby peels away the layers of this glamorous world to display the coldness and cruelty at its heart.
This was actually my December choice for My Year of Reading Dangerously but I stopped by the library last week and there it was and I wasn’t in the mood for Beloved by Toni Morrison, my February choice, but I did feel in the mood for something short after spending such a long time with Dickens so I thought I’d give it a try. Anyway, all these things conspired together so that I ended up reading it this month. Now that I have I actually feel slightly guilty counting it as a ‘dangerous’ read since it wasn’t at all difficult or intimidating. It was short, and concise, with vivid characters, most of them unlikeable but compelling to read about all the same, and it has left me contemplating the shallow, fickle nature of wealth, and the irrational need to show it off. Other than that, I’m not really sure what else to say about it and feel inadequate to try. I imagine there are plenty of study guides around but I think I prefer to just let it knock around in my head for awhile without trying to analyse it too deeply. It was definitely worth reading and is proof that even those books I think I won’t be interested in deserve at least a chance.

My Rating: 4/5
(#6 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously #2)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

'A Tale of Two Cities'

by Charles Dickens

Fiction/Classic/Historical, first published serially in All the Year Round in 1859
Penguin Classics, trade pb, 529 p.
Charles Dickens on the Literature Network
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil lanes of London, they are all drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror and soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
What does one say about a classic such as this? It did take me quite a long time to get through but that wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying it. I was, but life interfered a bit, and I do have to admit that I needed to concentrate more on Dickens' dense prose and turns of phrase than I would on a contemporary novel. This meant that it was sometimes hard to read much at night in bed when I was already tired, and since that is where I do most of my reading, it was slow going at times. It was worth it though because Dickens is a master storyteller, and several times in this rather tragic story, he had me chuckling over some description or his way with words. Plus he certainly does create memorable characters and scenes.

As I mentioned before, I was a bit disappointed that the endnotes contained spoilers about the ending but it was still a very good read. I’ve not read much on the French Revolution so the historical aspect was also very interesting. I even learned a couple new words (see below). All in all it was a bit of work, but I’m glad to have finally read it and I look forward to reading more by Dickens in the future. The other two works by Dickens that I’ve read are A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations. Any suggestions for which one I should tackle next?

Vocabulary building:
es·cutch·eon /ɪˈskʌtʃən/
1. a shield or shieldlike surface on which a coat of arms is depicted.
2. an ornamental or protective plate around a keyhole, door handle, drawer pull, light switch, etc.
3. Nautical. a panel on the stern of a vessel bearing its name and port of registry.
4. blot on one's escutcheon, a stain on one's reputation; disgrace.
[Origin: 1470–80]

ter·gi·ver·sate /ˈtɜrdʒɪvərˌseɪt/
–verb (used without object), -sat·ed, -sat·ing.
1. to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.
2. to turn renegade.
[Origin: 1645–55]

My Rating: 4/5

(#5 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously #1)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Frustration is ...

(Image from The Puzzle Store)

... accidentally tearing your right contact lens when you take it out before going to bed, leaving a jagged half of a contact somewhere in your eye, and not being able to get it out for about 15 minutes!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Fill-in #17

1. Learning something new about the place, the people or the culture ... is the best thing about traveling.
2. I love a good ... mug of hot tea ... when I'm cold.
3. I often use ... my microwaveable wheat pillows to keep my feet warm.
4. I'm reading ... The Great Gatsby... right now; I ... only just started it so I don't know yet know what I think about ... it.
5. Politics... is something I dislike talking about.
6. When I visited ... Shirakawa-go over New Year's ... I most looked forward to seeing ... snow.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to ... picking up my book, tomorrow my plans include ... continuing my project to reorganize a couple of rooms and the closets which are very messy indeed! ... and Sunday, I want to ... read but I'll probably still be working on the reorganizing!

And I finally got a rating. I'd tried a couple times before but it always came back with some comment about not being able to assess my blog. Anyway, saw this again and thought I'd try once more and this is what it came back with today, for what it's worth.
blog readability test

Thursday, February 21, 2008

'The Bleeding Dusk'

by Colleen Gleason

Fiction/Paranormal Romance, 2008
Signet Eclipse, mm pb, 346 p.
As Rome prepares for its Carnival, the new leader of the city’s vampire hunters – Lady Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy – must prove herself as never before. For, in order to gain access to the secrets of a legendary alchemist, Rome’s vampires have allied themselves with creatures as evil and bloodthirsty as they are.
Reluctantly, Victoria must turn to the enigmatic Sebastian Vioget for help, just as Maximilian Pesaro arrives to help his fellow slayers – no matter what the sacrifice. Desire puts her at the mercy of Sebastian, while loyalty binds her to Max, but can she trust either man? Especially when a seductive vampire begins luring her into the shadows…
This series keeps getting progressively better with each new installment. Things really heat up in this one as we get to learn a bit more about the mysterious Sebastian and the elusive Max and we see Victoria start to take on the role of Illa Gardella. Plus it builds up into quite the ending. I was literally holding my breath scared to find out what had happened and what would happen next. Lots of questions left for the next book which I’m now eagerly awaiting. Colleen has created a completely compelling story and cast of characters that is just plain fun to read!
Minor quibble: I did notice one consistency error that interrupted my reading for all of a minute but I was soon caught up in the story again.

My Rating: 4.25/5

(#4 for 2008)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sunday Salon: endnotes and spoilers

Is it still the Sunday Salon if it's Monday? Oh well, here I am anyway a day late. Yesterday, as expected, I started on the project of sorting and removing the stuff from one room so that I can move stuff from another room into it. Our apartment is actually considered spacious by Japanese standards but we have way too much stuff! Too much disorganised stuff! It's a big project as I attempt to organise and cull as I go along. Anyway, it keep me busy all day and it wasn't until crawling into bed last night that I got a chance to read. I stayed up a bit late reading but I finally finished A Tale of Two Cities which feels especially nice since I've been reading it forever, so it seems. I still need to read the introduction and appendices but I've completed all 31 installments of the story itself.

One thing that disappointed me a bit while reading was the fact that the endnotes had spoilers in them. I'm a compulsive footnote and endnote reader. I always think they're added to help me understand better and I'd be missing something if I didn't read them. Plus they usually do help situate the story in history or explain some element I wouldn't have realised otherwise. I read the Penguin edition of A Tale of Two Cities and there were quite a lot of endnotes, almost all of them interesting and informative. But in the last quarter of the story, the endnotes started mentioning events to come and how the current phrase or situation related to it, so by the time I got to the end myself there was little surprise. I still enjoyed the story but as a first time reader it would've been nice to read it without spoilers.

For that reason when I read a classic for the first time, I always read the Introduction last. It's a known fact that the Introduction will have spoilers as it discusses the various merits of the story. However, this was the first time that I remember having the story spoiled for me by the endnotes. Has anyone else had this problem? I'm sure if I could go back and do it again I'd still read the endnotes because they added to the story for me. And I really can't blame Dickens for my lack of knowledge requiring them in the first place!

In other bookish news for the week, I visited Kinokuniya in Shinjuku, my favourite place to find English books in Tokyo since it seems to have the most selection, last Tuesday and came away with 2 books. A Hundred Verses from Old Japan (hyaku-nin-isshiu) is one of the most famous anthologies of Japanese classic poetry originally collected together in the 13th century. It was mentioned several times in the notes to Tales of Moonlight and Rain, and I'd heard of it previously when reading The Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon. So when I spotted the English translation I simply had to take it home. The second book is A Geisha's Journey: My Life as a Kyoto Apprentice which is part memoir part photo book/coffee table book and full of gorgeous photos. As much as I love the convenience of shopping online, nothing quite compares to browsing in an actual bookstore and finding treasures you hadn't even know about.
Hope everyone has a good week!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

a book meme or three

Blah! This was one of those weeks where I often wished I could just hide under the covers instead. I was even too tired to blog! Oh well, thank goodness it's finally the weekend!

I've been tagged by BooksPlease, Cass, and Nyssaneala for the '10 Signs a Book Has Been Written by Me' meme but I have to say it's a tough one for me. As much as I love books and reading and admire the authors, I've never thought I have a book in me or imagined I could become a writer someday.
So instead here are 10 signs of a book that would be perfect for me, but most likely not written by me! ;)

1. A stunning dust cover to attract attention right off the bat.
2. Beautiful prose.
3. Engaging characters that leap off the page.
4. A moving story that lingers long after turning the last page.
5. Including humour and sadness but never manipulative of the reader's emotions.
6. That captures the imagination, and/or makes one view the world in a different way.
7. An international setting, possibly a familiar one.
8. No typos, spelling or grammatical mistakes, or factual errors.
9. One that begs to be reread regularly, finding something new in it each time.
10. Illustrations scattered throughout.

I would've tagged Nancy for this one but she's already done it. It would be fun to see what Andi and Heather would say (hint hint!) since I know they definitely have a book, or books, in them. And frankly any one else who does have a book in them and dreams of writing one day, please consider yourself tagged.

On to Gautami's Non-Fiction Meme which I was tagged for by Nancy and Iliana.

a). What issues/topic interests you most--non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels?
I don't read a lot of non-fiction but what I seem to keep collecting (although not necessarily reading) is usually related to places I've lived or visited. Such as travel memoirs, history, biographies. Visiting historical places always peaks my curiosity and learning more about places I've actually been seems to be the most appealing. So most of what I have is to do with Japan, England and France with a few other European ones thrown in.

b). Would you like to review books concerning those?
Sure. If I read a book, I write about in on my blog so this wouldn't be any different.

c). Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.
Reading is my hobby and my blog reviews, such as they are, are intended only to give my personal reaction to the books I read. Trying to write reviews for money would likely stress me out and take the enjoyment out of it. That's not to say I wouldn't mind free books to review I just wouldn't want the added pressure of trying to write to a certain expectation.

d). Would you recommend those to your friends and how?
If they were books I enjoyed or I thought they would be interested in, of course. I recently talked to my Japanese tutor about a book I read last year, Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne, when she mentioned being curious about it. She's now even more interested to read it and see what she thinks of it for herself, coming at it from a Japanese perspective compared to my foreign one.

e). If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.
Joy's Non-Fiction Five Challenge last year was good for getting me to finally read some non-fiction since I almost always tend to pick up fiction instead if given the choice. You can see my wrap-up post here with links to the books I read for it.

f). Please don't forget to link back here or whoever tags you.
See above.

And I know I'm supposed to tag 10 people but I'm tired and some of you have already done it and I'm behind on blog reading so I don't know who hasn't and well... If you haven't done this one yet, please consider yourself tagged.

And last, the '123 Meme' which Cass also tagged me for (at least I think so since they were all together) but this is an easy one so why not.

The rules for this one are:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences

The nearest book is The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason since I finished it a few days ago but still need to post a review.
Did he think that since she'd seen and experienced so much more than other women that her sensibilities weren't as delicate?
"At least Vioget can recognize your faults," Max continued in that steady voice, as though he hadn't just insulted her. "And, aside from that, I wouldn't bloody care if you were to tear out Vioget's innards and screw your heels into them. ..."
On that pleasant note... I think I need some sleep. I hope to join the Sunday Salon tomorrow but I also need to spend the day moving furniture around. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dimple cook?

Wrong on so many levels!
Sign for a shabu shabu restaurant in Sapporo.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Sunday Salon: a day without reading

It's just past midnight on Sunday here and I haven't read a single page all day! Tomorrow is a holiday here though so it kind of feels like it's still Saturday.
Why wasn't I reading today? Well, we got up late and met up with a friend we hadn't seen in quite a while for lunch and coffee and chatting. Then we did a bit of shopping, came home and had dinner, watched a movie and here I am at midnight on the computer. I really am convinced that time has speeded up lately!

This past week was also quite busy so I didn't get a lot of reading done but I did make some definite progress in A Tale of Two Cities. Except for a couple of chapters in the middle that dragged a bit for me, I'm quite caught up in the tale and want to see how it plays out, although I do have my suspicions.

In other bookish news, The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason finally arrived today from Amazon so I'll be heading off to read in bed soon for a little while. Dickens will just have to wait a bit I'm afraid. Plus in order to get the free shipping I simply had to add another book to my order, as you do. I enjoyed Kuhaku & Other Accounts of Japan when I read it in 2006 and Teresa recently let me know that Chin Music Press had another book out so Goodbye Madame Butterfly by Sumie Kawakami is this week's other new acquisition.
Sumie Kawakami’s Goodbye Madame Butterfly is an intimate look at the sex lives of Japanese people from a female perspective. This groundbreaking work of nonfiction will shatter the myth of the pliant, coy Japanese woman and replace her with a complex, erotic, sexually charged and fiercely independent woman who struggles to find her place in a male-dominated society.
Sounds quite intriguing to me so yet another book vying for my attention! I still haven't put away the stack of books acquired in January, but what's a couple more at this point. I think a magic bookshelf along the lines of Hermione's bag that holds just about anything you could ever want would be absolutely brilliant. I can at least dream.

On that note, I'm off to see what adventures Victoria and Max and Sebastian get themselves caught up in this time. Perhaps an update tomorrow.

UPDATE (Monday evening):
It was nice having today off and since we didn't stray too far from home I got some of the reading time in that I didn't yesterday. I've read just over half of The Bleeding Dusk already. It's another fun, quick read like the previous 2 in the series and I'm sure I'll knock off several more chapters in bed in a little while. Hope everyone has a good week!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

PhotoHunt: Heavy

Heavy snow in Shirakawa-go. Notice the guy shovelling snow off the roof. Click on photo to enlarge.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Fill-in #16 and a contest winner

1. I'm looking forward to ... my headache going away.
2. Mont Saint-Michel... is a place I always wanted to visit and haven't made it there yet.
3. I've fallen fell in love with ... Paris a long time ago.
4. Six of one, ... a half dozen of the other. (I tried to think of something else but the idiom just got stuck in my head).
5. Addiction ... obsession, optimism, call my book hoarding what you will.
6. The ... sarcastic House-isms... crack me up!
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to ... a hot shower and bed, tomorrow my plans include ... catching up on my blog reading... and Sunday, I want to ... meet up with a friend that I haven't seen in a while!

And since it's already Friday night here in my part of the world, the contest is now closed and all of your comments have been posted. Thanks to everyone for playing along. 24 of you guessed the right answer. In fact, no one guessed an incorrect title so it seems I may have to do a harder one next time!

Anyway, time to announce a winner. In the order that you posted, according to the time stamps on your comments, each of you received a number from 1 to 24. Then this handy random number generator spit out a 12, so it looks like the winner is...

Congratulations and happy book shopping!

And thanks again to everyone who entered their names. I wish I could give you all an Amazon gift certificate but I'm not sure H would agree. Oh well, there's always next year! Have a good weekend everyone! :)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Orange Prize Project

I've decided to join The Orange Prize Project (click on the link or button for more info). Unlike some of the other long-term projects centred on a literary award that goes back so many years and has books on it I would probably never get around to reading, this is one I can envision at least trying to accomplish. I don't always get around to reading many of the books but it is one of the literary awards I follow, along with the Booker, Giller etc. So thanks Wendy for setting this up to give me something to work towards. By joining the project I'll commit to reading the winners and shortlisted books over the next however long it takes.

In the following list, the ones I've already read are highlighted in orange. Many of the ones I've already read were before I started blogging in January 2006 but I'll include a link to my review where available. Italicized titles are ones that I already own, so it'll most likely be those that I work on first. I'll update this list as I go and a link to this list will be available in the sidebar. Even though I don't plan to read all of the longlisted books, I include them here since I have read a few and will probably read a few more of them.

The Orange Prize for Fiction
To be announced June 3, 2009.

Scottsboro, by Ellen Feldman
The Wilderness, by Samantha Harvey
The Invention of Everything Else, by Samantha Hunt
Molly Fox’s Birthday, by Deirdre Madden
Home, by Marilynne Robinson
Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie

The Household Guide to Dying, by Debra Adelaide
Girl in a Blue Dress, by Gaynor Arnold
Their Finest Hour and a Half, by Lissa Evans
Blonde Roots, by Bernardine Evaristo
Strange Music, by Laura Fish
Love Marriage, by V.V. Ganeshananthan
Intuition, by Allegra Goodman
The Lost Dog, by Michelle de Kretser
A Mercy, by Toni Morrison
The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight, by Gina Ochsner
Evening is the Whole Day, by Preeta Samarasan
American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews
The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, by Ann Weisgarber

The Road Home, by Rose Tremain

Fault Lines, by Nancy Huston
The Outcast, by Sadie Jones
When We Were Bad, by Charlotte Mendelson
Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Heather O’Neill
Lottery, by Patricia Wood

The Blood of Flowers, by Anita Amirrezvani
The Room of Lost Things, by Stella Duffy
The Keep, by Jennifer Egan
The Gathering, by Anne Enright
The Clothes on Their Backs, by Linda Grant
The Master Bedroom, by Tessa Hadley
Sorry, by Gail Jones
The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam, by Lauren Liebenberg
In the Dark, by Deborah Moggach
Mistress, by Anita Nair
The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak
The Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer
The End of Mr. Y, by Scarlett Thomas
Monster Love, by Carol Topolski

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Arlington Park, by Rachel Cusk
The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo
The Observations, by Jane Harris
Digging to America, by Anne Tyler

Poppy Shakespeare, by Clare Allan
Peripheral Vision, by Patricia Ferguson
Over, by Margaret Forster
The Dissident, by Nell Freudenberger
When to Walk, by Rebecca Gowers
Carry Me Down, by MJ Hyland
The Girls, by Lori Lansens
Alligator, by Lisa Moore
What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn
The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney (read June 2008- review)
Careless, by Deborah Robertson
Afterwards, by Rachel Seiffert
Ten Days in the Hills, by Jane Smiley
The Housekeeper, by Melanie Wallace

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss (read Nov. 2006- review)
Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel
The Accidental, by Ali Smith
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, by Carrie Tiffany
The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters

Minaret, by Leila Aboulela
Harbor, by Lorraine Adams
Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman
Watch Me Disappear, by Jill Dawson
House of Orphans, by Helen Dunmore
The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory
White Ghost Girls, by Alice Greenway
Dreams of Speaking, by Gail Jones
Lost in the Forest, by Sue Miller
Rape: A Love Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Frangipani, by Celestine Hitiura Vaite
The Position, by Meg Wolitzer

We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver (read Mar. 2006- review)

Old Filth, by Jane Gardam
The Mammoth Cheese, by Sheri Holman
Liars and Saints, by Maile Meloy
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka (read June 2005)

Away From You, by Melanie Finn
Black Dirt, by Nell Leyshon
Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
Escape Routes for Beginners, by Kira Cochrane
The Falls, by Joyce Carol Oates (read Nov. 2005)
It So Happens, by Patricia Ferguson
The Mysteries of Glass, by Sue Gee
Nelson's Daughter, by Miranda Hearn
The Remedy, by Michele Lovric
The River, by Tricia Wastvedt (read Sep. 2007- review)
The Great Stink, by Clare Clark
Tatty, by Christine Dwyer Hickey
The Zigzag Way, by Anita Desai
Ursula, Under, by Ingrid Hill

Small Island, by Andrea Levy (read Nov. 2004)

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (read Sep. 2004)
The Great Fire, by Shirley Hazzard
Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ice Road, by Gillian Slovo
The Colour, by Rose Tremain

Brick Lane, by Monica Ali
The Sari Shop, by Rupa Bajwa
Kith and Kin, by Stevie Davies
State of Happiness, by Stella Duffy
The Flood, by Maggie Gee
The Electric Michelangelo, by Sarah Hall
Notes on a Scandal, by Zoe Heller (read May 2004)
The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri (read Sep. 2004)
A Visit from Voltaire, by Dinah Lee Kung
Gilgamesh, by Joan London (read June 2004)
The Internationals, by Sarah May
Love, by Toni Morrison (read July 2004)
The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (read Aug. 2004)
The Amateur Marriage, by Anne Tyler (read Oct. 2004)

Property, by Valerie Martin

Buddha Da, by Anne Donovan
Heligoland, by Shena Mackay
Unless, by Carol Shields
The Autograph Man, by Zadie Smith
The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt

Special, by Bella Bathhurst
Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros
English Correspondence, by Janet Davey
Dot in the Universe, by Lucy Ellmann
What the Birds See, by Sonya Hartnett
What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt (read June 2003)
War Crimes for the Home, by Liz Jensen
The Solace of Leaving Early, by Haven Kimmel
In the Forest, by Edna O'Brien
Fox Girl, by Okja Keller
When the Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka
Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold (read Sep. 2002)
The Cutting Room, by Louise Welsh
Water Street, by Crystal Wilkinson

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (read Mar. 2004)

No Bones, by Anna Burns
The Siege, by Helen Dunmore (read Sep. 2002)
The White Family, by Maggie Gee
A Child's Book of True Crime, by Chloe Hooper
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters (read Nov. 2002)

Pop, by Kitty Aldridge
A True Story Based on Lies, by Jennifer Clement
Now You See Me, by Lesley Glaister
The Element of Water, by Stevie Davies
Five Quarters of an Orange, by Joanne Harris (read June 2002)
Niagara Falls All Over Again, by Elizabeth McCracken
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk (read May 2002)
Middle Ages, by Joyce Carol Oates
The Story of My Face, by Kathy Page
Crawling at Night, by Nani Power
La Cucina, by Lily Prior
The Hero's Walk, by Anita Rau Badami (read before 2002*)
Sister Crazy, by Emma Richler
The Dark Room, by Rachel Seiffert

The Idea of Perfection, by Kate Grenville

The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood (read before 2002)
Fred & Edie, by Jill Dawson (read July 2004)
Hotel World, by Ali Smith (read May 2003)
Homestead, by Rosina Lippi
Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley

The Hiding Place, by Trezza Azzopardi
In the Blue House, by Meaghan Delahunt
The Last Samurai, by Helen Dewitt
Fish, Blood & Bone, by Leslie Forbes
The Wild, by Esther Freud
Dog Days, Glenn Miller Nights, by Laurie Graham
Nowhere Else on Earth, by Josephine Humphreys
Ahab's Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund
From Caucasia, with Love, by Danzy Senna
The Bonesetter's Daughter, by Amy Tan (read before 2002)
The PowerBook, by Jeanette Winterson
MotherKind, by Jayne Ann Phillips

When I Lived in Modern Times, by Linda Grant

If I Told You Once, by Judy Budnitz
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
The Dancers Dancing, by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith (read May 2007- review)

The Translator, by Leila Aboulela
Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier (read Oct. 2003)
Fasting, Feasting, by Anita Desai
A Dangerous Vine, by Barbara Ewing
Danny Boy, by Jo-Ann Goodwin
A Sin of Colour, by Sunetra Gupt
Born Free, by Laura Hird
Everything You Need, by A.L. Kennedy
The Hunter, by Julia Leigh
Charming Billy, by Alice McDermott
Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith, by Gina B. Nahai
Island, by Jane Rogers
Last Chance Texaco, by Christine Pountney
What the Body Remembers, by Shauna Singh Baldwin

A Crime in the Neighborhood, by Suzanne Berne

The Short History of a Prince, by Jane Hamilton
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver (read July 2005)
Paradise, by Toni Morrison
The Leper's Companions, by Julia Blackburn
Visible Worlds, by Marilyn Bowering

Master Georgie, by Beryl Bainbridge (read Aug. 2004)
The Voyage of the Narwhal, by Andrea Barrett
In A Fishbone Church, by Catherine Chidgey
Crocodile Soup, by Julia Darling
Restitution, by Maureen Duffy
Trumpet, by Jackie Kay
Comfort Woman, by Nora Okja Keller (read Apr. 2007- review)
Buxton Spice, by Oonya Kempadoo
The Vintner's Luck, by Elizabeth Knox
Marchlands, by Karla Kuban
The Giant O'Brien, by Hilary Mantel
The Most Wanted, by Jacquelyn Mitchard
A History of Silence, by Barbara Neil
Evening News, by Marly Swick

Larry's Party, by Carol Shield

Lives of the Monster Dogs, by Kirsten Bakis
The Ventriloquist's Tale, by Pauline Melville
The Magician's Assistant, by Ann Patchett
Love Like Hate Adore, by Deirdre Purcell
The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve (read before 2002)

Bitter Grounds, by Sandra Benitez
Man or Mango? by Lucy Ellmann
Gaglow, by Esther Freud
The Aguero Sisters, by Cristina Garcia
The House Gun, by Nadine Gordimer
The Breaking, by Kathryn Heyman
Round Rock, by Michelle Huneven
Ark Baby, by Liz Jensen
Undiscovered Country, by Christina Koning
The Orchard, by Drusilla Modjeska
Black and Blue, by Anna Quindlen
Impossible Saints, by Michele Roberts
The Underpainter, by Jane Urquhart
Baby Love, by Louis Young

Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels

Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood (read before 2002)
One by One in the Darkness, by Deirdre Madden
Accordion Crimes, by E. Annie Proulx
Hen's Teeth, by Manda Scott
I Was Amelia Earhart, by Jane Mendelsohn

Every Man For Himself, by Beryl Bainbridge
Death Comes for Peter Pan, by Joan Brady
The Mistress of Spices, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Last Thing He Wanted, by Joan Didion
The Cast Iron Shore, by Linda Grant
The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, by Siri Hustvedt (read May 2004)
The Autobiography of My Mother, by Jamaica Kincaid
With Child, by Laurie R. King
Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald (read Aug. 2002)
All the Blood is Red, by Leone Ross
Red Leaves, by Paulina Simons
Anita and Me, by Meera Syal
Gut Symmetries, by Jeanette Winterson
The Frequency of Souls, by Mary Kay Zuravleff

A Spell of Winter, by Helen Dunmore

The Book of Colour, by Julia Blackburn
Spinsters, by Pagan Kennedy
The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan (read before 2002)
Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler
Eveless Eden, by Marianne Wiggins

The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker
Official and Doubtful, by Ajay Close
The Rape of Sita, by Lindsey Collen
Keeping Up with Magda, by Isla Dewar
The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Private Parts of Women, by Lesley Glaister
The Passion of Alice, by Stephanie Grant
Egg Dancing, by Liz Jensen
So I Am Glad, by A.L. Kennedy
Never Far From Nowhere, by Andrea Levy
Mother of Pearl, by Mary Morrissy
Promised Lands, by Jane Rogers
River Lines, by Elspeth Sandys

The Orange Prize for New Writers
An Equal Stillness, by Francesca Kay
Miles From Nowhere, by Nami Mun
The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, by Ann Weisgarber

Inglorious, by Joanna Kayenna – WINNER
The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff
The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam, by Lauren Liebenberg

The Lizard Cage, by Karen Connelly - WINNER
Poppy Shakespeare, by Clare Allan
Bitter Sweets, by Roopa Farooki

Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman - WINNER
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, by Yiyun Li
The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Olga Grushin

26a, by Diana Evans - WINNER
Lucky Girls, by Nell Freudenberger
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff (read May 2008- review)

*I started keeping track of my reads in 2002.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

a sprinkle of snow

We actually got a bit of snow yesterday instead of the forecast rain. Course it didn't stick around very long and there's hardly any trace left today, but here are a couple of pictures taken at the nearby shrine as proof.

Sunday Salon: January acquisitions

I've noticed a few people joining lately and it seemed like too much fun to resist. I don't always get much reading in on Sundays, it often depends on the weather, the season, and therefore whether or not we're pursuing our other hobby, out taking pictures, but I'll join in when I can. The weather today is pretty cold and wet, and even a bit snowy, so here is my first post for the Sunday Salon.
(click on the button for info on how to join)

I thought I might as well start off with a confession. I didn't set myself any New Year's Resolutions regarding book buying because (a) I'm not good at resolutions and (b) not buy books? That's just crazy! But I did have a little book binge in January (I hadn't bought anything since my trip to Canada in late October/early November so I do think that's showing some restraint) that I'm feeling mildly guilty about. That's because frankly I have more than enough unread books here to keep me busy for a few years I imagine. Oh well. They are a comfort, albeit guilt-inducing.

So here's the stack of books that have yet to find a place on my already stuffed to the max book shelves.
The Dogs of Riga - Henning Mankell
Still Life - Louise Penny
Tooth & Nail - Ian Rankin
The Gun Seller - Hugh Laurie
Birds of a Feather - Jacqueline Winspear
Murder in the Marais - Cara Black
The Space Between Us - Thrity Umrigar
Words Without Borders - various
The Human Stain - Philip Roth
Moloka'i - Alan Brennert
The Secret Lives of People in Love - Simon Van Booy

I was in a bit of a mystery mood so I just had to order the next books in a few series I started last year (Rankin, Winspear, Mankell), plus a couple others I'd heard of. Yes, I'm a bit late getting into the mystery genre. I also finally ordered Hugh Laurie's book. He's so great as House and I've heard so many good things about the book that it was time.
I usually choose my challenge reads from books I already own but I made a couple of exceptions for My Year of Reading Dangerously so two of the books are for that. But they were books I already had on my wishlist so it's not that bad, right? Moloka'i had also been on my wishlist for a while and appeared on several best of lists for 2007 so it finally made it's way to the basket as well.
I have a feeling I'll pick up one of the mysteries soon. I'm craving something to balance out the Dickens I'm reading but when I'll get around to all the rest of them is anyone's guess. The shopping really is half the fun!

As for what I'm currently reading, well, today I did spend some time with Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities which is my January choice (late again!) for the Year of Reading Dangerously. I am enjoying it, and it's got several chuckles out of me already but it's going rather slowly. I need to concentrate a bit more than usual to get his turns of phrase and it's unfortunately putting me to sleep some nights when reading in bed. Hence my desire for something light and easy. On that note, I'm quite looking forward to reading the third book in Colleen Gleason's series, The Bleeding Dusk, out this week, once I get my hands on a copy. Dickens will not defeat me though. I will persevere. In fact, I think I hear him calling now. Have a good week!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Month in review: January

I can't believe it's February already! I'm still trying to figure out where January went in such a hurry! I had hoped to read more but I only managed to finish 3 books in January. Oh well, there's always this month I guess. Luckily books are usually very patient while waiting their turn. I have so many books I'd like to read in the next little while though, I'm the impatient one!

Books completed in January:
(click on title to read my review)
1. Faceless Killers - Henning Mankell
2. The Elephant Vanishes - Haruki Murakami
3. Tales of Moonlight and Rain - Akinari Ueda

Tales of Moonlight and Rain is probably my favourite of the month but I enjoyed all of them and all are authors I'd gladly read again. Henning Mankell was new-to-me and I've already ordered the next book in the series and I already have a couple of unread Murakamis on hand for the next time I'm in the right mood.

Reading Challenges- Progress Report:
A new year and a fresh start with mostly new challenges. I'm still behind on the Book Awards Challenge which carried over from last year but I hope to read several of the books from my list in the next few months. Otherwise I completed my first challenge of the year and I'm relatively on track for the other challenges. So far so good.

Japanese Literature Challenge - COMPLETED!
Book Awards Challenge - 3 done, 9 to go (by June 30th)
My Year of Reading Dangerously- I'm still reading my January choice so I'm late but will get there eventually.
What's in a Name Challenge - 2 done, 4 to go
Austen Mini-Challenge - 1 done, 1 to go
Reading Japan Project - 2 books read in January

Reading plans for February:
Finish up A Tale of Two Cities and read The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason as soon as it arrives from Amazon and is in my hot little hands! On deck after that, challenge reads Beloved by Toni Morrison, and My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk.

Friday, February 01, 2008

PhotoHunt: Narrow

A narrow foot bridge in Shirakawa-go.

Friday Fill-in #15

1. Once I was.. much thinner.
2. No one enjoys.. being sick.
3. Today at work home I.. did some laundry, cleaned the bathroom (always a joy!), did the dishes, and watched a couple episodes of Heroes (Season 1).
4. What's.. the fuss about Lost.. all about?
5. If I make a mistake I .. usually own up and try to learn from it.
6. When I woke up this morning, I thought.. I can't believe it's February already.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to.. reading in bed with a cat at my feet, tomorrow my plans include.. whatever we end up doing as we haven't made any plans yet, and Sunday, I want to .. stay home and read since it looks like it might rain!