Monday, March 31, 2008

BAFAB Week Giveaway

It's Buy a Friend a Book Week again and I'm going with a Japanese author theme this time.

Courtesy of the lovely and generous Bellezza I have a copy of Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman to share. Along with my once-read copies of All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe and Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara, winner of the Akutagawa Prize. (click on the book covers below to read about them at Amazon)

To enter, just leave a comment saying which one(s) you're interested in. You may put your name in for all 3 but you can only win once. You have until Saturday, April 5th and the draw will take place sometime on Sunday, April 6th. There are no postal restrictions, anyone can enter.
Not required but I'd also love to hear about your favourite Japanese reads.

UPDATE: My giveaway is now closed. You can see the winners here.

And if none of these interest you there are plenty of other giveaways happening:
Nymeth is giving away 5 books to celebrate her first year of blogging.
Literary Feline is giving away 2 books this week with the promise of more to come during the month of April.
Dewey is also celebrating her first year of blogging with a giveaway of two books.
Jaimie is celebrating BAFAB Week by giving away 3 books.
chartroose is also in the spirit offering up 5 books.
Debra had a really fun idea for her giveaway!
Eva has a 'Name That Book' quiz for her BAFAB giveaway.
Park Avenue Princess is offering a brand new book of your choice to celebrate starting up her new book blog.
Heather is giving away 3 favourite YA books.
Valentina is offering new copies of three of her favourite books.
Katrina is letting you choose any book from her giveaway shelf.
Trish is giving away two books- Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis and a book of your choice.
C.B. is giving away a copy of The Master by Colm Toibin.
Chris is giving away a copy of 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover by Linda Wisdom.
verbatim is giving away a paperback of your choice.
Madeleine has two books by Banana Yoshimoto to give away- Hardboiled and Hard Luck and Goodbye Tsugumi.
A Reader from India has 3 books to giveaway.
3M is giving away 4 books on her new site, Novels Now.
danica is offering one winner a choice of one of three books.
Chris is giving away a copy of Blackness Tower by Lillian Stewart Carl.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Salon: home again

No, we didn't really spend the last few days down at the pub (see previous post) but we did take advantage of H having the week off and went away for a few days. We got back last night and while it's always fun to go away it's always nice to be home again too.

First stop was Hiroshima where we visited Miyajima (an island a short distance from Hiroshima famous for it's Shinto shrine, Itsukushima Jinja) and Mount Misen. The next day we went to the Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum. This was one of those places I felt I should see at least once in my life. Before going on our trip I started reading The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock which I had remembered was in my stacks and is about the meeting, many years later, between a survivor of Hiroshima with one of the scientists who helped create the bomb. It's fiction but based on facts from the time. Seeing some of the things that were mentioned in the book has certainly helped create a clearer visual in my mind while reading.

Next stop was Himeji, famous for its castle. The sakura had just started to blossom there, so we were about a week early for the peak, but it was impressive all the same. Then on the last day we spent a few hours in Kobe before heading home.

As for reading, well... a couple of days I didn't even read at all! We were too busy visiting here and there and then at night I was simply too tired to read before falling asleep. So I didn't get a whole lot of reading in while we were away. I did read a fair bit in the bullet train on the way home yesterday though so I'm now about 3/4 of the way through The Ash Garden. I hope to finish it tomorrow to count it as a March read but we'll see how it goes.

Continuing with the Hiroshima theme, I picked up Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse at the library last week before our trip. I took it with me but needless to say I haven't started it yet. It's due back in a week so I'm not sure whether I'll have time to read it all or not this coming week. Hopefully I'll be able to borrow it for an extra two weeks. Neither of these books are on my challenge lists but I had to make room for them so I could read them while the visit there is still fresh in my mind.

We got to see a lot and our days were full. It was great visiting these places that I'd never been to before and had long wanted to see even though I feel like I now need a vacation to recover from the vacation! As usual I took loads of photos and I'll share some of those soon. I also have lots of blog reading to catch up on but I hope you all had a good week and read more than I did.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

spring has sprung

We found some early blooming sakura (cherry blossoms) on our walk yesterday. The rest should be in full bloom within the next couple of weeks.

Sunday Salon: a good week

Easter isn't celebrated here so today was just your average Sunday. The sun was shining so we decided to get out of the house. We spotted a few early cherry blossoms during our walk and then we did a bit of shopping which included buying a new lens! H and I both have Olympus cameras (he has the E-410, I have the E-510) so we're going to share it. I wonder how well that's going to work. I'm looking forward to trying it out though.

But this is the Sunday Salon so I should be talking about books, not cameras. I actually haven't read much so far today, only a couple of chapters this morning in bed. I love being able to stay in bed and read a bit in the morning. I wish I could every day! This has been a pretty good week though, reading-wise. I finished Surfacing by Atwood which I didn't really care for but I'm glad to have it off the shelves and now in the pile of books I've read but don't plan to keep. I keep meaning to join BookMooch but just haven't gotten around to it yet. Then, since I was in desperate need of something fun and not too heavy, I picked up Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear, the second book in the Maisie Dobbs series. And it was just what I needed. So I whipped through that and am now reading The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock. Oh and I finally wrote up my review of The Road which I'd been putting off. So all in all not a bad week. I feel like I've been on a bit of a reading roll lately. I have so many books I'd like to read in the next little while, I hope it lasts.

For those of you who are celebrating Easter, I hope you're having a lovely weekend.

'Birds of a Feather'

by Jacqueline Winspear

Fiction/Mystery, 2004
John Murray, trade pb, 307 p.
Maisie Dobbs series, Book 2
WINNER - Agatha Award for Best Novel 2004
London, 1930. Joseph Waite is a man who knows what he wants. As one of Britain’s wealthiest men, the last thing he needs is a scandal. When his daughter runs away from home, he is determined to keep the case away from the police and the newspapers. So he turns to a woman known for her uniquely intuitive approach to criminal investigation, and for her discretion – the extraordinary Maisie Dobbs.

Waite’s instructions are to find his daughter and bring her home. But the task is far from straightforward. Maisie soon uncovers a chilling link to a recent murder case, and finds herself revisiting the tragedy of the Great War.
I was in the mood for a light mystery and this fit my mood perfectly. I enjoyed following along as Maisie searched for answers, even when she was a bit of a know-it-all, as well as catching up with several of the other characters that were introduced in the first book. I found the mystery aspect a bit more satisfying this time, and as in the previous book, I really enjoyed the setting and details of the time period. I’ll definitely be reading the next book in the series, I’m guessing sooner rather than later.

My Rating: 4/5
(#11 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #6, What's in a Name Challenge - 'Animal' #2)

Saturday, March 22, 2008


by Margaret Atwood

Fiction/Literature, 1972
Virago UK, trade pb, 186 p.
A young woman returns to northern Quebec to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and her two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realise that going home means entering not only another place but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she sees that what she is really looking for is her own past.
It started out not too bad and while it never really grabbed me I did enjoy the descriptions of the Canadian wilderness in Quebec, but I quite lost interest in the story, and the characters near the end. I skimmed a couple of essays about the novel online and they talk about identity (and the search thereof) and language (and the inability to communicate). I could appreciate these elements and I’m sure there is plenty of deeper meaning here but I’ve never been terribly good at figuring out the hidden symbolism in literature. So on the surface, for me at least, it was a disappointing read that I couldn't relate to and was glad to finish. I will read Atwood again because I’ve found that she’s hit or miss with me (hits include Alias Grace, and The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake was ok, but then I really really disliked The Blind Assassin) so hopefully I’ll enjoy the next book of hers that I read.

My Rating: 2.5/5

(#10 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously #3)

Once Upon a Time

I'm not sure I really have time to fit more books into my reading schedule but I missed out on this challenge last year so what the heck. If all else fails I can default to the 'Journey' but I'm going to attempt Quest the First, since it allows for the most freedom in choosing the books.
Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time II criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.
(click on the button for more info)

Here's my current pool of books to choose from:

Briar Rose – Jane Yolen
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
Inkheart – Cornelia Funke
The Goose Girl – Shannon Hale
Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt
Across the Nightingale Floor – Lian Hearn
A Great and Terrible Beauty – Libby Bray
New Moon – Stephenie Meyer
Once Upon a Time in the North – Philip Pullman (will be published on April 3rd)
The Scarecrow and his Servant – Philip Pullman
The Ladies of Grace Adieu - Susanna Clarke
or anything else I come across that appeals to me.

I am looking forward to it since it should be a nice way to balance out the dark, more serious books I've been reading lately.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Fill-in #21

1. Visiting new places ... is so exciting!
2. Strawberry fields ... are nice but I'd rather have a field full of raspberry bushes.
3. My mom's homemade chocolate zucchini cake ... sounds like it would taste delicious! (It always was delicious. I wish she was still around to make it for me).
4. Why does ... a tidy apartment ... make me feel so good?!
5. The Aurora Borealis ... is something I've always wanted to see.
6. It's sad when ... there is no chocolate in the house.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to ... starting a new book since I finished 'Birds of a Feather' earlier today, tomorrow my plans include ... enjoying the sun (you won't catch me saying that in a few months) and maybe taking a walk ... and Sunday, I want to ... read and relax or go somewhere with H!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

'The Road'

by Cormac McCarthy
Fiction/Literature, 2006
WINNER of the Pulitzer Prize 2007
Vintage International, mm pb, 286 p.
Harvard Book Review of The Road
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food – and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
I have to admit that I wasn’t terribly interested in reading this when I first heard about it. A post-apocalyptic survival story that sounded so bleak. I’ve had mixed results with the dystopian books I’ve read although it is true that I usually appreciate the ideas behind them even when I don’t particularly care for the writing itself, like Nineteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451. Well The Road certainly surprised me and exceeded my expectations. Bleak, definitely, and harsh, and depressing, but it was also moving, and compelling, set in a vivid landscape. In its own way it was a page turner.

Many people have commented on and complained about the missing quotation marks and apostrophes in the negative contractions, like dont or wont, instead of don’t or won’t etc. I noticed but it didn’t bother me at all. The lack of punctuation and McCarthy’s sparse, stark prose really added to the atmosphere created by the story, cutting to the heart of the characters and the terrible journey they are on. It’s amazing sometimes just how much can be said without saying much at all. But at the same time he had me reaching for the dictionary at times, for words such as discalced (barefoot), soffit (the underside of a part of a building), crozzled (slightly burnt), among several others.
Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence. (p. 274)
Beautifully-written, it’s the kind of book that deserves to be read more than once. This was also my first time to read anything by McCarthy but I’m now very interested in reading more by him.

My Rating: 4.5/5
(#9 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #5)

Also reviewed at:
Melody's Reading Corner

Monday, March 17, 2008

plum blossoms

No new pictures this weekend so here are a couple more of the ume (Japanese plum) blossoms that we took last weekend.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Salon: transition

Another week gone by, where does the time go? I still haven't written a review of The Road which I finished last Sunday. I've been putting it off because I'm not sure what to say about it to do it justice. I did pick up Surfacing by Atwood next and while it hasn't completely grabbed me, I'm almost done and should finish it in bed tonight.
For the last few weeks Sunday seems to be my book transition day. The day of finishing one book and starting a new one. It'll be nice to check another challenge book off the list but I'm looking forward to moving on from Surfacing and I think I'm in the mood for something lighter after all the darkness I've been reading about lately. So I've decided to go with Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear. I read the first Maisie Dobbs book last year and look forward to this second in the series.
Otherwise the only bookish thing I've done this weekend is moving a couple of bookshelves to a different room. This involves taking all the books off, moving the shelves, and putting all the books back on, but since these are the 'reference shelves' it's not quite as fun as fondling my fiction books. In fact with a shelf full of Japanese study material staring at me it only makes me feel a bit guilty, again, for not studying Japanese very enthusiastically. I always mean to study more but never seem to get around to it. Ah well.
It's getting late and the books are calling so I hope you all have a great week!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Orbis Terrarum Challenge

I've been doing pretty good at resisting new challenges but not this one. I love reading international literature so this is a great incentive. Plus I found that looking at my lists for other challenges, I already plan to read books by authors from 6 different countries this year. Three more isn't much of a stretch.
The bottom line: choose 9 different books, written by 9 different authors, from 9 different countries.
The challenge runs from April 1st to December 20th. Click on the button for more info on signing up.

My current list (books on other challenge lists in bold):
(TURKEY) My Name is Red – Orham Pamuk
(RUSSIA) Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
(NIGERIA) Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(IRAN) Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi
(FRANCE) Scortas’ Sun – Laurent Gaudé
(JAPAN) The Silent Cry – Kenzaburo Oe
(PORTUGAL) Blindness – José Saramago
(BRAZIL) The Silence of the Rain – Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
(INDIA) The Mango Season – Amulya Malladi

Other possibilities:
(ITALY) I’m Not Scared – Niccolò Ammaniti
(GERMANY) Perfume – Patrick Suskind
(GERMANY) Inkheart – Cornelia Funke
(SWEDEN) The Visit of the Royal Physician – Per Olov Enquist
(SWEDEN) The Dogs of Riga - Henning Mankell
(BELGIUM) The Book of Proper Names – Amélie Nothomb

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Fill-in #20

1. Contact may cause ... sparks.
2. The parties hereto do mutually agree ... to disagree.
3. Disney parks ... are one thing but check out these Mickey Mouse cell phones (for adults of course!).
4. Not having to work ... sounds really good right about now! ... but I'd settle for some hot chocolate.
5. I positively ... believe some things will never change.
6. Seeing the boys asleep ... always makes me smile :-) Unfortunately the boys awake is sometimes another story altogether!
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I was looking forward to ... seeing the final episode of Heroes, Season One, tomorrow my plans include ... probably staying home and moving a bookshelf or two ... and Sunday, I want to ... figure out where we're going for a short trip at the end of the month!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Farewell, Winter

With the arrival of the plum blossoms I decided it was time to change from winter to spring here on my blog. So it's goodbye to the icy branch and grey background. I've gone all white and pink (the lightest the blog has ever been) and the new header is a picture that I took on Sunday. I may still fiddle with it but for now I must get to bed, I have an early morning tomorrow. Do let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

spring is in the air

Yesterday we went to Ikegami Baien (plum garden) as the ume trees are now blooming. It was a warm, sunny day plus seeing the plum blossoms really made me feel like spring is in the air, at last.

Sunday Salon: plum blossoms and the end of the world

This has been a very nice Sunday as I got to read, take some pictures and enjoy the spring-like weather. But first let's backtrack a few days.
If you visited last Sunday you may remember that I was wondering what to read next. I did indeed finish Housekeeping vs. The Dirt (review here), then on Monday I stopped by the library on my way to a lesson. There I found Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata, winner of the Newbery Medal in 2005. So instead of choosing from the books I should be reading, I spent a couple of enjoyable days with Katie and her family (review here).
Finally, mid-week, I picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy which was from last week's choices and I finished it tonight in the train on the way home from our outing. It was not a very good idea reading the ending of that particular book on the train as let's just say I was slightly emotional but it really was quite a moving, tragic, bleak, brave, desperate story. (Hence today's subtitle, with a nod to Murakami of course). I'm going to have to let it sit and percolate in my mind for a couple of days but I do think it's the best book I've read so far this year.
Now I'm back to the dilemma of what to pick up next but I think I'm going to try Surfacing by Atwood. We'll see if it grabs me.
As for today's outing, here is a sample of what we saw...

Have a good week and happy reading!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Fill-in #19

1. Ahhhh, it's so nice ... that the ume (Japanese plum) trees are blooming.
2. One of my favorite things on my desk is ... my PC of course! There would be no internet or blogging without it! Can you imagine?
3. Japanese Cherry Blossom ... season is what I'm looking forward to this spring.
4. My bed ... is my favorite place to sit and read.
5. Rhubarb and apple crumble ... is delicious!
6. I love to watch ... dramatic scenery ... in movies. And a sexy leading man doesn't hurt either! ;)
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to ... a cozy bed, tomorrow my plans include ... visiting some friends ... and Sunday, I want to ... see some of those ume blossoms! (Unfortunately there aren't any ume trees in our neighbourhood).


by Cynthia Kadohata
Fiction/YA, 2004
Atheneum Books, hardback, 244 p.
WINNER - Newbery Medal, 2005
Glittering. That’s how Katie Takeshima’s sister Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people’s eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop them on the street to stare. And it’s Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering – kira-kira – in the future.
I found this in the library and since it won the Newbery Medal in 2005, I decided to read it for the Book Awards challenge even though it wasn’t on my original list. It was a moving story and I enjoyed hearing it through the voice of young Katie. It might not be full of action but it kept me turning the pages, wanting to read on about the family’s problems and how they coped with them. I came to care about the family, especially the sisters, and wanted to see how things turned out. I suppose because it was about a Japanese family, it also reminded me a little bit of Obasan by Joy Kogawa.

When I was a child, I didn’t even know about the internment of Japanese, or other “enemy aliens” in the history of Canada or the US. If these kinds of books were available then, I certainly wasn’t aware of them. Even though Kira-Kira isn’t an internment story itself, taking place after WWII in the 1950s, it does deal with the difficult life the Japanese immigrants had to endure because of racism and discrimination. So I think it’s great that Kadohata has written this specifically as a children’s story. I’m sure there are some adults too who could use a lesson in tolerance but that’s another issue. Overall it was an engaging story on a topic that many people like not to think about.

My Rating: 4/5
(#8 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #4)

Also reviewed at:
The Well-Read Child

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

'Housekeeping vs. The Dirt'

by Nick Hornby
Non-Fiction/Essays, 2006 (originally published in the Believer magazine, February 2005 - July 2006)
Believer Books, pb, 133 p.
In his latest collection of essays, critic and author Nick Hornby continues the feverish survey of his swollen bookshelves, offering funny, intelligent, and unblinkered accounts of the stuff he’s been reading. Ranging far and wide from the middlebrow, Hornby’s dispatches from his nightstand serve as invaluable guides to contemporary letters, with revelations on the intellectual scene and English football in equal measure.

Printed monthly in the Believer, Hornby’s book reviews are suffused with wit, ire, and loving insight, and his choices often strike into the deeper, odder reaches of the literary world. He is as adamant about the experience of reading a book as he is about the importance of the book itself, and can be trusted to point out which books are ridiculously unfunny, which books can be read incognito for their naughtiness, and, most urgently, which books can bring themselves “all the way through the long march to your soul.”
What book lover doesn’t like reading about books? This second collection of Nick Hornby’s 'Stuff I've Been Reading' column in the Believer magazine was just as much fun to read as the first one, The Polysyllabic Spree, if not more. I’m not always interested in all the books he reads or mentions but it’s enjoyable to read about his reading adventures nonetheless. I have actually already read, own or at least have heard of several of the titles he talks about but in some cases it was a nice reminder of books I’d seen before but hadn’t gotten around to. As he’s still writing the column, I look forward to when the next bound edition is published and adding more books to my wishlist.

Here are some of the titles that I noted down to look out for:
Every Secret Thing – Laura Lippman
“’s gripping in a quiet, thoughtful way…” (p. 30)
How to Be Lost – Amanda Eyre Ward
“…it has that lovely tone that only American women writers seem to be able to achieve: melancholic, wry, apparently (but only apparently) artless, perched on the balls of its feet and ready to jump either toward humor or toward heartbreak, with no run-up and no effort.” (p. 54)
Penguin Special – Jeremy Lewis
“Jeremy Lewis’s biography of Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin, is a tremendous piece of social history...” (p. 70)
Only in London – Hanan Al-Shaykh
“Hanan Al-Shaykh was one of the authors I met on a recent trip to Reykjavik, and her lovely novel Only in London was a perfect reflection of the woman: surprising, fun, thoughtful.” (p. 106)
Death and the Penguin – Andrey Kurkov
“Death and the Penguin turns out to be fresh, funny, clever, incredibly soulful and compelling, and the penguin turns out to be a triumphant creation. I might only read books about animals from now on.” (p. 113)

Some quotes I enjoyed:
We often read books that we think we ought to read, or that we think we ought to have read, or that other people think we should read (I’m always coming across people who have a mental, sometimes even an actual, list of the books they think they should have read by the time they turn forty, fifty, or dead); I’m sure I’m not the only one who harrumphs his way through a highly praised novel, astonished but actually rather pleased that so many people have got it so wrong. (p. 13)

Reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing. I don’t mean we should all be reading chick lit or thrillers (although if that’s what you want to read, it’s fine by me, because here’s something else no one will ever tell you: if you don’t read the classics, or the novel that won this year’s Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning the pages should not be like walking through thick mud. The whole purpose of books is that we read them, and if you find you can’t, it might not be your inadequacy that’s to blame. “Good” books can be pretty awful sometimes. (p. 17)

Anne Tyler is the person who first made me want to write: I picked up Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant in a bookshop, started to read it there and then, bought it, took it home, finished it, and suddenly I had and ambition, for the first time in my life. (p. 69)
Interesting factoid (from wikipedia):
Hornby is an alumnus of Jesus College, Cambridge, where there is a room named after him.

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#7 for 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Dog Ear Diary

Sunday, March 02, 2008

comfort food

I haven't posted any pictures lately because we simply haven't been taking any. The weather has been annoying, dry and windy so there's dust flying around plus everything is still a bit grey. But on Saturday we went to Brozers', an American style hamburger shop in Ningyo-cho. I don't usually eat much red meat but it totally hit the spot. I opted for the Avocado Cheeseburger. Mmmm...

Sunday Salon: indecision

Sorry I missed last week but I was busy and didn't read much anyway. It's hard to believe it's March already. I don't know where the time goes! I am looking forward to spring though, even with the hayfever it brings with it.

As for my current reading, I'm almost done Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby. This second collection of his 'Stuff I've Been Reading' monthly column in the Believer magazine is just as amusing to read as the first one was. It's what to pick up next that I'm having a bit of trouble with. Too many choices!
Here are some of the books I could or should be reading in the next few months.

Beloved by Toni Morrison - which I was supposed to read last month for My Year of Reading Dangerously but I just wasn't in the mood after The French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk - At the moment I'm possibly leaning toward this one or The Road. Not entirely sure why though.
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
Surfacing (or something else by Atwood)
Suite française – Irène Némirovsky
Mercy Among the Children – David Adams Richards
..or something else entirely!

Any thoughts on what I should read next?
I'm off to bed now where I hope to finish the Hornby. I guess I'll have to see which one appeals most to me tomorrow. Mine's already over but I hope you all enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Month in review: February

Books completed:
(click on title to read my review)
4. The Bleeding Dusk - Colleen Gleason
5. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
6. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

I didn't get as much read as I would've liked (I seem to say this every month) but it was a pretty good month quality-wise. From vampire hunting in Rome to The French Revolution to 1920s high society life in New York, and I enjoyed each of them.

The Bleeding Dusk was just as exciting and fun to read as I'd expected. A Tale of Two Cities kept my brain cells busy but was worth the effort, and most surprising was how much I enjoyed The Great Gatsby since I'd previously shied away from it. So I guess I can't complain.

I had hoped to finish Housekeeping vs. The Dirt as well but I still have a couple more columns to read so it'll count as a March read.

Reading Challenges- Progress Report:
Book Awards Challenge - 3 done, 9 to go (by June 30th)
My Year of Reading Dangerously- 2 done, 10 to go
What's in a Name Challenge - 2 done, 4 to go
Austen Mini-Challenge - 1 done, 1 to go
Reading Japan Project - 2 so far this year
The Orange Prize Project - none yet this year, my list of previously read titles here.

As for my reading challenges, I caught up on My Year of Reading Dangerously in February so I'm generally on track. The only one I'm really behind on is the Book Awards Challenge. So I really need to focus on Award-winning books between now and the end of June. I guess the one good thing about still having quite a few to read is that I can still choose among them according to my mood, and I'm not above a substitution or two either so I'm hoping for some good reads in March.