Saturday, May 31, 2008

'Kafka on the Shore'

by Haruki Murakami
Fiction, 2002 (Japan), 2005 (English translation)
Vintage UK, trade pb, 505 p.
Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
WINNER of the World Fantasy Award, 2006
WINNER of the Franz Kafka Prize, 2006
Kafka on the Shore follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father’s dark prophecy. The ageing Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his simple life suddenly turned upside down. Their parallel odysseys are enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerising dramas. Cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since WWII. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle.
At once a classic tale of quest, Kafka on the Shore is also a bold exploration of mythic and contemporary taboos, of patricide, of mother-love, of sister-love. Above all it is a bewitching and wildly inventive novel from a master stylist.
I can’t begin to fully understand what it all means but it was a very fun ride all the same. I was immediately drawn in and as the strands slowly started to come together I had to keep reading to find out what would happen next. And what happened next was never predictable, as I’ve come to expect from Murakami. This book had some other standard Murakami fare: cats, the importance of shadows, quirky characters, and a blurring between reality and fantasy, which seems to reflect Murakami’s thoughts on writing:
“For me, writing a novel is like having a dream. Writing a novel lets me intentionally dream while I’m still awake. I can continue yesterday’s dream today, something you can’t normally do in everyday life. It’s also a way of descending deep into my own consciousness. So while I see it as dreamlike, it’s not fantasy. For me the dreamlike is very real.”
His simple prose makes it highly readable and even though some things are never fully explained and remain unclear at the end of the novel, it’s an enjoyable, compelling read. One that certainly deserves a second reading someday. Murakami himself had this to say when asked the meaning of the book:

"Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren't any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It's hard to explain, but that's the kind of novel I set out to write."
Excerpts from the book, an interview with Murakami about Kafka on the Shore and information on his other works can be found on this Haruki Murakami author site.

My Rating: 4.5/5
(#23 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #9, Once Upon a Time II Challenge #4, 1% Well-Read Challenge #1, Herding Cats Challenge #1)

Also reviewed at:
My Own Little Reading Room
things mean a lot
Tip of the Iceberg
Dolce Bellezza
Trish's Reading Nook
Have you read and reviewed this title too? Let me know and I'll include a link to your review here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

'How I Live Now'

by Meg Rosoff
Fiction/YA, 2004
Wendy Lamb (Random House), hardback, 193 p.
WINNER Printz Award 2005, Orange Prize for New Writers NOMINEE 2005

“Every war has turning points and every person too.”

Fifteen–year–old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

It’s been quite a few days since I finished reading this and I’m still not entirely sure what my final thoughts on it are. Some parts felt unnecessary, others not fleshed out enough. Daisy was a strong character though, and even when her teen-speak and attitude annoyed me slightly, it always felt authentic (I can only assume, not being around any English-speaking teenagers these days). But somehow the war, which affects all their lives so profoundly, didn’t seem realistic, perhaps because the details were so vague or only alluded to. I suppose it really was mainly Daisy’s story of growing up during a difficult time. I did enjoy the book while I was reading it, especially the part with Daisy and Piper, but overall I don’t think it’ll stay with me. Still it was worth reading and I’d certainly try something else by Meg Rosoff sometime.

My Rating: 3/5
(#22 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #8)

Also reviewed at:
The Written Word
Sassymonkey Reads
things mean a lot
Tip of the Iceberg
Have you read and reviewed this book too? Let me know and I'll add your link here.

Friday Fill-in #30


1. For me conformity is the opposite of creativity.
2. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami was the last excellent book I read.
3. I like fill-ins because they're fun.
4. In nature I like looking at trees, flowers, water, birds ... just about anything really... well, except cockroaches, snakes and other creepy crawlies.
5. Obama should win the US elections.
6. The last time I laughed with all my belly was because Jiro was being very silly.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing, tomorrow my plans include not sure yet since the forecast is for more rain and Sunday, I want to possibly get out and take some pictures if the weather clears!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

'Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes'

by Eleanor Coerr
Historical Fiction/kidlit, 1977
Puffin (Penguin), pb, 62 p.
The star of her school’s running team, Sadako is lively and athletic … until the dizzy spells start. Then she must face the hardest race of her life – the race against time.
This was a very quick read, not surprising since it’s a children’s book and a slim one at that. Even though I basically knew the story beforehand, it was worth reading it to know the version that many people are familiar with. For those that don't know, Sadako is the real-life inspiration for the Children's Peace monument in Hiroshima and the accompanying tradition of making 1000 origami cranes in the name of peace.
Sadako is a great person/character, she’s so full of courage despite her illness. I was a bit disappointed though that Coerr exaggerated the truth to make the story more dramatic, and more emotional. I guess that’s why it is labelled as fiction, “based on a true story”, rather than non-fiction. Despite that it is still a moving story and it is partly thanks to Coerr writing about her in English that has made the story of Sadako so widely known.

My Rating: 3/5
(#21 for 2008)

Sadako's cranes

Some of Sadako's cranes, in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Monday, May 26, 2008

roses and raindrops

More from the rose garden at Kyu Furukawa Teien. There was a sudden shower while we were there but about 20 minutes or so later after the sky cleared up again, I had such fun taking macro photos of the raindrops.
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

'Every Secret Thing'

by Laura Lippman

Fiction, 2003
Avon Books (Harper Collins), mm pb, 283 p.
Winner of the Anthony Award for Best Novel, 2004
Two little girls banished from a neighbourhood birthday party take a wrong turn down an unfamiliar Baltimore street – and encounter an abandoned stroller with an infant inside. What happens next is shocking and terrible, and three families are irreparably destroyed.

Seven years later, Alice Manning and Ronnie Fuller, now eighteen, are released from “kid prison” to begin their lives over again. But the secrets swirling around the original crime continue to haunt the parents, the lawyers, the police – all the adults in Alice and Ronnie’s lives. And now another child has disappeared, under freakishly similar circumstances…
Another book that started out well but lost momentum along the way, for me at least. The narration is shared by several of the characters and I thought Lippman did a great job of keeping me sympathetic but slightly suspicious of all of them. It was clear that everyone had secrets they were hiding. The ending wasn’t particularly surprising though and the pace, especially toward the end, was just too slow to be suspenseful. As a psychological drama it wasn’t too bad but I don’t think it lives up to it’s billing on the cover as “a novel of suspense”. Overall it was OK but not the page-turner that I’d been hoping for. This was a stand-alone novel and the first I’ve read from this author, but I’m a little curious what her Tess Monaghan series is like. Has anyone read any of those?

My Rating: 3/5
(#20 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #7)

Reminder: If you've reviewed this title and would like me to mention it here, please leave me the link in the comments or send me an email.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Fill-in #29


1. On my laziest day I like to ignore the housework that needs doing, and stay in my pyjamas all day reading and napping!
2. Cleaning and doing laundry makes me feel like I'm being productive.
3. I love little notebooks and big bookshelves.
4. This summer (like every summer spent in Japan) I want to hide indoors in an air-conditioned room.
5. Reading other book blogs and also wanting a place to share some of my pictures made me start my blog.
6. Red has only recently become one of my favourite colours and orange is my favourite kind of juice.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to reading in bed, tomorrow my plans include staying home and Sunday, I want to read!

'Other Voices, Other Rooms'

by Truman Capote
Fiction, 1948
Penguin UK, trade pb, 175 p.
After the death of his mother, thirteen-year-old Joel Knox is summoned to live with a father he has never met in a vast decaying mansion in rural Alabama, its baroque splendour now faded and tarnished. But when he arrives, his father is nowhere to be seen and Joel is greeted instead by his prim, sullen new stepmother Miss Amy and his debauched Cousin Randolph – living like spirits in the fragile decadence of a house full of secrets.
Truman Capote’s first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms is a story of hallucinatory power, vividly conjuring up the Gothic landscape of the Deep South and a boy’s first glimpse into a mysterious adult world.
The Southern Gothic atmosphere of this book was fabulous, with the old large plantation house and grounds crumbling and fallen into disrepair and the eccentric characters. I quite enjoyed the beginning, when Joel first comes to Skully's Landing and meets the various inhabitants, but by the end of the book I wondered what the point of it all was. (I have since read an explanation of the ending which sheds some light, but still). It was mentioned a few times in the story itself about Joel not following, or understanding Cousin Randolph’s ramblings, and I have to say I was often with Joel on that. It almost seemed that Capote was at times trying to be too clever with his prose, to the detriment of the story which ended up a bit choppy in places. This was his first novel, so I can only assume that his writing improved in his later works. The only other book of his I’ve read is In Cold Blood.

Last weekend we watched the movie, Capote, and I wish I’d watched it before I read either book. The movie gave me a little better idea of Capote, the man and author, and certainly would’ve added to my reading of In Cold Blood. I knew very generally about the effect Capote and the murderers, especially Perry, had on each other but the movie illustrated it very well. Other Voices, Other Rooms was even briefly mentioned in the movie. And it’s been quite a few years since I read To Kill a Mockingbird, but seeing Harper Lee portrayed in the movie has made me want to read it again. As for Capote, while this book didn’t leave any real lasting impression, I’d consider trying something else by him someday, just probably not right away.

I did love this quote though:
[L]ate afternoon when I woke up rain was at the window and on the roof: a kind of silence, if I may say, was walking through the house, and, like most silence, it was not silent at all: it rapped on the doors, echoed in the clocks, creaked on the stairs, leaned forward to peer into my face and explode.
My Rating: 2.5/5
(#19 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously #5)

Also reviewed at:
caribousmom

Reminder: If you've reviewed this title and would like me to mention it here, please leave me the link in the comments or send me an email.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

1% Well-Read Challenge

I've never really given the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die much thought before since I know that I won't. Read them all, that is. But this is a fun idea for a challenge and there are several on the list that I would be interested in reading. Of course I first had to see just how poorly well-read I am in the first place. Of the 1001 books* I've only read 75 of them. In other words, I'm currently 7.49% well-read! The challenge then is to read an additional 10 books (and therefore approximately 1%) from the list in the next 10 months which would bring me up to the slightly more well-read total of 8.49%.
So here are my choices, some of which I was already planning on reading this year:

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
The Human Stain – Philip Roth
Perfume – Patrick Süskind
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Rashomon – Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan
An Artist of the Floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole
and/or one or more of the other about 20 books from the list that I already own.

*complete list here
**click on the button for more info and to sign up

Monday, May 19, 2008

la vie en rose

On Saturday we went back to Kyu Furukawa Teien, this time to visit the rose garden.
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Salon: adding to the wishlist

I finished 3 books this week! But it's not nearly as impressive as it sounds. After finishing Every Secret Thing, which in itself was a pretty quick read, I picked up Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Considering I only got it last week, that's a pretty rare, quick turnaround for me. But it's only 62 pages long and a children's story so you can imagine it didn't take long to read. And then, because I found it in the library and I don't seem to have enough of my own books to read (sarcasm intended!), I started How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I had to return Other Voices, Other Rooms so of course I had to have a browse at the library while I was there. I'm counting How I Live Now for the Book Awards Challenge though so there is a bit of method to my madness. Being a YA title, it was also a quick read and I finished it off earlier today. So you see, it sounds good but those 3 books together only add up to a total of 638 pages of easy-to-read prose, only about 400 of which were read this past week. The result of this though is that I'm now really behind on writing up reviews. I think I need to start a longer, denser book to read over the next week or two to give me time to catch up! I'm thinking either Kafka on the Shore or My Name is Red. I'll see which one grabs me when I head to bed soon.

As for book acquisitions, only one in this week, Leftovers by Laura Wiess. (Thanks Nancy!) So while I was good about not buying anything this week, I have been adding to my wishlist, primarily from the latest copy of newbooks magazine, from England, which just arrived. Always lots to tempt me in there! In this issue there is a long article about Barbary Gowdy and my hardback copy of Helpless, in the stack by my desk where it has been for a few months, is now openly leering at me. One of the featured books in this issue is Reading in Bed by Sue Gee. I'm certainly drawn to the title! There's also an excerpt from Run by Ann Patchett. I really enjoyed Bel Canto when I read it a few years ago. I really should try something else by her and this new one sounds quite good. I'm sure I'll find plenty more to tempt me but I'll peruse the rest of the magazine another day. I usually have to limit my reading of book magazines so that I don't end up with a very large order of books on its way! Surely I'm not alone in that!

Speaking of ordering books, after keeping my blog ad-free for over 2 years I finally joined Amazon Associates on the US site, Amazon.com, a couple of weeks ago. A lot of people seem to belong to one program or another and a little bit of pocket money for books would be very useful. I still want to keep the ads as unobtrusive as possible and will mainly just add links to books in the posts or sidebar. But if you happen to be heading there anyway, I'd be very appreciative if you'd click through from my blog. If you're also an associate, let me know so I can do the same. Thanks and happy reading!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Weekly Geeks #3: Childhood Books

This week's theme is childhood books and the task is to write a bit about them. I obviously started reading with picture books but I don't really remember those. When I think back on the books I loved as a child, The Chronicles of Narnia is usually one of the first ones to come to mind. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, will probably always be my favourite for being my introduction to that fantastical world. I don't know what the assignment was anymore but I remember once in elementary school, drawing a picture of a lantern in the middle of a snowy forest and being very disappointed that the teacher didn't seem to understand the significance of it.

I don't have many of my old books anymore, the result of too many moves and crucially one or two of them as a teenager when I figured I didn't need those kids books anymore! Of course I regret getting rid of some of them now! But I've always held on to my old battered Puffin box set of The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. I reread the entire series a few years ago, in 2003 to be exact, so before blogging. As a child I hadn't noticed or paid much attention to the Christian allegory present in the stories, but reading them again as an adult, it came across much more obviously. But I still enjoyed losing myself in the world of Narnia again and in that sense, revisiting my childhood.

Some other random books that were childhood favourites are Winnie the Pooh, Pippi Longstocking (I loved Pippi's spirit and independence!) and The Neverending Story which completely captivated my imagination. The Neverending Story, the movie, was also a favourite. We lived on a farm outside a small town when I was young, but I do remember borrowing books from the small library whenever I could. I made my way through many (if not all) of the Nancy Drew books that the library had. And I lived for the Scholastic book catalogues we got from school every so often. I'd pore over those for hours, reading the blurbs and trying to choose which ones I wanted. We also watched Little House on the Prairie religiously, and of course I read many of those books as well. Unfortunately those are among those that I don't have anymore.

And of course I wouldn't be a good Canadian if I hadn't read Anne of Green Gables! I went through a definite Anne phase and devoured as many Lucy Maud Montgomery books as I could get my hands on, but I especially loved the Anne books. And I had a huge crush on Gilbert! I still have these books as well. A sure sign that they meant a lot to me.
One summer we took a family vacation to the east coast of Canada, visiting Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Of course we had to visit Green Gables and see the musical while we were there! Other than the Narnia books, I don't recall re-reading any of my other childhood favourites, but I think it would be fun to revisit Anne someday. This year is actually the 100th anniversary since the original publication of Anne of Green Gables. Visit the website to find out about the events being held to celebrate the anniversary.
Thanks for sharing my stroll down memory lane.

Friday Fill-in #28


1. There is absolutely NO way you can get me to bungee jump!
2. The weather outside reminds me that summer is almost here!
3. I cannot live without my books.
4. Being more organized and less of a night owl are two things I'd like to try.
5. When life hands you lemons make lemon meringue pie.
6. Winter in Manitoba and playing outside in the snow is my favorite childhood memory. One winter after a freezing rain on top of the usual snow, tobogganing and literally flying down the hill, going further than ever achieved before or after, is one such memory!
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to starting a new book, tomorrow my plans include going somewhere or other with H, maybe back to Kyu Furukawa Teien to take pictures of the roses and Sunday, I want to relax and read!

BTW, If you're looking for a book giveaway...
I mentioned her contest during the last BAFAB Week in April, but Katrina of Stone Soup actually gives books away every week! This week she's offering ANY book you like under $25. Go leave her a comment with the book you're most sighing after right now.

And thanks to new blogging friend Teddy Rose, for passing on the Blogging Friends Forever Award. If only it were accepted at Amazon... :P

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'

by T.S. Eliot

Poetry, first published in 1939.
This edition, with drawings by Edward Gorey, published in 1982.
Faber and Faber, hardback, 58 p.
T. S. Eliot's collection of cat poems, written originally to amuse his godchildren and friends, has become one of the all-time favourites of children's literature. Suitable for all ages, the poems continue to delight and were the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber's brilliant musical Cats. For this edition, cult American artist Edward Gorey applies his distinctively charming and mischievous touch to illustrations for this wise and witty collection.
What fun! After my failure to get through Ariel by Sylvia Plath, I’m glad I could find some poetry to enjoy. Sure these are technically classified as children’s poems but they were simply a joy to read and the illustrations by Edward Gorey were a perfect combination. And now that I've read these, maybe I’ll even try some of his more serious poetry one of these days.

We did see the musical Cats when we visited Edinburgh a few years ago and I do so wish now that I’d read all the poems before seeing it. The only one I’d read before was The Naming of Cats, from which our Sir Bailey gets his name. Of them all, I do think the poem of the clever, mysterious Macavity is my favourite but they all made me smile. The story of the real cat that has been nicknamed Macavity, after the poem, is also quite cute. (Read the article here). You can read all the poems online here, but without the drawings of course. Recommended for all cat lovers and perhaps even for those who ... shh…prefer dogs.

My Rating: 4/5
(#18 for 2008, What's in a Name Challenge - Animal #3)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tonogayato Teien

From our visit last weekend to Tonogayato Teien (Park)
Tonogayato Teien

pink peony

baby bamboo
takenoko (baby bamboo)

Sunday Salon: too tired to read

This has been a pretty uneventful weekend. We've stayed home both days and it's been raining for much of the time. I think we both needed some down time though, so it's been good. And I managed to catch up a bit on some much needed sleep. Bailey still wakes me up several times during the night but it being the weekend I could slouch back to bed and didn't actually get up (to stay up) til noon-ish both yesterday and today. I'm still a bit tired but much better.

I didn't get a whole lot of reading in this past week though, what with only being able to read a few pages at night before falling asleep. One night I almost got hit on the head by the book slipping out of my hands in my drowsy state! I did finish Other Voices, Other Rooms by Capote but I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much unfortunately. I'm not sure Capote is for me. The only other book of his that I've read is In Cold Blood. I did like it better but I wasn't wowed by it either. I've got the film, Capote, here so hopefully I'll get a chance to watch it soon. Maybe that'll give me some insight into the man himself.

After finishing the Capote book, I was in the mood for some suspense so now I'm reading Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman. I'm still near the beginning and meeting the various characters but it seems promising. I first heard of this one from Nick Hornby in Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, and since it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel in 2004, I'm sneaking it in for the Book Awards challenge that I'm behind on. I had hoped to read a chunk of it today but somehow I ended up doing laundry and dishes and cooking and playing on the Internet and the day passed me by. I'm on my way to bed now though where I'll hopefully manage a few more pages.

I also had a couple of new acquisitions this week: Sakado and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr and The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Both of which I hope to read very soon, when I can stay awake long enough to do so! Have a great week!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Itsukushima Jinja

Since the has an open theme this week, we can post whatever we like. And since I still hadn't posted these photos from our trip to Miyajima at the end of March, here are a few favourites from Itsukushima Jinja.
Itsukushima jinja

Itsukushima jinja

red and black

make a wish

sunset at Itsukushima jinja

Friday, May 09, 2008

Weekly Geeks #2 and Friday Fill-in #27

I've had a few people give me links to their reviews this week, since implementing the new policy here on my blog as part of the Weekly Geeks Challenge for Week #2. (In case you missed what this is about, click on the link just above for more details). This has been a rather busy week for me so I haven't had a chance to search other blogs for reviews of books that I've also read, but I still plan to do so when I find the time. I definitely want to continue adding review links to mine here and will keep this as a standard policy on my blog, plus I think it'll be easier to keep up with future reviews as they are written. For the next little while at least, I'll try to remember to ask for links at the bottom of my book review posts. Thanks, Dewey, for encouraging us to incorporate a useful feature in our blogs.
Updated to add:
I just read Florinda's post and I have to agree with her wholeheartedly. Having a list of books read somewhere easily accessible or visible on the blog, is extremely helpful. You can find lists of the books I've read in the last 2 years linked in my sidebar, over there on the far left, just under my new 'Review Policy'. And one of these days I'll get around to making the list of books read in 2006, the year I started blogging.


1. The scrumptious chocolate cake that my mom used to make had an extra secret ingredient; it was zucchini!
2. There is a nice cool evening breeze coming through my window.
3. Right now, I need sleep. Darn cat keeps waking me up several times each night and I'm exhausted.
4. A coffee shop where I met one of my students for an hour is where I went Thursday night; it was much like every other Thursday.
5. Why do cat scratches hurt so much?
6. All I can think of is the bed, the book, and the weekend ahead.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to sleeping, tomorrow my plans include sleeping late and Sunday, I want to sleep and read! Of course all these sleep plans are probably wishful thinking. I may be reduced to having afternoon naps when said cat is also asleep!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Earthquake, naughty cat and BTT: Manual Labor

*May 8, 2008 1:45 am - Night owl that I am I wasn't asleep yet when we felt, what is probably the strongest earthquake I've ever experienced so far, the house shake for a good few minutes. Nothing fell down but things were rattling on the shelves, the doors and walls were swaying. It was a magnitude 6.7 where it originated but it seems that what we felt here was about a 4 on the Japanese intensity scale. Let's just say it was the first time I've actually moved to stand in a doorframe, all the while thinking that I haven't checked the expiry dates on the stuff in the earthquake kit in a while. Probably not the best time to think that. All is fine though. (Image from Canada.com)

*Bailey is such a naughty boy lately! He's like a tantrum-throwing toddler and a rebellious teenager all wrapped up in one some days. I'm so tired of dealing with his behaviour issues and the lack of sleep from him waking me up at all hours. Anyone want a badly-behaved, but otherwise cute white male cat? ;)
Mr. Bill Bailey
(No, I don't really want to give him away as much as I'm tempted to some days. He's been sucking up to me today but we'll see how long that lasts! I think he's grumpier than usual now that it's warmer. (I can relate to that!) He's already started hanging out on his cool sheet, made of metal so it always feels cool, as seen in the pic. Poor guy, it's only going to get much much worse!)

btt button
  • Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?
I've never aspired to be a writer so I don't have many writing books of that type but I do have quite a few textbooks and reference books for teaching English as a Second Language. Practical English Usage by Michael Swan is my Grammar Bible and I refer to it often. I also have a handful of non-fiction books on various aspects of English language and grammar like Blooming English by Kate Burridge or Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. Sadly I haven't read most of them yet, though Eats, Shoots and Leaves was quite amusing.
I still have many of my Applied Linguistics texts from university and I sometimes look at them and think I would probably enjoy them more now that I don't have to write a paper on them. Except perhaps for Transformational Grammar. If I never have to look at it again that would be fine with me. All those sentence trees are far too math-like, that big red book is simply taking up valuable space! But it's especially the ones to do with the social aspect of the English language or the history of it, as I love knowing where words came from, that most appeal to me now.

Moving on from the English language, I have quite a collection of second language (for me) textbooks and dictionaries. Represented are my one semester dip into Italian and Spanish, and a few books on Ukrainian. Then I have a shelf full of French study materials, dating back to when I studied it in school and later spent a year in France on a student exchange. I still have a bit of a love affair with France and the French, although my speaking ability is extremely rusty now. And last, of course, I have two shelves full of Japanese language study materials. Textbooks, and kanji books, and dictionaries, and vocabulary books and worksheets and ... and... Sigh. They mock me on a regular basis. And pretty much every time I leave the house and mangle the language in a shop or somewhere I feel bad about not studying it more seriously. Another New Year's Resolution that I haven't made good on. So I guess the verdict is that I have quite a lot of language-related reference material but I hardly use any of it. :(

Monday, May 05, 2008

azaleas in bloom

Kyu Furukawa Teien

Taken last weekend at Kyu Furukawa Teien in Tokyo.

pink azaleas

white azaleas

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