Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Salon: BAFAB Week Giveaway

It was another rainy Sunday here but I didn't get as much reading in as I would've liked. The story of my life it seems. I did finish Farewell to Manzanar in the morning though, and then started Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, which I'm enjoying so far. This week I posted reviews of The Tenderness of Wolves and The Scortas' Sun, both of which I enjoyed a lot for their strong settings.

But I'm going to keep it short this week because it's time once again for Buy a Friend a Book Week. This time, inspired by one of Stone Soup's Monday giveaways, I'm going to offer up my 're-homing pile'. These are the books that I don't plan to keep and that are currently living in a box near my desk waiting to be re-homed.
To enter, leave a comment on this post by Saturday, with the title of the book that you'd like to win. For two entries, blog about BAFAB Week and my giveaway, and then don't forget to come back and let me know that you have. I'll draw two names next Sunday. If by strange coincidence the two people drawn have chosen the same book, the first name out of the hat will get it and the second will have a chance to choose another from the pile.
(click on the photo to enlarge)

FYI: Moon Palace, Psalm at Journey's End, The Handmaid's Tale, Vendetta, and An Equal Music are registered at Bookcrossing.
P.S. Giveaway open to anyone who can receive mail! :)

I'm very behind on blog reading but I'll be posting about other BAFAB giveaways here as I come across them, so let me know if you're giving books away this week as well.

Other giveaways:
S. Krishna's Books - a copy of The Beach House by Jane Green (US & Canada)
Temple Library Reviews - a copy of Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis
Juxtabook - a copy of The Road to Haworth with some postcards from the Bronte Parsonage Museum Shop.
Books4all - a surprise book, the only clue is that it's a recent paperback novel!
Oxford reader - a Virago Modern Classic birthday edition
In the Shadow of Mt. TBR - a $20 Borders Gift Card
Stone Soup - a copy of any book she's mentioned on her blog.
Welcome to My World of Dreams - a $20 Amazon gift certificate
Lori's Reading Corner - a copy of The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
The Hidden Side of a Leaf - five future books (she explains what that means on the post)

Book Awards Challenge completed

I managed to finish my 12th, and last, book for the challenge with just a couple of days to spare before it officially ends tomorrow. Whew! I really enjoyed the challenge though and that extra push to read some of the award winners hanging out on my shelves. I only read 6 that I originally intended to, but they were all worth reading so I can't complain.

Books completed:
(clicking on the title will take you to my review)
1. them - Joyce Carol Oates (National Book Award 1970)
2. Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata (Nobel Prize for Literature 1968)
3. The Love of a Good Woman - Alice Munro (Giller Prize 1998)
4. Kira-Kira - Cynthia Kadohata (Newbery Medal 2005)
5. The Road - Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer Prize 2007)
6. Birds of a Feather - Jacqueline Winspear (Agatha Award 2004)
7. Every Secret Thing - Laura Lippman (Anthony Award 2004)
8. How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff (Printz Award 2005)
9. Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami (World Fantasy Award 2006, Franz Kafka Prize 2006)
10. The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo (Newbery Medal 2004)
11. The Tenderness of Wolves - Stef Penney (Costa/Whitbread 2006)
12. The Scortas' Sun -Laurent Gaudé (Prix Goncourt 2004)

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
The Road and Kafka on the Shore. They're both already on my Best of 2008 List.

Book(s) I could have done without?
None. They were all worth reading. I didn't perhaps enjoy Them, and Every Secret Thing as much as I'd hoped to but I don't regret reading them.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
8 of the 12 were by authors I hadn't read before and I'd be willing to read something else by any of them. Of those, I'd especially like to read more by Cormac McCarthy, and Yasunari Kawabata though.

Best thing about the challenge?
The best thing was probably reading a variety of books from a variety of literary awards. Not a requirement this time around but, quite unintentionally, I ended up choosing books from different awards. Except for two Newbery Medal winners, the other 10 books I read all won different awards.
I still have many award-winning books in my TBR stacks so I'm glad that there will be a second round of the challenge beginning in August. I've already been thinking which ones I hope to read this time around and I'll be posting about it later this week.
A big thanks to 3M for hosting!

'The Scortas' Sun'

by Laurent Gaudé
(Originally published in French as Le Soleil des Scorta, published in the US and Canada as The House of Scorta.)
Translated from the French by Andrew Brown
Fiction/Literature, 2004 (France), 2006 (English translation)
Hesperus Press, hardback, 202 p.
WINNER of the Prix Goncourt, 2004
Boasting a notorious brigand as an ancestor, the Scorta family is born into extreme poverty in the small Italian village of Montepuccio. Each successive generation must confront their heritage and attempt to wrest a living out of the sun-scorched fields of Apulia, while passing on their pride, their cherished memories, and their passionate appetite for life. Spanning five generations of Scortas, the family’s deepest secrets and fiercest passions are at last revealed by Carmela as she makes her final confession to the village priest.
A profoundly human work set in the glorious landscape of southern Italy, Laurent Gaudé’s sweeping, cinematic tale of family life won the Prix Goncourt in 2004.
I really felt I was armchair travelling while reading this book, as it transported me to the hot, sun-scorched landscape of the Apulia region of southern Italy. The story covers several generations of the Scorta family from a rather illustrious beginning. Sometimes the author gives detailed descriptions that really bring the people and events to life, other times the story skips ahead several years down the road. In this way it was like snapshots of their lives laid out to tell their story. Despite the secrets, passions, and regrets of each successive generation, what comes through is their strong attachment to the land and the importance of family. Like the previous book I read, it was the vividly portrayed setting that really made this an enjoyable read.
Olives are eternal. A single olive doesn’t last. It grows ripe and rots. But olives succeed one another, in an infinite, repetitive way. They’re all different, but the long chain of them is endless. They have the same shape, the same colour, they have been ripened by the same sun and have the same taste. So yes, olives are eternal. Like men. The same infinite succession of life and death.
My Rating: 4/5
(#27 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #12, Orbis Terrarum Challenge #2)

Reminder: If you have read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll add the link here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

PhotoHunt: Bright

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Taken near Victoria, Canada - November 2007

Friday, June 27, 2008

'The Tenderness of Wolves'

by Stef Penney

Fiction/Mystery, 2006
Quercus, trade pb, 445 p.
WINNER of the Costa Book of the Year 2006, Longlist - Orange Prize 2007
Interview with the author
1867, Canada.
As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a woman steels herself for the journey of a lifetime. A man has been brutally murdered and her seventeen-year-old son has disappeared. The violence has re-opened old wounds and inflamed deep-running tensions in the frontier township – some want to solve the crime; others seek only to exploit it.
To clear her son’s name, she has no choice but to follow the tracks leaving the dead man’s cabin and head north into the forest and the desolate landscape that lies beyond it…
The quote on the back of my copy that calls it ‘a fascinating, suspense-filled adventure’ pretty much describes my thoughts on it as well. The historical aspects of the fur trade and pioneer life in northern Canada were very interesting. It wasn’t necessarily fast-paced and full of action but the murder mystery and the search for the perpetrator added suspense. And the fact that the search led them through such harsh terrain was certainly an adventure. A nicely told story with a large, varied cast of characters, it was actually the bitterly cold, snowy landscape, so vividly portrayed, that became the strongest element of the story for me. At it’s core, a mystery, but more than that too. All in all, a very enjoyable read.

Stef Penney talks about the novel:


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

Also reviewed at:
ReadingAdventures
Reminder: If you've read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.

Friday Fun


1. Birthdays are a nice excuse to eat cake.
2. In Japan, fall is my favorite season because it means summer is over and the maple trees turn gloriously red.
3. I feel my best when I've had enough sleep.
4. Cheese is my favorite food!
5. First impressions are sometimes hard to overcome.
6. The best piece of advice I ever received was if at first you don't succeed, try again.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to a good night's sleep, tomorrow my plans include going out somewhere with H, maybe to take pictures of hydrangeas and Sunday, I want to read!

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123 meme
1. Pick up the nearest book, and open it to page 123.
2. Find the fifth sentence, and post the next three sentences.

I'm currently reading Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston.
When his bus pulled out I only knew that if anything happened to him the world would probably be coming to an end, because nothing could happen to Woody. He had always been so solid. I hugged Mama while we watched his final wave through the window, his mustache lifting above that impish smile, as if we had all just pulled a fast one on the world.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Weekly Geeks #9: Challenges

This week's theme was challenges, and more specifically, getting them organised. I needed to update my progress on several of the challenges I'm participating in, so it was a nice push in the right direction. I keep track of my progress on my own blog each month but I've been bad about not posting to the challenge blogs. So today I've added review links or posted reviews at the various challenge blogs, updated some lists and I believe I'm now pretty well caught up. This'll teach me to keep them up-to-date. I'm still behind on the actual reading for some of the challenges but I'll be trying to work on that over the summer.

The following is a list of all the challenges and projects I'm currently participating in and my progress. (See sidebar for buttons and links).

READING CHALLENGES
Book Awards Challenge (July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008) - completed 12 books out of 12
I just finished reading my 12th, and last, book for the challenge with just a few days to spare. I still need to review the last 2 books that I read for it but will do that soon. I plan to join round 2 that will start in August so I'll be posting on that again later.
Non-Fiction Five Challenge (May 1 - Sep. 30, 2008) - 1 out of 5
Herding Cats Challenge (May 1 - Nov. 30, 2008) - 1 out of 3
Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Apr. 1 - Dec. 20, 2008) - 2 out of 9
My Year of Reading Dangerously (Jan. - Dec. 2008) - 5 out of 12
What's in a Name Challenge - (Jan. - Dec. 2008) 3 out of 6
Graphic Novels Challenge (July - Dec. 2008) - 0 out of 3 (add to sidebar)
Reading Jane Austen (Jan. - Dec. 2008) - 1 out of 2
1% Well-Read Challenge (May 1, 2008 - Feb. 28, 2009) - 1 out of 10

I've also decided to join the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, which starts next month, and which I'll be posting about in the next couple of days.

LONG-TERM PROJECTS
Reading Japan - I've read 8 books so far this year.
Orange Prize Project - I've read 2 books so far this year.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Salon: rainy days

Well I didn't make it to the Salon last week. You can see where I was and what I was taking pictures of instead of reading last Sunday here. I've also been having computer troubles lately. Instead of just being generally uncooperative and slow, my computer has taken to shutting itself off whenever it feels like it, usually when I'm right in the middle of something! So today I come to the Salon from my used but new-to-me MacBook. I've finally joined the world of Apple, other than my trusty ipod that is. I'm still getting used to it but it's nice to have something a bit more portable than my old one.

This has been a pretty slow month for me, so far, reading-wise so I haven't actually a whole lot to report. In the last couple of weeks I did finally post my review of Down to a Sunless Sea. I also finished reading The Tenderness of Wolves a couple of days ago so a review should be coming soon. I really enjoyed the setting, late 19th century in northern Canada. Now I've picked up The Scortas' Sun by Laurent Gaudé, winner of the Prix Goncourt in 2004 and a Hesperus Press title. I love their books! It's another one with a strong setting. Whereas I felt like I could really feel the biting cold winter winds and snow in The Tenderness of Wolves, now I'm experiencing dry, hot sunshine in southern Italy.

And speaking of weather, I'm glad we went out a lot last weekend because this has been a very rainy weekend, today especially. Rain, rain and more rain. For rainy season, we actually had quite a few dry days, up until now, but it's made up for it in the last couple of days. It does look like it might let up a bit on Tuesday though. Ah well, good weather for staying home with a book. So today has been spent partly reading my book, and reading blogs in an attempt to catch up, and then we ordered pizza and finally watched The Bourne Ultimatum. A nice, lazy day.

My new aquisitions in the last couple of weeks include a signed copy of Matrimony gratefully received from the author, Joshua Henkin, which I hope to read early next month. Also a copy of The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein. I'm so thrilled to have finally got a couple of review copies. I quite envy those of you in the US or UK with easier access to them. Anyway, I also ordered a couple of non-fiction books. Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation and Re-enchantment: Tibetan Buddhism Comes to the West. Both of these purchases a little bit inspired by recent events.

And last, if you haven't already, you have one more day to enter Stephanie's giveaway for a copy of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.
And don't forget Heather's draw for two books to be held on the 27th.
Have a great week. May your weather be dry and cool.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

PhotoHunt: Water

For this week's theme, I decided to go with things that grow in water.
newly planted rice
rice

irises
irises

water lily
water lilies

Friday, June 20, 2008

'Down to a Sunless Sea'

by Mathias B. Freese

Fiction/Short Stories, 2007 (stories published previously in various publications, 1974 - 2007)
Wheatmark, trade pb, 118 p.
Interviews with the author here and here.
Read more on the author's blog.
Down to a Sunless Sea plunges the reader into uncomfortable situations and into the minds of troubled characters. Each selection is a different reading experience – poetic, journalistic, nostalgic, wryly humourous, and even macabre. An award-winning essayist and historical novelist, Mathias B. Freese brings the weight of his twenty-five years as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist into play as he demonstates a vivid understanding of – and compassion toward – the deviant and damaged.
As is often the case with a collection of short stories, whether an anthology by different authors or all by one author, as the case with this book, I liked some of the stories more than others. But the blurb on the back cover (above) that states that this book “plunges the reader into uncomfortable situations and into the minds of troubled characters” is a very apt description, and what appealed to me about the book in the first place.
One of the most difficult stories to read was I’ll Make It, I Think, in the voice of a crippled young man. Knowing that it’s based on the author’s crippled cousin makes it even more heart-wrenching. My favourite story was Alabaster, in which a young boy meets an old woman, a Holocaust survivor, in the park. Little Errands, about doubting yourself, was one I could certainly relate to. I can’t count how many times I’ve worried that I haven’t locked the door, or turned off the gas for the stove, or something similar. I also enjoyed the dark humour of The Chatham Bear, apparently based on true events. And I felt sorry for young Edward, in Mortise and Tenon, his mother forcing her opinions on him, and denying his individuality.
All in all I think the author has done a wonderful job tapping into, and exploring, human nature. He neither condones, nor condemns, he simply tells the stories, letting the reader take from them what they will.
I missed Billy not because we were close, that is nostalgia; I missed Billy because he was part of an arc in my life, a player in it, part of the context that explains me to me. (Billy’s Mirrored Wall)
My Rating: 3.5/5
(#25 for 2008)

Thank you very much to the author for giving me the chance to read and review this title. Not many are willing to send overseas so it's especially appreciated.

Also reviewed at:
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
My Own Little Reading Room
Puss Reboots
J. Kaye's Book Blog
BooksPlease
Tip of the Iceberg

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Once Upon a Time II Challenge completed

I had thought I might have time to squeeze in one more before the end of the challenge, but that is unlikely now with only 2 days remaining. I did read 5 books though, completing Quest the First, which is what I originally set out to do. I read 4 books from my original list of choices and still hope to get to the rest before too long.


Books completed:
(clicking on the title will take you to my review)
1. Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbitt
2. A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
3. Once Upon a Time in the North - Philip Pullman
4. Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
5. The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo

For links to the reviews of all the participants, see the Review Site here.

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. I can see why it's become one of his most well-known books and will likely end up on my best of list for the year.

Book(s) I could have done without?
None! I enjoyed all of them!

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
Natalie Babbitt, Libba Bray and Kate DiCamillo were new-to-me. I will probably continue with the other books in the trilogy by Libba Bray but there are other books, in other series, calling to me more right now. Of these three, my guess is that it'll be another book by Kate DiCamillo that will get picked up and read the soonest.
As for the not new-to-me authors, Philip Pullman and Haruki Murakami, it was very fun to spend some time in their worlds again and I will definitely be reading more from them.

Best thing about the challenge? What did I learn?
I already knew this but that Carl is the challenge host extraordinaire. I don't always read much fantasy but it's such fun I think I'll have to read more of it, more often. I really enjoyed reading all the books I did for the challenge and I'm already looking forward to Once Upon a Time III! Thanks for another great challenge Carl.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Yuri-en (lily park)

Yesterday we spent most of the afternoon here, at Yuri-en, a lily park outside of Tokyo.
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Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday at last!


1. Travelling to all the places I still want to go to but haven't is high up on my bucket list. (I have to admit that I had to look up what a bucket list was before answering...out of the loop as usual!)
2. My favorite I can't choose an absolute favourite but a quote I like is "You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details."; it's from Before Sunset. (I've been in a Celine and Jesse mood lately. Just like I sometimes get the urge to watch Pride and Prejudice for the gazillionth time, so too Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. I really hope they make a third film someday.)
3. Reading book blogs inspired me to start blogging.
4. Strawberries are best with ice cream. Isn't everything better with ice cream? :P
5. Fragments of a bizarre dream I had while reading Kafka on the Shore by Murakami is the last dream I remember having.
6. The most enjoyable time to go for a walk is in the evening, on a beach, watching the sunset.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to sleeping (I've had far too little this week), tomorrow my plans include probably taking pictures somewhere with H and Sunday, I want to relax and catch up on blog reading!

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123 meme
1. Pick up the nearest book, and open it to page 123.
2. Find the fifth sentence, and post the next three sentences.

My current read, The Tenderness of Wolves, is in the bedroom right now so to stay true to the meme, the nearest book to me right now is a signed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin which I received from the author earlier this week.
"Why so glum? Don't pretend this isn't great news."
"I guess it's better than not being offered it."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Weekly Geeks #7: Photo Edition

This week's theme is to post photos, preferably bookish ones, so I decided to give you..
"The Top Shelf"
On the top shelf of one of my bookcases, I keep the books that have been signed by the authors. When we lived in England I had the chance to attend a few book signings and the books in the picture above are all personalized by authors I met in person. Of course I'm always a bit in awe of them so I never know what to say but it was fun to see the writers behind the books. Not shown, a few other signed books that I randomly found at bookshops in London or elsewhere.
Some of the highlights from my small collection..
From the pen of David Mitchell, a self image (?) of him drinking a bottle of Kirin, a Japanese beer. I mentioned to him that I'd also lived in Japan. :)
Some more spontaneous art from the pens of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. The above in a copy of The Wolves in the Walls, which I got to hear Neil read aloud!
I never had the opportunity to meet her, but I found this signed copy in a bookstore in Victoria where she had obviously done a signing after the release of Unless.

Some other Weekly Geeks photos that you should check out if you haven't already...
I love Nymeth's homage to stuffonmycat.com!
Maree shared pictures of some of her cats and books.
Harry's "Photosession with stimulants" produced some fun, gothic pictures.
Chris shares some of the books around her house.
brideofthebookgod shows us her comfy reading chair. I want one!
katrina gives us a picture journal of where her reading has taken her this week.
Terri has a clever way to keep those TBR books from being too tempting.
Katherine shows us her tidy, alphabetized bookshelves. I can only dream!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Graphic Novels Challenge

OK, OK, I give in. After a little gentle arm-twisting (it didn't take much really) from Andi, Iliana and Dewey, I've decided to join the Graphic Novels Challenge. By joining now, half-way through the year, the goal is to read 3 graphic novels by the end of December. I'm already planning to read Maus I and II for My Year of Reading Dangerously so that'll be one of my choices. For the others I might choose from these that I already have: 99 Ways to Tell a Story by Matt Madden, City of Glass by Paul Auster (adapted into graphic novel form by Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli), one of the Tintin stories I have, The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman, or finally reading some manga, or anything else that sounds interesting. I already have several in my wishlist that I've jotted down after reading the reviews from other bloggers so I should hopefully have no problem with choice.
I'm pretty new to the genre having only read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi a few years ago, and a handful of comic strips when I was younger. (I do love Calvin and Hobbes!) So it'll be fun to read something that's different from my usual fare.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Salon: giveaways

I didn't do much reading on Sunday (it's Monday afternoon here) but did have a day at home and mostly relaxed. OK I did some housework but not too much. A bit of sad and scary news though. A guy randomly stabbed several people in Akihabara in Tokyo on Sunday, around midday. 7 people died and 10 others were injured. This happened in the electronics district, THE place to go if you want to buy anything electronics or game related. We were just there last Sunday! Yikes. Makes me doubly glad we stayed home yesterday.
But I shouldn't have started with such depressing news, sorry, so on to books. This past week I was fairly busy so I didn't get a lot of reading time in unfortunately, but I did finish the short story collection, Down to a Sunless Sea, by Mathias B. Freese. Some of the stories were quite dark and raw. I'll post a review of it sometime later this week hopefully, although this week looks like it'll be another busy one. Now I'm reading The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney. I did the 'first few lines and random flip test' and this is the one that most appealed to me out of the other 5 I was choosing from. Does anyone else do that? I'm not too far into it but so far so good.
So that's it for my book news this week but there are a few giveaways happening.
Heather is giving away a signed hardback copy of Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott. You can also read her interview with the author here.
Valentina is giving away 3 books that she's reviewed to 3 winners to celebrate her 1st year of blogging.
Another Heather is holding her first book giveaway, and she has 2 books up for grabs this month.
And Dewey is giving away a copy of We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin in the effort to help spread respect for graphic novels. I have to admit that the only graphic novel I've read is Persepolis I and II by Marjane Satrapi but I really enjoyed it and would like to read more. I didn't join the Graphic Novels Challenge at the beginning of the year because with all the other challenges I wasn't sure I could add 6 more books to my list for the year, but I'm tempted to join now with a half-year goal of reading 3 graphic novels by the end of the year, which Dewey says is ok. I'll have to think about it. Reading challenges are both my motivation and my downfall. Have a great week!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

PhotoHunt: Bad Hair

Why a photo of Bailey looking goofy for this week's theme, bad hair? Well, since he's white, his hair shows up on everything, all year long. It makes wearing dark clothes a pain since I have to de-hair them all the time. But now that it's spring, going on summer, when he's shedding A LOT, his hair is Literally Everywhere! Whatever possessed me to agree to having a white cat, I don't know. But this photo does make me smile. :)

Friday, June 06, 2008

BTT: Trends and Friday Fill-In

btt button
Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?
I've always preferred novels to non-fiction but the genre has changed a bit over time. Just in the last year or so I've started reading mysteries. My mom used to read loads of mysteries but I never really got into them before. I've started a few series now though and look forward to continuing them and trying others.
I had a short chick lit phase a few years ago but they don't really interest me too much now, although I still have a few that I should probably get around to reading someday. I think mysteries have taken the place of chicklit for me, for when I'm in the mood for something fun and easy to read. Or children's/YA fantasy.
I suppose there might be a general tendency toward more serious books over the years, or at least a willingness to try books I thought too 'difficult' before. So far this year, My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge has been good at getting me to read books I'd stayed away from before.
I've been interested in International literature for awhile but lately I have been reading much more Japanese or Asian literature. I didn't read that much of it when I lived here before but now I'm very interested in learning more about the culture that surrounds me and reading Japanese authors, both classic and modern. Hence my personal long-term Reading Japan project. But when it comes right down to it all I want is a good story, whatever the genre.


1. Idle hands are rare around here, there's always a book that needs holding.
2. I love L'Occitane soap or shower gel in the shower.
3. My favorite time of the day is when it's evening and everything is quiet.
4. The last tea I drank was cold tea with dinner, an oolong tea blend.
5. I like to complain about the heat and humidity in the Summer.
6. My mother always said "cleanliness is next to godliness". Actually I don't remember her saying that exactly but she was a bit of a clean freak, having been a nurse, and instilled in me the love of clean.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to hopefully finishing my current book, tomorrow my plans include taking advantage of the non-rainy weather to visit another iris garden, possibly followed by a bit of shopping and Sunday, I want to relax and read!

And I'm going to copy Florinda and do the 123 meme.

1. Pick up the nearest book, and open it to page 123.
2. Find the fifth sentence, and post the next three sentences.

Right now I'm almost finished reading Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese, a collection of short stories.
I sat up all day Saturday. Death takes a holiday. I looked out the window for hours.
(from the story For a While, Here, in this Moment)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Weekly Geeks #6 and rainy season

I missed the last couple of weeks. I simply ran out of time to post on the suggested themes, but this week's was a nice little motivator.
This week's theme: Catch Up On Reviews Week

I usually try to keep pretty up to date with my reviews. I don't read that quickly so it's not usually a problem but last month I did get quite behind. Since I post a monthly reading recap at the end of the month, with links to my reviews, I was busy catching up on reviews at the end of last week. I got the last posted on Sunday morning, just about when I read this week's Weekly Geeks challenge.

Since my reviews are caught up now, and I had some time today, I thought it was a good time to finally do some other blog housekeeping. So if you look over in my sidebar on the far left I now have a list of Books Read in 2006 along with the list of Books Read in 2007 and 2008 I had done previously. And then I went ahead and made an Author Index too like I've seen on some other blogs. It makes me feel more organised and should also help anyone looking for reviews that we share in keeping with the review sharing policy adopted through Weekly Geeks a few weeks ago.

And then, since rainy season officially began earlier this week, on Monday, June 2nd, to be exact, I decided to play around with my wet rose pictures from a couple weeks ago and made a new header. It's been raining a fair bit this week so it seems rather appropriate.

Thanks for the nudge to get me to make those lists. Now, I just need to find some time to play around with the HTML and make a couple of layout changes I've been meaning to try, and to catch up on reading blogs but for now I need sleep. Back tomorrow.

Monday, June 02, 2008

in search of irises

Yesterday we went to Koishikawa Korakuen in the hope of taking pictures of the iris garden there. We were a bit early as they were just starting to bloom but we still found a few to take pictures of.
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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Salon: May in Review (Book Binge)

Well I missed joining the salon last week so let's see what I've read in the meantime.. oh yes, two weeks ago I'd just finished How I Live Now and was debating what to start next. I was leaning that way and I did end up choosing Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and what a fun, compelling read that was. The first couple times I read Murakami I just didn't get it and his open endings left me frustrated but I must say he has really grown on me. I still don't necessarily understand the deeper meaning of his books but I sure enjoy the ride. He really is quite the storyteller.
After my Murakami fix, I picked up The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. What a cute story! I finished it Saturday but haven't read anything yet today (and it's past midnight already) except for a few articles in a month-old issue of TIME magazine. (I'm so behind on my magazine reading, it's really quite sad.)

As for new book acquisitions, 4 more have showed up in my mailbox in the last couple of weeks. Dingo by Charles de Lint that I won at the beginning of the Once Upon a Time Challenge (Thanks Carl!), Beauty and Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata and Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie, both from Madeleine (Thank you!!) and earlier today, I was thrilled to receive my first review copy sent to me by an author! I don't get offered review copies very often - a problem of geography - so I was thrilled to get Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese in today's post. I look forward to starting it when I head to bed in a little bit but I have so many books I'd like to be reading right now it's quite overwhelming.

It's hard to believe another month has passed already (I say the same thing every month!) but since it has, here is my monthly recap for May.
Books completed:
(click on the title to read my review)
18. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats - T.S. Eliot
19. Other Voices, Other Rooms - Truman Capote
20. Every Secret Thing - Laura Lippman
21. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes - Eleanor Coerr
22. How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff
23. Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
24. The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo

A pretty good month for me, 7 books completed. Granted 4 of these were quite short children's books but I think that's what I needed this month. I finished Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats before the 5th so for the purposes of Book Binge, which started on May 5th, I suppose it's technically 6 for that.

Favourite of the month: Kafka on the Shore - definitely!
And even though I was a bit disappointed with a couple of the other books, I don't regret reading any of them. I still took away something from all of them.

Books in: 8 (5 of which I either won or were given by the generosity of other bloggers, and of the other 3 that I bought myself, I read 2 of them! That's got to be a record turnaround. Other than the later Harry Potter books, new books around here tend to end up getting shelved and there they may remain unread for months or years!)
Books out: 0

Reading Challenges- Progress Report:
(see sidebar for all current challenges and reading projects)
Once Upon a Time II Challenge - 5 down, 0 to go (by June 20th)
Book Awards Challenge - 10 down, 2 to go (by June 30th)
Non-Fiction Five Challenge - 0 down, 5 to go (by September 30th)
tl;dr (Herding Cats) Challenge - 1 down, 2 to go (by November 30th)
Orbis Terrarum Challenge - 0 down, 9 to go (by December 20th)
My Year of Reading Dangerously- 5 down, 7 to go (by December 31st)
What's in a Name Challenge - 3 down, 3 to go (by December 31st)
Austen Mini-Challenge - 1 down, 1 to go (by December 31st)

Plus I joined one new challenge in May.
1% Well-Read Challenge - 1 down, 9 to go (by Feb. 28, 2009)

Long-term Reading Projects:
Reading Japan Project - 2 books read in May which makes 7 read so far this year. My list of Japan-related books read (by Japanese and non-Japanese authors) here.
The Orange Prize Project - 1 book read in May which is the first this year, my list of previously read titles here.

Reading Plans for June:
I read 4 Book Award Winners in May so I'm now within reach of completing the challenge at the end of June. And I'm already planning to sign up for the 2nd Book Awards challenge that starts in August! I'm also finished the required 5 books for the Once Upon a Time II Challenge but I may squeeze in one more before the Summer Solstice so I won't post a wrap-up until then.
But I really need to start reading more international literature for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge. I've read some Japanese authors but not the one on my list. I know we can change our lists but I'd still like to read it so I won't count Japan until then. But that's it. All the authors I've read so far this year (except for one book by Henning Mankell (Swedish) in January before the OT challenge started) have been American, English, Canadian or Japanese. Must do better. Plus I'd like to start reading some of my non-fiction choices. The stack of books that I'd like to read soon, by my desk, is dangerously tall. But it's true that too many books is always better than not enough!
Here's hoping for another good reading month in June.

'The Tale of Despereaux'

by Kate DiCamillo

Fiction/Fantasy/kidlit, 2003
Candlewick Press, trade pb, 257 p.
Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
WINNER of the Newbery Medal, 2004
Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. And what happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.
What a cute story! Little Despereaux, different from the other mice for his love of reading and music, is a very brave little mouse on a very dangerous quest. It is perhaps at its heart a simple story of hope and forgiveness, but it’s so nicely told. Because of the narrative style, in which the author often addresses the reader directly, this would be a great book to read aloud. And the book itself was a joy to hold. I personally love those rough-cut edges and the illustrations were wonderful, really adding to the story. A story to make you smile. Recommended for kids and kids-at-heart.
Despereaux waited until she was gone, and then he reached out and, with one paw, touched the lovely words. Once upon a time.
Despereaux also reminded me of Remy the rat in Ratatouille. That was such a cute movie! And speaking of animated movies, I didn’t know (until just now) that The Tale of Despereaux is being made into one! With Emma Watson as Princess Pea, Matthew Broderick as the voice of Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman as the voice of Roscuro and so on. I don’t watch many animated movies. Before seeing Ratatouille a few months ago, I can’t remember the last time I watched one, but I may be tempted to see this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#24 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #10, Once Upon a Time II Challenge #5)

If you've read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll add a link to your review here.