Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Non-Fiction Five Challenge completed

I tend not to read a lot of non-fiction, although I usually end up enjoying it when I do, so the Non-Fiction Five Challenge was a great little motivator for me, both last year and again this year. The goal was to read 5 books and I ended up reading 6 non-fiction books over the last 5 months, 3 of which were from my original list of possibilites.

I really enjoyed all of the books I read this year. As usual, some of my reading had a Japanese focus, from the account of life at one of the Japanese internment camps in the US during WWII, to learning about the hikikomori and some of the problems facing modern Japanese society, and to admiring the beauty and tradition of becoming a geisha in Kyoto. I also was moved to read a different account of the Holocaust, and about the terrible genocide taking place in Darfur. And I even had a little spiritual training as I learned how a British woman became a celebrated practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. So all in all, I think it was a pretty successful challenge!

Books completed:
(click on the title to read my review)
Farewell to Manzanar - Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston
Shutting Out the Sun - Michael Zielenziger
Maus I & II - Art Spiegelman
Cave in the Snow - Vicki MacKenzie
A Geisha's Journey - Komomo (& Naoyuki Ogino)
The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur - Daoud Hari (with Dennis Michael Burke & Megan M. McKenna)

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
They were all very good but I think Maus I & II and The Translator would come out on top. They were both such moving stories and I predict the images from them will stay with me for a long time.

Book(s) I could have done without?
None. They were all interesting and I'm glad to have read them.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
They were all new to me! A couple had never published before so in that case it's not very surprising. They have all made me want to read more on their respective topics, but I would certainly consider reading something else in the future by any of these authors as well.

Best thing about the challenge? What did I learn?
That even though I usually read fiction, I do enjoy reading non-fiction when I get around to it. (Yup, I just looked and I said something very similar last year!) I really should try to read more of it on my own.
Thanks so much for hosting again Joy!

Monday, September 29, 2008

'The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur'

by Daoud Hari
As told to Dennis Michael Burke and Megan M. McKenna
Non-Fiction/Memoir, 2008
Penguin UK, trade pb, 211 p.
Daoud Hari lost a way of life in Darfur. But amidst the carnage and turmoil he found a new calling…
As a Zaghawa tribesman in the Darfur region of Sudan, Daoud Hari grew up racing camels across the desert, attending colourful weddings and, when his work was done, playing games under the moonlight. But in 2003 helicopter gunships swooped down on Darfur’s villages and shattered that way of life forever. Sudanese government-backed militias came to murder, rape and burn. To drive the tribesmen from their lands.
When Hari’s village was attacked and destroyed, his family was decimated. He escaped and roamed the battlefield deserts, helping the weak and vulnerable find food, water and safety. When international aid groups and reporters arrived, Hari gave his services as a translator and guide. To do so was to risk his life, for the Sudanese government had outlawed journalists, punishing aid to ‘foreign spies’ with death. Yet Hari did so time and again. Until eventually his luck ran out…
The Translator is a harrowing tale of selfless courage in terrifying conditions.
It’s easy to just live our lives and ignore what’s happening in places far away thinking it doesn't concern us. I’ll often go a few days without watching the news myself although my husband will often tell me some of the headlines. The news is usually so negative all the time that some days I just prefer to stay away. But we really shouldn’t be so complacent when such extreme violence is affecting the lives of so many innocent people. I had heard of Darfur but admit that I really hadn’t given it much serious thought or realised just how awful the situation there was. Much like the film Hotel Rwanda opened my eyes to the atrocities happening there, this book has made me aware of the horrifying genocide currently still taking place in Darfur.
Can you do that [genocide] in this century? Can you solve all your problems by killing everyone in your way? That is for the world to decide. Deciding if and when the traditional people of Darfur can go home will also decide if genocide works or not, and therefore whether it will happen elsewhere again in the world. It seems to me that this is a good place to stop it forever.
This memoir is the result of many hours of conversations with the co-authors, and while reading it, it felt like I was there in the room with Daoud speaking to me personally. And even though the stories he recounts are heartbreaking, he has the most wonderful positive attitude, and even a sense of humour that shows up at times, you can’t help but admire his outlook and bravery through everything. It’s a fairly slim book, and easy to read, but such an important topic. Everyone really should read this! Thanks to Natasha’s Reading and Blogging for Darfur Project for encouraging me to read this sooner rather than later, and helping me be a bit less ignorant about the crisis going on there. I now want to read more about it. These are stories that need to be heard, and hopefully Daoud's story and others will continue to reach more people so the victims of Darfur will not be overlooked or forgotten.
The story I am telling here is based on my memories of a time of great difficulty and confusion. I have done my best to capture the details of my experiences, and to set them down here accurately and to the utmost of my recollection, and I am grateful to those who have helped me focus and occasionally correct my account. Of course, no two people can view the same event in the same way, and I know that others will have their own tales to tell. Surely these collective tales will add up to the truth of the tragedy in Darfur.
Suggestions for further reading from Natasha at Maw Books Blog.
A Darfur Primer
Interview with Daoud Hari
Article in Newsweek
How You Can Help
Guest post by Dennis Burke, co-author of The Translator.
*Photo © Megan McKenna

My Rating: 4/5
(#41 for 2008, Maw Books Blog ‘Reading and Blogging for Darfur’ project, Orbis Terrarum Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Maw Books Blog
Book Haven
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
Reminder: If you have also read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll add your link here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

'Three Shadows'

by Cyril Pedrosa
Translated from the French by Edward Gauvin
Fiction/Graphic Novel, 2007 (English translation, 2008)
First Second, soft cover, 269 p.
Back then, life was simple and sweet. The taste of cherries, the cool shade, the fresh smell of the river… That was how we lived, in a vale among the hills – sheltered from storms, ignorant of the world, as though on an island, peaceful and untroubled.
And then…
Then everything changed.
This was a moving story of the love of two parents for their child and how they cope with the uncertainty of his future. As it says on the back flap, “Three Shadows was born out of the agony of watching his close friends’ child die very young”, and as such it felt very real and emotional. He’s also taken a dark story about death and turned it into something almost beautiful.
I didn’t always love the artwork but it was always interesting, and Pedrosa did a great job of telling the story through brush strokes instead of words in many places. The author has a background in animation and you can really feel the movement of many of the scenes from his unique style.
Thanks to Popin’s review (see below) and the Graphic Novels Challenge for the nudge to read this, I’m glad I did and am now looking forward to my next graphic novel.
(click to enlarge)

You can see the first 11 pages here, and another excerpt, showing the arrival of the shadows, here.
Interview with the author.
More info at Amazon.com.

My Rating: 4/5
(#40 for 2008, Graphic Novels Challenge, R.I.P. III Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Popin's Lair
katrina's reads
Reminder: If you have also read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll add your link here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

PhotoHunt: View

I really miss living near water. It's been almost a year since my last trip home to Canada and I'm missing this view!

Friday: books and blanks

1. The weather finally becoming comfortable, fall roses blooming, and the 24 hour Read-a-thon are some of the things I'm most looking forward to in October.
2. Sometimes I just need some quiet alone time.
3. I never thought I'd enjoy reading vampire novels and that's why there is a saying, "never say never"!
4. When I'm down, I just want to hide from the world.
5. When I'm at home, in front of my laptop is where you'll find me most often.
6. A rainy day is good for reading or having a movie marathon.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to relaxing, tomorrow my plans include whatever we end up doing and Sunday, I want to read!

Just a few books added to my wishlist this week, so far anyway.
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It won't be out until late spring/summer 2009 in English (it's out now in Spanish I believe), but I was excited to hear that his second novel is a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind.
The Blackstone Key by Rose Melikan. "...a complex and deadly plot involving ruthless smugglers, secret codes, and a dangerous network of spies and traitors..." Danielle mentioned this one recently and it sounds fun.
Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. "Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era." Marcia of The Printed Page had a good review of this. It'll be published in January 2009.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. I thought I'd added this to my wishlist when I first heard about it a while ago but apparently not, so thanks to Iliana for mentioning it again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Do you link to me? (WG #18)

I haven't joined in the Weekly Geeks recently but this week the theme is to catch up on ... well, anything. I have lots of things I need to catch up on and lots of little things I'd like to do with my blog if I ever find the time, but one of the things I've been meaning to do lately is update my blogroll. I've added a few here and there but it's been quite a while since I last went through it.

Essentially, the blogs listed in my blogroll are the ones that link to me as well. It was getting way too long (yes, I know it's still long!) a while back so I used that as the criteria. I subscribe to many more blogs in my Google Reader but I have to admit that I have them sorted into folders. I'd love to be able to read each and every post from every one of them but I just can't. So the people who comment here regularly, that I like to call 'my regulars' (I think you know who you are) and those that link to me usually get priority. Then when I have time (hah!) I skim through the rest, lurk, or even just mark them all as read when it gets too ridiculous. But I do always wonder what I'm missing. And BBAW showed me how many great book blogs there are out there! I've added some new ones to my Reader that I hope I'll be able to visit regularly. And even though I always complain that I don't have enough time to visit all the blogs I want to, I still love finding new ones! Crazy, yes?

As for Blogger's new Following feature, I haven't done anything with it yet. I suppose it might replace my blogroll at some point since they basically serve the same purpose. Does it work with non-Blogger blogs though?

But anyway, could you please give a shout out and let me know either if you're lurking and you have a great blog I should check out or especially if you've linked to me but you don't see your blog listed in my blogroll (way down on the middle sidebar). Thanks a lot. And I hope I haven't made anyone feel left out!

A few of the other things I'll try to catch up on in the next couple of days:
A review, long overdue, of Three Shadows.
Read the unread posts in Google Reader. (So many!)
Read comments, return the visits over on my photo blog and post a new photo or two.
Read The Translator, as I'd like to finish it this weekend if possible.
Check my challenge progress and rework the list of books to read.
Start thinking about what I'd like to read during the Read-a-thon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Currently reading...

The Translator by Daoud Hari

I'm in the Darfur region of Sudan. I'm travelling with a British reporter who wants to tell the story of the terrible genocide taking place in my country. We've just had a run-in with a rebel group. They would've certainly shot me if it weren't for the help of Philip, the reporter, and a great deal of luck.

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
Share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … and please avoid spoilers!

But, one way or another, we would get the story for Philip, and Philip would get it out to the world. You have to be stronger than your fears if you want to get anything done in this life. (p. 11)

Monday, September 22, 2008

special chocolates

I've received a few books from their authors but this is the first time for me to get chocolates from an author!

My name was selected as part of Lezlie's giveaway at Books 'N Border Collies, and Michelle* was kind enough have them sent all the way to Japan!


They arrived yesterday and I have a feeling they won't last long!
Thanks so much Michelle!

*Michelle Moran, the author of Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of a signed paperback copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin.

First though, I want to say thank you to everyone that entered and who shared their story of how they met their significant other or best friend. (You can read the comments here). Some were funny and made me smile. And there were several that were quite romantic. I think I'll smile every time I see Reese's peanut butter cups now! :)

I wish we could have more than one winner, but one it must be.
So onto the draw...
I tried to get my usual assistant, Jiro, to help out but he wasn't terribly interested. Granted, he had just woken up from a nap. But after a bit of tempting, Bailey stepped in to help select the winner.

And the winner is .... Jen!

As soon as I have your mailing address, Jen, I'll pass it on to Josh who will sign your book and send it out to you. Congratulations and happy reading!

Sunday Salon: a few new books

Whew! Book Blogger Appreciation Week is over and what a busy week it was! I found lots of great new-to-me blogs and it was rather impressive to see just how big the book blogging community really is! Thanks again Amy!

I didn't get much read this past week, so I'm not quite done Perfume yet. I'm enjoying it, just too little time spent reading lately (and too much time reading blogs, cooking dinner, teaching...). But I did finally post my review of Sisters of Misery, which you can read here, and I did get a few books in mail this week.

The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari.
On Reading by André Kertész. B&W photos of people reading around the world. The pictures are very fun. I'll try to post some, some time soon.
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen. I've read a couple good reviews of this one over at the Graphic Novel Challenge blog, and now that I've seen it for myself, the art is indeed fantastic! I think this'll make a good break from other reading during the Read-a-thon.
Written in Blood by Sheila Lowe. A review copy. It's a mystery and like the main character, the author is also a handwriting expert. It sounds like it might be fun.

Even though I'm not yet finished reading Perfume yet, I'm planning to start The Translator tonight. I'm reading it as part of Natasha's Reading and Blogging for Darfur project so I want to make sure I get it read and reviewed by the end of the month. Hard to believe that September will soon be over!

Next up, I'll announce the winner of my giveaway, so stay tuned! But in the meantime, tell Michele at A Reader's Respite the most memorable book you've read, and you'll have a chance to win a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows.
Have a great week!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

BBAW: Thank you Amy

This summer, after book blogging was patronized and criticized in the mainstream media, Amy from My Friend Amy made a suggestion that we celebrate book blogging. From that idea, Book Blogger Appreciation Week was born. Many of us have participated in interviews, contests, give-aways, and through awards; but, this would never have happened were it not for the dream, perseverance, planning, hard work and dedication of Amy. This has been a wonderful week and as members of the Book Blogging community, in one voice we want to thank Amy for all that she has done.

Amy, you are truly the Queen of Book Bloggers and we love you!


I didn't participate as much as I would've perhaps liked, but it was a fantastic week and Amy certainly deserves a huge standing ovation for all the hard work she put into getting it organised.

ありがとうごさいます! Arigatou gozaimasu, Amy-san! :)

'Sisters of Misery'

by Megan Kelley Hall
Fiction/YA, 2008
Kensington Books, trade pb, 312 p.
There are some girls who have everything…
She has the right clothes, the right friends, and the right last name, but fifteen-year-old Maddie Crane sometimes feels like an outsider in her clique in the wealthy, seaside town of Hawthorne, Massachusetts. And when her gorgeous, eccentric cousin Cordelia LeClaire moves to town, Maddie is drawn toward her ethereal, magical spirit and teeters even more toward the edge of her friends’ tightly-knit circle...

Then there are the jealous ones…
Kate Endicott and the Sisters of Misery—a secret clique of the most popular, powerful girls in school—are less than thrilled by Cordelia’s arrival. When Kate’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Trevor takes an interest in Cordelia, the Sisters of Misery become determined to make her pay…

Now Maddie must choose between the allure and power of the Sisters of Misery and her loyalty to her beloved cousin. But she’ll have to give up on ever fitting in and accept the disturbing truth about the town, her friends, her mysterious cousin, and even herself as she faces the terrifying wrath of the Sisters of Misery…
This was a great choice to kick off my reading for the R.I.P. III Challenge. A gothic story with hints of witchcraft, and a mysterious disappearance, that kept me guessing right to the end. It’s also about family secrets, friendship, betrayal, and the realisation that things are often not what they seem. The author did a good job maintaining an ominous mood throughout as, like Maddie, I came to be suspicious of pretty much everyone in the town and even now I’m left wondering what other secrets lay buried. Not everything has been resolved in this book, setting up for the sequel, but it still built up to a nicely dramatic, satisfying climax. I hope that we get to learn more about some of the characters that weren’t too expanded on this time in the next book and I’m curious to see Maddie’s character grow and develop. I did think it lagged just a little in the middle, and it had a bit of an I Know What You Did Last Summer ending, but these are minor complaints. Overall it was a fast, exciting read and I’m looking forward to the next book when it comes out next year.

Thank you to Kensington Books for sending me a copy of this book.
Visit the author's blog here. Read an excerpt from Sisters of Misery here.

My Rating: 4/5
(#39 for 2008, R.I.P. III Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books
and many more reviews here.
Reminder: If you have read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.

Friday: books and blanks

1. There is no need to make things more difficult than they already are.
2. Where in the heck did the cookies disappear to?
3. Today, housework and a little bit of blogging is all I managed to do.
4. Prospects for immediate satisfaction include chocolate and a good book.
5. I wonder if this is the message I've been waiting for.
6. Simplicity and tranquility are what I crave.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to sleeping on clean sheets, tomorrow my plans include staying home as the typhoon passes by and Sunday, I want to curl up with my book!

Yup, hardly surprising, I've added a few more books to my wishlist this week.
BTW, just to clarify, my wishlist is my very long list of books that sound interesting and that I'd like to possibly read at some point. My TBR pile/mountain consists of books that I already own but haven't read yet. For the purposes of the Friday Finds, I always mention books that I've recently added to my wishlist, not ones that I've bought or received. Those I usually mention in the Sunday Salon. OK, so here are a few of the books that have appealed to me this week from my travels around the blogosphere.

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (glowing review by Heather at The Library Ladder) From Amazon: Fugitive Pieces is a book about memory and forgetting. How is it possible to love the living when our hearts are still with the dead? What is the difference between what historical fact tells us and what we remember? More than that, the novel is a meditation on the power of language to free our souls and allow us to find our own destinies.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. (review by Nymeth at things mean a lot) From Amazon: Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.
The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner. (guest post at bookroomreviews) From Amazon: The Last Queen brings to life the grandeur, drama, and intrigue, as well as the humanity, of a time and a woman rarely written about. Juana of Castile is legendary in Spain; but, was she truly mad? Or has she been misjudged by history?
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. From Amazon: The dramatic story of the real-life murder that inspired the birth of modern detective fiction. A provocative work of nonfiction that reads like a Victorian thriller.
The Gentle Axe by R.N. Morris (mentioned by Iliana at Bookgirl's nightstand) A historical crime novel set in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1866.
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. From Amazon: The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, "There are no accidents."
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Of Tantalize, Cynthia Leitich Smith says, "I tapped into my romantic nature, my love for monsters and marinara. Hold the garlic and enjoy!"

And don't forget, you've only got until Saturday night to enter my giveaway to win a signed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

BTT: Autumn Reading

btt button

Autumn is starting (here in the US, anyway), and kids are heading back to school–does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer?

Autumn hasn't really started here in Japan yet although there are hints, it's cooler at nights now, and I even saw some Halloween decorations today!
But even though it's still pretty hot and humid most days, with a typhoon on the way, my reading mood has definitely switched to autumn, thanks partly to Carl's R.I.P. Challenge. There's just something so wonderful about reading spooky, mysterious, dark reads at this time of year. I'll still read a mix of genres, this doesn't change too much throughout the year, but I do find myself drawn to darker, longer reads in fall and then winter.
As for time, once it cools off properly, definitely less because then we'll be out on the weekends, with cameras in hand, pursuing our other passion.

Just a reminder that you still have a couple of days to enter my giveaway for a copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Click here. And you can increase your chances to win a copy by also entering the giveaways at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness and B&b ex libris.

Bethany is also giving away a copy of The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. Click here to enter.

Update: This just in... Joshua Henkin just sent round an email to let us know that his publisher Vintage is making a special offer for book groups.
Sign up by midnight, September 21 and Vintage will set up a phone chat for your book group with him to discuss his book, Matrimony. Normally, only five book groups are chosen among the entrants, but he has agreed to talk to all book groups that sign up. Click here to do so.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BBAW: chocolates and other giveaways

Woohoo! I won a box of King Tut chocolates from Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen, at Books 'N Border Collies. Sure I would've loved to win one of her books because I've heard so many good things about them, but chocolate is good! :) Thanks again to Lezlie and Michelle!

Here are a few more of the giveaways being held for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Click on the links for info on how to enter. And you can find plenty more giveaways here.

cheryl's book nook is giving away a copy of The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold.

And you have another chance to win The Almost Moon over at Jenn's Bookshelf.

And a third chance to win The Almost Moon at Diary of an Eccentric.

Bookish Ruth is giving away the first 3 books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.

she reads and reads is giving away five books (The Lace Reader, Aberrations, So Long at the Fair, American Wife and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency).

On My Bookshelf... is giving away a copy of Sunday at Tiffany's by James Patterson.

Blue Archipelago is giving away The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Le Hay.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Currently reading...

Well, I'm still reading Perfume by Patrick Süskind, but to continue where I left off last week...

I left the tanner's, and spent a few years working with an aging perfume master, creating all sorts of wonderful scents but I'm still not satisfied. Now I've left Paris behind and am travelling alone in the French countryside, avoiding other people as much as I can, sleeping rough and travelling mostly at night.

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
Share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … and please avoid spoilers!
For weeks he met not a single person. And he might have been able to cradle himself in the soothing belief that he was alone in a world bathed in darkness or the cold light of the moon, had his delicate compass not taught him better. (p. 122)
There are lots of giveaways this week to celebrate Book Blogger Appreciation Week. You can see the full list here. But this is a fun one - Fyrefly's Book Blog is having a haiku contest. To enter, you have to write a haiku-review of a book you've read. Click here for info on how to enter or simply to read all the other haiku-reviews.

They're not very good but here's what I came up with:
(luckily the winner will be chosen randomly, not based on haiku eloquence!)

powerful story
father and son trying to
survive the nightmare

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

action and romance
vampires versus slayers
can't wait for next book

When Twilight Burns - Colleen Gleason

And don't forget my giveaway for a signed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

'Matrimony' Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed.
Thank you to everyone who entered.

A giveaway to kick off the start of Book Blogger Appreciation Week! This was actually arranged before BBAW was announced but I think it's a nice coincidence.

You've surely already seen this book mentioned around various blogs and other giveaways for it but if you haven't yet been able to get your hands on a copy, here's your chance. Joshua Henkin has kindly offered to send a signed copy of the newly released paperback of his New York Times Notable book, Matrimony, to one lucky winner.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post.
For an extra entry, post about this giveaway on your blog and make sure to come back and let me know you've done so.
And for another entry, tell us where you met your significant other and/or best friend. In Matrimony, the main characters met at college. How about you?
So you could have three chances to win!
The name of the winner will be drawn on Sunday, September 21st. And international entries are welcome.

Update: There were a couple of people wondering if they could still get an extra entry since they're not married. Of course! The question asks about your significant other and/or best friend. Your best friend could be a childhood friend, your pet dog, ... be creative with your answer. :)

You can read more about the book and the author at his website.
Josh has also been busy around the blogosphere. You can read his guest posts at the following blogs:
Books on the Brain
Planet Books
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
The Elegant Variation (several posts - just scroll down a bit)

You can read my review of Matrimony here.
And here are some of the many other reviews for you to check out if you haven't already:
The Literate Housewife
The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness
She is Too Fond of Books
Age 30 - A Year of Books
Books and Cooks
Reading Room
Bookfoolery and Babble
A Reader's Journal
B&B Ex Libris
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Shelf Life
The Boston Bibliophile
Trish's Reading Nook
Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Sunday Salon: Time, or the lack thereof

Just a really quick post this week. Not much to report, unfortunately. I did pick up Perfume but I haven't had a lot of time to read this past week, so I'm only about half way in at the moment. I got my August in Review post up this week but I never got around to posting either of the reviews that are pending. Soon though, hopefully.

One of the things eating into my time lately is my photo blog. I'm enjoying visiting other members of the community where it's hosted and looking at lots of great pictures but it's cutting into my reading and blogging time! Like blogging wasn't already cutting into my reading time! Argh. And it'll get even worse when the weather cools off and we spend most of our weekends out taking pictures. Ah well, who needs sleep?!

And speaking of time, I mentioned it to H and I'm thinking of joining in the next Read-a-thon! (You can read more about it here). The time difference may be a bit of a problem so I'll decide for sure a little closer to the date but it does sound fun and a nice excuse to do nothing but read!

Well, I'm sure you're very aware that Book Blogger Appreciation Week starts tomorrow. Amy has done a fabulous job organizing everything, it promises to be great! Also starting tomorrow I'll be having a giveaway of a signed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. So if you haven't yet got hold of a copy, make sure to stop by tomorrow to enter. Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Friday, September 12, 2008

PhotoHunt: Wild

Monkeys living on Mount Misen on Miyajima.

The Official BBAW Giveaway List

If you follow along for the festivities of BBAW at My Friend Amy, you will find many chances to win LOTS of goodies! Like what? Well have a look below. All of these things will be given away between September 15-19. There will be a huge variety of ways to win them and giveaways will be announced constantly throughout the week. So be sure to check in often!

A HUGE thank you to Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group USA, Harlequin, The B&B Media Group, Shera of SNS Blog Design, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Catherine Delors, Pamela Binnings Ewen, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Ceceilia Dowdy, Sormag, Book Club Girl, Savvy Verse and Wit, Cafe of Dreams, Fashionista Piranha, and Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?.

Daily Raffles:
Monday--Books and Chocolate sponsored by My Friend Amy and Hey Lady! Whatcha' Readin?
Tuesday--Books and Going Green sponsored by My Friend Amy
Wednesday--Books and Coffee sponsored by My Friend Amy
Thursday--Books and Charity sponsored by My Friend Amy and Fashionista Piranha
Friday--Books and Movies sponsored by My Friend Amy

Win a Book Club Girl Hostess Survival Kit!
Do you find it's your turn to host book club and not only do you not know what to serve but you don't know what books to offer up for the next month's selection?! Let Book Club Girl come to your rescue with the Book Club Girl Hostess Survival Kit.

One lucky winner of the kit will receive:

* A basket of cheese, crackers, cookies and wine for up to 12 people
* 5 great book group books to vote on for your group's next pick. And Book Club Girl will then donate 12 copies whichever book is chosen for your entire group to read.
* 12 Book Club Girl mousepads to give out as party favors that night
* 12 Book Club Girl bookmarks to mark everyone's favorite passages
* 12 Book Club Girl coasters to protect your coffee table from all those wine glasses!

TWO SORMAG Goody Bags containing books and more!

A Special Pamper Me Basket from Cafe of Dreams!
From Avon Foot Works
~ Inflatable watermelon shaped foot tub
~ 3.4 FL oz Watermelon Cooling Foot Lotion
~ 3.4 FL oz Watermelon Exfoliating Foot Scrub
~ 12 count Watermelon Effervescent Foot Tablets
~ An ARC of So Long At The Fair by Christina Schwarz
~ A variety of Hot Chocolate and Tea mixes

A pre-made blog template from SNSDesign!

A Subscription to Poetry Magazine from Savvy Verse and Wit!

Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors
The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen
The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax
John's Quest by Cecelia Dowdy
Confessions of a Contractor by Richard Murphy
Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer
Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
A Tale Out of Luck by Willie Nelson with Mike Blakely
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
Exit Music by Ian Rankin
The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik
Gunmetal Black by Daniel Serrano
Isolation by Travis Thrasher
The Miracle Girls by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Every Freaking! Day With Rachell Ray by Elizabeth Hilts
Dewey by Vicki Myron
The Shiniest Jewel by Marian Henley
Keep the Faith by Faith Evans
The Book of Calamities by Peter Trachtenberg
A is for Atticus by Lorilee Craker
After the Fire by Robin Gaby Fisher
Mike's Election Guide by Michael Moore
War as They Knew It by Michael Rosenberg
Fixing Hell By Col. (ret.) Larry C. James
Wild Boy: My Life with Duran Duran by Andy Taylor
The Last Under-Cover: The True Story of an FBI Agent's Dangerous Dance with Evil By Bob Hamer
Border Lass by Amanda Scott
Insatiable Desire by Rita Heron
Hungry for More by Diana Holquist
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
Trespassers Will Be Baptized by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Trish Ryan
Never Surrender by General Jerry Boykin
Dream in Color by Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, Congresswoman Loretta Sánchez
Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton
Cobain Unseen by Charles R. Cross
Doing Business in 21st Century India by Gunjan Bagla
Branding Only Works on Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin
Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady, Orrin Woodward
How to Hear from God by Joyce Meyer
Knowing Right from Wrong by Thomas D. Williams
Pope John Paul II: An Intimate Life by Caroline Pigozzi
Pure by Rebecca St. James
He Loves Me! by Wayne Jacobson
So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobson and Dave Coleman
Move On, Move Up by Paula White
The Rosary by Gary Jansen
Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
Right Livelihoods by Rick Moody
by George by Wesley Stace
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
Hollywood Crows by Joseph Wambaugh
Dead Boys by Richard Lange
The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine Lopez
Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn
Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky
With Endless Sight by Allison Pittman
Harlequin Titles: To Be Announced

Many other blogs are giving away books and prizes for BBAW as well! You can see the links to all of these giveaways here.

Friday: books and blanks

1. I enjoy a well-told story, a beautiful photograph, a nice meal out, a walk on the beach, a colourful sunset ...
2. How fast time always seems to disappear is something I wonder about often lately.
3. In your heart, you knew it could never be.
4. Take a goofy cat, add a little string and you end up with a comedy routine.
5. Life has gifted me with three silly boys (=one husband and two cats).
6. Getting lost in a good book is an instant vacation.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to reading more of Perfume, tomorrow my plans include maybe going out for dinner and Sunday, I want to read or work on a photo project!

Here are the most recent additions to my wishlist:
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (after reading cariboumom's review)
The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates (after BooksPlease mentioned it)
A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle (after reading Nymeth's review)
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (after reading Gentle Reader's review)

And if you haven't already, you have just a couple of days left to enter to win a copy of The Heretic Queen (or Nefertiti) by Michelle Moran over at Books 'N Border Collies. Click here for info on the prizes and to enter. Oh and let her know I sent you.

BTW, I added a button in my sidebar that will take you to my photo blog. I do hope you'll stop by.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

August in Review

August was a pretty good month and I got to travel a lot through my books, even though in reality it was too hot to go much of anywhere. My reading took me from Japan to Hawaii, then to London, then to New York and Poland, then to India and a cave in the Himalayas, then to Switzerland and Rome, and finally to Kyoto, Japan. I guess I travelled full circle. Isn't it wonderful the places that books can take us?

Books completed in August:
(click on the title to read my review)
33. Clouds Over Mountains - Matt Joseph
34. When Twilight Burns - Colleen Gleason
35. Maus I & II - Art Spiegelman
36. Cave in the Snow - Vicki Mackenzie
37. Daisy Miller - Henry James
38. A Geisha's Journey: My Life as a Kyoto Apprentice - Komomo & Naoyuki Ogino

Favourite of the month:
I enjoyed everything I read in August, but the best read of the month would have to be Maus I & II. A powerful story. Anyone who thinks graphic novels are all monsters and superheroes should definitely read this! Actually everyone should read this!
Most fun to read: When Twilight Burns

Books in: 5
Books out: 0

Reading Challenges- Progress Report:
My current status on all active challenges. See sidebar for links.
Non-Fiction Five Challenge (May 1 - Sep. 30, 2008) - 5 out of 5 - completed!
Herding Cats Challenge (May 1 - Nov. 30, 2008) - 2 out of 3
Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Apr. 1 - Dec. 20, 2008) - 2 out of 9
My Year of Reading Dangerously (Jan. - Dec. 2008) - 7 out of 12
What's in a Name Challenge (Jan. - Dec. 2008) - 4 out of 6
Graphic Novels Challenge (July - Dec. 2008) - 2 out of 3
Reading Jane Austen (Jan. - Dec. 2008) - 1 out of 2
Japanese Literature Challenge 2 (July 30, 2008 - Jan. 30, 2009) - 1 out of 3
1% Well-Read Challenge (May 1, 2008 - Feb. 28, 2009) - 1 out of 10
Book Awards II Challenge (Aug. 1, 2008 - June 30, 2009) - 1 out of 10
2nd Canadian Book Challenge (July 1, 2008 - July 1, 2009) - 1 out of 13

New challenges joined:
R.I.P. III Challenge (Sept. 1 - Oct. 31, 2008) - 4 books
2nds Challenge (Sept. 1 - Dec. 31, 2008) - 4 books

Reading Japan - I've read 11 books so far this year (2 in August).
Orange Prize Project - I've read 2 books so far this year (none in August).

Reading plans for September:
I'm already on my third book for September which is also my third for the R.I.P. Challenge so that challenge is well under control. I'll be reading The Translator by Daoud Hari after it gets here, for Natasha's Reading and Blogging for Darfur project this month. And then I really need to focus on some more international authors for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge. Here's hoping for another good month.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Currently reading...

Perfume by Patrick Süskind

I'm in Paris in the middle of the eighteenth century. I was born underneath the gutting table of a fish stall in the foulest place in all Paris and my mother was sentenced to death soon afterwards. The woman who was taking care of me has just got rid of me by leaving me to work as a labourer for a tanner. I'm eight years old.


Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
Share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … and please avoid spoilers!

Madame Gaillard, however, noticed that he had certain abilities and qualities that were highly unusual, if not to say supernatural: and childish fear of darkness and night seemed to be totally foreign to him. You could send him at any time on an errand to the cellar, where other children hardly dared go even with a lantern, or out to the shed to fetch wood on the blackest night. (p. 28)

Monday, September 08, 2008

silly cats

Bailey's favourite place to nap and hang out on hot summer days. Never in front of the fan but always right behind it.

And Jiro's current favourite place for a nap is this box with the crumpled up papers in it. There are a couple other boxes without papers but he keeps coming back to this one!


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday Salon: odds and ends

You most likely already know about Natasha's project to read and blog about Darfur for the entire month of September, but I wanted to mention it here. If somehow you've missed hearing about it, you can read more about it here or by clicking on the button.
And to watch a video of Natasha explaining why she decided to undertake this project in the first place, go here. In the spirit of taking part, and since it's been on my wishlist anyway since I first heard about it, I've just ordered a copy of The Translator by Daoud Hari. Hopefully it'll arrive promptly and I'll be able to read it before the end of the month. For more suggestions what to read, Natasha's compiled a list here.

Also in the book blogger community, Amy has been working hard to organise the Book Blogger Appreciation Week that is coming up soon. Finalists have been named and voting is now open, so don't forget to drop by and vote for your favourites. I have to say there are many book blogs among the finalists that I hadn't heard of before! Sigh. More great blogs that I won't have time to keep up with!

On to what I've been reading.. this past week seemed to just fly by but I did get reviews up of Daisy Miller and A Geisha's Journey (click on either title to read my review) and I finished reading Sisters of Misery and earlier today Three Shadows! So now I'm two reviews behind again but I'll hopefully get them up in the next week. I really enjoyed Sisters of Misery (you can read a teaser quote here), so I'm looking forward to catching up with Maddie and the other characters when the second book comes out next year. Three Shadows was also a good read, especially for the drawings by Cyril Pedrosa. I'm still new to graphic novels and sometimes I find myself just reading the text so I have to remind myself to pay more attention to the artwork. He has an interesting style, so I often found myself letting my eyes travel back over the page I'd just read to take it all in. Finishing these two also means that I'm already half done the R.I.P. III Challenge. Go me! Next up I think I'm going to finally read Perfume by Patrick Süskind. It's been languishing in TBR purgatory for quite awhile so it's about time.

Not exactly bookish but this week I also got the Super Commenter Award from Kailana at The Written World. I was a bit surprised since I'm not always very good at leaving comments, you know I'm always lamenting the fact that I'm behind on reading blogs! I think that all of my "regulars" deserve this award but I'm too lazy to go looking who's already got it and who hasn't. So you know who you are -- thank you so much for regularly taking the time to stop by and comment! And if you're reading this and I haven't been over to comment on your blog lately, please say hi. Return visits always take priority! :)
Have a great week! May you read lots and stay dry!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

'A Geisha's Journey: My Life as a Kyoto Apprentice'

by Komomo
Photographs by Naoyuki Ogino
Non-Fiction/Auto-biography/Photography, 2008
Kodansha International, hardback, 139 p.
This is the story of a contemporary Japanese teenager who, in a search for an identity, became fascinated with the world of geiko-as Kyoto's geisha are known-and discovered in herself the will and the commitment to overcome the many years of apprenticeship necessary to become one.

It is a story related by a young Japanese photographer who grew up overseas, and who also was captivated by the lives led by these women who choose to dedicate their lives to their art. He began following and documenting the life of the teenager, Komomo, as she studied and grew into her role.

The photographs are accompanied by autobiographical text and captions by Komomo, as she shares her thoughts and emotions, and describes the life of a Kyoto apprentice. It is an illuminating view of seven years in the life of a very unique young woman.
Given my fascination with traditional Japanese arts and my interest in photography, when I came across this book in the bookstore earlier this year, I knew that it had to come home with me!

The focus of the book is certainly the beautiful photographs, so the text is a bit sparse, but we still get an idea of the girl who eventually became the geiko, Komomo, and the journey that took her there. I’ve read some other books on geisha, like Liza Dalby’s Geisha, or Geisha of Gion (US title, Geisha: A Life) by Mineko Iwasaki, but it was very interesting to get a more modern look at the hanamachi (geisha district) through the eyes of a “twenty-first century geisha”. I’m sure I’ll return to this book often to admire the gorgeous photos. Highly recommended.

Photos © Naoyuki Ogino

Short interview with Komomo
Naoyuki Ogino's online photo gallery
More photos from the book can be seen here.

My Rating: 4/5

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

Friday, September 05, 2008

before the rain

For Stephanie, who got some bad news this week.

If you're looking for my Photobucket photo, I posted it today on my photo blog. The theme this week is 'string(s)'.