Friday, October 31, 2008

R.I.P. III Challenge Completed


I'm sad that it's over but Halloween marks the end of the R.I.P. Challenge for this year. It really went by much too quickly though! As I set out to do, I read 4 books, thereby completing Peril the First, and all of them came from my original list of possibilities.

Books completed:

(click on the title to read my review)
Sisters of Misery - Megan Kelley Hall
Three Shadows - Cyril Pedrosa
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Süskind
Grotesque - Natsuo Kirino
And I'm about halfway through Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I'd hoped to finish it as well but I just haven't had enough time to read this week. Oh well, it'll just have to go on my list for November.

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
Of the books I read, Sisters of Misery and Three Shadows were my favourite. Sisters of Misery is a great Halloween read, and Three Shadows is a touching story with some great art.

Book(s) I could have done without?
I'm still glad I read it because I was curious about it, but I was quite disappointed with Grotesque. I loved Out but it just didn't measure up, at least for me. It ended up not being particularly spooky or thrilling either, but it was certainly dark and depressing so I think it still counts as an R.I.P. read.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
Except for Natsuo Kirino, the rest were all new to me. I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series by Megan Kelley Hall, and I would be interested to read another graphic novel by Cyril Pedrosa at some point. I also wouldn't mind trying something else by Patrick Süskind. And even though I didn't really care for Grotesque, I do want to read more by Natsuo Kirino.

Best thing about the challenge? What did I learn?
That I really do love reading gothic, dark, or mysterious books in autumn when the weather finally cools off after the oppressive heat of summer.
Thank you Carl for another fabulous challenge! I'm already looking forward to R.I.P. IV!

Happy Halloween

Ratbag Rat by Lisa Snellings-Clark

Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birth-day dear me-e!
Happy Birthday to me!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

'Dingo'

by Charles de Lint
Fiction/Fantasy/YA, 2008
Firebird (Penguin), hardback, 213p.
part of the Newford series
“Ever have one of those moments when everything just kind of stops and it feels as though the whole universe is focused on this one thing that’s got your attention? That’s what it’s like when I see her.”

High school senior Miguel’s life is turned upside down when he meets Lainey, whose family has moved from Australia to a lakeside beach town outside of Newford. With her tumbled red-gold hair, her instant understanding of who he is, and her unusual dog, she’s unforgettable. And as he quickly learns, she is on the run from a bargain made by her ancestors. There’s no question that Miguel will do whatever he can to help her – but what price will each of them have to pay?

Dingo is quintessential Charles de Lint – a mixture of darkness and hope, humor and mystery, and the friendship within love.
First I have to thank Carl for sending me this book that I won during this year’s Once Upon a Time II challenge. I’d heard of Charles de Lint, but I didn’t know where to start (or which books belonged to Newford, which didn’t) and I’m always a bit hesitant to start in on a series when I know there are so many of them. This took that decision out of my hands and gave me the nudge I needed. It’s a fairly slim book, and it’s YA so it was a really quick read. In fact, I kind of wished the story and characters had been fleshed out more so it would last longer, and I did find the writing a bit straightforward and juvenile, but it was still a very fun introduction to the imagination of de Lint. So while it was my first time to read one of his books, it won’t be my last. I’ve actually already ordered a couple that I’ll pick up when I’m in Canada over Christmas, and that I’m really looking forward to reading.

Author's website
Interview at Bookslut

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#47 for 2008, 2nd Canadian Book Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Becky's Book Reviews
Reminder: If you have read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.

'The Sandman: Endless Nights'

by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Glenn Fabry, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Prado, Frank Quitely, P. Craig Russell, Bill Sienkiewicz, Barron Storey
Fiction/Graphic Novel, 2003
Titan Books, hardback, 157 p.
part of The Sandman series
Winner - Bram Stoker Award for Best Illustrated Narrative, 2003
Before becoming a New York Times two-time bestselling author, Neil Gaiman revolutionized the comic-book arena with THE SANDMAN. The most acclaimed and award-winning comic series of the last decade, THE SANDMAN is a rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy, in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are seamlessly interwoven. THE SANDMAN set new standards for comics literature, and the ten volumes of THE SANDMAN library are seen today as one of the high-watermarks of the medium.

THE SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS will be a delight to fans of Gaiman’s work and newcomers to the graphic novel. Whether haunting, bittersweet, erotic or nightmarish, the seven stories in this book – one for each of the Endless siblings – reveal strange and surprising truths. Each story is illustrated by some of the greatest comics artists from around the world.
This was my first exposure to the world of Sandman, so I can’t compare it to any of the others in the series, but the art in this one was simply stunning. Plus the fact that the few other graphic novels that I’ve read (Maus, Persepolis, Three Shadows, etc.) have primarily been in black and white, really made this one stand out. In Maus and Persepolis, the simple black and white drawings, in a way, simply enhanced a moving story, but in this one, and it may be sacrilegious to say this for Gaiman fans, while I enjoyed the stories, for me it was all about the art!

I think the first story, Death, drawn by P. Craig Russell, Delirium, drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, and the last, Destiny, drawn by Frank Quitely, were my favourites. But they were all quite fascinating, and the variety of the different styles and perspectives is definitely part of the appeal. It really was the perfect book to read during the read-a-thon, when I needed a break from my other books. And even since then, I keep picking it up and flipping through it, to look at the art.

It seems that whenever you talk about graphic novels, Sandman is always mentioned so I’m glad I finally read one of them. And now that I’ve had a taste, I think I need to go back to the beginning and read more from the Sandman series.


Author's website
Listen to Neil on NPR
Interview at Bookslut
Buy it at Amazon.com

My Rating: 4/5
(#46 for 2008, Graphic Novels Challenge, Book Awards II Challenge)

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

Monday, October 27, 2008

'Grotesque'

by Natsuo Kirino
Translated from the Japanese by Rebecca Copeland
Fiction/Crime, 2003 (Japan), 2007 (English translation)
Vintage UK, trade pb, 466 p.
WINNER - Izumi Kyoka Literary Award, 2003
Two prostitutes are murdered in Tokyo.
Twenty years previously both women were educated at the same elite school for young ladies, and had seemingly promising futures ahead of them.
But in a world of dark desire and vicious ambition, for both women, prostitution meant power. Grotesque is a masterful and haunting thriller, a chilling exploration of women’s secret lives in modern day Japan.
It felt like it took me forever to read this! Thank goodness for the Read-a-thon or who knows, it may have taken me the whole month! I really enjoyed her first book to be translated into English, Out, so I had high hopes for this, her second work to appear in English. Unfortunately, for me, it just doesn’t compare. I simply found the pace too slow and the narrative a bit long-winded. It did pick up a bit when the narration changed for awhile part-way through, but it slowed down again once it returned to the main narrator. The majority of the story revolves around her remembering years past when she went to school with both of the women who later became the two prostitutes that were murdered. There is a hint of a mystery but the murders are really just the context for the reminiscing and the framework for analysing the role of women in modern-day Japan.
Professor Kijima wrote about the intensification of the individual’s sense of self and the changes in the shape of life-forms and such, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on. Mitsuru and Yuriko and Kazue didn’t mutate; they simply decayed. A biology professor certainly ought to be able to recognize the signs of fermentation and decay. Isn’t he the one who taught us all about these processes in organisms? In order to induce the process of decay, water is necessary. I think that, in the case of women, men are the water. (p. 318)
I also never came to like any of the characters, which isn’t a requirement for me to enjoy a book, but I also didn’t care enough for there to be any sense of drama about their lives or demise either. The reasons, or perhaps the social pressures that led them to follow the paths they chose, are real enough but oh so depressing. A week after finishing it and the characters are haunting me a little, but thinking about them just leaves me feeling blue. I realise Kirino seems to be making a statement about the inequality of the social hierarchy in Japan but it didn’t make for a very thrilling or enjoyable read.

As for the translation of Grotesque, there were a few times, due to the way she chose to describe something, that I was very aware that I was reading a translation but overall it wasn't too bad. The copyright page says “Originally published in a somewhat different form in Japan…” though which makes me wonder how and why it was changed and whether that has contributed to my lukewarm enjoyment of the novel.

I’m still curious about her most recent book to be translated, Real World, and perhaps I’ll like it more since I know not to expect much suspense next time. And there seems to be a fourth book that has been translated, What Remains, and that was supposed to be released this year but doesn’t seem to be available anywhere. The topic is pretty dark and disturbing, about a kidnapped child held captive for a year, but it sounds intriguing too. Like something Joyce Carol Oates would write about. I hope it reappears at some point. I also found that Kirino has apparently written an installment for the Canongate Myth Series, to come out next year, which I’d be interested in reading. So even though I wasn’t crazy about this one, I do want to try again. Out really was that good!

Author's website
Review in The New York Times
Review at Mystery Ink

My Rating: 2.5/5
(#45 for 2008, Japanese Literature Challenge 2, R.I.P. III Challenge, 2nds Challenge, Book Awards II Challenge, Reading Japan Project)

Also reviewed at:
Popin's Lair
Reminder: If you have read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.

Halloween Treat

Photobucket
pumpkin mousse

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Salon: Read-a-thon Redux

I haven't read very much today although I hope to read some more in bed in a little bit. It's quite a difference from last Sunday when I spent most of the day reading. Because of the time difference, here in Japan the 24 Hour Read-a-thon started at 9PM on Saturday and ended at 9PM on Sunday. After that, pretty much all I wanted to do was sleep! And going to work on Monday was a bit hard but it was fun to be able to take part this time. Thanks again to Dewey and all her helpers!

You can read my final update for the read-a-thon here, but to re-cap, I finished 4 books, Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock, The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy, Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino (that I had been reading earlier in the month), The Sandman: Endless Nights, and I got about a third into Dingo by Charles de Lint. Dingo was a quick read and I finished it up early in the week. Since then I've been reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I've been meaning to read it for a few years and I felt I was in the right mood to give it a try. It seems to be one of those books that people either love or hate! So far I'm loving the atmosphere of it but I've only begun to hear the story of Heathcliff and Cathy, so we'll see how I feel about it as I get more into it. This week I posted reviews of Griffin & Sabine, and The Secret Lives of People in Love (click on titles), and I'll hopefully have the rest up this coming week.

You may remember that during the read-a-thon, I was reading for a cause. I had pledged to donate 10 cents a page to Breast Cancer Research. I ended up with a page total of 605 pages, so at 10 cents a page that is $60.50. But that's not all! I must say once again a very big thank you to my wonderful sponsors, Stephanie, Jodie and Jill. Thanks to their generosity, we raised approx. US$330!! I say approximately because, and I'm really quite thrilled that it worked out this way, the donations are going to organisations in 3 different countries. US$75.50 went to 2 organisations in the US. GBP £121 to Cancer Research UK, and to balance out for the fact that the Canadian dollar is quite weak recently I donated CAD$80 (approx. US$62) to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I'd loved to have read more but I think it was still a successful first read-a-thon for me. Thanks also to everyone who cheered me on!

I haven't received many books recently but a couple of books did arrive in the last week and a bit. Dancing Girls by Margaret Atwood, that I won during Buy a Friend a Book Week (Thanks Juxtabook!) and Confessions of a Contractor by Richard Murphy, that I won during Book Blogger Appreciation Week (Thanks Amy!). I've ordered a few new books this week but I'll tell you about those when they arrive. For now it's time to get back to the Yorkshire moors. Happy reading!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

'The Secret Lives of People in Love'

by Simon Van Booy
Fiction/Short Stories, 2007
Turtle Point Press, softcover, 154 p.
The Secret Lives of People in Love is a first short story collection by award-winning writer Simon Van Booy. These stories, set in Kentucky, New York, Paris, Rome, and Greece, are a perfect synthesis of grace, intensity, atmosphere, and compassion. Love, loss, frailty, human contact, and isolation are Van Booy’s themes. In prose that is sweet-toned and measured, Van Booy writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.
I feel that I read this a bit too quickly, one story almost right after the other, during the recent read-a-thon. It would’ve been better, I think, to let each story sink in before going on to the next, but he writes so beautifully I couldn’t seem to stop myself from reading just one more, and before I knew it I’d read them all.
The broken chair would not have supported the full weight of a person, but by some miracle had remained intact, beautifully ancient, with one leg suspended an inch above the carpet, as though immersed in a never-ending dream of walking. (Apples)
Like the blurb says, and the title implies, he’s done a wonderful job capturing the symptoms of love, and grief, and the effect other people, even strangers, can have on our lives. All the stories were touching but my favourites are Little Birds, the first story in the collection, and Snow Falls and Then Disappears. On the surface, these two stories seem quite different, the relationship between a boy and his guardian, and a man trying to get up the courage to leave his wife. But there is so much more to these stories and to me it seems as if they are about the stories we tell ourselves to cope with the loss of someone important in our lives.
I think living with the absence of someone we love is like living in front of a mountain from which a person – a speck in the distance, on some distant ridge – is perpetually waving. (Everything is a Beautiful Trick)
This was a wonderful collection of stories that I will definitely revisit. And I see that he has a new book of short stories, Love Begins in Winter, coming out in May 2009, which I’m already looking forward to reading.

Author's website
And if you haven't already, or even if you have, read this wonderful interview with Simon, conducted by the lovely Bookfool for Estella's Revenge.

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

Also reviewed at:
Estella's Revenge
Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fill-ins (and giveaways)


1. Right now, I'm feeling a little sleepy.
2. Somewhere in northern Japan where the autumn colours are in their full glory, with my camera, is where I want to be.
3. How does one find the time to do everything one wants to do?
4. Life's daily responsibilities and the boys keep me on track.
5. Please don't take away my books, my computer or my camera, there's no telling what I might do!
6. A chill in the air after the heat and humidity of summer fills me with joy.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to reading more of my book, tomorrow my plans include trying to get some stuff done that I'm really behind on and Sunday, I want to relax and read!

Some current giveaways:
(click on the respective titles to enter)

Anna at Diary of an Eccentric has two books up for grabs right now, Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe, and Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers.

Shana at Literarily has a giveaway for a copy of The Pools by Bethan Roberts.

Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha readin'? is giving away a copy of The Likeness by Tana French.

Alyce at At Home with Books has one copy of Nefertiti and 2 copies of The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran to give away. Enter here.

Dar at Peeking Between the Pages also has a giveaway for Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran. Enter here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

'Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence'

by Nick Bantock
Fiction/Picture Book/Art Book, 1991
Raincoast Books, hardback, 42 p.
The strange and intriguing correspondence of Griffin and Sabine transcends the ordinary love story. Its combination of lush illustration, creative storytelling, and the guilty pleasure of reading other people’s mail creates a tale that is partly romance, partly mystery, and completely a work of art.
I’ve had several of the Griffin & Sabine books on my shelf for quite some time. I’ve flipped through them before but I’m so glad I finally picked up the first one to read through properly. The art is lovely, and even though it’s a really quick read, I found myself lingering on some of the pages just to admire the artwork. I look forward to reading the next one in the series sometime soon.



Author's website
Interview with Nick Bantock

My Rating: 4/5
(#43 for 2008, 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, What's in a Name Challenge (First Name), Herding Cats Challenge)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Currently reading...

I was in a little beach town outside of Newford where I met a beautiful girl. Then before I knew it I had to venture into the Dreamlands, which seemed a bit like Australia, to try and save her. (Dingo by Charles de Lint)

Now I've just arrived in the Yorkshire moors, and my new landlord doesn't seem very pleased to see me. (Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë)

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!
That didn't make what he did right. But when you understand why someone's done a terrible thing, it can't help but change the way you feel. (p. 195) -- Dingo by Charles de Lint

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Read-a-thon Final Update

Title of book(s) read since last update: Dingo by Charles de Lint
Pages read since last update: 60
Running total of pages read since you started: 605
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 50 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 10 hours 5 min.
Number of books finished: 4 (technically 3.5 since I read half of Grotesque before the read-a-thon) and started on a 5th
Total Mini-challenges completed: 6
Other participants you’ve visited since last update: Jodie, Alessandra, Ashley, Bybee, Nymeth
Food/drinks consumed since last update: smoked salmon and gorgonzola pizza that we ordered in, sparkling water
Prize you’ve won: 0

Whew! Except for the hour-long nap in the middle, I made it through my first read-a-thon! After the nap I still dragged for a couple of hours but then I seemed to get a second wind, helped by reading a graphic novel with colourful art. For this last stint I decided to pick up Dingo by Charles de Lint. So far it's a fun, quick read so I'm sure I'll finish it up in the next couple of days or so.
I was also able to reach my goal of reading more than 500 pages with a final count of 605 pages. And since I was reading for charity, at 10 cents a page that means that I'll personally be donating $60.50 to Breast Cancer Research. A big thank you also to Stephanie, Jodie and softdrink for sponsoring me! I'll be confirming the donation amounts with them and will post a grand total in next week's Sunday Salon. And it's not too late if you'd still like to sponsor me for any amount big or small. Just drop me an email.

End of the Event Meme:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
About the middle, hour 12 or so.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Graphic novels, kidlit, or YA titles.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Nope. It seemed to run quite smoothly. I completely missed some mini challenges or draws because I didn't check in every hour but that's ok. I liked that you could join in as much or little as you liked. I didn't get around to visiting everyone I would've liked but I hope you know I was reading with you and cheering you on in spirit.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
It seemed really well organized. Thank you to the co-hosts, cheerleaders and everyone involved!! You did a great job!!!

5. How many books did you read?
4-ish (see #6)

6. What were the names of the books you read?
The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy (short stories)
Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino (first half read before read-a-thon)
The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman
Dingo by Charles de Lint (started, read 1/3)

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
The Sandman: Endless Nights, and Dingo but they were all good.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
Grotesque, it wasn't bad but it was a long, slow read.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
N/A - But the cheerleaders were wonderful!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Maybe. It was tiring but fun! H thinks I'm a little strange for pushing myself to stay up and read so intensely but he did support me so I'm thankful for that. Boy am I looking forward to a shower and bed though!
Starting in the evening, because of the time difference was a little hard since I'd already been up for several hours before it started. If I don't do the full read-a-thon next time, I would still consider doing a half read-a-thon for 12 hours, or being a cheerleader.
Thanks again everyone, I hope you all had a great read-a-thon!

Read-a-thon Update 8

Title of book(s) read since last update: Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino, The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman
Pages read since last update: 181
Running total of pages read since you started: 545
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 2 hours 5 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 9 hours 15 min.
Number of books finished: 4 (technically 3.5 since I read half of Grotesque before the read-a-thon)
Total Mini-challenges completed: 6
Other participants you’ve visited since last update: Teresa, Mari, Andi, Chris, Iliana
Food/drinks consumed since last update: more iced earl grey tea

Yay! I finally finished Grotesque! I was half way when I started the read-a-thon but the print was small, it had been slow going and has been on my nightstand for the last couple of weeks! It feels so good to be finally done! I also read The Sandman: Endless Nights. Would you believe that it's my first encounter with the Sandman books? Beautiful art, it was a great break from reading black text on white pages!
Only 2 hours left, I'm going to take a short break and then decide what to read for the last spurt. Hope everyone is still hanging in there.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Read-a-thon Update 7

Title of book(s) read since last update: Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
Pages read since last update: 32
Running total of pages read since you started: 364
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 40 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 7 hours 10 min.
Number of books finished: 2
Total Mini-challenges completed: 5
Other participants you’ve visited since last update: Sunny, gautami tripathy, Maree, Madeleine, Kim, Nymeth
Food/drinks consumed since last update: A sandwich I made for lunch, vegetable juice, a mandarin orange. Now I'm drinking iced earl grey tea and munching on Pocky.

I'm in the home stretch with Grotesque, only 28 pages to go. So I'll finish that up and then read something else for Carl's R.I.P. Mini-Challenge.

For C.B. James' Short Story Mini Challenge:
(All from The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy which I finished reading earlier today during the read-a-thon).

"My wife is out in the fields, in the shadow of a mountain crowned by mist." -- Conception by Simon Van Booy

"I have already burned all the photographs; they made a crackle and set off the smoke detector, which I promptly smashed." -- Snow Falls and Then Disappears by Simon Van Booy

"A veil covered her eyes." -- The World Laughs in Flowers by Simon Van Booy

"He stopped here and listened." -- Not the Same Shoes by Simon Van Booy

Read-a-thon Update 6

Title of book(s) read since last update: The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy, Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock
Pages read since last update: 78
Running total of pages read since you started: 332
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 60 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 6 hours 30 min.
Number of books finished: 2
Total Mini-challenges completed: 4
Other participants you’ve visited since last update: Chris, Bethany, Wendy
Food/drinks consumed since last update: only water

Well, I slept for a little over an hour, Jiro napping on the bed with me. It was so tempting to stay there under the covers but I got up and decided to read something with pictures to engage my still sleepy mind. Griffin & Sabine is very short, with beautiful art, so I read through that and then I finished the rest of the stories in The Secret Lives of People in Love. Time is just flying by, isn't it? I'm hungry though, time for some lunch I think - it's after 1PM on Sunday here.

Read-a-thon Update 5

Title of book(s) read since last update: The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy, and Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
Pages read since last update: 37
Running total of pages read since you started: 254
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 45 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 5 hours 30 min.
Number of books finished: 0
Total Mini-challenges completed: 4
Other participants you’ve visited since last update: Sandra, Dewey, Chris
Food/drinks consumed since last update: English muffin and orange juice (breakfast), cranberry juice

Had some breakfast, washed my face, fed the boys, walked around a bit but to no avail. So sleepy! Trying to read and nothing is really sinking in so I keep reading the same paragraphs over again. So I'm off for a nap. See you in an hour or two.

Read-a-thon Update 4

Title of book(s) read since last update: The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy, and Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
Pages read since last update: 66
Running total of pages read since you started: 217
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 1 hour 20 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 4 hours 45 min.
Number of books finished: 0
Total Mini-challenges completed: 3
Other participants you’ve visited since last update: gautami tripathy, Heather, twiga92, Bybee
Food/drinks consumed since last update: popcorn, ginger ale

I'm starting to get a bit tired and a little restless. It's past 7AM now and it's light outside. I'm going to try reading some more but I may have to get up and move around for awhile, or have a shower to help wake me up. Hope everyone is reading up a storm.

Read-a-thon Update 3

Title of book(s) read since last update: The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy
Pages read since last update: 68
Running total of pages read since you started: 151
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 1 hour 10 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 3 hours 25 min.
Number of books finished: 0
Total Mini-challenges completed: 3
Other participants you’ve visited since last update: chain reader, Chris, Valentina, Tammy, J.C. Montgomery, Rhinoa, Fyrefly
Food/drinks consumed since last update: Low fat yogurt and sparkling water with lemon.

It was good to take a break from Grotesque. The book I'm reading now is a collection of short stories. I probably should be spacing them out more but I keep reading 'just one more' each time I finish one!
It's just past 4AM here but I'm still awake and doing ok, although I'm always a night owl, but not usually quite this late. The cats are a little confused why I'm still up!

Read-a-thon Update 2

Title of book(s) read since last update: Still reading Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
Pages read since last update: 42
Running total of pages read since you started: 83
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 65 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 2 hours 15 min.
Number of books finished: 0
Total Mini-challenges completed: 2
Other participants you’ve visited since last update: Nymeth, Hannah, Trish, Andi
Food/drinks since last update: A piece of coffee bread that H made (we have a bread maker so it's super easy), orange juice and water.

I feel like I've been reading Grotesque forever! I started it a couple weeks ago and I would like to finish it during the read-a-thon, but the print is kinda small so I'm going to read something else for my next stint, I think. Off to reply to a few comments, then back to reading.

Read-a-thon Update 1

Title of book(s) read since last update: Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
Pages read since last update: 41
Running total of pages read since you started: 41
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 70 min.
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 70 min.
Number of books finished: 0
Mini-challenges completed: 2
Other participants you’ve visited: Iliana, Angela, Jessi
Prize you’ve won: 0

Read-a-thon Intro

Where are you reading from today?
Just to the north of Tokyo, Japan.

3 facts about me …
1. I have short, blonde hair
2. I adore hazelnut chocolates.
3. My favourite place to read is in bed, under the covers with a cat nearby. But the sofa is good too. :)

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
15 but I don't expect to read them all, I figure it's good to have choices.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
5 short books
500+ pages
as many hours as possible, with breaks when needed

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
First-timer so any advice appreciated.

Read-a-thon countdown

Not too long now before the read-a-thon starts. I certainly won't read all of them but I've gathered together a large selection of books to choose from. Of course I also have the rest of my TBR mountain to peruse if necessary.
We went out for lunch earlier today (I had Vietnamese Pho - Yum!) and stopped by the store on our way home to stock up on snacks and drinks so I think I'm set.
Even though I am reading for Breast Cancer Research, my main focus for this, my first read-a-thon, is on having fun. I'm going to try staying awake for the full 24 hours but if I just can't stay awake any longer, I will go have a nap. (I only managed a one-hour nap this afternoon.)
I'm not sure how the mini-challenges work but I don't want to spend all my time online, so I plan to check in and update every couple of hours or so. That may be more or less frequent depending on whether I need a break from reading or am lost in a book.

In a bit of unfortunate timing, my occasional killer headache chose to strike today. I've loaded up on pain pills but I may need to focus on the graphic novels and easier reading. We'll see how it goes. Good luck everyone!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday this, Friday that

btt button

Okay–here was an interesting article by Christopher Schoppa in the Washington Post.

Avid readers know all too well how easy it is to acquire books — it’s the letting go that’s the difficult part. … During the past 20 years, in which books have played a significant role in both my personal and professional lives, I’ve certainly had my fair share of them (and some might say several others’ shares) in my library. Many were read and saved for posterity, others eventually, but still reluctantly, sent back out into the world.

But there is also a category of titles that I’ve clung to for years, as they survived numerous purges, frequent library donations and countless changes of residence. I’ve yet to read them, but am absolutely certain I will. And should. When, I’m not sure, as I’m constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works.

So, the question is this: "What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?"

I have enough unread books in our apartment to keep me busy for quite a few years, but of course the lure of new books is too strong to resist so I keep adding to them. But some of them do stand out as having had to wait for a very long time.
As Sylvie mentioned, one of the books that has been languishing in my TBR is My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. It's currently on my nightstand, and has been there for a few months, in the hope that I'll finally pick it up and read it!
Another long time shelf-sitter is The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. I bought the hardcover when it came out but the size of it has intimidated me ever since.
Speaking of size, I have several big classic tomes that I also hope to read someday, like Les Misérables, or War and Peace. I also have a copy of The Tale of Genji that I got several years ago. But this year I bought a different translation (see link) that I think I'll like more, although that means I now have 2 copies, neither of which have been fully read.
I got a complete set of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past for a great price when we lived in England, but who knows when I'll ever get around to reading it!
Another neglected one is Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. I've had this ever since Andi first raved about it in one of the many Yahoo groups I used to belong to quite a few years ago.
And many others that have been unfairly relegated to the back of the queue. I'm in denial though. Isn't it the book addict's delusion that we actually still intend to read all the books we own someday, however unrealistic!?


1. Follow the white rabbit.
2. My camera is something I always take with me on vacation.
3. To achieve your goals, you must first determine what those goals are, and then prioritise.
4. ??? is something I'd like you to know about me.
5. I have a craving for chocolate.
6. Ice cream floats.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to putting together a pile of books to have on hand for the 24 Hour Read-a-thon tomorrow, tomorrow my plans include stopping by the store to stock up on snacks, and napping in the afternoon to get ready for the Read-a-thon (it starts at 9pm Japan time) and Sunday, I want to read, read, read!


Here are the books that I added to my wishlist this week:
The Seducer by Jan Kjaerstad. Won Scandinavia's top literary award, the Nordic Prize.
Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. It's been popping up all over blogland but Bookfool's review is what sold me.
Evernight by Claudia Gray. Even better than the Twilight series, says Andi.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. What a fun title!
The Likeness by Tana French. I haven't even bought or read In the Woods yet, but Iliana really liked it!
The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff. Recommended by Amy, it sounds like a great read.
The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro. The start of a new vampire trilogy by the writer and director of Pan's Labyrinth and other movies! To be released summer 2009.
The 19th Wife by David Evershoff. Another one that I've seen mentioned on a few blogs but Natasha wrote a fantastic review.

If you're looking to win a book or two, here are some current giveaways:
Diary of an Eccentric - Black Flies by Shannon Burke
Literarily - The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Abrams
The Inside Cover - Janeology by Karen Harrington

Thursday, October 16, 2008

September in Review

Three of the four books I read in September were for the R.I.P. III Challenge, and made for fun, seasonal reading and some interesting travels. My reading took me first to Hawthorne, Massachusetts with a side trip to Misery Island on Halloween night, then to an unnamed but probably European country where we tried to outrun death, then to Darfur and the harsh reality there, and last to France in the mid eighteenth century, first in Paris then in Grasse where I learned how to make the "perfect" scent. All in all a good month for quality, if not quantity.

Books completed in September:
(click on the title to read my review)
39. Sisters of Misery - Megan Kelley Hall
40. Three Shadows - Cyril Pedrosa
41. The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur - Daoud Hari (with Dennis Michael Burke & Megan M. McKenna)
42. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Süskind

Favourite of the month:
I really enjoyed all of them so I don't think I can choose an outright favourite. But The Translator was the most educational, and the most important that I read this month since it made me more aware of the tragedy occurring in Darfur.

Books in: 4
Books out: 0
I was quite good and didn't buy or acquire much in September. I have a feeling this may change for October though since I'm itching to do some book shopping.

Reading Challenges- Progress Report:
My current status on all active challenges. See sidebar for links.

Ended in September:
Non-Fiction Five Challenge (May 1 - Sep. 30, 2008) - 6 out of 5 - completed!

Ongoing:
R.I.P. III Challenge (Sept. 1 - Oct. 31, 2008) - 3 out of 4
Herding Cats Challenge (May 1 - Nov. 30, 2008) - 3 out of 3 - completed!
Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Apr. 1 - Dec. 20, 2008) - 5 out of 9
2nds Challenge (Sept. 1 - Dec. 31, 2008) - 0 out of 4
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) - 3 out of 3 - completed!
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) - 2 out of 10
Book Awards II Challenge (Aug. 1, 2008 - June 30, 2009) - 2 out of 10
2nd Canadian Book Challenge (July 1, 2008 - July 1, 2009) - 1 out of 13

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

Reading plans for October:
I'm so late posting this that October is already half over! I'm reading Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino now which will be my 4th for the R.I.P. challenge, officially completing that one. I'll be participating in the Read-a-thon tomorrow and some of the books I'm going to have on hand (will post a list tomorrow) are from the various challenges but ultimately I'm going to let my mood dictate what I read. After the read-a-thon, my focus will be on reading more international titles for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge, and maybe trying to catch up on My Year of Reading Dangerously. I also wouldn't mind reading something gothic, so I may try to fit some in. We'll just see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer'

by Patrick Süskind
Translated from the German by John E. Woods
Fiction/Literary, 1985 (Germany), 1986 (English translation)
Penguin UK, trade pb, 260 p.
Winner of the World Fantasy Award, 1987
Survivor, genius, perfumer, killer: this is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He is abandoned on the filthy streets as a child, but grows up to discover he has an extraordinary gift: a sense of smell more powerful than any other human’s. Soon, he is creating the most sublime fragrances in Paris. Yet there is one odour he cannot capture. It is exquisite, magical: the scent of a young virgin. And to get it he must kill. And kill. And kill...
I can’t quite put my finger on it but something kept me from really loving this story. I liked it, don’t get me wrong, but I think I expected something more. Too high expectations perhaps? The translation? Actually I loved the beginning, when the story took place in Paris, but once Grenouille left Paris, I lost a bit of momentum in reading and never really got it back.
Grenouille was an interesting character though. He’s despicable and selfish and egotistical but there were the odd moments I almost felt sympathy toward him. I’m not sure I ever really got to know him or any of the other characters although maybe that's the point since for him everything and everyone is defined purely by scent of the lack thereof.
Every human being smelled differently, no one knew that better than Grenouille, who recognized thousands upon thousands of individual odours and could sniff out the difference of each human being from birth on. And yet – there was a basic perfumatory theme to the odour of humanity, a rather simple one, incidentally: a sweaty-oily, sour-cheesy, quite richly repulsive basic theme that clung to all humans equally and above which each individual’s aura hovered only as a small cloud of more refined particularity. (p. 154)
Some of the descriptions about perfumery were quite fascinating. I’d never given much thought to the process of extracting the basic scents before so that part of the story was interesting. Overall, it’s a great concept that just didn’t completely grab me. I’m looking forward to finally watching the movie though and seeing how it compares to the book.

Read an extract here.

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#42 for 2008, Orbis Terrarum Challenge, R.I.P. III Challenge, Herding Cats Challenge, 1% Well-Read Challenge, Book Awards II Challenge)

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Currently reading...


Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

I'm in Tokyo, Japan, remembering my high school days before my sister, and a girl I was sort of friends with then, were murdered.

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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!


It was close to Christmas, and the scarf that Kazue was knitting for Takashi was now over a yard long. It was incredibly ugly: black and yellow stripes that reminded me of a honeybee's butt. (p. 199)
-- Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Monday, October 13, 2008

rose garden

Photobucket
Yesterday we went to the rose garden at Kyu Furukawa Teien, where we took pictures this spring, for their fall rose festival. There weren't as many roses this time (quite a few buds though so I suppose were were a bit early) but the ones that were blooming were still beautiful.


(I'll be posting roses for the rest of the week on my photoblog).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Salon: Reading for a Cause

Well, it's already well into Monday here but I think it's still the tail end of Sunday somewhere! Yesterday we went out to the same rose garden we went to in the spring, for their fall rose festival. The roses weren't quite as lush but the ones that were blooming were pretty all the same. Of course we had fun taking pictures and just generally enjoying the fact that the weather has finally cooled off and has begun to feel more like autumn. We both seem to have caught a bit of a cold though so last night after we got home we didn't feel like doing much more than having a bit of dinner and getting to bed. Hence the late Sunday Salon post.

I've had a bit more reading time the last couple of days, mostly because I can actually read a couple of chapters before zonking out at night. But since I barely got any reading in during the week, I'm still not quite half way into Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino. It's a bit of a chunkster at 460 odd pages but I've made a little progress. I have to say that I'm not enjoying it quite as much as Out by the same author. This one is primarily the main character reminiscing about her life growing up with occasional allusions to her sister being murdered. It's a much slower-paced book than Out so I guess that's why it's not grabbing me quite as I expected. I do want to know how it all unravels though so I will definitely keep reading.

As I mentioned last week, I've decided to join the 24 Hour Read-a-thon. It's coming up next weekend and I've decided to join some of the others in reading for a cause. Since we can choose our own charities, I've decided to read for Breast Cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month after all, and it's something that I think will affect all of us at some point, whether directly or indirectly. My mother had breast cancer many years ago and a book blogger many of us know was recently diagnosed. Even the writer Carol Shields was taken away from us by breast cancer.
So I've decided to personally donate 10 cents a page read during the read-a-thon.
As you know this'll be my first time to join the read-a-thon so I'm not entirely sure what my numbers will be. Pages read, total time spent reading, and all that, but if you'd like to sponsor me in any way that would be wonderful. Even a flat rate donation of a few dollars would be appreciated. But if this isn't something you're interested in supporting please don't feel any obligation either. I'm just as happy if you simply cheer me on!
I'll personally be donating to Breast Cancer research in Canada. But there are many organizations worldwide, and if you'd like to donate, please feel free to choose one in your area.

Here are some links:
in Canada:
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Breast Cancer Society of Canada
in the US:
The Breast Cancer Site
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Army of Women
in the UK:
Breast Cancer Research UK
Breakthrough Breast Cancer

If you do decide to donate something, please let me know in the comments. You don't have to say how much if you don't want to, but this way I can know who is sponsoring me regardless of amount. Thanks.
Wish me luck for next weekend! :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

PhotoHunt: Lazy

Photobucket
Yanaka Cemetery, Tokyo (September 2006)

Another lazy sleeping cat posted today on my photoblog here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Finds (and Blog Love)


Here are a few of the books I've added to my wishlist over the last couple of days or so.

The Vampyre by Tom Holland - I'd never heard of it but this wonderful review by Nymeth is what sold me.

The Best Place to Be by Lesley Dormen - Read this great interview with the author at Diary of an Eccentric and while you're there leave a comment to enter the giveaway.

Tourist Season by Enid Shomer

Mozart's Sister by Nancy Moser - Read this great review by Bookfool and for a chance to win a copy of Mozart's Sister or one of 3 other books, click here.

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo (article in Time magazine)

Travel Writing by Peter Ferry

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A big thanks to Popin, Teddy Rose and Sylvie for giving me the I Love Your Blog Award! I love visiting your blogs too and I'm thrilled that you keep coming back to mine! I'm going to take the easy way out and not pass this on to anyone specifically. I always struggle with choosing just a few because I really do love all the blogs I read. So thank you, and please know that you are ALL loved! :)