Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Salon: A Day Without Reading

Last week I mentioned that I'd started New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. Well, I read more when I went to bed last Sunday and then on Monday (it was a National Holiday here), I couldn't seem to stop reading it even though I had other things I should've been doing, and finished it! It'd been a year since I read Twilight and it was a lot of fun getting caught up in that world again! I was seriously tempted to start Eclipse right away but I have a couple of challenges ending soon that I'd like to try to finish so it'll have to wait.

To that end, I'm now reading The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein. I'd hoped to read more of it today but I haven't read much of anything at all today. What have I been doing instead of reading? Let's see...I slept late, answered a few emails, did laundry, made minestrone soup (which was quite good if I do say so myself), did the big pile of dishes in the sink, browsed some books online, played with the cats, watched a couple of episodes of House: Season Four, and now here I am. It's late and I really should get to bed but I'll read at least a little bit before I fall asleep. I can't believe tomorrow is the first of December! Where has this year gone?

Week in Review:
Weekend Snapshot: ginkgo tree
Mailbox Monday
It's Tuesday... (It's Tuesday, where are you? and Teaser Tuesday)
Review: The Book of Proper Names by Amélie Nothomb
Herding Cats (tl;dr) Challenge wrap-up
Winner of Lighting the Dark Side giveaway announced
PhotoHunt: Metal
Review: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Have a great week!

'New Moon'

by Stephenie Meyer
Fiction/YA Fantasy, 2006
Little, Brown (hardback), 561 p.
For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella ever could have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning…
All the talk of the movie, Twilight, made me finally pick this up last weekend. I read Twilight, about a year ago and loved it to my surprise. (Can you believe I’d never read any vampire stories before last year?) I’ve heard so many negative comments about the rest of the books in the series though that I kept putting off reading this, the second book, fearing that I’d be disappointed.

Well, it completely grabbed me right from the beginning and I couldn’t stop reading! Luckily it was a long weekend and I had a couple of days at home so I ignored several others things I’d wanted to do and whipped through it. It was great to spend time with these characters again and to see them develop. I already knew a couple of the general story arcs (I’ve inadvertently read a few spoilers) but it was still a fun, captivating read. A lot of people complain about Bella but I think since I was expecting her neediness, she didn’t really bother me this time. We’ll see if that holds when I go on to the next book. I really want to read Eclipse right now but I have a couple of other challenge books I really should try to read first. I’m pretty sure it won’t be too long though before I read the remaining 2 books! I’m looking forward to seeing the movie when it makes it to Japan, and it looks like we can expect a movie for New Moon as well.
Los Angeles, CA November 22, 2008 — Summit Entertainment announced today that the studio is officially moving forward with the production of NEW MOON, the second installment of its filmed franchise TWILIGHT, the action-packed, modern day vampire love story. The movie will be based on the second novel in author Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series titled, New Moon.
Author's website
Article in Time
More info at Amazon.com

My Rating: 4/5
(#51 for 2008, 2nds Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Hey Lady! Whatcha' Reading?
The Written World
where troubles melt like lemon drops
A Life in Books
Reading, Writing & Ranting
Reminder: If you have read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

PhotoHunt: Metal

How about an old, rusted, metal mailbox for this week's theme?
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(Posted previously on my photoblog).

Friday, November 28, 2008

And the winner is...

I hope all of the American bloggers had a nice Thanksgiving, and everyone else, like me, simply had a good week!

It's time to announce the winner of a signed copy of Lighting the Dark Side by William R. Potter. Thank you to everyone who entered by telling us one of your reading quirks. I found I could relate to quite a few of them, as I'm guessing some of you could as well! You can read everyone's comments here.

Well, without further ado, and thanks to the help of random.org, the winner is...Violet.
Congratulations! I'll be sending you an email. And once I have your address I'll pass it on to William who will send the book out to you. Thanks again William!

Remember you can always find out about current giveaways at West of Mars -- Win a Book!.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Herding Cats (tl;dr) Challenge Completed

Well, the end of November is almost here, and that means that Renay's Herding Cats (tl;dr) Challenge is almost over. The idea behind the challenge was first to list 10 books that you've loved. Here are the ones I originally recommended.


1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki
3. Fingersmith - Sarah Waters
4. How to Breathe Underwater - Julie Orringer
5. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
6. Clara Callan - Richard B. Wright
7. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
8. The Tattooed Girl - Joyce Carol Oates
9. Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami
10. The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman (third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy)

And then from all the books that all the participants recommended, to choose 3 to read during the challenge. I only ended up reading one of the books I originally thought I would (Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami) but it's become quite the Master Book List so I had no trouble finding others that qualified and fit my reading mood. So I actually ended up reading 5 books from the list, and they are (click on the title to read my review):

Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
Maus I & II - Art Spiegelman
Perfume - Patrick Süskind
Griffin & Sabine - Nick Bantock
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
I actually enjoyed all of the books, which just goes to prove that they were recommended for a reason! But if I had to pick, I'd say Kafka on the Shore, and Maus 1 & 2 would be my favourites.

Book(s) I could have done without?
None. I'm glad I read all of them. I didn't absolutely love Perfume but it was still a very interesting read.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
Except for Haruki Murakami, the other 4 were all new to me. I'll be reading Murakami again for sure, and I predict that Nick Bantock with be the one I read again the soonest, since I already have more of his books in the Griffin & Sabine series that I'd like to get to soon.

Best thing about the challenge? What did I learn?
Having so many participants meant that there was a wide variety of recommendations to choose from, and the Master Book List is quite fun to browse through. I'd still like to read the books that I planned to read but didn't get to and there are others on the list I'd like to read as well. Plus I still love that button! ;) I'm looking forward to Herding Cats 2: Attack of the Hairballs starting in May 2009. Thanks Renay!

'The Book of Proper Names'

by Amélie Nothomb
(Original title: Robert Des Noms Propres)
Translated from the French by Shaun Whiteside
Fiction, 2002 (French), 2004 (English translation)
Faber and Faber, trade pb, 117 p.
The Book of Proper Names is the story of the hapless orphan girl, Plectrude. Raised by her aunt, and unaware of the dark secret behind her past, she is a troubled but dreamy child who is both blessed and cursed by her intoxicating eyes. Discovered to have enormous gifts as a dancer, she is accepted at Paris’s most prestigious ballet school, where she devotes herself to artistic perfection, until her body can take no more.
In a brilliantly succinct story of haunted adolescence and lost mothers, Nothomb propels the narrative forward until Plectrude is forced to take command of her own fate.
Amélie Nothomb is well known for her sometimes snarky, quirky, humourous style and I quite enjoyed it here. There were a few times throughout the book that I smiled at her turns of phrase. (This was translated from French but it read smoothly and of course I can’t say for sure, not having read it in the original, but it did seem well done and natural.)
This very fairy-tale like story kept my interest right up until the end where unfortunately Nothomb felt the need to suddenly insert herself into the story. Sometimes authors placing themselves in the narrative can be done very effectively but here it just jarred, it seemed so out of place with the way the rest of the story unfolded. So overall, I thought this was a sparse, enjoyable tale with a somewhat disappointing ending. But it has made me want to dig out the Ionesco play I have around here somewhere that I haven’t read in years and years, since in the book, Plectrude falls in love with his work.
She had often tried to read, but the books fell from her hands. Perhaps for every human being there is, within the universe of the written word, a work that will turn that person into a reader, if destiny permits. What Plato says about the loving half, that other part who is circling around somewhere and must be found if one is not to remain incomplete until one’s dying day, holds even more true where books are concerned.
'Ionesco is the author destined for me,' the girl thought. She drew considerable happiness from this, the intoxication that can come only from discovering a book that you love.
The only other book by Amélie Nothomb that I’ve read, and seen the film of, is Fear and Trembling (Stupeur et Tremblements) which was really quite amusing for me since it’s somewhat based on her experience working in a traditional, rather conservative Japanese company. I’m sure I’ll read more by Nothomb, in fact I have a book of hers in French but who knows when I’ll get up the motivation to tackle it, and I’d especially like to read more about her time in Japan.

Article in The Independent
Article in The Guardian online

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#50 for 2008, Orbis Terrarum Challenge, 2nds Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Ex Libris
Bluestalking Reader
Reminder: If you have read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's Tuesday...

You may remember that last week I wasn't sure where to go next: France, Sweden, or China. Well I ended up going to ballet school in Paris for a while and boy was it strict (The Book of Proper Names by Amélie Nothomb)! After that, I spent some time with my favourite vampire family, and some non-vampires too, in Forks, Washington, with a quick trip to Italy (New Moon by Stephenie Meyer). Now I'm back in Paris where I'm a painter, but I'll soon be in China remembering my childhood and the life I had there (The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein).

It's well past noon - and well into the formal start of the day at most brothels - when Yuliang reaches the third-to-last establishment on the Lane of Lingering Happiness. A tiny, rundown house, it declares itself the Palace of Shining Opulence despite several broken shutters and a balcony that sags.
(The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mailbox Monday

Only one lonely new book this week! I stopped by the only bookstore I know of in Tokyo that carries Bookmarks magazine last week to pick up the latest issue, and of course I had to have a little browse while I was there. While they have a pretty good magazine selection, the English books are a bit expensive so I don't often buy any there, but this time I found a reasonably priced paperback copy of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, winner of this year's Booker Prize. I don't always love the Booker Prize winners but award winners still always seem to catch my eye and so it ended up coming home with me.
Has anyone read it yet?

For more Mailbox Monday visit The Printed Page.

ginkgo tree

At last the leaves have started to change colour here. On Saturday we took some pictures of the glorious yellow ginkgo trees at Showa Kinen Park.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Salon: Allure of the Vampire

What have I been reading over the last week? Well, I finished Lighting the Dark Side by William R. Potter and posted a review here with a giveaway. Click on the link to enter to win your own signed copy; the winner will be announced on Friday. After that I chose the slim, and mostly enjoyable The Book of Proper Names by Amélie Nothomb which I finished last night but I'll say more about it when I review it this week.

As for my reading today...with all the talk about the Twilight movie (I really want to see it but I just found out it won't be coming to Japan until April 2009!), and after watching a few trailers and clips from it (again!) on YouTube, I could no longer resist and picked up New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. I read Twilight about a year ago and loved it, much to my surprise. A lot of people were less than enthusiastic about the other books in the series though so I found myself putting off reading the second book. Well, no more. I read the last chapter of Twilight again to refresh my memory, and then spent a couple of hours reading New Moon today. I'm about 200 pages in and so far so good. It's sucked me in and I hope I can fit in some extra time this week to read it.

In other news, I like the weekly recap that some of you do, so I'm going to start doing that as well and see how it goes. Here's the week in review:
Monday: Weekend Snapshot- Chyrsanthemums and Mailbox Monday
Tuesday: Teaser Tuesday and Where am I?
Thursday: Review of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Friday: Review of Lighting the Dark Side by William R. Potter
Saturday: PhotoHunt: Reflection
Also, I'm a little late but it's time to announce the winner of my giveaway to celebrate the opening of my online shop. So without further ado, and thanks to random.org, the winner of a calendar of their choice from my gallery is
Thank you to everyone who entered. For those of you that didn't win this time, just a reminder that all calendars at Zazzle, including mine, are 40% off until November 27th. Just use the code CALENDARSAVE during checkout. I hope you'll stop by sometimes as I'll be adding new photos all the time, and do let me know if there's something specific you'd like. Thanks for your support! Have a great week!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

PhotoHunt: Reflection

I think I've posted this photo here before (and I'm too lazy to check) but it's the first one I thought of for this week's theme of 'reflection'. Hard to believe it's been almost a year since we visited the traditional town and World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Lighting the Dark Side'

by William R. Potter
Fiction/Short Stories, 2008
Xlibris, trade pb, 245 p.
Featuring three novellas and three shorter works, Lighting the Dark Side covers a wide range of fiction genres including action, thriller, mystery/detective, suspense, and even romance. Join regular people who find themselves caught up in extraordinary situations. Some are simply down on their luck; while others struggle for survival. Each is locked into circumstances rendered more complex by their own weaknesses. Only when the shortcomings are recognized can they overcome these limitations and succeed. This collection of Six Modern Tales is designed to exercise your emotions, capture your imagination, and challenge you to think in new directions.
When given the choice between short stories and a novel, I usually pick the novel, although that's not to say that I don't enjoy a good short story sometimes. Well, this was a very enjoyable collection of short stories and novellas, and unlike many anthologies or collections where I like some of them, but not others, I liked each story in this one. They also cover a wide variety of genres so this meant that each new story was a surprise, in a good way. You could certainly never accuse the author of following a pattern or being predictable!

The thing that stands out the most though, and that all the stories shared, is wonderful character development. Considering these are all short works, William Potter has done a fantastic job bringing these characters to life, making them seem like people I could pass by on the street. In his interview at Divine Caroline, when asked what he’d like readers to take away from his book, he answered that he “would like readers to find themselves unready to leave the lives of the characters, thinking about the stories later on, wondering about Dwayne and Dee-Dee or James and Ashley and wishing that the stories would go on a little longer”. I can say that for me at least, he has completely succeeded. I’m still thinking about some of the characters, wondering how their stories continue to unfold.

The stories:
The first story, Bent, Not Broken is one of my favourites. It’s the story of a relationship between two characters that are flawed, yet very real.
In the Gray is, I believe, the shortest story in the collection, but again the characters were vividly drawn, and the story was very touching.
My only complaint about Prominent Couple Slain, a mystery, is that it felt a little rushed. Catching the perpetrators felt just a bit too easy, and I suppose I just wished the story had been developed a bit more. William is working on a novel that will be a sequel to this story though and I’m looking forward to seeing the character of Detective Jack Staal fleshed out more and given a case to really sink his teeth into.
May 18, 2010, reminded me a little of the movies Groundhog Day or Sliding Doors. It was an interesting look at how even the small choices we make can have a ripple effect on us, and those around us.
Blessing or Curse? was quite suspenseful, like an episode of Without a Trace, but without the FBI!
And the last, and longest, story, Surviving the Fall, was a testament to the extremes of human nature, from selfless kindness to selfishness and greed.
All in all, there seems to be a little bit of something for everyone in these stories. Recommended.
“What are you up to?”
“Just spending some time lighting the dark side,” she said in a serious voice.
“Hmm? What is that, a Star Wars marathon on the Space Channel?” He pulled a chair from the kitchen table and sat puzzled by her declaration.
“No, I’m in a mud bath – meditating – concentrating my good energy so I can work the bad stuff.”
“What – I don’t get it,” Dwayne said understanding her less and less.
“Everyone has a dark side – even you, Mr. Johnson.”
“Dark side?”
“Yeah, that ugliness about our personality that scares the people who see it. It can be simple like getting angry and yelling instead of talking it out or something really horrible like child abuse. The trick is to fight it, to turn on a light against it.” (Bent, Not Broken)
Author's website

My Rating: 4/5
(#49 for 2008, 2nd Canadian Book Challenge)

You can find out more at:
The Writer's Life - An interview with the author (you need to scroll down, it was posted on Nov. 4th).
The Plot - An interview with Dwayne Johnson and Dee-Dee Roland, characters from the first story 'Bent, Not Broken'.
The Book Stacks - A guest post in which William Potter talks about his love of writing.
The Book Stacks - Review
Fiction Scribe - Guest post on self-publishing and Print on Demand.
Fiction Scribe - Interview with the author.
The Book Connection - Guest post in which the author discusses the common theme running through this collection of stories. (You have to scroll down, it was posted on Nov. 7th).
The Library at the End of the Universe - Synopsis of each story and review.
Divine Caroline - Interview with the author.
Beyond the Books - Interview with the author.
Zensanity - Interview with the author.
Scribe Vibe - Guest post in which the author talks about the 'dark side'.

A big thank you to William Potter for sending me a copy of his book, and to Jaime of Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.
You can follow the rest of the tour here.


The author has also graciously agreed to send a signed copy of his book to one lucky winner. In the first story, Bent, Not Broken, the main character Dwayne suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). So to enter, please leave a comment here telling us one of your book or reading compulsions or quirks.
The winner will be drawn at random and announced next Friday, November 28th, and international entries are welcome. Good luck!

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

'Wuthering Heights'

by Emily Brontë
Fiction/Classic, 1847
Penguin UK, trade pb, 392 p.
Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before: of the intense passion between the foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and her betrayal of him. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance is now visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past.
I’d had this sitting on my shelves unread for quite a long while, but the timing felt right to give it a try. This definitely seems to be one of those books that people either love or hate, so I was curious how I would feel about it as I finally set out to read it for myself.
‘It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.’
Well, I still don’t understand the people who consider it “so romantic!” because to me it was a tale of obsession, pride, revenge, but never romance. I think Emily’s sister Charlotte described it well in the preface to the 1850 edition when she refers to “perverted passion and passionate perversity”. Despite never actually liking any of the main characters though (they really were quite a selfish, arrogant lot!), I’m glad to say I really enjoyed it! I especially loved the gothic mood of it with the lonely moors invading all aspects of their lives, isolating them and creating the claustrophobic atmosphere of such a limited social circle. I also enjoyed the structure of the novel and the choice of narrators, and overall I found it a well-written, engaging story. A perfect autumn read!
‘Nelly, help me to convince her of her madness. Tell her what Heathcliff is – an unreclaimed creature, without refinement – without cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone. I’d as soon put that little canary into the park on a winter’s day as recommend you to bestow your heart on him!’
The only other Brontë novel that I’ve read is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and contrary to the many who love it, I thought it was just ok. Perhaps it’s not so surprising then that I liked Wuthering Heights as much as I did since people seem to tend to prefer one over the other. I’d love to read something else by Emily; it’s such a shame that she never got a chance to write another novel. Next I'll have to read something by Anne. I have The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and it'll be interesting to compare to the novels of her sisters. I'm also very interested now to read more about the lives of the Brontë sisters. Any suggestions?

Brontë Parsonage Museum and Brontë Society

My Rating: 4/5
(#48 for 2008, Herding Cats Challenge, 1% Well-Read Challenge, My Year of Reading Dangerously)

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teaser Tuesday and Where am I?

I've been in and around Vancouver lately (Lighting the Dark Side by Willam R. Potter) but now I'm in limbo wondering where to go next. Should I go to ballet school in Paris (The Book of Proper Names by Amélie Nothomb), or should I go to Sweden, and later Latvia on the trail of criminals (The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell) or should I go to China (Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie)? Decisions. Decisions. Where do you think I should go?

The biggest of the four had his hair tied back in a blue and white bandana; he stepped up, threw a short punch that caught Kevin in the face, and Kevin went down hard. Natasha screamed.
--From the story 'Blessing or Curse?' in Lighting the Dark Side by William R. Potter

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mailbox Monday

Here are the books that have arrived in my house in the last 2 weeks:
Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell - I'd requested this one from Bostick but had given up on it (I don't get most of the ones I request, only the odd one here and there) but then it showed up last week. Yay! And the cover is adorable!
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - Won from Natasha at Maw Books for participating in her Reading & Blogging for Darfur Project. Thank you Natasha!
Little Stories by Jeff Roberts - I've been really enjoying short stories lately so I'm looking forward to dipping into these. Many thanks to the author for sending it my way.
The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran - Won in a giveaway at At Home With Books. Thank you so much Michelle! You may remember that I won chocolates from Michelle a couple of months ago, so I'm feeling a little guilty/greedy but mostly very lucky! And since I bought Nefertiti last month, now I'm all set.

What books have you got lately?
For more Mailbox Monday visit The Printed Page.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

大菊 (chrysanthemums)

On Saturday we went to Shinjuku Gyoen to see the chrysanthemum display. There were several varieties but I always find these big ones quite impressive.
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Sunday Salon: A Rather Unproductive Day

I'm back from my little blog break but boy am I behind now. I have blogs to visit, books to read, emails to send, photos to sort, and many other things besides but I didn't seem to get much of anything done today. Oh well, there's always tomorrow. I haven't been reading a whole lot over the last couple of weeks either because I was spending most of my free time working on the photo project I unveiled yesterday. I found out today that my Japan 2009 Calendar was featured in Zazzle's "Today's Best" on Saturday. I wonder how those are chosen but it was nice to hear regardless. To celebrate my new online venture, don't forget to enter here for your chance to win one of my calendars.

But back to books, since I last joined the Salon two weeks ago, I finished reading Wuthering Heights, which I ended up really enjoying despite the very unlikeable main characters. Since then I've been reading the stories that make up Lighting the Dark Side by William R. Potter. I'm off to bed soon where I plan to get cozy under the covers (I'm loving this cooler weather!) and finish off the last story in the collection. I've liked all of them so far, but I'll tell you more when I review the book later in the week. So just a quick post from me this Sunday. Hope you all have a good week ahead.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Regular Service Resumes, an Announcement, and a Giveaway

I'm back! Did you miss me?
Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my previous post wishing me a good blog break. I was away a bit longer than I had originally thought but I think I'll be back to a regular blogging schedule again now. And being away made me realize just how addicted I am to blogging and how big a part of my life the book blogging community has become. You have all been busy posting while I've been away so Google Reader is really not my friend right now. It'll take me a while to catch up but I'll try to visit soon.

As for the project I wanted to work on, work was a bit busier than usual last week so I didn't get quite as much time to spend on it as I would've liked, but I have made a good start. And what is this mystery project I keep talking about?

Well, I'd been thinking of it for a while but I finally started a gallery on Zazzle.com featuring some of my photos. If you're not familiar with Zazzle, it's one of those sites where you can add your original designs to various products that they then print up and ship as requested. A kind of print on demand service for cards, calendars, mugs, t-shirts, and the like. I've started out with calendars, and blank cards that you can customize by adding your own text inside, if you so choose.
If you're reading this in a feed reader, click through to my blog and you'll see a flash panel above this post showcasing my available products. Some of the Product Lines, which you can find on the left sidebar on my gallery homepage, have only a few items in them at the moment, but I will be adding more soon. I do hope you'll stop by and let me know what you think. I'd love to have some feedback on what you like, or don't. And if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at tanabata2000 at gmail dot com.

Also, just to let you know that Zazzle is currently offering 40% off all calendars, 25% off when purchasing 7 or more cards, or free U.S. or U.K. Shipping* on qualifying orders. These offers are of course for anything on the site, not just mine. I've listed the checkout codes on the homepage of my gallery.

*Products ordered from Zazzle.com are printed and ship from the U.S but Zazzle.co.uk has also recently launched with prices and shipping costs listed accordingly in pounds. My gallery can be accessed either via www.zazzle.com/bishaphoto* or www.zazzle.co.uk/bishaphoto*.
Of course international shipping is available from either site.

And finally, to celebrate the start of my little online shop, I'd like to offer one lucky winner the calendar of their choice from my gallery. At the moment I have three calendars available, Japan 2009, Flowers 2009, and Roses 2009, but I hope to add another one or two in the next couple of days, maybe irises and lilies.

To enter, please leave a comment telling me your most memorable moment of 2008. I'll draw a name and announce the winner next Friday, November 21st.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Blog Break

I've decided to take a short break from blogging. No, nothing's wrong, and I'm not going anywhere, but I just need to devote some time to a project I've been wanting to get off the ground, and some other things I've been neglecting lately. So I'll still be around, just not posting here for a few days. I'll still be posting most days on my photo blog, and you can always reach me by email. In the meantime, I'll let Jiro keep you company. He's a great lapcat! See you next week!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mailbox Monday (and giveaways)

I usually mention my recent book acquisitions in my Sunday Salon posts but instead I've decided to join in Mailbox Monday, started by Marcia at The Printed Page. So here are the books that arrived in the post over the last week. Most of them are from my recent Book Depository order and books that I heard about, in some cases many times, from other bloggers. I wish I could read all of them right now!
In the Woods by Tana French
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Austenland by Shannon Hale
French Milk by Lucy Knisley
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Lighting the Dark Side by William R. Potter (from the author for a Pump Up Your Book Promotion Blog Tour later this month)

Some giveaways to check out if you haven't already:
Booklorn - Where Am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman (International)
Literarily - The Witch's Trinity by Erika Mailman (not specified)
Savvy Verse and Wit - Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe (1 US/Canada, 1 International)
she reads and reads - The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (US/Canada)
Fresh Ink Books - Guernica by Dave Boling (2 copies- International)
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? - Signed copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (International)
Stone Soup - any book under $25 (International)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

persimmon tree

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It's the season for persimmons (or kaki, as they're called in Japanese).
Taken on Saturday in Yanaka.

Sunday Salon: October in Review

My day started about 6AM when Bailey meowed like a cat possessed and then proceeded to pee on the floor! Argh! He had a bad period a few months ago but he'd been so good lately. Anyway, I'm sure you don't want to hear about cat pee, so after dealing with that I went back to bed. I'm never a morning person and it's Sunday, the day for sleeping late and not feeling guilty about it! Course I couldn't fall asleep right away so I read a couple more chapters in Wuthering Heights before dozing off. I'm in volume two, in other words, over half, and it's going really well. I don't like either Heathcliff or Cathy, but I'm enjoying the language and the style in which the story is being told. I've even more or less caught on to Joseph's heavy Yorkshire dialect! It's definitely atmospheric and really suits the season. I had hoped to finish it in October and count it as an extra read for the R.I.P. III Challenge, but it was not meant to be.

As for the books I did complete in October, they're essentially what I finished or started during the Read-a-thon, since the book I'd been working on before it was taking me forever! So I ended up with a total of five books read in October, not nearly as many as I'd hoped but thankfully not worse.

Books completed in October:
(click on a title to read my review)
43. Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence - Nick Bantock
44. The Secret Lives of People in Love - Simon Van Booy
45. Grotesque - Natsuo Kirino
46. The Sandman: Endless Nights - Neil Gaiman
47. Dingo - Charles de Lint

Favourite of the month:
Grotesque was my least favourite of the month, as I've mentioned elsewhere, but there is no clear favourite as I rated 3 of them the same. Griffin & Sabine, and The Sandman: Endless Nights both for their great art, and The Secret Lives of People in Love, a wonderful collection of stories. I look forward to reading more by all the authors I read this month.

Books in: 7 (5 bought, 2 won in giveaways)
Books out: 4

Reading Challenges- Progress Report:
My current status on all active challenges. See sidebar for links.
Ended in October:
R.I.P. III Challenge (Sept. 1 - Oct. 31, 2008) - completed!
Ongoing:
Herding Cats Challenge (May 1 - Nov. 30, 2008) - 4 out of 3 - completed!
Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Apr. 1 - Dec. 20, 2008) - 4 out of 9
2nds Challenge (Sept. 1 - Dec. 31, 2008) - 1 out of 4
My Year of Reading Dangerously (Jan. - Dec. 2008) - 8 out of 12
What's in a Name Challenge (Jan. - Dec. 2008) - 5 out of 6
Graphic Novels Challenge (July - Dec. 2008) - 4 out of 3 - completed!
Reading Jane Austen (Jan. - Dec. 2008) - 1 out of 2
Japanese Literature Challenge 2 (July 30, 2008 - Jan. 30, 2009) - 2 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) - 4 out of 10
2nd Canadian Book Challenge (July 1, 2008 - July 1, 2009) - 3 out of 13

LONG-TERM PROJECTS
Reading Japan - I've read 12 books so far this year (1 in October).
Orange Prize Project - I've read 2 books so far this year (none in October).

Reading plans for November:
First up, the rest of Wuthering Heights of course. Then, and I've said the exact same thing the last couple of months, but I really need to read some more international titles for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge. I'm thinking maybe some Amélie Nothomb, Dai Sijie, or maybe Henning Mankell. Other books have a way of jumping the queue though, so we'll see how it goes. Plus I'll also be taking part in my first blog tour later in the month, Lighting the Dark Side by William R. Potter for Pump Up Your Book Promotion.
Hope you all have a great month of reading!

Saturday, November 01, 2008