Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Salon: Blogiversary

When I started this blog back in 2006 I never imagined that a few years later I'd still be at it, and that I'd be quite so addicted to it, but here we are. Today, January 31st, In Spring it is the Dawn is 4 years old! I originally started this blog simply as a place to keep track of the books I read, like a reading log, and also to post some photos as we'd moved back to Japan the previous fall and taking pictures had become a minor hobby.

I think the blog has changed quite a lot from those early days. There are more words and less photos lately, although I hope to have more photo opportunities this year. I only got occasional comments then and was so excited whenever I did get one. I get a few more comments now but I do still get excited about each and every one. I'm enjoying the bigger focus on Japanese literature now, and sharing those discoveries with you. During this last year I started to get occasional offers of books to review, and last spring I also changed over to my own domain name So I feel like this little blog has grown up a bit, thanks to all of you!

I especially appreciate you for sticking with me recently. I haven't been a very good blogger over the last couple of months, and I miss reading your wonderful blogs on a regular basis. The fact that you still stop by really means so much to me, and my neglect will not be forever. I promise!

Despite this, several of you have even passed on blog awards over the last little while, and I have been very remiss in thanking you here. So a very big thank you for the following:

The Superior Scribbler Award from Harvee at Book Dilettante.

The Kreativ Blogger Award from Natakiya at Bento Anarchy.

The One Lovely Blog Award AND the Heartfelt Award from Velvet at vvB32 Reads.

The Santa Clause award (oops, not very timely, sorry) from mariel at where troubles melt like lemon drops, and this was her reason: for constantly inspiring me to learn Japanese!

The One Lovely Blog Award also from Karen at BookBath. Karen had these kinds words to say: A lovely blog for many reasons but particularly for its focus on Japan (one of my favourite countries) and its literature.

The Happy 101 Award from Esme at Chocolate & Croissants.


Thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope I haven't missed anyone. I'm going to be rebellious and not follow the rules associated with these awards but I'm so honoured that you consider my little ol' blog worth reading. You know, I sometimes feel like I don't entirely fit in to the book blogging community but your kindness really warms my heart. I can't thank you enough.

So to celebrate 4 years of reading and blogging, and to thank you for always motivating me to keep going, I think a blogiversary giveaway is in order. I'm going to give you a chance to win any book that I've read over the last 4 years since starting this blog. You can see which books I've read by year.
Books Read in 2009
Books Read in 2008
Books Read in 2007
Books Read in 2006
or you can see the complete list of all titles in the Author Index.

*To enter, simply leave a comment on this post saying which book you'd like to win. It must be a book on one of the above lists.
*One winner will be selected at random on Sunday, February 7th.
*Please make sure that I have a way to contact you if you win.
*The giveaway is open worldwide.
*The winner will either receive the book directly from The Book Depository or from me, depending on the winner's country of residence.
*I don't think there should be any but if the book chosen now happens to be out of print, the winner will have the option to choose another title.
*If you have any other questions, please let me know. Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed, and the winner has been notified.  
Congratulations to Mark David!

As for what I'm reading, I finished 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton a couple of days ago and I'm still thinking about it! And now I'm just about to start reading volume 3 of I Am a Cat for the Japanese Literature Read-along discussion that will start on February 15th.
And speaking of Japanese literature, a reminder that we'll be starting our leisurely read-along of The Pillowbook of Sei Shōnagon this coming Friday, February 5th. For this week, we'll be looking at the first 10 entries. Anyone is welcome to join in. For more information about translations, etc. please refer to the Japanese Literature Read-along page.

Have a great week!

The small print: Links in this post to Amazon or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information visit my About Page.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reading Japan 2009

After we moved back to Japan from England, a little over 4 years ago now, I became interested in reading Japanese literature to learn more about this place that I currently call home.  So a couple of years ago now I decided to set myself a personal, perpetual reading project to do just that.  The following is a list of the Japanese literature and Japan-related titles that I read in 2009. And since I'm not only interested in reading books from a Japanese perspective, but also from the outside looking in, as it were, I've included those books about, or set in, Japan by non-Japanese authors as well. You can see the Japanese books I read in 2008, or a full list of all the Japanese literature I've read since starting this blog in my Reading Japan Book List which is also accessible via the Reading Japan tab in the linkbar above. 

Fiction (Japanese authors or those with Japanese ancestry):
(Unless otherwise noted, these books were originally published in Japanese).
Click on the titles to read my reviews, click on the book covers to read more at Amazon.


After Dark - Haruki Murakami
Rashomon and other stories - Ryunosuke Akutagawa
An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro (British, written in English)
*Beyond the Blossoming Fields - Jun'ichi Watanabe
*Paprika - Yasutaka Tsutsui
*Be With You - Takuji Ichikawa
*The Old Capital - Yasunari Kawabata (review pending)

Fiction (about/set in Japan, by non-Japanese authors):
The Character of Rain - Amélie Nothomb (Belgian, originally published in French)
Big in Japan: A Ghost Story - M. Thomas Gammarino (American, written in English)

Emma, vol. 1 - Kaoru Mori
Monster, vol. 1 - Naoki Urasawa
xxxHolic, vol. 1 - CLAMP
Emma, vols. 2 - 7 - Kaoru Mori
Emma, vol. 8 - Kaoru Mori
Vampire Knight, vols. 1 - 3 - Matsuri Hino
*Battle Royale, vol. 1 - Koushun Takami, illustrated by Masayuki Taguchi (review pending)

Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman - Sumie Kawakami
Polite Lies: On Being a Woman Caught Between Cultures - Kyoko Mori

A nice variety of books, I think, including modern surrealism, classic short stories, lyrical stories of life in Kyoto, fascinating historical fiction, contemporary love stories, memoirs, and true stories of modern women in Japan.  Some of the characters: the first female Japanese doctor, a precocious child, an English maid, a neuro-surgeon, a dream detective, vampire guardians, and high school students stuck in a deadly reality show.

I really enjoyed most of these, there were a couple exceptions, but if I had to choose a favourite, I'd go with Beyond the Blossoming Fields, because I found it simply fascinating to read about the life of the first official female Japanese doctor.  Another stand out of the year is the Emma manga series.  The story is lovely but the art is fantastic!  Amélie Nothomb's fictionalized memoir of her childhood in Japan was highly amusing, both non-fiction titles were occasionally eye-opening, I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional tales as told by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and so on.

I actually wish I'd read more Japanese literature last year, especially since I keep finding more titles that I want to read, but I'm looking forward to discovering more wonderful Japanese lit in 2010.  And as you know, in addition to my personal Reading Japan Project to read more Japanese literature, last autumn I started a Japanese Literature Book Group and a Japanese Literature Read-along group here. There are some great books coming up on the schedule and I'm very much looking forward to reading and discussing these, and other, works of Japanese literature with you this year.

Titles with an asterisk are those that I read during the time period (July 30, 2009 to January 30, 2010) of the Japanese Literature Challenge 3 hosted by
Dolce Bellezza. I also read The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa this month for the Japanese Literature Book Group discussion. Technically it counts for the challenge but I haven't listed it above in the list of titles read in 2009, as it'll go on the list for 2010. The challenge only required us to read one book of Japanese literature so at six I guess I can say that it was successfully completed. You can see a list of all the reviews submitted by the participants for the challenge at the Japanese Literature Challenge 3 Review Site.  Thank you, Bellezza, for being a wonderful host, and for sharing your fascination of Japan with us.  I'm already looking forward to July and the 4th annual Japanese Literature Challenge! 

Did you read any memorable Japanese literature last year?

The small print:  The books mentioned in the post were purchased by me for my personal library, except for Beyond the Blossoming Fields, Paprika, and Big in Japan which were received free of charge from the respective publishers for review purposes.  Links in this post to Amazon (including book covers) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information visit my About Page.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet' (review and giveaway)

by Jamie Ford
Fiction, 2009
Ballantine Books, trade pb, 293 p.
From the back cover:
In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s – Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel’s basement for the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.
Growing up I’d never really heard about the internment of Japanese during World War II, although since my mother was Ukrainian Canadian I had heard about the internment of Ukrainians in Canada during World War I. Sadly, the internment of Japanese was simply history repeating itself! I still haven’t read a whole lot about the Japanese internment but I have read a small handful of titles: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, and Obasan and Itsuka by Joy Kogawa, about the Japanese internment in Canada. However, each of these books, whether fiction or memoir, were written from the persepective of Japanese first or second-generation citizens. In Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet we see the internment instead through the eyes of a young Chinese American boy. I thought Jamie Ford did a wonderful job presenting the various prejudices and discriminations of the time, towards not only the Japanese, but also the other Asians in America, and the blacks, and amongst themselves, yet all without laying blame. It was a nice portrait of what life was like then.

The book is so much more than this particular moment in history though. The real story at the heart of the book is one of love. The innocence of young love. The conflicted relationship between fathers and sons. Family loyalty. It’s also about loss, and identity, and acceptance. Vividly told, all of the characters came beautifully to life. I especially became quite fond of some of the minor characters, like Sheldon the jazz musician, and Mrs. Beatty, the lunch lady. I did have some trouble accepting the depth of the relationship between the two main characters though, the young Henry and Keiko. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “they’re only 12 years old!” But despite that reservation, I came to care about them and by the end of the book I truly believed in their story. One thing I wondered about is whether Henry ever figured out that お会いできて嬉しいです (oai deki te ureshii desu) simply means “It’s an honor to meet you”, rather than the ‘How are you today, beautiful” that Sheldon told him it meant.

I’d wanted to read this ever since I first heard about it, and I’m so glad to finally have had a chance to do so. Best of all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read that lived up to my expectations.  A little bit sweet, and a little bitter, just the way a love story should be. Sure it was fairly predictable, and I’ve sometimes quite disliked a similar type of love story, but in my opinion Ford never crossed the line to saccharine. Jamie’s next book apparently also has a Japanese story line and I’m already looking forward to it.
Henry squinted, allowing his senses to adjust to the daylight and the cold, gray Seattle sky that filled the paned windows of the Panama Hotel lobby. Everything, it seemed – the city, the sky – was brighter and more vivid than before. So modern, compared with the time capsule downstairs. As he left the hotel, Henry looked west to where the sun was setting, burnt sienna flooding the horizon. It reminded him that time was short, but that beautiful endings could still be found at the end of cold, dreary days. (p. 76-77)
Read an excerpt from the book.
For more information visit Jamie Ford's website, or follow @JamieFord on Twitter.

This review is part of the TLC Book Tour.
Thank you to Lisa and Random House for the opportunity to read this book.

For other stops on the tour visit the Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Blog Tour page.

My Rating:  4/5
(#3 for 2010)

Buy Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet at: | | | |

Interviews with the author by:
Word Lily
Diary of an Eccentric

Also reviewed by:
Diary of an Eccentric
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Trish's Reading Nook
You've GOTTA Read This!
Educating Petunia
The Book Lady’s Blog
Lesley’s Book Nook
Hey Lady! Whatcha readin'?
The Bluestocking Society
In the Shadow of Mt. TBR
Medieval Bookworm
Melody’s Reading Corner
Stephanie’s Written Word
If I've missed your review let me know and I'll link to it here.


Your reward for reading this far?  Random House has also kindly agreed to send a copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to one of my readers.   To enter, simply leave a comment on this post stating that you'd like to be entered, although a relevant comment about the book (or the review) would be appreciated.  The giveaway will end next Wednesday, February 3rd, when the winner will be selected randomly.  Unfortunately, as the book will be coming directly from the publisher, the giveaway is only open to the US and Canada.  My apologies, I know how frustrating it is for international bloggers.  But I will be having a giveaway to celebrate my blogiversary soon so you'll get a chance to win a book then. 

This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been notified.
Congratulations Kailana!

The small print:  This book was received free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.  Links in this post to Amazon (including book cover) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information visit my About Page.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

'The Housekeeper and the Professor' Discussion (JLit Book Group)


Welcome to the discussion for our first Japanese Literature Book Group selection for 2010, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, and translated by Stephen Snyder.

This is an open discussion, and you are welcome to talk about any aspect of the story you like.  Don't hesitate to ask any questions you might have, and I also encourage you to chat among yourselves.  I've removed comment moderation for this post for the next couple of days so that you will be able to discuss more freely.  I'd also suggest subscribing to comments so that you'll be notified when others have added their thoughts.
One note of warning, for the discussion it is assumed that you have read the book so the comments may contain spoilers.  If you have not yet read the book, please proceed at your own risk.

I've listed the discussion questions below that are available from the publisher.  Feel free to use them as a kick start for discussion, but don't feel obligated to answer them.  In addition to the more thought-provoking questions supplied below, also let us know simply what you thought of the book.
Did you enjoy it? 
I would also be interested to know...
What did you think of the translation?
If you've read any other titles by Yoko Ogawa, which did you like the best?
Have you seen the movie based on the book?  Would you like to?
How does this book compare to other Japanese literature that you've read?

The Housekeeper and the Professor reviewed by:
Book Dilettante
The Zen Leaf
Paperback Reader
Rebecca Reads
We Be Reading
kiss a cloud
If anyone has posted a review or other thoughts on the book on their own blog, leave a link in the comments and I'll add it here.

Much of the book and author information, as well as all of the discussion questions below were taken from the Picador Reading Group Guide, with some additional information from wikipedia.

About the Book

First published in Japan in 2003 as 博士の愛した数式 (Hakase no aishita sushiki), it won the Yomiuri Prize in 2004.

In The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa tells an intimate story about family, the nature of memory, and the poetry of mathematics. It is also, in a sense, a story about the simple experience of getting to know someone, but with a twist: the person forgets everything in eighty minutes. How do you form a relationship with a person who cannot remember? In this uplifting and often poignant novel, Ogawa seems to ask whether our immediate experiences are more important than our memories, since memories inevitably fade, and the eponymous Professor’s condition of limited short-term memory allows the author to explore this question with great creativity. At the same time, Ogawa invites the reader into the world of mathematics, using complex equations as a metaphor for the themes running throughout her book. The Housekeeper and the Professor is a rich, multilayered novel that offers much to discuss.  

About the Author

Yōko Ogawa (小川 洋子,) was born in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture, graduated from Waseda University, and lives in Ashiya, Hyōgo, with her husband and son. Yoko Ogawa's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. Since 1988 she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, and has won every major Japanese literary award. In 2006 she co-authored "An Introduction to the World's Most Elegant Mathematics" with Masahiko Fujiwara, a mathematician, as a dialogue on the extraordinary beauty of numbers.

Discussion Questions

1. The characters in The Housekeeper and the Professor are nameless (“Root” is only a nickname). What does it mean when an author chooses not to name the people in her book? How does that change your relationship to them as a reader? Are names that important?

2. Imagine you are writer, developing a character with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. How would you manage the very specific terms of that character (e.g. his job, his friendships, how he takes care of himself)? Discuss some of the creative ways in which Yoko Ogawa imagines her memory-impaired Professor, from the notes pinned to his suit to the sadness he feels every morning.
3. As Root and the Housekeeper grow and move forward in their lives, the Professor stays in one place (in fact he is deteriorating, moving backwards). And yet, the bond among the three of them grows strong. How is it possible for this seemingly one-sided relationship to thrive? What does Ogawa seem to be saying about memory and the very foundations of our profoundest relationships?

4. The Professor tells the Housekeeper: “Math has proven the existence of God because it is absolute and without contradiction; but the devil must exist as well, because we cannot prove it.” Does this paradox apply to anything else, beside math? Perhaps memory? Love?

5. The Houskeeper’s father abandoned her mother before she was born; and then the Housekeeper herself suffered the same fate when pregnant with Root. In a book where all of the families are broken (including the Professor’s), what do you think Ogawa is saying about how families are composed? Do we all, in fact, have a fundamental desire to be a part of a family? Does it matter whom it’s made of?

6. Did your opinion of the Professor change when you realized the nature of his relationship with his sister-in-law? Did you detect any romantic tension between the Professor and the Housekeeper, or was their relationship chaste? Perhaps Ogawa was intending ambiguity in that regard?

7. The sum of all numbers between one and ten is not difficult to figure out, but the Professor insists that Root find the answer in a particular way. Ultimately Root and the Housekeeper come to the answer together. Is there a thematic importance to their method of solving the problem? Generally, how does Ogawa use math to illustrate a whole worldview?

Yutaka Enatsu

8. Baseball is a game full of statistics, and therefore numbers. Discuss the very different ways in which Root and the Professor love the game.

9. How does Ogawa depict the culture of contemporary Japan in The Housekeeper and the Professor ? In what ways does is it seem different from western culture? For example, consider the Housekeeper’s pregnancy and her attitude toward single motherhood; or perhaps look at the simple details of the story, like Root’s birthday cake. In what ways are the cultures similar, different?

10. Ogawa chooses to write about actual math problems, rather than to write about math in the abstract. In a sense, she invites the reader to learn math along with the characters. Why do you think she wrote the book this way? Perhaps to heighten your sympathy for the characters?

11. Do numbers bear any significance on the structure of this book? Consider the fact that the book has eleven chapters. Are all things quantifiable, and all numbers fraught with poetic possibility?

Related links:
List of mathematical terminology that occurs in the story (from wikipedia)
Hanshin Tigers page

Photo source: The Hanshin Tigers logo, and the Yutaka Enatsu baseball card photo were taken from  The images are © copyright but reproduced here in low resolution under the terms of Fair Use.

The small print:  Links in this post to Amazon (including book cover) contain my Associates ID.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information visit my About Page.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Tea: jasmine and memories

Thursday Tea is a weekly meme hosted by Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. To play along, all you need is some tea, a book, and the answers to these questions: what tea are you drinking (and do you like it)? What book are you reading (and do you like it)? Tell us a little about your tea and your book, and whether or not the two go together.

jasmine tea
When Henry arrived in the school kitchen that afternoon, there was a new face, though because it was turned toward a stack of beet-stained serving trays, he couldn't see much of it. But it was clearly a girl, probably in his grade, about his height; she was hidden behind long bangs and the black strands of hair that framed her face. She sprayed the trays with hot, steaming water and put them in the dish rack, one by one. As she slowly turned toward Henry, he noticed her slender cheekbones, her perfect skin, smooth and lacking in the freckles that mottled the faces of the other girls at the school. But most of all, he noticed her soft chestnut-brown eyes. For a brief moment Henry swore he smelled something, like jasmine, sweet and mysterious, lost in the greasy odors of the kitchen.
[p. 19, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford]
This mention from early in the book, which I am enjoying immensely by the way, inspired me to choose jasmine tea this evening. The jasmine tea I have on hand is Stassen Jasmine Green Tea from Sri Lanka.  Hot, refreshing and light, it suit my mood perfectly, and goes very well with this story of an older Chinese man remembering back on his unlikely friendship with a Japanese girl in Seattle during World War II.  Also pictured is my new limited edition New Year mug from Starbucks Japan which has an almost Chinese-inspired design this year.

What are you reading and/or drinking today?

The small print:  This book was received free of charge from the publisher for review purposes; the tea was received as a gift.  Link in this post to Amazon contains my Associates ID.  Any purchases made via this link earn me a very small commission.  For more information visit my About Page.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

December in review (or, Better late than never)

As you may know, I got terribly behind near the end of last year. So yes, I know it's already well into January, of a different year no less, add in the fact that I haven't actually reviewed any of the books I read last month yet, but here it is anyway, my monthly reading recap for December.

December started off with me in Norfolk, Virginia where I tried repeatedly over the years to gain the approval of my father, despite our strained relationship.  I'm still not sure I'll ever accept or understand the way he treated me, but at least I finally came to terms with who I am. Next, I left the comfort of the mansion on the hill where I lived with my family, in an attempt to save them from the evil man who was kidnapping cats from all over town.  I had lots of dangerous adventures and made some wonderful friends along the way.  After that, I watched as my sister fell in love with the handsome son of the lighthouse keeper and witnessed the tragedy that followed.  Life then took a dramatic turn as I found myself a participant in a deadly reality show, expected to kill my fellow classmates or be killed, but I can't accept that is the only way to survive (to be continued...).  Then, I headed to Paris with my mother for a few weeks of Parisian life, art and good food.  Finally, I ended the month sneaking out of Japan under a false name to hide from the spy organization I used to belong to.  Once settled into my new life I began to write my story for all the world to read.

Books completed:
66. In the Wake of the Boatman - Jonathon Scott Fuqua (review pending)
67. Varjak Paw - SF Said (review pending)
68. The Three Incestuous Sisters - Audrey Niffenegger (review pending)
69. Battle Royale, vol. 1 (manga) - Koushun Takami, and illustrated by Masayuki Taguchi (review pending)
70. French Milk - Lucy Knisley (review pending)
71. Kabuki: The Alchemy - David Mack (review pending)

Favourite of the month? I don't think I can single out a favourite but the graphic novel Kabuki: The Alchemy does stand out as the art in it is simply fabulous. However I thoroughly enjoyed the art in all the other graphic novels I read too. Overall it was very much a visually satisfying month!

New-to-me authors:  Five of the six this month were new to me. Only Audrey Niffenegger, whose The Time Traveler's Wife I really loved, was a repeat.
Books in translation: 1 (Battle Royale, vol. 1, translated from the Japanese). 

Books in: 15 (Purchased: Penguin Classics special editions - Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma by Jane Austen; my first Persephone - Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski; The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff - Book Blogger Holiday Swap; The Girl Who Played with FireThe Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, Wolf HallWolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, We are the Friction: Illustrations vs. Short Fiction, edited by Sing Statistics, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, ShiverShiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Battle Royale: The Novel by Koushun Takami; 1 Review copy: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford)
Books out: 0

Throughout 2009 I was reading for the Book Wish Foundation. A year ago, in January 2009, I pledged to donate $1 for each book I read, and $1 for each book I acquired, whether purchased myself or received for free from another source.
Money raised in December:  $27
Total Books Read in 2009:  71
Total Books Acquired in 2009:  92
Total raised for the year:  $188 ($163 + $25 from spring read-a-thon)
I decided to round up to an even $200 and am happy that my personal contribution will be able to help the refugees of Darfur better their lives in some small way. I haven't made a specific pledge for this year but I will continue to support Book Wish whenever I can.

Reading Challenges Progress Report
(see sidebar for current challenges)

Challenges completed
Dewey's Books Reading Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 5/5
Lost in Translation Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): Completed - 17/6
Orbis Terrarum Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 10/10
Herding Cats II: Attack of the Hairballs (until Dec. 31, 2009): Completed - 3
Manga Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): Completed - 7/6
Graphic Novels Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 6/6
ARC Reading Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 16/12 Completed - Current ARC/Review status (for 2009): 16 read, 8 to go
Everything Austen Challenge (July 1, 2009 - Jan. 1, 2010): 6/6

Challenge almost completed
What's in a Name? 2 Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 5/6

Japanese Literature Challenge 3 (July 30, 2009 - Jan. 30, 2010): Completed - 4/1
Canadian Book Challenge 3 (July 1, 2009 - July 1, 2010): 1/13

Long-term Reading Projects (Total read in 2009)
Reading Japan Project: 22 (including manga, 1 in December)
Orange Prize Project: 0!

New Challenges Joined for 2010
Reading Resolutions Challenge (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010)
2010 Reading From My Shelves Project (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010):  Read 0/20;  Passed on 0/20
Flashback Reading Challenge (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010):  0/3
Buy One Book and Read It Challenge (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010):  0/6
Manga Challenge (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010):  0/6
Graphic Novels Challenge (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010):  0/3

Reading plans for January
Well, there's not that much of January left to be honest but I'm currently reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford for the TLC Book Tour that will be stopping here next week.  I've started but also need to finish The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, this month's Japanese Literature Book Group selection, the discussion of which will begin on Monday, the 25th.  I have some other review books on deck that I probably should read after that but I think I'll just play it by ear for the remainder of the month.

No one may care at this point but I'm going to finally put together my 2009 reading stats and best reads of the year post later this week, and then try to wrap up the last of 2009 reading-related posts by the end of January.  

In other random book news, on one of our train journeys this past weekend, there was a guy across from me reading Haruki Murakami's latest, IQ84, and it really made me wish I could read Japanese as the English translation isn't expected to be out until autumn 2011!  However, I am really looking forward to reading, and re-reading, some of Murakami's older books for the Japanese Literature reading groups this spring.

Non-bookwise, I'm in the middle of attempting to completely change my sleeping pattern.  I'm a major night owl, and always have been, but lately it's been getting ridiculous, and resulting in a perpetual lack of sleep and general fatigue.  Another factor in my blogging less over the last couple of months too, I imagine.  So not a resolution exactly, more of a lifestyle improvement that I'm working toward.  It hasn't been entirely successful yet, and often leaves me feeling a bit jet-lagged, but I am trying to make a definite effort to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier even on the days when I don't have early lessons.  I certainly do look forward to feeling more rested.  Wish me luck! And if you have any sleep-related stories or advice that you wouldn't mind sharing, I'd love to hear them.

The small print:  Links in this post to Amazon (including book covers) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information visit my About Page.