Note: I'm taking part in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon this Saturday, October 18th, but I will not be posting any updates here.
When I'm not reading or cheering, I'll be hanging out on Twitter and Instagram. Come say hi!

Friday, April 30, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Ten (an Empress's duty)

The 
Pillow Book This week we're looking at entries 91 to 100 in the McKinney translation of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon.  However, as always I've included the corresponding entry numbers in the Morris version too, when possible, for anyone reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. Don't hesitate to jump in anytime, whether you've read along from the start, or not.  Or if you're not reading along because you've read the book previously. It's the kind of book that can easily be dipped into here and there, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sei's rants and musings.

Week Ten
McKinney: Entries 91 - 100 (p. 95 - 113)
Morris: Entries 63 - 70 (p. 117 - 134)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sayonara Kabuki-za

Kabuki-za

Last weekend we decided to stop by Ginza to have a last look at the famous Kabuki-za Theatre, which first opened on this spot in 1889. The original theatre burnt down in 1921 and was rebuilt, and then later restored in 1950 as well after being damaged by air raids during WWII. However, there are concerns about the earthquake-safety of the current Kabuki-za, so it is closing at the end of April, and will be torn down.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First impressions of 'The Count of Monte Cristo' (and a giveaway)


Perhaps it was overly optimistic of me to commit to reading The Count of Monte Cristo for The Classics Circuit Dumas tour this month. I'd really hoped to be done, or if not done, then at least be well on the way, by now. However, my reading hasn't gone at all as planned this month. I'm currently about 400 pages in, which means I still have about 800 pages to go! One of the reasons I haven't been able to read as much of The Count of Monte Cristo as I had hoped this month is because the book is just too darn big and heavy to lug around with me on my train commute, so I've only been reading it at home in the evenings, and I'm so sleepy these days that I never seem to get much read before falling asleep. But instead of cancelling my tour date, here are some of my first impressions of what I've read so far.

Friday, April 23, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Nine (Splendid things, Infuriating things)

The Pillow BookThis week we're looking at entries 81 to 90 in the McKinney translation of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon.  However, as always I've included the corresponding entry numbers in the Morris version too, when possible, for anyone reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. Don't hesitate to jump in anytime, whether you've read along from the start, or not.  Or if you're not reading along because you've read the book previously. It's the kind of book that can easily be dipped into here and there, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sei's rants and musings.

Week Nine
McKinney: Entries 81 - 90 (p. 75 - 94)
Morris: Entries 55 - 62 (p. 99 - 116)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

weeping cherry

weeping cherry

A couple of weekends ago, when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, we went to a small town not too far from where we live to see a well-known weeping cherry tree at the local shrine. It was very tall and quite impressive.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

'Read, Remember, Recommend: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers'

Created by Rachelle Rogers Knight
Sourcebooks, 2010
Taken from the back cover:
A must-have for book lovers, Read, Remember, Recommend contains:

*More than 2,500 cross-referenced award-winning and notable reading suggestions from every celebrated literary award and book list available, guaranteed to help you discover great literature and new authors.

*Checklists to help you organize and keep track of books you want to read, books you've loaned out or borrowed, books you've read, and books you want to recommend.

*Journal pages to record your thoughts, ideas, and discussion points on books and authors.

*A comprehensive list of literary blogs, book award lists, and literary terms

Perfect for book clubs and anyone who loves a good book, Read, Remember, Recommend is the ultimate way to enhance your love of reading.

Friday, April 16, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Eight (rare things, taboos, and good manners)

The Pillow BookThis week we're looking at entries 71 to 80 in the McKinney translation of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon.  However, as always I've included the corresponding entry numbers in the Morris version too, when possible, for anyone reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. Don't hesitate to jump in anytime, whether you've read along from the start, or not.  Or if you're not reading along because you've read the book previously. It's the kind of book that can easily be dipped into here and there, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sei's rants and musings.

Week Eight
McKinney: Entries 71 - 80 (p. 61 - 75)
Morris: Entries 47 - 54 (p. 83 - 99)

[71] Rare things
Morris (47): Rare things
A son-in-law who's praised by his wife's father.  Likewise, a wife who's loved by her mother-in-law.
A person who is without a single quirk.  Someone who's superior in both appearance and character, and who's remained utterly blameless throughout his long dealings with the world.
You never find an instance of two people living together who continue to be overawed by each other's excellence and always treat each other with scrupulous care and respect, so such a relationship is obviously a great rarity.
Two women, let alone a man and a woman, who vow themselves to each other forever, and actually manage to remain on good terms to the end. [McKinney, entry 71]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

'The Wind-up Bird Chronicle' Discussion - Book Two (JLit Read-along)

Japanese Literature Read-along

Welcome to the discussion of Book Two, the second part of our 3-month read-along, of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Book Two: Bird as Profit (July to October 1984) takes us up to page 338 in the Vintage trade paperback, both the US and UK editions. For more information on the book editions, and schedule, please visit the Japanese Literature Read-along page. For more information about the book, please refer to The Wind-up Bird Chronicle - Book One Discussion post.

Since I posted the summary and basic information about the book last month, let's just jump to the discussion. The questions below are simply a guide to start the conversation. Please feel free to discuss any of the questions below that interest you, or bring up any other questions or comments that you have about Book Two, or the story so far. Anyone is welcome to join in the discussion whether they're reading along, or have read the book previously. However, if you have already read the entire book, please be mindful of any participants that have not yet read Book Three. On the other hand, for anyone who has not yet read to the end of Book Two, please be aware that the questions and comments may contain spoilers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'Between Me and the River: Living Beyond Cancer'

by Carrie Host
Non-Fiction/Memoir, 2009
Harlequin, hardback, 288 p.
From the front flap:
Carrie Host knows that the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness takes a split second to change your life, as well as the lives of your partner, parents, children and all who love you. Packed with inspiration, advice, comfort, and hope, Between Me and the River is Host’s candid and uplifting memoir of how she found the strength and fortitude to triumph over a rare form of cancer, and craft a new and meaningful life.

When told at forty, with her youngest child just ten months old, that she had carcinoid tumor, Host felt as if she’d been hurled into a raging river, stripped of all forms of potential rescue. The voyage of this strong-minded, openhearted woman out of that river and onto safe shores is told with uncompromising honesty and respect for the miracles that medicine and love can work.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Salon: Read-a-thon Redux

Well, the spring version of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon is over. It's now late Sunday evening here in Japan. This time around, the read-a-thon was more like my own personal sleep-a-thon as I ended up sleeping through several hours of it. It was my busy week last week, and lack of sleep over the last several days catching up with me. Ah well, I did manage to finish reading/listening to The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman.  I also read over 100 pages in Book Two of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I only have about 40 more pages to go now so I'll definitely be done in time for the Japanese Literature Read-along discussion this coming Thursday.  So I can't complain. Course I kind of wish the read-a-thon were today instead since I'm pretty awake right now. Figures, right?

Read-a-thon/Sleep-a-thon: Update Two

It's now 5:30 PM on Sunday here in Japan. So what have I been doing since my update this morning? Well, ummm... I was reading The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. On the sofa. I started feeling sleepy again, and somehow I ended up taking a nap. For THREE HOURS! That's in addition to sleeping about 6 hours last night. Ooops! When I woke up I decided to exercise to get some energy and switched to listening to the audiobook of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman, which I just finished a little while ago. Yay! Ok, I was about halfway into it already but it's nice to finish at least one book this weekend. I'm going to spend some time online now visiting some read-a-thoners! I feel like I've completely missed out on the community aspect this time around from sleeping during most of it, not doing any mini-challenges, and not getting around to cheer on other readers. Oh well, I hope my #readathonfail has been #readathonwin for everyone else! :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Read-a-thon (also known as SLEEP-a-thon): Update One

Jiro

It's now 9 AM on Sunday here in Japan. I'm usually a major night owl, and I tried to stay awake last night, really I did, but I just kept dozing off. No matter what I tried (more tea, moving around, having a shower...), my lack of sleep from this past week caught up with me, hard. I finally gave up and went to bed around 1:30 AM, and probably should have just gone to sleep earlier as I really didn't get much reading accomplished last night, or anything else for that matter. If there was a prize for LEAST amount read, or least time spent reading during the read-a-thon, I would most definitely be in the running. But anyway, I'm up now, more or less awake, and ready to start read-a-thoning properly. I hope everyone else is having a great read-a-thon so far. Now, back to my book...

Read-a-thon: Ready, Set... Read!

24 Hour Read-a-thonYay! It's time for the spring edition of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon! I think this is the 4th time I'm joining in, although with the time difference and everything I've never stayed up for the whole 24 hours, and this time will be no different. It's a little past 9PM here in Japan, and I'm already quite tired as we spent the afternoon out with our cameras, admiring some weeping cherry trees in full bloom. I literally just finished dinner a few minutes ago. Plus it's been a busy week, and I haven't really had enough sleep the last few days in a row, so I'm not sure how long I'll last today. I'll definitely be reading most of Sunday (Japan time) though, which works out to the second half of the official read-a-thon hours.  So if I disappear for a while, I will return.

Friday, April 09, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Seven (plants, poetry, and things that can't be compared)

The Pillow BookThis week we're looking at entries 61 to 70 in the McKinney translation of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon.  However, as always I've included the corresponding entry numbers in the Morris version too, when possible, for anyone reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. Don't hesitate to jump in anytime, whether you've read along from the start, or not.  Or if you're not reading along because you've read the book previously. It's the kind of book that can easily be dipped into here and there, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sei's rants and musings.

Week Seven
McKinney: Entries 61 - 70 (p. 57 - 60)
Morris: Entries 42 - 46 (p. 80 - 82)

[61] Bridges
[62] Villages
[63] Plants
Morris (42): Herbs and Shrubs

[64] Flowering plants

bush clover
Photo credit: jhassy
The bush clover - I love the sight of those graceful stems with their deeply coloured flowers, weighted with the dew, drooping so languidly in ample sprays. [McKinney p. 58]

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

First Quarter Report (or, Reading Travels from January to March)

I hope everyone had a good weekend. (Yes I know it's now Wednesday but I started the draft of this post on Monday and then other things intervened preventing me from posting until today, and the wish is still the same).  Easter is a complete non-event here in Japan, but I did manage to have a little chocolate, and we enjoyed strolling among the blooming cherry trees.  Spring is such a pretty season here in Japan.

I haven't posted any monthly wrap-ups yet this year so with March now behind us it seems time for a first quarter of 2010 reading report. I haven't actually properly reviewed most of these books yet either, only 2 out of 14, but I'm determined that April will be the month in which I finally start to seriously catch up on these late, stray reviews. So stay tuned for those. In the meantime, here are the books I've read so far this year, and a little about the armchair travels these books took me on.

January began with me finding out some shocking things about my childhood. This led to me having to leave Prentisstown, the town where I had grown up, and to making some difficult choices along the way.  But now I wonder if it was all in vain!  I next spent some time with Carrie Host in Boulder, Colorado, as she battled cancer.  Afterwards, I spent some time reminiscing about my childhood in Seattle, and especially about my friend and classmate, a young Japanese girl.  Then the war came to America and everything changed.  I then returned to Japan where I worked as a housekeeper for an aging math professor with an unusual disability.  Despite his limitations, he came to mean a lot to both me and my son.  I even began to appreciate math!  January ended with me in New York, readying myself for the ultimate sacrifice, martyrdom in the name of Islam.  Even as I mentally prepared, I couldn't help but think of my family and other people who meant a lot to me.  Unbeknownst to me they were worried about my disappearance, and looking for me.  Little did they know what I had planned...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Hello Japan! April mini-challenge: a celebration of spring and sakura

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. You can post about the task on your blog. Or if you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment on the Hello Japan! post for the month. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above, or if you have any questions please feel free to email me at inspringthedawn AT gmail DOT com.
April's Topic

The end of March to early April is a much anticipated time of year in Japan.  Spring is making itself felt, at last, but most importantly it's sakura season, when the thousands of cherry trees all over Japan begin to blossom.  Cherry blossom viewing, or hanami, is an important ritual to welcome spring that everyone looks forward to each year. The weather channels watch closely and predict the optimum days for viewing. Websites track the progress of the cherry blossoms from the southern islands of Japan up to the northernmost tip.  Nowadays you can even install free iPhone apps that tell you the condition of the cherry blossoms, and the weather, at numerous well-known sakura viewing spots around the country.  People stock up on food and drink.  Parties are planned.  The lowest ranking, or newest, members of a company department are responsible for guarding a choice patch of earth underneath a flowering pink tree, sometimes all night!  Then for a few precious days when the blossoms are at their best, pretty much wherever you go, you'll see people of all ages eating, drinking, laughing, singing, playing and generally enjoying themselves under the canopy of fragile pink blossoms.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: March link round-up

Hello Japan!

The Hello Japan! mini-challenge for March was to read something written by, or about, the famous Japanese contemporary writer, Haruki Murakami. And now, "Murakami March", as I liked to call it, has ended, but I hope you had fun spending time last month with some of his stories. I read 4 (and a third) of his books, and little else, in March, so it was an interesting immersion in the life of one particular nameless character and the other, often unusual, characters he met along the way. The books were Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973, A Wild Sheep Chase, and Dance Dance Dance, plus Book One of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I haven't managed to review them, yet, but enjoyed discussing and hearing others opinions on the later two books as we discussed them here for the Japanese Literature Book Group. Click on the titles for the discussion posts.

Tony of Tony's Reading List, however, read and reviewed all 4 of the books in the Trilogy of the Rat, plus the sequel, late last year. He also pitted Haruki Murakami's After Dark against David Mitchell's number9dream. Check out his post The Master versus the Apprentice to see who he thinks comes out on top.