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Readathon button

We’ve got a little more than an hour to go of the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon but I realised that I no longer feel like reading. So I’m going to quit! I’ve read for an embarrassing total of 3:15 hours (*hides in shame*) but that’s more than I’ve read in a long time and I got halfway The Book of Negroes -a chunkster- so I’ve met my goal. ;)

You can laugh.
You can point your fingers at me.
You may argue that I’m not a worthy readathonner.

BUT I’M HAPPY WITH WHAT I’VE DONE! And I know you’re all nice people and won’t think anything bad of me anyway! :D

A big THANK YOU to the organisers, mini challenge hosts, cheerleaders and all participants who made this spring 2013 read-a-thon possible. I hope to see you all around next fall!

Early End of the Event Meme

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    The first few hours when I had expected to read a lot in one stretch before I needed to go to a birthday party but didn’t . :(
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    Well, the book I have been reading today is definitely one of those: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill!
    Another would be Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami or Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending for a shorter novella.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    Not really, everything runs so smoothly! Except maybe that I don’t like mini challenges that take up a lot of reading time but are too tempting to resist. I’ve had issues with those in previous years and now I tend to ignore the challenges as a whole so I won’t get distracted.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    I can’t think of anything that went better than other times!
  5. How many books did you read?
    (*whispers*) Not even one: just the first part of The Book of Negroes; books 1 and 2.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    Ha! I already mentioned that several times and I don’t think you want to hear me say it again! LOL
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    Well, THAT one. ;)
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    -
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    -
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    Yes please! Looking at my results I shouldn’t challenge myself beyond reading though…

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Crazy Comma Momma’s mini challenge for this twentieth hour is writing a haiku about the read-a-thon or the book you’re reading. Poetry is not one of my strong suits but here’s an attempt at a ‘zen moment’ in 5-7-5 syllables. Please don’t laugh! ;)

In bed with the cats
reading The Book of Negroes
- Sunday morning bliss

Button 24 Hour Read-a-ThonYay, after two-and-a-half years I’m finally participating again in the 24 hour read-a-thon! And I’ve been extremely looking forward to it. :) It was rather difficult to keep the date free since so many activities seem to be planned this weekend, but I was firm and only have a birthday to go to later on.

That’s also why I allowed myself to start an hour earlier than the set time for my zone here in Utrecht: at 13.00 instead of 14.00. And I already know I won’t be reading around the clock but that’s okay: today is meant to get some reading done and I NEED that because I’ve been in some kind of slump and I got this Bookcrossing bookray that I want to get on with – The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (Het negerboek in Dutch).

Cover Het negerboek / The Nigger Book (Lawrence Hill)

The bookmark you see I cut from a thank-you note card that was sent to me by a swap-bot member.

Delight in the little things

Balou the Bear from Jungle BookCute, isn’t it? That’s a quote by Rudyard Kipling, the author of Jungle Book (who used to be accused of racism but got revalued later on).

I also won’t be blogging, tweeting, FB-ing much today, nor participate in (many) challenges or lose myself otherwise in social media. I may post an occasional update but for me today is meant for reading even though I know the readathon is much about the community as well. A grrl has to set priorities!

Why don’t you follow my example and pick up a book?

Summarizing for the Introductory Questionnaire

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
    Utrecht – the Netherlands – Europe
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
    Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
    None in particular, though I’ll be having a nice mezze dinner at a birthday party with dishes like houmous, pide bread and caponata mmmmm. :)
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself!
    I’m looking forward to having some quality time with da ladies: Juno, Nina and Kuki! Reading and cats go great together! ;)
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
    I haven’t participated in the last read-a-thon (as I said at the beginning) but I know from previous ones that social media are majorly distracting!

If you’re on Instagram you’ve probably heard of the monthly #photoaday meme in which people daily post a picture inspired by a list of tags. I tried it once, but couldn’t keep up.

Yesterday I found out that The Estella Society -a reading playground built by book bloggers- is hosting something alike in March: a Bookish Photo a Day. I love the idea! So I jumped in right where we are, in week #2.

Curious about my contributions? View them on Statigram (hashtag #EstellaGram)!

Is anyone else playing along?

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Last November -that’s almost a year ago indeed- Annemieke from Rozemarijn kookt asked on Twitter who would like to receive her copy of A Vegan Taste of Greece, by Linda Majzlik. Of course I was interested and she kindly sent me the book. Shame on me that I didn’t cook from it until a couple of weeks back!

Now why did I finally pick it up?

Cookbook Challenge ButtonWell.. There’s a PPK Cookbook Challenge on the Post Punk Kitchen forum. A vegan cookbook is chosen each week, and if you don’t have that particular book you can choose another from your shelves. This event coincides with Uniflame’s Cookbook Challenge on She Likes Bento. The difference between the two?

  • PPK: any (vegan) book will do if you don’t have the designated title but you’ll need make at least three recipes from it.
  • She Likes Bento: there’s no set amount of recipes to try (just one will do) but you have to choose an unused or hardly touched cookery book.

Conclusion: I’m making it harder on myself by combining the two. What else is new? ;)

A Vegan Taste of Greece by Linda Majzlik

Cover A Vegan Taste of GreeceA Vegan Taste of Greece was the only vegan cookbook I own from which I hadn’t tried a single recipe — so there really was no other first choice possible.

After a short introduction on the origin of Greek food and its place in society, A Vegan Taste of Greece starts with an alphabetical list of a regular pantry, often including nutritional info. Nice! The rest of the book is divided into chapters focussing on different courses: mezedes, soups, main courses, vegetables, grain accompaniments, salads, sauces and dressings, breads, desserts and baking.

I’ve made 4 recipes from 3 different sections: a main course, grain accompaniment and two salads, one green and one legume (bean). Each recipe indicates the amount of servings; mostly four but since it’s just the two of us here at Graasland, I usually made half of it.

Main course: Briami

Greek Briami, Turkish rice with chickpeas, cumin spiced quick bread and avocado salad

Greek Briami, Turkish rice with chickpeas, cumin spiced quick bread and avocado salad

Briami is a vegetable casserole containing potatoes, courgette, red pepper, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes and a selection of herbs & spices like fennel seeds, rosemary and thyme. Wine and lemon juice provide additional liquid. The dish is finished off with olives and vegan cheese, for which I used a combination of faux parmezan and ‘rawmezan’ (a mix of ground nuts & ‘nooch‘, aka nutritional yeast). Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Despite of all the flavourful ingredients I found the briami rather bland. :( It could have used more sauce and even then I’m not sure it would be really good. Maybe my expectations were too high? Mr Gnoe thought it was okay.

It’s an easy recipe to make but it does take some time preparing because of all the ingredients required. And then it has to go into the oven for about an hour. Oven dishes that can be prepared in advance are great when having guests for dinner, but I don’t think I would dare serve this. Don’t want to confirm a possible prejudice that vegan food is tasteless! ;)

Grain accompaniment: Minted bulgar with leeks

Leek bulghhur with seitan stroganoff

Seitan stroganoff with minted leek bulghur

The bulghur was… nice, but once more a bit dull. Admittedly I forgot to garnish with fresh mint. But I could hardly taste the dried peppermint that was also in it, and the leeks were so overcooked that they’d lost most of their flavour. I like leek, so it was another disappointment. I would consider making this again though: as an idea it’s more exciting than just wheat, it’s easy to make and a great way to add more vegetables to a meal. Next time I’d bake the veg separately until just done and combine everything at the end. It was a good combo with the seitan stroganoff though!

Green salad: fennel and avocado

Greek fennel salad with avocado

Greek fennel salad with watercress & avocado

I’ve got this surprisingly good fennel-tomato salad recipe and avocado is one of my favourite fruits, so I was eager to try a Greek recipe combining them. The biggest differences between the two are that the fennel is cooked first in the new recipe and it doesn’t have basil & black olives but watercress (and avocado) instead.

You can probably guess by now… Another flavourless dish. I expect Mediterranean food to be tasty! Furthermore, all ingredients were soft (not to say mushy) and I rather like a crunchy salad. My ideas for improvement? Keep the fennel raw, add olives & basil and maybe a little ouzo or other anise-flavoured drink. Of course having alcohol with your meal decreases the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, but sometimes there’s something to say for taste too. ;) But to be honest, I think I’ll stick with my regular fennel salad recipe.

Bean salad: chickpea

Greek chickpea salad

Chickpea salad

The last recipe, chickpea salad, was a small hit — the best of the bunch anyway. Especially considering it’s rather basic: a mix of cooked garbanzos, cucumber, a variety of peppers, red onion, black olives and a dressing made of skinned and finely chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic, fresh thyme and black pepper. I added a little salt as a flavour enhancer too. Yes, I will make this salad again when I have an open can of chickpeas!

The verdict

It will come as no surprise that I’m not really enthusiastic about A Vegan Taste of Greece. I’m considering discarding it, but first I’d like to try some recipes from other sections, like…

  • A mezé ~ walnut-stuffed mushrooms? Yellow split-pea spread fava? Courgette critters? Or jumping into the deep end with gyros made from scratch, finally using that bag of seitan starter I purchased?
  • Dessert ~ baked nectarines or orange glazed peach slices, almond & apricot pastries… They make my mouth water. :) But all require the purchase of a new ingredient: orange flower water.
  • Baked goods ~ sesame cookies, almond cakes, semolina & lemon slices… No? ;)
  • And the baked beetroot in the vegetable chapter sounds like good too.

So there’s more to explore before the curtain falls. I’d like to try one each from the categories above before my final judgement. Still, there’s a whole series of A Vegan Taste of… (France, India, East Africa, et cetera) by Linda Majzlik. Getting me to try another would require a copy to literally fall into my hands again.

I hardly dare finish with one more flaw of the book.. :\ I think it’s partly a regional problem and doesn’t apply to Americans. MANY of the recipes use vegan cheese or yoghurt. I haven’t been able to find a good cheese substitute and feel reluctant to buy and use the varieties available here. In the US there’s Dayia… Reviews are raving so I’d love to get my hands on that!

And soygurt… It lacks the sour freshness of its animal equivalent, which cannot be fully compensated by adding (extra) lemon. I just purchased a tub though, so I do plan on trying one of the recipes containing yofu too.

To be continued?

If you’ve got one of Majzlik’s books I’d love to hear you think!

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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Months ago, it must have been somewhere in spring, I suddenly had enough. I haven’t told you (really didn’t mean to keep it a secret! ;) but I quit all the challenges I’d subscribed to for 2012. Just like that, cold turkey, after having been an addict for years! ;)

Cookbook Challenge Button

Then came October… autumn. And Uniflame announced a two-month Cookbook Challenge inspiring people to cook from under-used cookbooks — who doesn’t have some of those hanging around? Of course I had to join. :) So Gnoe’s back in business!


Since it’s VeganMoFo this month, I’ll concentrate on vegan cookbooks. Starting of with A Vegan Taste of Greece by Linda Majzlik, that was passed on to me earlier this year — and until now I hadn’t tried a single recipe. I’ll probably share my experiences with the book next Sunday Salon.

Cover Vegan Taste of Greece (Linda Majzlik)

Other vegan cookbooks on my shelf that qualify:

  • Non-fish-a-licious and
  • (maybe) Lisette in Luilekkerland, both by Lisette Kramer.

Vegetarian nominees:

  • Yogi food (Jet Eikelboom & Seth Jansen),
  • The Art of Tofu (Akasha Richmond),
  • Living Among Meat Eaters (Carol J. Adams),
  • Koken in McDonald’s kitchen (Andy McDonald).

One omni cookbook that I’ve had for two decades, haven’t cooked from and still fail at getting rid of: Aan tafel met Yvonne Keuls, a collection of family recipes from Yvonne Keuls, a Dutch writer with Indonesian roots.

Which cookbooks have you hardly used?

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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

Now that I finished Gods of Gotham by Lindsay Faye, it’s time to pick my read for Orange July. But which one? I found several previous nominees on Mount TBR – maybe you can help me choose?

Pile of books to pick from

Oryx and Crake ~ Margaret Atwood (2003)

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.

A Visit from the Goon Squad ~ Jennifer Egan (2010)

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a novel of self-destruction and redemption.

Paradise ~ Toni Morrison (1998)

“They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.” So begins this visionary work from a storyteller. Paradise opens with a horrifying scene of mass violence and chronicles its genesis in an all-black small town in rural Oklahoma. Founded by the descendants of freed slaves and survivors in exodus from a hostile world, the patriarchal community of Ruby is built on righteousness, rigidly enforced moral law, and fear. But seventeen miles away, another group of exiles has gathered in a promised land of their own. And it is upon these women in flight from death and despair that nine male citizens of Ruby will lay their pain, their terror, and their murderous rage.

Larry’s Party ~ Carol Shields (1997)

Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator’s perception, irony and tenderness. Carol Shields gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997 that flash back and forward seamlessly. As Larry journeys toward the millennium, adapting to society’s changing expectations of men, Shields’ elegant prose makes the trivial into the momentous. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, Larry moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties and the lean, mean nineties, completing at last his quiet, stubborn search of self. Larry’s odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy and faultless wisdom.

The Accidental ~ Ali Smith (2005)

The Accidental is the dizzyingly entertaining, wickedly humorous story of a mysterious stranger whose sudden appearance during a family’s summer holiday transforms four variously unhappy people. Each of the Smarts–parents Eve and Michael, son Magnus, and the youngest, daughter Astrid–encounter Amber in his or her own solipsistic way, but somehow her presence allows them to see their lives (and their life as a family) in a new light.

White Teeth ~ Zadie Smith (2000)

On New Year’s morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie—working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt—is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie’s car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life and sets in motion this richly imagined, uproariously funny novel.

Please cast your vote before tomorrow 13:30 (GMT+1). It’s weekend so I can’t wait too long to start a new book! ;)

And of course I’d love to hear why you recommend your book of choice.

 

Thank you so much!

I can hardly wait to see what my next read will be… :)

Cover Dromen van China / The China Lover (Ian Buruma)

Last week I promised to share my thoughts on my first read of 2012: Dromen van China by Ian Buruma, or The China Lover (‘Dreaming of China‘) as it’s originally called. This edition is translated to Dutch by Eugène Dabekaussen & Tilly Maters.

I prefer the Dutch title to the English because more than anything, The China Lover seems to be a story about feeling at home in a place that isn’t — and may not even exist. I think all book lovers can relate to that?

It’s a historical novel in three parts, all set in different time periods, revolving around Yoshiko Yamaguchi a.k.a. Ri Koran/Li Xianglan: a beautiful, Manchurian-born Japanese screen star. She is not the main character of the book, but a centerpiece in the lives of three male protagonists. These men share another love: cinema, turning The China Lover also into a story about film.

Strangely enoug the book is not really about China but about the development of Japan and the country’s positioning in the world throughout the decades of the mid 20th century.

It starts in the 1930s with Sato Daisuke, a Japanese ‘information broker’ in Manchukuo. Manchukuo was an under ‘The Last Emperor’ Pu Yi established Japanese puppet state in Manchuria — really an aggressive occupation of Chinese territory. Daisuke falls in love with China (and its women) and believes in creating an ideal state through cinema as he feels more at home here than in the ‘straightjacket’ Japan.

Yoshiko Yamaguchi is his protege: by his hand she starts working as an actress & singer. The movies in Manchukuo are mere propaganda, meant to help give Manchukuo its shape and to sway the Chinese in favour of their Japanese occupiers. Therefore Yoshiko Yamaguchi must keep her Japanese nationality top secret and pretend to be Chinese under the stage name Ri Koran, or Li Xianglan.

The second part of the novel is set in post-war Tokyo. The story is told from the perspective of an American GI, Sidney (‘Sid’) Vanoven, who falls in love with Japan. He becomes a film reviewer and befriends Yoshiki Yamaguchi in that capacity. The starlet even goes to the US where she reinvents herself as Shirley Yamaguchi.

In this part the big screen is again used for propaganda, this time by the American occupiers: to impress democratic values on the Japanese people. Feudal samurai stories are no longer allowed. But cinema is also an escape from reality; not because of glamour, but by looking at folks in similar situations. There is no need to wallow in unhappiness when you can cry freely for the misery of fictional characters.

Photo of Ri Koran (Yoshiko Yamaguchi)The book closes in the 1960s-1970s with Sato Kenkichi, a soldier of the Japanese Red Army fighting the Palestinian cause, imprisoned in Beirut. Starting out as a ‘pink’ (porn) movie assistant he later gets to work for a TV show with.. Yoshiko Yamaguchi as presenter. Even after their paths take different directions, Yoshiko still travels the world bringing news of oppressed peoples and their leaders. Film is used in this section as a medium for atonement, as well as propaganda.

All three men tell their story looking back from an uncertain time in the ‘present’. That their names are similar cannot be a coincidence and it probably means that this isn’t really about them, but about the growth of Japan as a nation. It can also explain why this book is called The China Lover, after its first protagonist: Sato Daisuke. He’s the one infatuated with China, and his surname, Daisuke, can even be translated as ‘favourite’ or ‘I love it’. At first I didn’t understand why this book would be called after him but now I understand that although the separate narrators are different (showing consecutive phases in Japan’s evolution), they are also the same.

Besides, he is not the only one who loves China above all places.. that also goes for Yoshiko Yamaguchi.

Embracing The China Lover?

So, did I love The China Lover?

I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story. Buruma takes his time explaining the setting of the first part (which was needed as the history of Manchukuo was completely unknown to me), introducing many characters — some of which have more than one name.* I’m not familiar with Chinese names and places and for the first time I understood a complaint I heard several times about David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I’ve read quite some JLit and at the time I couldn’t accept that people had trouble keeping the Japanese characters and places apart… Now I can. ;)

But the most serious drawback of this section was that the narrator didn’t really sound Japanese or Asian to me.

* Just like Yoshiko Yamaguchi a.k.a. Ri Koran, Li Xianglan, Shirley Yamaguchi and a literal translation of her Chinese name that I forgot. She’s even got more names that aren’t mentioned in the book!

So ‘the China part’ was giving me most trouble. But in the following pages I also felt at times that the author wanted to include everything into the story; even Idi Amin, Ghadaffi and Yasar Arafat got covered. Isn’t that a bit too much?

About the second part of the novel I like how you know immediately there’s an American speaking by the use of a military acronym in the first sentence (GOMIP = Geen Omgang Met Inlands Personeel). This character is probably closest to the author, who’s been an American in Asia for several years. That’s probably why the narrator of this section felt much more true.

In regard to the translation I was sometimes bothered when sentences were confusingly long and would have been better constructed in a different order. It may not be a major issue, but it disturbed my ‘flow’ and increased the already present flaw that the story was at times was hard to follow because of all the information to absorb. Next time I hope Buruma takes the trouble to narrate a story in Dutch himself. ;)

Considering my interests in Asia (specifically Japan), cinema, feminism and globalism, and the fact that the book is broad and quite entertaining, it seems strange I was not swept of my feet by it. So I guess reading another novel by Ian Buruma is not high on my priority list (though his book about the Theo van Gogh assassination piques my interest). But I came to learn new things about Asian and Western history and was triggered to look up facts about Manchukuo and Yoshiko Yamaguchi, now Yoshiko Ōtaka. Did you know she’ll turn 92 in 3 weeks?! During her active years she took up politics and was a member of parliament for 18 years.

What I am really excited about is the fact that my favourite movie director, Hirokazu Kore-eda, is said to be planning a feature film about the life of this many-faced woman. Now that’s something to look forward to!

Chinese Literature

Chinese Literature Challenge 2011 button

The China Lover has been in my possession since its year of publication (2008) but I never got around to it, even though I stacked it on my readathon pile several times. Thanks to Chinoiseries’ Chinese Literature Challenge I finally picked it up!

I was surprised to find that a book with this title wasn’t really about China. Only the first section of the book is set in Manchuria, or Manchukuo at the time. It is an important section of the book but as I related above, I had a little trouble getting focussed with all the unfamiliar names, places, political and historical setting. I’m still not sure whether that (small) problem lies with me, or with the author. I have learnt something about a time and place I had no knowledge of whatsoever and feel wiser now. ;)

With this review I just managed to accomplish my goal for the Chinese Literature Challenge. Next time I’ll try to aim a little higher!

Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction Challenge portrait buttonThat I had started 2012 with a historic novel made it easier to enter the Historical Fiction Challenge on Historical Tapestry and Eclectic Reader Challenge on Book’d Out. It is not a genre I’m much used to, and being able to cross off one daunting book from the challenge list is always a good feeling.

As I mentioned with the Chinese Literature Challenge, I have learnt some interesting facts about historical people and places. I like that very much and look forward to reading more historical fiction. Although I wasn’t convinced that the first narrator was Asian, all the characters felt true to life — and alive. I could not differentiate between truth and fiction, which seems a good thing?

Eclectic Reader Challenge 2012 button

Now I’ve got one more historical novel to go for the ‘Out Of My Comfort Zone’ level in the Historical Fiction Challenge, and 11 more (other genres) as an Eclectic Reader…

To Be Continued!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

My previous Sunday Salon was all about reading challenges. There are of course the usual suspects — but also a desire to discover new horizons.

I stated I had room for just the one more… Well, I changed my mind. ;) If I’m going to get out of my comfort zone I shouldn’t just explore different genres but also new challenges! The result: I went totally overboard and joined almost all of the ones I contemplated — and the one I had forgotten to mention in the first place. ;)

This is my admission post for three of the reading challenges. Hop to the bottom of this post for my current read.

Eclectic Reader Challenge

With its obligation to read 12 books from different categories –several of which I would never pick by myself– The Eclectic Reader Challenge on Book’d Out is quite the dare for me. And worth a try! Here’s a list of the genres.

  1. Literary Fiction
  2. Crime/Mystery Fiction
    On the shelf: This Body of Death (Elizabeth George)
  3. Romantic Fiction
    On the shelf: Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)?
    Possibly: Verwante stemmen / An Equal Music (Vikram Seth)?
  4. Historical Fiction ✔
    Read: Dromen van China / The China Lover (Ian Buruma)
  5. Young Adult
    On the shelf: The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
  6. Fantasy
    On the shelf: The WeeFree Men (Terry Pratchett)
  7. Science Fiction
    On the shelf: Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
  8. Non Fiction
    On the shelf: Met bonzend hart; brieven aan Hella S. Haasse / ‘Letters to Hella S. Haasse‘ (Willem Nijholt; memoir)
  9. Horror
    Wishlist: Out (Natsuo Kirino)
  10. Thriller /Suspense
  11. Classic
    On the shelf: The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)
  12. Your favourite genre

To some of these genres I already added a book but as you have learnt today: anything can change!

Historical Fiction Challenge

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012 button landscape

I don’t read many historical novels. One could possibly argue Bandoen-Bandung and Kandy from F. Springer belong to this genre, or Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front. If not, then I haven’t read any historical fiction in 2011 and we’d have to go back to mid 2010 when I read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a very enjoyable novel by David Mitchell.

High time for the Historical Fiction Challenge on Historical Tapestry! The easiest level seems to be tailor-made for me: ‘Out of My Comfortzone’ = 2 books. Looks doable as I’m currently reading a historical novel by Ian Buruma: The China Lover! That leaves eleven months to find another one.

My online bookgroup the Boekgrrls have Hella Haasse’s De heren van de thee (The Tea Lords) planned for March. But that’ll be a reread for me so I may need to find something else. I recently bought Mevrouw Couperus (Mrs Couperus), a novel about the spouse of the late 19th, early 20th Century author Louis Couperus, by Sophie Zijlstra. But there are also great reports out about The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern?! :)

Nordic Challenge 2012

Nordic Challenge button

My sister-in-law recently moved to Denmark with her husband and kids. I’m not much familiar with Scandinavian authors yet so it’s good news that Zommie from Reading in the North decided to host another Nordic Challenge! I’d love to explore the Nordic countries in literature as well as in real life.

There seem to be no set levels so I will read at least one book, but hope to do better than that! I spotted a Danish novel on Mt. TBR: De vrouw en de aap (The Woman and the Ape) by Peter Høeg. And I may also try that new mystery writer my mother-in-law discovered, whatshisname… :)

Now don’t tell anyone because we haven’t really decided yet, but Mr Gnoe and I are considering doing a class about Scandinavian movies!

I have no idea if I’ll cope with all my challenges this year: January is halfway done and so far I still have to finish my first book! ;) But I won’t put too much weight on them. Reading should be fun, and so do challenges!

Currently reading

Cover Dromen van China / The China Lover (Ian Buruma)I just told you I still have to finish my first book of 2012: The China Lover by Ian Buruma. The author was born in the Netherlands and I’m reading the Dutch translation, Dromen van China, but was surprised to see it’d originally been written in English.

It’s a novel in three parts, all set in different time periods, having seperate main characters. Connecting these stories is Yamaguchi Yoshiko a.k.a. Ri Koran/Li Xianglan, a Manchurian born Japanese movie star. She’s never the narrator, always an admired ‘object’, but does get to have her say as she’s met in person by all three protagonists.

For me, part of the attraction of this book is that it shows how film is used (and experienced) in different ways through history.

I’ve been wanting to read it for ages (it has been gathering dust on my shelves) and I’m thankful to the Chinese Literature Challenge for finally getting me to pick it up. Even better: now I can add it to both my Historical Fiction and Eclectic Reader Challenge lists! I’m almost done reading so I’ll tell you more about it later!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

This second Sunday Salon of 2012 is about the year’s reading challenges. I’ve subscribed to some — and am still thinking about others. That’s okay, as I don’t like to be straightjacketed too soon. ;) The challenges of 2011 will get their own collective wrap-up post.

2012 reading challenges (so far)

I’ll be certainly doing the following challenges this year.

Chinese Literature Challenge (hosted by Chinoiseries)

Chinese Literature Challenge button

I’m not sure whether this really counts as a 2012 challenge because it started in February ’11 and ends later this month (January 23rd). But I’m reading for the challenge as we speak (The China Lover by Ian Buruma, in Dutch) so why exclude it from my list?

What’s in a Name Challenge #5 (at Beth Fish reads)

What's in a name challenge #5 button

My fourth time participating in this fun challenge. Speaking about random choices… See what’s it all about in my admittance post!

Murakami Reading Challenge 2012 (continued by In Spring it is the Dawn)

I was glad to learn tanabata decided to continue the Murakami Reading Challenge into 2012! There are a still a few books by the author that I haven’t got around to (and as you know I mean to read all of them) so why not herd with the others? Setting the goal low this time at 3 books (level Sheep Man).

Japanese Literature Challenge #6 (starting in June this year, hosted by Dolce Bellezza)

I always join the Japanese Literature Challenge and 2012 will be no different. If Bellezza decides to host it again that is… Let’s wait and see! Requirements are low: I’ll just need to read one book. That’s good as I do want to read some JLit again this year. But it can’t be as much as last year or I’ll fail at my wish to explore new reading areas.

As a matter of fact, the Japanese Literary Challenge #5 still continues until the end of this month!

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

Now I quickly need to find the time to update my challenge page and sidebar!

Reading challenges I’m considering

Although I like reading challenges because of the ‘random’ way they help me pick books of my shelf, I can’t handle too many of them. I just don’t read as much as others (under 40 books a year), nor review as much. And I get stressed easily. ;) I’d say about 5 is doable — but still a challenge. :) With the ones I already commited to that leaves room for er… one more. :\

So I’m looking for a challenge that doesn’t prescribe too many books (gotta leave some room for ‘free’ choices) and where reviewing is not compulsory. Also, I mostly want to choose unread books that I already own or can borrow.

Having that said, I decided I’d like to get out of my comfort zone more. I’ll embrace any challenge helping me do that!

So here are the ones that appeal to me.

Foodies Read 2 (from Joyfully Retired)

Foodies Read 2 buttonI participated in the first Foodies Reading Challenge. How could I not?

Pro: how can I not join this challenge again? I’m a reading foodie!

Contra: I didn’t manage to write about some of my books last year (wrap-up post coming) and reviewing is sorta mandatory. Then again, I post about food anyway and want to share some thoughts on cookbooks. It’s a must!

Eclectic Reader Challenge (on Book’d Out)

Pro: 12 different genres to read from; some comfortable but most of them are not. ;)

Contra: 12 books (for one challenge only) is about 1/3 of what I read a year! And reviewing is obligatory. Of course overlapping with other challenges/readalongs is possible and I could revert to mini reviews. That some of the genres, like YA and fantasy, REALLY don’t attract me — well, that’s what I was asking for, right? I may be pleasantly surprised… and might actually have some fitting titles on my shelf!

South Asian challenge (hosted by S.Krishna)

Pro: I’ve read plenty of Japanese literature and some Chinese and Indonesia related, but how about that other part of Asia? I think I’m only familiar with the work of Nadeem Aslam — one of my favourite authors!!! That’s a recommendation to try more from the area, right?

Contra: I don’t think I own any books that fit this challenge. :( *Mutters “out of my reading nook, new explorations…”*

Historical Fiction Challenge (set at Historical Tapestry)

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012 button landscapePro: the lowest level (2 books) is called ‘Out of My Comfort Zone’. ;) Every once in a while I read an historical fiction novel, but not every year and certainly not multiple books. One of my choices could overlap with the Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Contra: how much of a challenge is this really?

Are you doing some of the above? Are you maybe hosting an interesting challenge? I welcome any suggestions you may have!

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