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Origami Christmas Trees 2012

Wishing all my (cyber) friends

a VERY MERRY X-MAS
&
WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!!!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the unveiling of my Secret Santa and what she gave me for Christmas 2010!

2010 Book Blogger Holiday Swap present from Zee

Thank you so much Zee (a.k.a. @zommie) from Notes from the North!

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods was one of the first books on my Bookdepository wishlist so it’s awesome to finally get my hands on it! :)) Zee’s twitter alter ego @zommie wrote she had no trouble deciding at all since it was one of her favourite books of 2009! Knowing that makes this gift even more special.

I haven’t seen a note about Zee’s Secret Santa yet… I hope she got something nice herself too! :) I guess anything Scandinavian will do, since she’s hosting a 2011 Nordic Reading Challenge! ;)
Book Blogger Holiday Swap button
Of course I was allowed to play Secret Santa too (that’s part of the deal ;) and I thoroughly enjoyed finding the right gifts for my Santee: Iris from Iris on Books, whom I’ve known and liked for quite some time now. She did a very nice blogpost about her Persephone & Book Blogger Holiday Swap presents.

Now, this is the Last Sunday Salon of 2010 and I’ve got some other bookish news to share.

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover buttonAnother week, another update, another challenge. That’s how you can tell it’s December LOL!

I told you before I plan to read all books by Haruki Murakami. I am lucky enough to live in The Netherlands, where the first two volumes of his new novel 1Q84 came out in June this year, earlier than in other parts of the world. We got this treasure right away but the weird thing is… I still haven’t read it! Good thing tanabata from In Spring it is the Dawn decided to host a Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge in 2011. :) She made two awesome buttons which I can’t seem to choose from and will alternate between.

The level of participation I’m choosing is ‘Toru’: read 5 of Murakami’s works. That seems appropriate since Toru is the main character of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is how I came to know this fabulous author. It also really constitutes a challenge for me because that comprises almost 25% of the amount of books I can currently read in a year! But who knows, I might even upgrade later this year if I feel like finishing the rest of his oeuvre as well. ;)

The books I plan on reading:

  1. Murakami Challenge 2011 cat-tail-buttonHear the Wind Sing
  2. Pinball, 1973
  3. The Elephant Vanishes (buddy-read with Elsje, just like we did with Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman)
  4. 1Q84 – part I
  5. 1Q84 – part II

The list is not in any particular order, except that I wish to read Hear the Wind Sing before ‘Pinball‘, and part 1 of 1Q84 before the second. ;)

Books read and to-be-read

I finished reading Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil — which will probably end up real high on this year’s list of Best Reads — and Thomas J. Davies’ The Christmas Quilt (a warm blanket of a cozy x-mas story), just like I planned.
*pats herself on the shoulder*

Today I’ll start in my online book group’s December read: Kalme chaos (Caos calmo), by Sandro Veronesi. It’s quite a chunker and I don’t think I’ll be able to manage all of it this month, but I might at least get the ball rolling, so to say. I’ve heard raving reviews as well as people getting bored and/or annoyed, so I have no idea what to expect! Don’t you like it when that happens? :)

Cover The Wasted Vigil (Nadeem Aslam)Cover The Christmas Quilt, Thomas J. DaviesCover Kalme Chaos, Sandro Veronesi

Are you free to read this week? What books are on your stack?

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? logoToday I’m joining in again with Book Journey’s It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme. Yesterday I had other priorities than to write a Sunday Salon post, like putting up Christmas decorations (my Secret Santa gift is now under the tree!) and READ. There was a low-key mini-readathon going on in Twitterverse and although I only got to read 4 of the 12 hours, it’s more than I would have done otherwise!

I’m now at 1/3rd of Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil and it’s absolutely fabulous. Aslam has a great way of saying things — I try to absorb each and every word he says.

Cover The Wasted Vigil (Nadeem Aslam)It’s an intriguing story, broadening my horizon; about the lives of five people who come together in post-9/11, war-torn Afghanistan.

Marcus, an English doctor whose progressive, outspoken Afghani wife was murdered by the Taliban, opens his home—itself an eerily beautiful monument to his losses—to the others: Lara, from St. Petersburg, looking for evidence of her soldier brother who disappeared decades before during the Soviet invasion; David, an American, a former spy who has seen his ideals turned inside out during his twenty-five years in Afghanistan; Casa, a young Afghani whose hatred of the West plunges him into the depths of zealotry; and James, the Special Forces soldier in whom David sees a dangerous revival of the unquestioning notions of right and wrong that he himself once held.

A few years ago I read his previous book Maps for Lost Lovers and loved it so much I had to get The Wasted Vigil as soon as it came out. Weirdly enough it stayed on my shelf for another two years! :-o But now I’m thrilled to find myself in 2005 Afghanistan while sitting safely on the couch.

It’s probably not too early to say that Nadeem Aslam now officially belongs to my favourite authors!

Cover The Christmas Quilt, Thomas J. DaviesI hope to read a lot this week — so what am I doing blogging??? — finishing The Wasted Vigil in a few days. I’ve been saving a book especially for the upcoming holidays you see, ever since I got it from velvet in January this yearThe Christmas Quilt by Thomas J. Davies. Now is the time to read it!

BTW Two more book-shaped parcels appeared mysteriously under the Christmas tree last night… Oh goody! ;)

It’s December and the gift giving season has definitely started. This week I received my parcel from Lavender Lines in the awesome Great Grocery Bag Exchange that Carin from A Little Bookish hosted. YAY!

Of course we all want to live ‘green’ (right?), so why not Bring Your Own Bag to the store?! Or better still, bring a friend’s bag! The cool part of this international swap is that you get to have a unique reusable bag from another country to lug your groceries back home in :) And mine-came-from-bilingual-Canada. Ha!

Curious? Well, here’s the loot Colleen sent me!

Bookhobo's Great Grocery Bag Exchange

Yep, you’re seeing that right: next to two bags, I also got some special Canadian goodies. :)

Oh, but the cat was not included! That’s our Handsome Man, Ringo. He was curious too ;) If you’re one of those rare cat-haters, here’s a link to a picture without him. :-o

The small red bag came from Claire de Lune, a wonderful Canadian candle shop, as Colleen describes it. It’s cute and it does smell sweetly of candles! :)

The bigger blue bag is from the Co-op grocery store. This bag is truly Canadian in that it has a French, and an English side. I can’t believe how global I’ll look carrying this! :) It’s pretty sturdy and I already used it to bring a bunch of heavy goodies to my aunt.

Please don’t tell anyone but there’s a secret to this bag too… Come closer to the computer so I can whisper it in your ear!

*low volume* There’s a small zipper pocket inside to put my money in! *volume up*

Colleen was so sweet to include her favourite Canadian chocolate bars: Coffee Crisp and mint-flavoured Aero. I visited Eastern Canada in 2000 but I can’t remember having come across them. So they’re rrrrrreally special! I’m saving them for a treat on one of my hikes or to cheer me up when I’m feeling down. Well, if I can resist them that long anyway ;)

I am a bit worried though :\ Colleen writes: I should warn you — they’re addictive!
Before you know it I’ll need to order them on-line in large numbers… LOL

So, a BIG Thank You! to my friends across the Atlantic: Colleen and Carin. I’ve had a great time participating in the grocery bag exchange and will continue to do so whenever I use my bags. Can you picture the jealous looks I’ll get? :)

Great Grocery Bag Exchange logo

Check out other Grocery Bag Exchange posts at A Little Bookish!

I really, really, really am such a lucky grrl. First I received my present from dolce bellezza for admitting quotes from I Am a Cat in the Japanese Literature Challenge November giveaway.

I love these colourful  maki-e stickers with gold so much that when I entered the ‘competition’, I vowed that I would go buy that longed for iPhone should I win… And I’m one to keep my promise! Don’t you think my mobile will look great with those gorgeous koi fish? Accessorize, Personalize! Better start making plans for a shopping trip ;)

The lucky cat phone charm is called Maneki Neko, which can be translated in ‘beckoning cat’. It is asking you to come in, because you’re welcome! It is believed to bring good luck. This cat has his left paw raised — some say to bring customers in, while having a raised right paw brings wealth and good fortune. Well, I’m lucky anyway! ;)

Because, as I wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Salon, I also received a whole box of goodies from vvb32 reads. Look at it!

December giveaway from velvet

Didn’t I get spoiled? The first thing to notice is Snow Country, by Kawabata Yasunari. I guess velvet noticed I fell in love with the author last year, while reading The Old Capitol in the Japanese Literature Bookgroup. I still need to review it, but I claimed it to be my 2nd best read of 2009! The other two books don’t trigger any memories, except that I know velvet read Gail Carriger’s Soulless, and loved it. I quote:

this is a fabulously fun Victorian romp involving supernatural creatures and others

I’ve decided against rereading her review because I prefer to know as little as possible about books before I begin — as I’ve said before ;) The Christmas Quilt by Thomas J. Davies hasn’t popped up anywhere on my radar yet, but it seems a cosy read for this year’s Holiday season. Let’s just hope there aren’t any zombies in it — can’t get comfy with guests like that, can I? :\ Then again… Why would I need brain flavour zombie mints when not expecting any living deads ?! :-o Boy, they must have bad breath… You think I could scare them away with the Christmas Cracker in the right-hand corner? Because I’m saving that until December as well! It has a cute wooden ‘Nutcracker’ toy on it.

Still, the box is not empty yet. There’s some stuff to get myself organized in the new year: a cool sushi bar calendar (stickers) and a monster heart pencil. I hope velvet doesn’t mean to suggest I need to stop blogging and start writing a personal diary? :P Nooooo, it’s probably to take notes while buddy reading Sei Shonagon’s The Pillowbook with her!

I’m open to suggestions on how to use the calendar stickers btw… The wrapper hints to putting them on my personal computer, but somehow that doesn’t seem such a good idea to me.

Superior Scribbler Award Happy 101 Blog Award

And then I got some more awards. You know by now I don’t pass these along, but I do APPRECIATE THEM very much! So many thanks to velvet for the Superior Scribe Award and to Sherimiya for the Happy 101 Blog Award! They both make me really happy :) But the one I like ‘bestest’ was passed on to me by the ever faithful velvet: the Zombie Chicken Award. (Yesh, velvet likes her zombies ;)

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words.

I rest my case. Let’s scatter those mints for the chicks and any other zombies Maneki Neko brings in. Then I can wallow in my wealth :)

Hello Japan! is swinging into 2010. January’s topic is ‘Music to my ears’. I found it really hard to decide what musical subject to concentrate on, so I am presenting a 5 part series of ‘Music Lessons’ on Fridays. Welcome to #2! And enjoy your weekend :)

After last week’s New Year’s post I’d like to stay just a little longer within the Holiday theme and talk about the extremely melancholic song Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Here’s the short version, called Father Christmas.

Quite a contrast to the ‘happy’ popgroup Pizzicato Five that I presented you with on January 1st, eh?

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is the theme song from the 1983 cult movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, for which the great musician Ryuichi Sakomoto composed the complete score. Nagisa Oshima’s film might be best known for its starring actor, pop star David Bowie playing a Japanese prisoner of war on Java in World War II. Ryuichi Sakamoto is Bowie’s opponent as a young camp commandant.

I was hugely impressed when I saw Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence as a teenager. It’s a dramatic history of the Second World War, parts of which still get denied in Japan today. It is amazingly well performed and directed (as far as I can remember). A very powerful movie that should be compulsory for anyone interested in history and Japan. There, I’ve said it.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence album coverOf course that my father lived in Japanese internment in Indonesia as a child might have a lot to do with it. His aversion of all things Japanese never left him and I don’t think he would have appreciated my current interest in this country and its culture if he had been alive today.

But I’m getting sidetracked. The vocal version of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence has lyrics by David Sylvian and is called Forbidden Colours. This song has helped spread the movie’s fame as well. And as I’m sitting in the confessional already, I might as well tell you Forbidden Colours was one of the tracks on the goodbye tape of my first boyfriend when he left for the US… Need I say more?

The title of the song is derived from Yukio Mishima’s novel Forbidden Colors. Both film and book explore homosexual themes, but that’s the end of their relation; the movie was based on some memoirs by Laurens van der Post.

Because of his soundtracks (and his influence in developing the technopop style in Japan), kyoju Ryuichi Sakamoto is internationally probably the best known Japanese musician.

For those of you who don’t know yet: I’m a real fan of movie soundtracks. I guess it’s because film music is supposed to be evocative and plays at people’s emotions. I’m a sucker for that ;) Of course it might help that I LOVE movies too!

Both favs of newly discovered music in 2009 were film scores: Nick Cave’s soundtrack of — the best movie of 2008 — The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Max Richter’s music for one of two best movies of 2009, Waltz with Bashir. Both pretty melancholic as well — and that tells you something more about me, doesn’t it? ;)

Yesterday around 10PM I could no longer stand the pressure and I tore open my two still-wrapped presents from my unveiled Santa.

I have to admit Santa had me a wee bit worried by mentioning in her letter that she thought there should be A RULE to make adults read children’s books… Yeah, Santa would say a thing like that, right? But this is a genre usually not to be seen on my nightstand. Of course the first of her 3 arguments was immediately incontestable:

Because they’re brilliant.

Rightio. Clever Santa! She’s brilliant herself, ’cause you know what she got me?

TADAAAAAH

Unwrapped :)

It’s been only a few weeks since I said:

Now that I’ve crawled out of my familiar reading nook I might also try one of Gaiman’s actual fantasy books — next year.

Santa has been listening closely! ;) Getting me Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (I feel envy coming towards me now ;) What a nice surprise! And she goes even further in getting me to try new things, by also giving me a Terry Pratchett! I know plenty Pratchett enthusiasts, so I’m indeed excited to find out what I’ll think of The Wee Free Men living on Discworld. Whatdoyaknow, maybe you’ll get to meet a new addict here in the new year ;) I already found out that these books are interlinked by the fact that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have done some project together…

BTW Note how the gift wrappings are in tone with their respective book covers? Isn’t that marvelous? (Yes, I’m still going on about how great these presents looked ;) This Santa obviously cares about details :)

It was my first time participating in the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. I figured I would like to pick a present for some reader on the globe, but I hadn’t expected this wonderful feeling because someone who absolutely didn’t know me took such care in finding me a special present as well. Wow.

Thank you so much Santa Valentina!

IIIIEEEEEH just as I was bouncing off the wall out of excitement because my Book Blogger Holiday Swap gift was received (positively) by my santee, the doorbell rang… The MAILMAN! With my present from Secret Santa! And I have a huge secret to blab out tell all who still believe Santa lives on the North Pole… He doesn’t! He is a she residing in Ireland. There you have it, an ancient mystery has been solved ;)

Now, as I wrote to Santa in my letter, I especially like nicely wrapped gifts. And boy did he she take that seriously! Look at these! Really, that’s what I’m doing while writing this post — for now I’m just enjoying these presents the way they are :) It’s called ‘deterred gratification’ ;)

To prove this is the REAL Santa: I didn’t write to him (it needs a bit of getting used to) HER that this Gnoe (Gnu) used to be a magpie in a previous life! Or possibly some glamrock person ;) Gimme glitteries and I’m going OMG OMG OMG! * bouncing off the wall again * Now look at the bling bling on those presents… :) See what I mean? Only the real Santa could have known — proof beyond reasonable doubt!

But wait, you haven’t seen it all yet! Santa went way out of her way to make this the most special gift in the whole Book Blogger Holiday Swap! Even mooooore goodies to enjoy :) Here’s the complete loot:

With a long, kind letter of Santa herself — who by the way has a special fondness for Japan as well ;)

Now, like me, you’ll just have to wait a little while longer to see what’s actually in the presents!

To be continued

Book Bloggers Holiday Swap buttonHow exciting, I’m going to be a secret Santa! I’ve dropped my name in Santa’s bag for the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. Want to join as well? Be quick: subscription ends November 12th!

Good thing the holiday swap perked me up because my attempt at the Bookcrossing Spooky Booky 24 hour readathon was an absolute #FAIL. I knew I was on a tight schedule last week, but I had hoped to at least beat last month’s result of 15 hours and 8 minutes. Well… I didn’t even come close! [starts whispering] I scrambled together a meagre total of 7 hours, 10 minutes :-o

So the ‘spooky’ book I’m reading is still the same as last Sunday: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It’s pretty grim! It shows the real thing to fear are our fellow humans; not those Halloween ghosts, vampires or zombies. Capote absolutely has me by the throat!

A more relaxing bookish event that took place at my home yesterday was that some Boekgrrls came over to watch Revolutionary Road, the movie adaptation of Richard Yates’ novel. The overall opinion? Director Sam Mendes did a great job (even though the book is still way better). I’m just not sure whether I would have liked the film as much had I not read the book beforehand.

April & Frank Wheeler

Another minor detail: I kept seeing Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet instead of Frank and April Wheeler… But still, I’m glad to have seen it: I enjoyed it much, much more than, in example, the adaptations of Atonement and Enduring Love (other books I really like). Although ‘enjoy’ might not be the right word for a story like Revolutionary Road…

Well, I’ve only got another 100 pages left of In Cold Blood, so coming week I hope to start in The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata for my Japanese Literature Book Group. I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of this Nobel Prize winner before, but since I know we’re going to read his book I have heard other novelists mention him as an example for their own writings. So, I’ll talk to you next week in The Sunday Salon!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

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