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You must admit that I’ve been really strong so far, not signing up for any 2010 reading challenges even though the rest of the book blogging world seemed to be doing so. Well, before you start congratulating me: today I could no longer resist… :)

Beth Fish Reads is taking over the third What’s in a Name challenge. I liked participating in #2 and I did finish reading all my entries… I just still need to review –whispers– half of them :\ Well, I’ll get to that. Someday.

Here’s the new challenge in brief: between January 1st and December 31st I need to read one book in each of the following categories.

  1. A book with a food in the title.
  2. A book with a body of water in the title.
  3. A book with a title (queen, president, sir) in the title.
  4. A book with a plant in the title.
  5. A book with a place name (country, city) in the title.
  6. A book with a music term in the title.

Ha! I am quickly going to browse my shelves for books to be admitted to this challenge! :)) Maybe I should postpone my Boekgrrls December read, The Gargoyle, to January? ;) No need: in April we’ll be reading John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River! There are two other titles on our list that would fit loosely, but I want to play fair — to begin with :)

Another challenge that I’ve had my eyes on has already started: the Women Unbound challenge, running from November 2009 until November 2010. When I was reading The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata last month I kept thinking about this challenge. So now I’ve actually made the decision to join! I just need to figure out which level: Philogynist (“read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one”) must be doable since I have already read Kawabata and will definitely pick up Sei Shonagon’s classic The Pillow Book soon, which counts for non-fiction. But it should be a challenge! Of course I could always upgrade along the way?

Since the Japanese Literature Challenge is running until February 2010, I am now officially participating in three 2010 reading challenges before the year has even started. Add the remaining three books of my personal 2008-2009 challenge to that and you’ll all think that I must be crazy. So be it. I love you too ;)

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I’ve joined another challenge! But don’t worry, it’s on an entirely different level than my reading challenges. I have committed myself to the 100 Mile Fitness Challenge, which requires me to walk a 100 miles before January 1st. If everything goes well, you’ll frequently find my update posts here on Graasland.

There’s one small issue I haven’t figured out yet: I’m supposed to round down my miles to integers but since we’re used to kilometers in Holland instead of miles, hikes are usually set to round kilometers — which gives me a small disadvantage. Well, I think I’ll just wait and see if that is going to be a problem (and in the meanwhile keep track of the exact distances of my hikes ;)

How many miles is 1 kilometer?
100 miles = 160 (point 9) kilometers. That’s about 54 km a month! But: every 15 minutes of exercise other than walking or running — ha, like I would do any running! — counts for 1 mile. It has to be for the purpose of workout only, so I am not counting my 4 x 15 minutes cycling to and from the train station on my way to work. Even though it’s a conscious decision not to take the bus ;) Of course exceptions may be possible.

Of course I could combine this challenge with my several reading challenges by listening to audio books..! ;) For now I won’t, because I like how hiking clears my head :)

This is my acceptance post for the challenge. And I started off with a hike on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug.

On the first day of this Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) I would like to turn the spotlights on Elsje las. Unfortunately for international readers, Elsje writes in Dutch (her blog title can be translated into Elsje read). What I like about her reviews is that they are short — but to the point. And I really admire the discipline Elsje shows in reviewing all the books she has read in a steadfast pace… I will never be able to do both of these things! ;)

Of course in admiring her blog it helps immensely that I like her taste in books :) Among her most recent reviews are Man in the Dark by Paul Auster, Sputnik Sweetheart (Haruki Murakami), and Hesse’s Narziss & Goldmund. Need I say more???

It is great that people make an effort to write down their thoughts about books. Hurray for book bloggers around the world!

***
ETA: I must be clairvoyant! LOL
I didn’t know all book bloggers were going to post about this topic, but of course it
is a logical start of the Book Blogger Appreciation Week :)

Ha! I guess some of you thought I was going to update on my New Year’s resolutions for 2009? Nope! I never make any in January because I believe in starting any resolution the minute I thought of it — not on a set future date. So what is this post about?

It is looooong past my school days but I can feel the vibes of the new academic year starting all around me — getting me in a productive mood. There are some Big Issues I keep procrastinating and I hereby pledge to take care of one each month, starting September ;)

  1. Plan a holiday..! It may sound weird but Mr Gnoe and I are really not good at that :( We want to visit the Unesco World Heritage Site Cappadocia in Turkey again, in spring when the apricot trees are blooming. And before that we should take some more time off.
  2. Take some fire precautions, like buying a fire extinguisher and an escape ladder or something like it (right now there is only one way out of here and it’s on the kitchen side of our apartment…). Of course we already have a smoke detector ;)
  3. Swap internet provider (probably in combination with getting digital tv — yippee ;)
  4. Get those old Super 8 mm films digitized before they are beyond rescue!

4 months, 4 missions: it must be possible to accomplish these tasks before 2010, right? Or at least to take the first steps to get there. Because I have loads of reading challenges to finish as well! LOL

Are there any big projects you should / could pick up?

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 ;)

So, what were my bookish things in the first week of September?

Cover De kleine keizerAs I told you last week my online book group is reading Away by Amy Bloom in September. I’ve sent in my review (in Dutch). Maybe someday I’ll feel like transforming it into an English blogpost for Graasland, like I did on Wednesday with The Little Emperor (De kleine keizer) by Martin Bril, a book about Napoleon that is part of the What’s in a Name challenge, category ‘profession‘. I have read all 6 books for this challenge but still need to review half of them!

Cover Butterfly in the WindBut hey, I quickly finished my reading for the JapLit Challenge this week: Butterfly in the Wind (Vlinder in de Wind) by Rei Kimura. A review is upcoming so I’ll keep my thoughts about this ‘biographical novel’ secret just a little longer!

The day I finished Kimura’s novel, the Bookcrossing bookray of To Kill a Mockingbird arrived from Portugal. Just in time because on Saturday I had to travel 5 hours by train! And you can’t travel without a book, can you? (Although I must admit I spent part of my journey preparing this Salon post ;)

Cover To Kill a MockingbirdWith this book I finally picked up on the Classics Challenge again. I didn’t know much about it in advance, just that it is a classic. And from the movie Capote I learned that Harper Lee was Truman Capote’s assistant – but that he didn’t respect her much as an author. Unbelievable, because To Kill a Mockingbird gripped me from page 1!

The novel is also part of my personal 2008-2009 challenge. My last read from the list was in January (!) this year: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (which I will review for the What’s in a Name challenge, category ‘time of day‘). With 3 more books in my personal challenge and only 4 months to go, it feels good to be back on track!

This week ended with a bookish surprise when I got home from my long journey yesterday. There were no less than 3 books in my mailbox! I’ll tell you about them some other time :)

Cover The PillowbookCover TrespassCover Be With You

I should be locked in a cabin with just books and NO internet. Or my computer should block all book blogs. What happened? I joined another reading challenge! Like I need one… with those other 3 I already have going on :\

Well, at least Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge shouldn’t be too difficult for me: I need to read one work of Japanese origin before the end of January 2010. Hey, I can do that, right? I read three in the first half of 2009 and I have several waiting on the shelf anyway! For example:

Butterfly in the Wind (Rei Kimura), in Dutch
Dreaming Water (Gail Tsukiyama)
The Language of Threads (Gail Tsukiyama)
The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (Gail Tsukiyama)
Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Haruki Murakami), in Dutch
The Unconsoled (Kazuo Ishiguro)
Nocturnes (Kazuo Ishiguro)

But first I should make sure I finish my current book because it is taking waaaaaaaay too long!

So, thanks a lot to another cookie crumbles who pointed me in the direction of this challenge… Maybe it provides me with a good excuse to join the 24 hours read-a-thon in October as well? ;)

Edited to add: I was thinking… The Pillowbook by Sei Shonagon is not on my bookshelf yet, but it IS on my other challenge lists already. I should make things easy for myself and try to get my hands on a copy!

It must have been ten years ago that I started reading Elizabeth George’s mystery series about detective Barbara Havers and DCI Thomas Lynley from Scotland Yard. Yes, I’ve taken my time: picking one up every once in a while, in chronological order. Reading these books is a treat: the characters are familiar and their personal lives run through the story as a continuous thread. I also find it relaxing that I know what to expect :)

A minor point of critique is that each following tome seems to get heavier. That is partly why I hadn’t read a ‘Lynley Mystery’ (as the tv-adaptions are called) for a long time — since 2007! But when I had a short vacation last month I was really eager to meet my old ‘friends’ again and I took the first of 3 unread Georges of the shelf: With No One As Witness. I enjoyed it very much! And the ending is REALLY exciting!

Cover What Came Before He Shot HerSo I treated myself and immediately grabbed the next one: What Came Before He Shot Her. I had a good excuse in that the title fits nicely in the ‘What’s in a namereading challenge I joined. At least I think so ;) I’m filing it under the ‘Medical Condition category’…

Beware of spoilers in the rest of this post!

Oooooow how disappointed I was on discovering about 50 pages into the book that there was not going to be a murdercase to begin with! Worse, it appeared this book was not a mystery at all but a psychological novel about people I hardly knew! Whilst I was dying to hear (no pun intended) if Lynley would come back to work and how Havers and Nakata would cope with everything going on.

Thankfully the story grabbed me anyway around page 100. I usually stop at this point if a book still doesn’t engage me. But What Came Before He Shot Her became the gripping telling of three Campbell children of mixed race: Joel, Ness and Toby, who come to live with their aunt in a poor, black neighbourhood in London. Precocious adolescent Ness is a girl on the loose, detached and estranged from her brothers. Joel, being 12 year old and still a child himself, is required to take care of their younger brother Toby, who is a bit ‘behind’ mentally and depends on the guidance and protection of his brother to survive in the outside world.

On the bus even in a place like London, [..] the Campbell children still garnered looks, each for a reason peculiar to the individual. In Toby it was the great bald patches across his head, where his half-grown hair was wispy and far too thin for a seven-year-old boy, as well as the life ring, which took up too much space and from which he resolutely refused to be parted even so much as to remove it from his waist and “bleeding hold it in front of you, for God’s sake,” as Ness demanded. In Ness herself, it was the unnatural darkness of her skin, obviously enhanced by make-up, as if she were trying to be more of what she only partially was. Had she shed her jacket, it would also have been the rest of the clothing beyond her jeans: the sequined top that left her midriff bare and put her voluptuous breasts on display. And in Joel it was, and would always be, his face covered by the tea-cake-size splotches that could never be called freckles but were instead a physical expression of the ethnic and racial battle that his blood had gone through from the moment of his conception.

What Came Before He Shot Her is a compelling but depressing story. All through the book I kept hoping that the protagonist and his family would live happily ever after. Against better judgment I stayed optimistic that we would get to know about the family “after he shot her”. But the harder Joel tried to fix things, the deeper they all got in trouble. I felt sooo sorry for him; it is SO unfair! I kept wanting to give ‘m a good shaking and tell those people to C O M M U N I C A T E. But in their troublesome lives the Campbell children have learnt to stick together through thick and thin, and keep their family secrets to themselves. Disastrous.

The author has proven she can write other stories than mysteries. But I am grateful the next book in row is a real detective story again. Alas, after 1500+ pages and a month of reading Elizabeth George, it is time to start something else. On top of Mt. TBR is The Mapmaker’s Wife, by Robert Whitaker (also fitting the What’s in a name challenge), a Bookcrossing bookring. But I am still keeping my hopes up that in Careless In Red, the last George on TBR, all will end well for Joel and his siblings… I am a cotton ball. Meaning I’m a sentimental person — and getting softer with the years ;) What is the correct English expression?

This week’s Booking through Thursday asks everyone to share their Mt. TBR. Well, here’s mine!

As you can see my Mount To Be Read contains 14 books. 14? Not 15? No, better look closely and count again! :)

From top to bottom, small to large:

  • Away (Amy Bloom)
  • The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon)
  • Travels in the Scriptorium (Paul Auster)
  • The Brooklyn Follies (Paul Auster)
  • Drivetime (James Meek)
  • Dead Air (Iain Banks)
  • The China Lover in Dutch (Dromen van China, Ian Buruma)
  • Butterfly in the Wind in Dutch (Vlinder in de wind, Rei Kimura)
  • Dreaming Water (Gail Tsukiyama)
  • The Language of Threads (Gail Tsukiyama)
  • The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (Gail Tsukiyama)
  • The Mapmaker’s Wife (Robert Whitaker) — just starting this one
  • The Wasted Vigil (Nadeem Aslam)
  • The Gargoyle (Andrew Davidson)

This stack shows what you might consider my ‘priority reads’. I have some more books lounging unread in several spots in my home, like The Chosen (Chaim Potok) and Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck). Hm, I really should put those higher on the list since they are part of several personal reading challenges ánd they are Bookcrossing books that like to travel!

But wait a minute… where are Revolutionary Road and Easter Parade by Richard Yates???

Good thing Booking Trough Thursday made me check my Mount! I guess I I have some rearranging to do — I don’t think my (literal) bookshelf will hold any more copies without coming off the wall.. So, bye for now!

I present to you: Thursday 9th of July’s bento (#60).

Upper tier:

  • quiche wedge (rocket salad*, potato*, pine nuts, cheese, egg*)
  • basil*
  • seedless grapes
  • red & black currants*
  • homegrown bean sprouts*
  • radish
  • emmental La vache qui rit cheese
  • homegrown garden cress*

Lower tier

  • beet* salad on romaine leaves* (go to bento #59 for ingredients)
  • gherkin
  • radish
  • dill*

All ingredients marked with ‘*’ were organic. We got some new garden beet in our veggie bag this week. What shall we prepare with them this time? Their leaves, which are almost the same as (Swiss) chard and can be processed like spinach, we already ate in a Italian pasta sauce.

Veggiebag week 28-2009
I decided I would like to be able to look up what came in our weekly Aardvlo bag of organic vegetables. At the end of each year there’s a questionnaire about what you would love to get more often — or what you didn’t like so much. A question that’s easier to answer when you can remember what you got! :-o

So, week 28 of 2009 brought us: a whole bag of basil (we made some fresh pesto sauce and used that on bruschettas, in a salad dressing and for a pasta salad), a head of lettuce, leeks (we had some oven steamed with cheese; there’s one stalk left which we will probable eat with nasi goreng), tomatoes, red beet with leaves, red and black berries.

Are you all really jealous now? ;)

Ja, ik ben op de helft van mijn huidige boek (What came before he shot her, van Elizabeth George), maar dat is niet waar deze post over gaat. Het is 1 juli! Tijd om kort terug te blikken op de 17,5 boeken die ik in de eerste helft van 2009 las.

agendaBoeken die eruit springen:
The Remains of the Day van Kazuo Ishiguro
Brideshead Revisited van Evelyn Waugh
Dans dans dans van Haruki Murakami
Zo God het wil van Niccolò Ammaniti

Maar nog niets waarvan ik nu al weet dat het zéker in mijn top-3 favorieten van dit jaar terechtkomt. De volledige lijst kun je vinden op mijn Bookcrossing boekenplank. Was ik nou ook maar halverwege met wat ik dit jaar nog moet lezen voor mijn persoonlijke challenge..! :(

Voor de tweede helft van 2009 kijk ik érg uit naar de volgende boeken op mijn Mount TBR:
Revolutionary Road van Richard Yates
Away van Amy Bloom
The Wasted Vigil van Nadeem Aslam
The Mapmaker’s Wife van Robert Whitaker
To Kill a Mocking Bird van Harper Lee (als de Bookcrossing boekenring op tijd binnenkomt)

Wat hebben jullie in het vooruitzicht? En wat las je dat ik, als het even kan, nog dit jaar te pakken moet krijgen?

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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