Life

I’m Still Here…

So, it has been a long time between drinks, or in this case, posts. I have disappeared off the blogosphere but I have now resurfaced. Hurrah! Life have taken a crazy hold this past month and it’s only probably going to get worse with the lead up to Christmas and New Year (three weeks!) but things have settled down slightly. This means that my reading has waned but never fear, I think my interest is returning. So a quick update in five bullet points or less:

1. Abandoned Reads

I was very in between books this past month. I started but couldn’t finish:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got halfway through Cold Comfort Farm but it simply didn’t hold my interest. I expected a funny and light read but, similar to my experience with Emma, I simply couldn’t get into it. I do want to return to it in the near future though. On the other hand, John Ajvide Lindqvist has never disappointed me but I didn’t have enough time to read Little Star since it was from the library and there was a queue. I will most definitely try again.

2. Reading

I’m also halfway through Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor L. Frankl which is enlightening and heartbreaking.

I’m a quarter into The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides. Any story with a character that majors in English Literature immediately grabs my interest.

3. Finished

I only finished one book this past month and it was the quite intense Wetlands by Charlotte Roche. Some parts made me squirm and were too painful to imagine but overall, I loved it and thought it was hilarious. The main character had such a voice, filled with sarcasm and dark humour that reminded me of Holden Caulfield.

4. Other News

I made a little side trip to Sydney over the weekend to see the play Gross und Klein (big and small) starring Cate Blanchett. It was an amazing production and performance. The set design also blew me away. It was quite experimental and very minimalistic but it worked so well. It’s always such a thrill seeing Cate Blanchett live on stage and I’m lucky enough to see her for the third time. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend it!

Gross und Klein

5. New buys

I think I have finally curbed by book buying urge. I have only bought 3 books these past few months:

  • High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  • The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood

And I must, must, must, stop borrowing so many books from the library. I keep borrowing and borrowing meaning to read them but I never get around to it so they end up just sitting on my shelves looking sadly back at me. At least I get their stats up!

I’ll be back and lurking around on your respective blogs in no time. πŸ™‚

 

Advertisements

There and Back Again

Well, I’m finally back from my first solo trip overseas and, rather miraculously, I’m back in one piece and no major dramas! No lost passports, cards or luggage. I did get lost many times, particularly from train stations where my bearings were consistently wrong and stubbornly, I would only ask for directions once I realised that the place was taking much longer to get to than stated. I later learned that if I was certain that I was going the right way, it probably meant I should be heading in the opposite direction!

Over three and a half weeks, I travelled to Seoul, Vienna, Bratislava, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Teplice, Auschwitz, Krakow, Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, Budapest and finally London. I loved all the places I visited but I especially loved Cesky Krumlov, an UNESCO listed town with most of their original buildings and castle preserved from Medieval times.

Cesky Krumlov

Everything was just so picturesque including its state forest where I went for a three hour (mostly downhill) bike ride – the first time I’ve been on a bike for nearly seven years! Somehow, I made it (except for three strenuous hills) and I only crashed once and it was into a fence five minutes away from our finishing point. It was either crashing into an old man hobbling along or the fence. I think I made the right decision. πŸ™‚ In Cesky, I also picked up two books from a charming little bookstore named Shakespeare & Co. (is this a chain?).

Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Cesky

Since my pack was so small (50 litres) and I wanted to travel light, I had made the decision to only buy books that were unique to that particular region. From the bookstore, I selected two books about the Czech Republic – one specifically on Prague and the other containing folklores from regions all over the Republic. Sadly, I only managed to find these sort of folklore books in Cesky Krumlov and so didn’t pick up anymore books until London.

In Vienna, I stopped by their National Library and famous State Hall. The baroque style hall was beautiful but it did somewhat empty of character and I was a little disappointed. Perhaps it was because the library was in the middle of being digitised which is fantastic but, nevetheless, the library was still stunning.

The State Hall - Outside

The State Hall with the bored security guard

Two level of shelves. The frecoes (?) on the roof were also stunning.

There were secret doors hidden amongst the shelves. πŸ™‚

The stunning upper level. I love how the light just hits the statue.

The beautiful roof frescoes. I could have just laid on the ground to stare at them.

While I managed to pop into various bookstores (Budapest was absolutely peppered with great little bookstores), I didn’t do anything else too bookish. However, I did manage get my first snow experience! That’s right, I’d never seen snow until I went to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Not a bad place to experience your first snow. πŸ™‚ The mountains were absolutely stunning and the place was pretty much deserted since it was in between seasons.

Tatra Mountains - The frozen lake

Tatras - that odd thing sticking out is the old ski jump

And, of course, my first snowman πŸ™‚

Another highlight from my travels would have to be meeting other bloggers in London. πŸ™‚ I met the lovely Claire (Paperback Reader), Kim (Reading Matters), Polly (Novel Insights) and Sakura (Chasing Bawa. Also, thanks for the Pocky! They were a great sustenance during those long queues :-)) a few hours after reaching London at Waterstones cafe and, although I was a little tired and sleepy, they provided me with such a warm and friendly welcome and weren’t short of suggestions or handy tips! πŸ™‚ Unfortunately, I forgot to take some pictures. The next day, I met Another Cookie Crumbles, who took time out from her busy schedule, and we had more scones and tea at Harrods and sat talking until we were asked to leave since Harrods had closed half an hour earlier!

In total, I spent nearly five days in London and it was nowhere near enough. The days just flew by incredibly fast and I didn’t manage to do half of what I wanted. I’m suspecting I may have dallied away the time in the many bookstores I disappeared into. I loved Charing Cross and found great little second hand bookstores including one that stocked second hand Persephones. Persephones! I also spent a couple of days tracking down the bookstore. My silly map (although to be fair, it was a bus map) didn’t have Persephone’s street on it and I didn’t write down directions. When I finally found it the next day, I was elated!

At last! Persephones!

I went a little crazy in the store and would have bought far more books if I had more room or the muscles to carry them. I was more than thrilled to find that they had a special on if you bought three books. I also bought some of their lovely postcards and a bag. Ah, if only there were more stores and books like Persephones (especially in Melbourne :-)).

So: my final holiday book loot. I did have to buy an extra bag in the end but nothing terribly extravagant.

Holiday Book Loot

  • The Adulterous Woman – Albert Camus (this was waiting for me at home).
  • Odour of Chrysanthemums – D. H. Lawrence
  • Through the Wall – Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (I’ve been wanting to read this since Novel Insight’s review)
  • The Tooth – Shirley Jackson
  • The Feminine MystiqueΒ  – Betty Friedan (this was also waiting at home).
  • Sweet Valley Confidential – Francine Pascal. Yes, I know but I couldn’t help it (I’m looking at you, Another Cookie! πŸ™‚ ). It’s also a gift for a friend.
  • Two Prague Stories – Rainer Maria Rilke
  • 22 Czech Legends – Alena Jezkova
  • Frost in May – Antonia White
  • Farewell Leicester Square – Betty Miller. A lovely gift from Another Cookie Crumbles.
  • The Carlyles at Home – Thea Holme
  • There Were No Windows – Norah Hoult
  • Miss Buncle’s Book – D. E. Stevenson
  • The Blank Wall – Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
  • Miss Ranskill Comes Home – Barbara Euphan Todd

Bookmarks

I also got two bookmarks. Quite restrained, in my case. One from Prague and another gifted from the lovely Claire. πŸ™‚

Ah, Persephone

And finally, the Persephone bag which I love. I think I had the whole Persephone experience. πŸ™‚

Finally, I managed to only read two books: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson which I absolutely loved although it was quite disturbing and What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. I still have a mixed reaction to that. And now, what should I read next? I obviously don’t have enough books.

Bookish Travel Plans

Some of you lovely readers might remember that I put out a call to any travel buddies and a preliminary travel plan last year. I can’t believe it was all the way in September! Where did the time go? Since I’m a little unmotivated to post any reviews up, I thought I would put an update on what has eventually transpired.

I’m still heading off going alone, and quite nervously too, at the end of March. I’ll have a stopover in South Korea before stomping off to Central Europe for a little over two weeks – Vienna, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Krakow and ending in Budapest. That was supposed to be the end of my trip but, by a miraculous coincidence (!), my leave slides right into the Easter holidays so I decided it would be a waste not to spend more time overseas. I’m now ending my trip in London where I’ll be there for around four days. I’m already planning my trips to all the (free!) museums, Charing Cross, and the British Library and scoping out possible trips to Highgate and Hay-on-Wye and of course, a stop at Persephone. The anxiety of lugging home potential book purchases in my tiny 50 litre backpack is already weighing heavily on my mind! I’m already quite anxious at allowing myself only two books to bring along.

In the other countries, I’ve already scouted possible bookish visits including various state libraries. I’ve come across this really useful bookstore guide around Europe.

To anybody who will be in or around these cities during this time, it’ll be great to meet up and have a coffee or to simply see a familiar ‘face’. πŸ™‚ Tips on bookstores/bookish sights I must visit will also be much appreciated.

Shelving Update

An update on re-arranging my new shelves. The weather has cooled considerably (to the point of flash floods, thanks Mother Nature) so it was a good time to get books sorted.

Shelves much more organised now.

While the books look organised, I had the problem of what I call the ‘upstairs-downstairs books’. My other main shelf is downstairs and that holds the majority of my books whereas the new shelves in my room is a new addition and largely held new or TBR books. The problem now is, being the geek that I am, I like to be near my books as much as possible so I’ve found myself playing favourites (books are like children. Feel free to disagree!) although I try not to. The visual effect also came into play for the first time and I spent a grand five minutes agonising over whether or not to group my books alphabetically for all the classics or by publishers. As you can see, I chose the latter and no regrets so far. I also decided to put the Oxfords on the top shelf purely because ‘o’ comes before ‘p’. Aren’t I a diplomat? πŸ™‚

Of course, it would be fantastic if all my books were finally shelved together like one big happy family but that’s not going to happen until I get my own place. The good thing is now I have a wee bit more room to store more books. I really thought I had more books than this. The library books live on the floor now though. Shhh…

On another note, I’m three quarters of the way through The Mandarins and it’s incredibly perplexing. I’ve found myself making marks and notes but I’ve also discovered that using pieces of tissue just doesn’t have the same reliability as post-its. The scraps tend to float away and lose their spot which defeats the purpose.

Tissues ain't no substitute for post-its

 

It’s Come to This…

I have been running out of shelving room for awhile now (I’m sure this is an ongoing with all bibliophiles out there!) and I’ve been too lazy to make my way to Ikea to pick up some Billy shelves.

So I did some creative brainstorming and bought one small bookcase and stacked it upside down on top of my other small bookcase to make a larger bookcase.

Voila:

The new smaller shelf, already filled with library books...

The completed bookcase! I'll have to buy some clamps or superglue to secure the two shelves properly though.

Don’t mind the mess. The bottom shelf is actually much neater than it looks. I haven’t organised the new shelves yet and I’ve just stuck my library books in there. Something tells me that it’s going to get filled rather quickly.

Santa Got Lost

A quite belated catch up post (also, happy new year! So says she a mere eleven days into the new year…) on what Santa bought me over Christmas. Some were a gift to myself and the rest were picked out for myself on behalf of others who didn’t know which books to get me. :-p

Ta-dah!

The titles are:

  • Therese Raquin by Emile Zola
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • Emma by Jane Austen (which I’ve already broken in and halfway through)
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell
  • The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
  • The Monk by Matthew Lewis
  • Candide and Other Stories by Voltaire
  • Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

A nice loot and something to get the year off to a strong start. I’m also seriously running out of room. And, of course, I forgive Santa for being late with the presents…

Merry Christmas!

It’s already Christmas here and Santa has come and gone. I just wanted to share this gorgeous song with everybody. It’s neither Chrismassy nor all that cheerful but I did get some new red shoes. πŸ™‚

Thanks to everybody who have graced my blog and have taken the time to read my ramblings and reviews and even popped back in time after time! Have a safe and wonderful Christmas!