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. 🙂

 

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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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 🙂

Another highlight from my travels would have to be meeting other bloggers in London. 🙂 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! 🙂 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 Mystique  – 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! 🙂 ). 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. 🙂

Ah, Persephone

And finally, the Persephone bag which I love. I think I had the whole Persephone experience. 🙂

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’. 🙂 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? 🙂

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. 🙂

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!

And On a Side Note…

Perhaps I’ve been placed under the influence since I’m reading Booker shortlisted In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut or perhaps it’s because it’s really time that I did it.

I’m talking about going on the Big Trip that everybody must/should do at some point in their life, preferably while they’re young. People usually take it after high school or during university. Well, those have now also passed so I’ve decided that I will finally do the Big Trip next year. There is one problem. It seems that I’ll have to go it alone. All my friends have either already gone to the places I want to go, can’t get leave from work (darn real life), or won’t travel without their partners. As somebody who is an international travelling newbie, this is a scary scenario. I have only been to one country and it was with family.

So, along with asking all my friends several times and friends of friends, I thought, short of asking strangers, I’d first ask on my blog. At the very least, I would know that anybody who replies will have as much of a book fetish as I do and won’t complain if I stop at every, single bookstore or library along the way. 🙂 So, the plan: I’m hoping to go backpacking in Europe, and perhaps adding in the top end of Africa if we can, for around two months next year, either in April-June or from September. Is anybody interested in going along with me? Email me!

And for the others, do you have any travelling tips? Have you backpacked around by yourself? Hopefully, the world won’t go into another financial meltdown again next year.

In Place of Something Bookish…

To try and cover up my lackluster blogging efforts, I’ve completed a meme I found on My Porch’s blog and which i enjoyed reading. I’ve been sick these last few weeks due to a bad cold (if I was a man, I’d say Flu ;-)) that seems to be floating around work and being curled up in bed with tea and Agatha Christie were the only things I could handle. 🙂

1. Favorite childhood book?
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.

2. What are you reading right now?
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Heaps of things but mostly DVDs and magazines. Bookwise, I have the two ‘Room’ books shortlisted for the Booker.

4. Bad book habit?
Buying far too many and perhaps being a bit too precious about them.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
I belong to two libraries and the lists are very long!

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No, and I didn’t think about getting one until I saw how the iBook looked on the iPad which made me think ‘hmmm’. The display looked very good but it’s not something I’ll be getting anytime soon. I would rather buy more books or a lovely new bookshelf.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
One but I’m greedy and impatient.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not much at all. I mainly use my blog to try to keep my writing skills from disappearing after university finished and to also try to promote underrated or favourite books. I suppose one thing that has changed is that I make more of an effort to read Australian literature and little known books so I can blog about and promote them.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
I don’t have a least favourite book but I was slightly disappointed with The Brontes Goes to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. I guess I was expecting much more after all the sparkle on the blogosphere.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
I really lucked out this year and enjoyed all the books I’ve read. The standout would be Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy which was just heartbreaking and The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett which was just hilarious and very geeky.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Almost all the time unless I’m unwell which has been the case lately.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Cozy mysteries! Agatha Christie, particularly Miss Marple, and Agatha Raisin. Or Jane Eyre.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Usually, unless it’s really noisy or the driver is particularly terrible.

14. Favorite place to read?
Bed, bed, bed.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I only lend to close friends and those that I know will take care of books.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Very rarely…

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No, but I mark the passages I’m smitten with softly with a pencil.

18. Not even with text books?
I scribbled all over my text books. With PEN.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English. I would love to be able to read in a different language though. I had a tutor who once told us that the best way to learn a language is to grab a classic and a good dictionary. That was the way she apparently learned French with Candide.

20. What makes you love a book?
A good story that makes me think without me realising, a story that takes me away and when I finish leaves me that little bit breathless.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
A good read that I know the person would love or enjoy.

22. Favorite genre?
Literature and Classics.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Non-fiction. There are so many sociological texts I want to read but never get around to. Foucault is languishing on my shelves. Also, short stories.

24. Favorite biography?
I don’t think I’ve ever read a biography. Oh, yes I have! I just recently finished Beautiful For Ever by Helen Rappaport and it was great fun. Review to come soon! I was writing it when I got sick.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
No. This is where I believe it’s better to be practical but I think I have used fiction to help me through things.

26. Favorite cookbook?
None. I don’t cook. I occasionally flick through cooking magazines but not cookbooks. I tend to make things combust.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre; The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot and, to an extent, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. I also can’t seem to count!

28. Favorite reading snack?
None. It distracts me and I’m usually in bed. I do like tea/hot chocolate/coffee though.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
See question 9!

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I don’t think I agree but they provide a new perspective.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I don’t think I’ve ever given a really a bad or negative review. I’ve never hated or disliked a book that much but all the books I’ve read are my own pickings.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
French and German.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Nausea by Sartre. I was intimidated starting off. Also, Madness and Civilization by Foucault.
34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Anything by Proust, Foucault, James Joyce. I’m still a Proust virgin though.

35. Favorite Poet?
Christina Rossetti.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Around 10. Ok, I’m lying. Around 20.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
About 50%! I like hoarding books.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Jane Eyre. And also dear Miss Marple.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Dear devious Becky Sharp. And Lydia Gwilt in Armadale by Wilkie Collins.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Usually more contemporary books or mystery/crime.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
I have absolutely no idea! Perhaps from birth to the time I learned to read?

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. It took too long for me to get into it and I grew impatient.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Loud annoying noises and inane conversations.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

I don’t really like adaptations but I do love the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Breakfast at Tiffany’s despite Mickey Rooney’s unfortunate attempt at playing a Japanese man.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The Lovely Bones. I had such a high hopes. There was always something just missing.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Never more than $100 and that has never happened!

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I rarely skim. My eyes always catch at some significant word.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
If I’m utterly bored by it and it feels like a chore.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I have good intentions. I just need the room.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Definitely keep. I need to cull some books though but I’ve been putting it off.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
No, why would I? I’m a free woman!

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Plot wise, The Mill on the Floss. I was more sad and shocked than angry.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Steig Larsson.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The Brontes Went to Woolworths

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
The Agathas, Tintin and Enid Blyton.

Bookish Tidbits

Things are a bit slow on the reading front. The weather is freezing and I can’t feel my hands. Suddenly, I envy those enjoying the Northern Hemisphere summer! But I suppose our winters aren’t as bad since we don’t get snow except out in the country and alps.

'Chop Suey' by Edward Hopper (1929)

Anyway, onto bookish stuff:

  • I have nearly finished with Poor Miss Finch which has been an enjoyable read but it’s not the typical Wilkie Collins (in a good way).
  • Finished Muriel Sparks’ The Prime of Miss Brodie and enjoyed it but not as much as I thought I would. I’m a bit unmotivated writing up a review since there’s so many on the blogosphere already.
  • The lovely BBC adaptations of  Emma (with the very talented Romola Garai) and Little Dorrit are making me want to read them. I gave Emma a go last year but got nowhere with it and Dorrit intrigues me.
  • For some reason, winter always makes me want to devour French existential literature. I existential-ed myself out around this time last year. I think I will make July my existential month (ha!). I’m hankering to read some more de Beauvoir and Sartre which is great timing since I’m hoping to attend this month’s existential lecture run by an existentialist society. There are lectures every month but I always keep forgetting to go and Tuesdays are rather a bad time.
  • Did I mention we also suddenly have a new Prime Minister? Yep, she’s the first female Australian PM (and the media is not about to let us forget about it either, making a song and dance about her gender and appearance) and she kicked out our other PM rather unceremoniously. And Australia lost the World Cup on the same day. Even though we won the game.
  • Book Depository makes buying books far too easy. Two clicks and you’re done! It’s far too dangerous for bookaholics!
  • A new bookshelf is hopefully on its way to my house later in the week. Hurrah! And to celebrate, I’m probably going to buy more books.
  • AND, I got roped into signing up for Literary Speed Dating, aptly titled ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ at the Wheeler’s Centre. It’s … different, but I’m a little scared! The spots have booked out amazingly fast. We shall see what will transpire if I do attend. 😉 Anybody done something else similar?