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January and February 2018 in Review Part 2: Podcasts, Languages and Visual Entertainment

Apart from my rather disappointing (with the exception of a couple of gems) reading wrap-up of the first two months of 2018, some other things I really enjoyed in January and February were language learning (as I’m trying to improve my Japanese and reconnect with my French), some podcasts, a blog and a YouTube channel, a theatre performance, a film and two TV series.

I really like podcasts and I have found so many interesting (and uninteresting) ones over the years, but I never seem to have any appropriate time to devote to them since I don’t currently commute or travel as often as I used to and I always find myself doing other things while I try to listen to them at home and thus not concentrating enough on what is being said. However, I made some new discoveries lately which I would like to share with you. small_1473319899-artwork

I first discovered the Books and Boba podcast back in October, but I started listening to it properly only this January. It focuses mostly on Asian-American literature and the hosts, Reera and Marvin, are truly great to listen to, even more so since one of their missions for this podcast is to promote and enjoy works by marginalised authors and give priority to stories told from an Own Voices perspective. They have a Goodreads group, where they pick a book to read and discuss each month and they also talk about recent and future releases, they invite guests and authors over and they also discuss other important current events. Their January read was Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (which I lauded in my previous post) and I was so excited to hear my name mentioned in that episode‘s discussion! The books they choose cover a wide array of genres, so I would highly recommend you give their podcast a try.

170x170bbThe next podcast I started listening to in February is Journey to the West, a podcast by Asian women discussing Asian issues, as the podcast’s own description reads (plus, the name of the podcast is an homage to the great Chinese epic of the same name). The four lady hosts are all very eloquent and they tackle a wide variety of topics such as racism, body image, the Olympics, feminism as well as culture appropriation (starting with the shameful Logan Paul incident in Japan recently). Their podcast is fairly new, it began approximately two months ago, but I really enjoyed listening to the discussions they brought up as well as listening to a slightly different perspective (that of Asian women) which we don’t usually get to hear very often.

Next, I have a blog and a YouTube channel I immensely enjoyed spending time on lately, both related to language study. Inside that Japanese Book is a blog focusing on Japanese and general language learning, providing motivation, study tips, book reviews and so many wonderful things. The girl behind it, Inhae, is French and is currently learning Japanese (with very impressive results) while also trying to improve her English writing skills. Her posts are always incredibly motivational and she has definitely been one of my main sources of inspiration for my own Japanese study lately. Plus, she always includes such cute drawings of herself and her cat in her posts.

Lindie Botes is another incredibly inspirational language learner, as she can speak ten (!) different languages. Of course, I mostly enjoy her Japanese/Korean/Chinese language learning videos, but she also makes videos about other languages such as French and Hungarian. No matter what language you’re learning, Lindie’s videos will definitely be an inspiration for you – I especially enjoy her ‘Study [insert language] with Me’ videos as well as the discussion videos she makes on various linguistic topics.

Having spent most of my February in Athens, I grabbed the opportunity to go to the theatre after a very long time. The performance I watched is called Το Ψέμα (To Psema/The Lie), a comedy about relationships, faithfulness and how even the most trusting couples actually have their own deeply buried secrets. Although it’s not the type of theatre performance I usually go for, I really enjoyed this one, mainly because of the excellent performances of the main actors. the_post_28film29

My favourite film was The Post, with incredible performances by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and two of my favourite TV series were Mindhunter and Dark. Mindhunter is an American TV series set in 1970s in which Holden, the protagonist, embarks on the groundbreaking endeavour of analysing criminals’ psychology and past experiences in order to start building patterns in which to categorise their crimes – thus marking the creation of the term ‘serial killer’ for the first time. I love crime/mystery stories and Mindhunter was nearly excellent, providing both crime cases the protagonists are called to solve as well as their struggles with academia and the police force in getting their research accepted and funded.

dark-posterDark is a German series (the very first one I watch) and a very impressive one. The story is very reminiscent of Stranger Things, initially, as it involves a child’s disappearance under mysterious circumstances and the uproar that is created in the small town due to this event. Although there is something supernatural involved, Dark‘s story soon diverges from that followed by Stranger Things and it manages to create a very unique, intriguing and incredibly visually beautiful outcome. It will definitely keep you glued to your screens until the very last minute.

 

Have you seen or listened to any of those? Which were your favourite non-bookish things so far in 2018?

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January and February 2018 in Review Part 1: Reading

Since my review posting schedule has yet to become regular (if it ever will), I thought it would be a nice idea to create a wrap-up post of my reading and a few other stuff I absorbed and loved in the first two months of 2018. So as for the post not to become unreasonably long, I have divided my wrap-up into two parts.

I have read a total of 14 books so far (7 for each month) but, apart from a few exceptions, I have been very disappointed by my reading this year. Is this a sign of a reading slump? I am a mood reader and due to my constant moving around from my hometown to Peterborough to Athens and god knows where to next, I haven’t been able to carry many of my books with me – which results in me beginning the books I do have but actually not being in the right mood to currently read them. I also read more e-books these two months than physical books due to the same reason, something which makes me feel kind of uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why I haven’t enjoyed my reading as much? Anyway, let’s move on to the books.

x293January

> Time Killers: Short Story Collection by Kazue Kato ***** (manga)
> The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur *** (poetry)
> Pachinko by Min Jin Lee ***** (novel)
> Love by Hanne Ørstavik *** (novel)
> The Lost Path by Amélie Fléchais **** (picture book)
> Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014 by Ursula K. Le Guin *** (poetry)
> The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin **** (short story)

 

February51skkgIun0L.SX316.SY316

> Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb **** (novel)
> The Lime Tree by César Aira *** (novella)
> The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell *** (short story collection)
> Daubigny’s Garden by Bruno de Roover and Luc Cromheecke ** (graphic novel)
> Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Volume 1 by CLAMP **** (manga)
> The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert DNF (YA novel)
> Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura **** (novel)

My highlights for each month were definitely Pachinko and Cult X – both quite hefty and complicated novels. Pachinko, especially, must be one of the best books I have read in recent years; I hadn’t been so absorbed by a book in a very long time and I just adored it. You must know how when you love a book so much it becomes even more difficult to write a review about it, partly because you want to do it justice and convey its magnificence to the rest of the world who has still yet to witness it and partly because you sometimes feel your words are inadequate and ultimately incapable of achieving this. This is why I haven’t posted my review of it yet – adding to the fact that it’s such a complicated book spanning three generations of a family and tackling so many important issues and themes that I hardly know where to begin talking about it.

Other than that, I feel like I don’t really have much to say about the rest of the books I read. They were either unimpressive or my thoughts on them would fit in a few sentences. If, however, you’d like to hear my thoughts on any of the books listed above, please let me know and I will do my best to write a post about it 🙂

My Official TBR Pile Challenge is also not going well at all. I’m currently reading Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library because whenever I’m not in the mood to read anything, a good mystery is always the solution, but unfortunately I’m not feeling this one at all. I don’t know if it’s the book or me in my current situation of disatisfaction with mostly everything. Other books I’m currently reading include:

> The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (an essay collection about the experience of being an immigrant (or the child of immigrants) in the UK and the various (mostly racial) issues that arise)
> Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini (a historical novel about Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada, and her fascination with mathematics and science)
> 日本人の知らない日本語 (The Japanese Japanese People Don’t Know) by Umino Nagiko (because I’m trying to improve my Japanese reading skills and this book is such a treasure for language learners)

I hope I manage to overcome this disatisfaction that has been plaguing my reading lately and find books that make me excited and passionate, books that are well-written and important and, preferably, physical paper books rather than e-books (I need to settle in a place before that happens and I know that won’t be any time soon…). Until then, I have to focus on various life matters, job applications and finishing the many books I have already started…

How has your reading been so far? Do you have any mind-blowing book suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments below have a great reading March 🙂

 

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2017’s Yearly Challenge: Round Up

I decided to put together four lists this year – one of authors I wanted to read, another of books which had caught my eye, and projects made up of French and Scottish-set books.  I have not done anywhere near as well with my yearly challenges as I had anticipated.  I overstretched myself rather; although I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, I have neglected these lists over the last few months, and have been reading at whim instead.  I thought that I would just write a relatively concise post about how I did with my challenges in terms of numbers, and which books were particular highlights for me.  You can see my full list, with all of the titles, here.  On a brighter note, I did manage to complete my Reading the World challenge, where I scheduled a review of a piece of translated literature every Saturday.  My full list can be found here.

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George Sand

With regard to the authors, I actually did rather well.  Out of nineteen pinpointed, there were only four which I did not get to (Amelie Nothomb, Lydia Millet, Leena Krohn, and Gunter Grass).  Wonderful discoveries for me from this list were George Sand, John Wyndham, Ira Levin, and Anita Desai.  It was lovely to revisit some favourite authors too – Rebecca West and Agatha Christie, to name but two.

With regard to my book list, I fared worse.  Out of quite an extensive list of titles (thirty-four in all), I only managed to read seventeen.  There were a few books which I was disappointed with (The Shining by Stephen King, The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn), but I found some new favourites too.  Amongst those which I rated the most highly are the beautiful, quiet Welsh novel The Life of Rebecca Jones by Angharad Price (review here), the gorgeous and immersive This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell, the perfectly paced The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, the haunting and strange Fell by Jenn Ashworth, the hilariously funny Where Am I Now? 9780143128229by Mara Wilson (review here), the profound and beautifully poetic The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss (review here), and the downright creepy The Dumb House by John Burnside.

My efforts for my French reading project were paltry; I only read nine books out of a list of thirty.  Particular standouts for me were the lovely non-fiction account by Peter Mayle of his move to France, entitled A Year in Provence, Julia Stuart‘s terribly charming The Matchmaker of Perigord, the wonderfully bookish A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse, and the beautiful Strait is the Gate by Andre Gide.  Of my rereads, I very much enjoyed revisiting Irene Nemirovsky, whose books I adore, as well 9781933372822as Elizabeth McCracken‘s searingly touching An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination.

My Scottish reading project was a little better.  Out of twenty-nine books, I read eight, and gave up on four.  I was particularly charmed by Anne Donovan‘s Buddha Da, my reread of Maggie O’Farrell‘s wonderful The VanishingAct of Esme Lennox, and Jenni Fagan‘s engrossing, and awfully human, The Sunlight Pilgrims.

I have set my sights a little lower for my 2018 reading challenge, choosing only to participate in the Around the World in 80 Books group on Goodreads.  I will be reading books from, or set within, eighty different countries around the world, and could not be more excited about what I will discover.

How did you get on with your 2018 challenges?  Do you always set reading challenges, or do you prefer to read without any restrictions?

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Reading the World: Wrap-Up

This post marks the end of my 2017 Reading the World Project.  When setting out what I wanted to achieve with this particular challenge, I wrote that I wanted to consciously choose and review works of translated literature.  I thought that a structure such as the one which I came up with would allow me to continue with my project throughout the year, without reaching that mid-July slump that I invariably get with reading challenges.  I am pleased to report that I have found the exercise thoroughly successful, and have discovered some new gems, and some little-reviewed tomes too.

Without further ado, I thought that it would be nice to have a wrap-up post to show the best of the books which I read for this challenge, as well as to tot up the numbers of distinct languages which I chose to include.  For this project, I wrote forty-six original reviews, and also included six from the archive.

My top ten picks in translation:

  1. Gilgi, One of Us by Irmgard Keun (German) 9780099561378
  2. The Leech by Cora Sandel (Norwegian)
  3. Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky (French)
  4. The Life of Rebecca Jones by Angharad Price (Welsh)
  5. Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau (French)
  6. Strait is the Gate by Andre Gide (French)
  7. The Immoralist by Andre Gide (French)
  8. Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russian)
  9. Art in Nature and Other Stories by Tove Jansson (Finnish)
  10. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

 

Language breakdown by number of books read (I think one can say that I like French literature!):

  1. French: 15
  2. Korean: 4
  3. Norwegian: 4 9780956308696
  4. Russian: 4
  5. Finnish: 3
  6. Austrian German: 2
  7. Dutch: 2
  8. German: 2
  9. Spanish: 2
  10. Swedish: 2
  11. Japanese: 3
  12. Argentinian Spanish: 1
  13. Chinese: 1
  14. Danish: 1
  15. Hungarian: 1
  16. Icelandic: 1
  17. Kannada: 1
  18. Portuguese: 1
  19. Turkish: 1
  20. Welsh: 1

 

I have also discovered some wonderful new authors whilst reading for this project.  They include Clarice Lispector, Cora Sandel, Irmgard Keun, Annie Ernaux, Samanta Schweblin, Angharad Price, Jean Cocteau, George Sand, Andre Gide, and Albert Camus.

For a full list of my 2017 Reading the World books, as well as links to their reviews, please visit this page.  Please let me know which of these books you’ve read, and which review has been your favourite.

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Non-fiction November and German Lit Month Wrap-Up

The beginning of December finds me in a very strange situation personally, a situation which affected most of my November activities as well. As much as I would have liked to read more and participate in all the lovely events organised in the bookish community, I did the best that I could given my circumstances.

That being said, whilst I immensely enjoyed my minimal reading for both Non-fiction November and German Literature Month as well as reading other people’s wonderful posts, I wish I could have done more.

Nonfiction-November-2017-768x644

For Non-fiction November, I managed to read almost all of the books I had set as my TBR. Ursula Le Guin’s No Time to Spare was the first book I completed and I utterly loved it. Since it’s being published on December 5th, my review is scheduled for that date.

italocalvino_classicsItalo Clavino’s Why Read the Classics? was the next one on my list, a collection of essays which I read rather selectively, since most of them referred to books and authors I hadn’t read and I didn’t see the point in reading analyses of literature I’m not familiar with. I read this in my Greek translation copy and I was reminded once again how much I adore Calvino’s writing. His love for literature and for the classics specifically shines through his wonderful prose and he makes you want to pick up the nearest classic and immerse yourself in its glory. methode_times_prod_web_bin_96549d4c-baf1-11e6-a53a-ca2ad7b229f9

The last book on my TBR for this event was Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, which I haven’t completed yet. I love Shirley Jackson’s writing and as soon as I saw this biography of hers, I knew I wanted to learn more about her. I listened to this on audiobook and this is probably why my progress has been so slow, since I don’t do very well with audiobooks. I’ve listened to 7 chapters so far and I was not as impressed as I expected to be. While some parts are absolutely fascinating, I often feel like the book is too unnecessarily detailed and that makes it somewhat dull in parts, such as when the author listed all the Christmas gifts Shirley and each member of her family received – a detail I could have lived without being made aware of, and without spending 10 minutes listening about. Perhaps it’s the format of the audiobook which makes it dull for me, I’ll try to find a paper copy to continue reading it.

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As for German Literature Month, I also managed to read both books I had set as my TBR. Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear was definitely my favourite book of the entire month (perhaps of the year too) and you can read the full review I posted a few days ago here.

'Letter_from_an_Unknown_Woman'I couldn’t leave Stefan Zweig, one of my absolute favourite authors, out of German Literature Month. His Letter from an Unknown Woman is the second and last book I read for this challenge. Read in my Greek translation copy like the aforementioned Calvino book, it was a short novella which, like most of Zweig’s other works I’ve read, was filled with emotions and beautiful, beautiful prose. I haven’t encountered any other author who can write about and portray people’s feelings and the wide range of their emotions as eloquently as Zweig does. Whether you’ve found yourself in a situation like the one he’s describing (here, that of a woman’s unrequited youthful love) you will definitely feel like you have experienced this situation by the time you finish reading. This is how powerful his writing is.

These were my contributions to those two November challenges. I had a lot of fun participating in both and I hope next time I have much more time to devote.

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Book Haul (January 2017)

I thought that I would begin to keep a record of books which I’ve purchased in each distinct month, particularly after it was suggested that I add more book hauls to the blog.  I used to film book haul videos, but since moving away from BookTube, I thought it would be a nice idea to create a relatively concise post at the end of each month.  Without further ado, here are the tomes which I bought during January.

9780099521341I shall begin with book club reads, several of which I have chosen to add to my growing TBR pile ahead of time.  Being a full-time postgraduate student means that quite a lot of my time is spent buried in books, but I also have quite a busy social calendar, and want to ensure that I can get to group reads as far ahead of time as I possibly can.  That said, I bought the lovely The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa for mine and Katie’s book club, and a copy of Lori Schiller‘s The Quiet Room for the book group which I run on Goodreads.

I purchased three books with some of my Christmas money whilst on my way up to Scotland at the beginning of the month.  I chose a copy of Caroline Moorhead‘s A Train in Winter, which I have had my eye on for quite a while, and then took advantage of the half price offer in Waterstone’s, picking up Dan Boothby‘s Island of Dreams (which was a touch disappointing), and Agatha Christie‘s utterly brilliant The Witness for the Prosecution.

A couple of my January purchases were made with my 2017 reading projects in mind (see 9780857860866here).  I am planning to read Vita Sackville-West‘s Pepita in the next few months; it will sadly be one of my last outstanding of her novels.  The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh is a choice for my Reading Scotland list, and I want to get to it as soon as I possibly can because I so enjoyed The Girl on the StairsA Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse is one of my most highly anticipated Reading France choices, and one which will also work nicely for my ongoing Reading the World project.

I also chose to purchase several books which could be included within my thesis.  I’m unsure as to which of these, if any, I will end up writing about, but it’s lovely to be able to read so diversely, and sample new authors, as well as those whom I have previously enjoyed.  In this vein, I chose to procure secondhand copies of Miriam Toew‘s A Complicated Kindness and Irma Voth, as well as Anita Brookner‘s Leaving Home and Kaye Gibbons’ Sights Unseen.

9781844085224I rarely buy Kindle books, preferring instead to read free classics or sweep Netgalley for interesting tomes.  This month, however, I made an exception.  I had a sudden longing to read the rest of E.M. Delafield‘s Provincial Lady novels, and found them in a handy omnibus edition for barely any money whatsoever.  I also bought a collection of five of her standalone novels (Zella Sees Herself, The War Workers, Tension, The Heel of Achilles, and Humbug), which I am looking forward to getting to!

I shall finish with those tomes which I didn’t need, but couldn’t resist buying.  I scoured AbeBooks for a copy of Irmgard Keun‘s A Child of All Nations after so adoring Gilgi, and was rewarded with a first edition, which is just as wonderful.  I was keen to try some of Gail Tsukiyama‘s work, and plumped for The Samurai’s Garden as my inroad.  I saw a wonderful review of Sarah Rayne‘s A Dark Dividing on Goodreads, and had to get myself a copy; whilst I haven’t read it yet, it sounds as though it will be brilliantly creepy, and make the perfect read for a long winter’s night.

The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of 9780143038467Thule by Joanna Kavenna looked fascinating, and as my obsession with Scandinavia shows no sign of regressing, I had to buy myself a copy.  I was also intrigued by Maryrose Wood‘s Gothic children’s novel, The Mysterious Howling, which marks the first book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.  I have read and very much enjoyed it already.  Last but not least, I bought a copy of Karl Pilkington‘s Happyslapped by a Jellyfish for my boyfriend (but I’ll more than likely end up reading it first).

Have you read any of these books?  Which tomes were added to your shelves during January?

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