Mid Year Challenges Wrap-up

It’s mid year so it seems like a good time to wrap up some challenges I’ve completed!

Once Upon a Time IV

once upon a time iv

Once Upon a Time IV ended on 20th June. I read 6 books that fall into category folklore, fantasy, fairy tales, or mythology, so I actually completed Quest the First (5 books) despite aiming for just The Journey (1 book). I did not even try for the challenge, so I guess fantasy and the likes are really in my comfort zone. Thanks to Carl for hosting this always fun challenge! Books read:

  1. The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (4/5)
  2. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon (5/5)
  3. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (4/5) — contains 10 short stories
  4. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (4/5)
  5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (5/5)
  6. The Sandman Vol 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman (3.5/5)

Apart from the books above I also read 1 short story (apart from 10 Angela Carter’s short stories in The Bloody Chamber): The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change by Kij Johnson (4/5)

My favorite is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Brilliant, brilliant work! The Bloody Chamber warrants a special mention too. It was my first Angela Carter and I think I will enjoy more of her works. And Pride of Baghdad for its excellent artwork!

Book Awards IV

Book Awards IV officially ends in November 2010, but I’ve completed it with flying colors as award winners are really my thing. But the challenge seems to die down. I haven’t seen much update from either the host or the participants. I decided to wrap this up and stop keeping track.

Books read:

  1. Waiting by Ha Jin (finished 01/10, rating 5/5)
    1999 National Book Award for Fiction
    2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
  2. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (finished 01/10, rating 5/5)
    1966 Nebula Award for Best Novel
  3. Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (finished 02/10, rating 4.5/5)
    2008 Ignatz Award for Best Graphic Novel
  4. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (finished 03/10, rating 4/5)
    2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Overall Best Book
    2009 ABIA (Australian Book Industry Awards) Book of the Year
  5. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (finished 03/10, rating 4.5/5)
    1932 Pulitzer Prize
    1938 Nobel Prize for Literature (the author for body of work)
  6. The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (finished 03/10, rating 4/5)
    1999 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year
  7. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon (finished 04/10, rating 5/5)
    2006 IGN Best Original Graphic Novel
  8. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (finished 04/20, rating 5/5)
    1996 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Overall Best Book
    1995 Giller Prize
  9. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (finished 04/10, rating 4/5)
    1979 Cheltenham Prize for Literature
  10. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (finished 05/10, rating 4/5)
    2009 World Fantasy Award (Novel)
    2009 Honor Book: Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
  11. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (finished 06/10, rating 4.5/5)
    1961 Pulitzer Prize

My favorites are A Fine Balance, Waiting, and Flowers for Algernon, all amazing for completely different reasons.

China Challenge

china challenge

China Challenge officially ends in September 2010 but I decided to wrap this up too now because the next level is 10 books and I don’t think I’m gonna get there. I personally really enjoyed this challenge and will try to incorporate Chinese books in my future reading every once in a while. I completed Fast Train to Shanghai level which requires 5 books (but uum.. I forgot the nonfiction. Oops.)

  1. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (finished 10/09, rating 4/5)
  2. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (finished 12/09, rating 4.5/5)
  3. Waiting by Ha Jin (finished 01/10, rating 5/5)
  4. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (finished 03/10, rating 4.5/5)
  5. Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang (finished 06/10, rating 4.5/5)

I really enjoyed all the books here. If I have to pick the tops of the lot it would be Waiting and Love in a Fallen City.

I have more challenges to wrap up, but I really need to sleep so those’ll do for now. Did you join any of those above? How did you go?

Some post-challenge pondering: Though I love challenges, I think from now on I’m gonna pass any challenges that are longer than a couple of months, especially the ones that go for a year long. The excitement dies down pretty quickly, and the initial intention to share reads with readers that have the same interests don’t really work out well. After two months or three everybody seems to have forgotten about the challenge and we never hear from each other again. Do you think that’s true? Do you forget about the challenges you join after a couple of months? Do you make effort to visit fellow participants of the challenges you join? Do you expect the host to give you a visit once in a while? What do you hope/expect to get out of challenges?

Short Saturday: Gaiman, Jackson, and Gilman

In Short Saturday I will journal my journey to find 5-star quality short stories, whose virtual trophy right now is held by Truman Capote and Haruki Murakami. Unlike my book reviews, I will talk more about my thoughts and what I learn, why I choose the story and how I come upon it. Unlike books, I’m willing to take more risk for shorts, because they are.. well.. short, so I won’t waste too much time if I don’t like them. Expect to see a lot of trash and hopefully, some gems. As it is now, I am not a fan of short stories. Dare I say, yet? But hey, like people say, it’s all about the journey, not destination.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but I haven’t posted Short Saturday for a few weeks, what with the holiday and catching up. Lucky me, Michelle has been continuing and it encouraged me to continue too. We’ve been posting about short stories on Saturday for a couple of months now (not always continuously) and it’s great to have a bloggy friend to do it together!

Talking about bloggy friends, I have been recommended many short stories since my first Short Saturday was up and it’s been so much fun to try so many stories that I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. For this week, I was intrigued by Claire‘s favorite short stories that are listed on her sidebar and I picked three to read.

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman confused me. One day he wrote The Graveyard Book and Coraline, another day The Sandman. Is he a YA writer or a twisted adult writer? Maybe both and he can change skin anytime he likes. Now Snow, Glass, Apples is more in the vein of The Sandman rather than his YA books, and I… LOVED it! (Though 10 paragraphs in there’s a blood sucking scene and I groaned “Not another blood sucker!” because I’m not a fan of anything vampiric.)

As you can probably guess from the title, the story is a retelling of Snow White. Twisted fairytale retelling is really my thing so I just fell for it. It’s a little bit disturbing at times, but really, after reading The Sandman, nothing can surprise me out of Neil Gaiman. Do not expect the story to be anywhere near kiddy or fluffy!

Did I just find my third 5-star short story? I did!

Read the story online

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

I first heard of The Lottery when tanabata made a brief comparison of it to Battle Royale. As the latter is one of my favorite books, she piqued my interest straight away. When I saw the short story made appearance on Claire’s list, I just knew I had to read it.

The Lottery started with the whole village gathering at the square for a yearly lottery that has become a custom since a long time ago, nobody knows since when. We don’t know what the lottery is about, so the build-up to it is just amazing, the anticipation gripped me like few else. Of course, I wouldn’t tell you what it is, but the ending shocked me. I just didn’t see it coming. I got chills down my spine and goosebumps for minutes. Felt a little angry even. “I don’t get it”, repeated myself in my head.

The Lottery was first published in 1948 issue of The New Yorker. To the surprise of Jackson and the magazine, they got a high number of negative responses and angry mails from the readers. I must say I kinda understand why. The ending was morbid. However, I’m impressed with Shirley Jackson’s skill to bring such strong reaction from people. Her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle has been on my radar for a while and I would love to read it some time soon.

4.5 stars

Read the story online

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I first heard of Charlotte Perkins Gilman from Rebecca, when she reviewed Herland (which I’d love to read but not sure when). So when I saw her name on Claire’s list, I picked the short story.

The main character is a woman who is rather ill and advised to stay in her room resting and doing very little. However the wallpaper on the wall disturbs and distracts her restlessly.

I don’t know if it’s only the copy that I read, but I felt the writing a bit choppy. There’s often only one sentence in one paragraph, so it changes paragraph all the time. Also, I’m never fond of mad-man story, because it always gets too abstract and loose at the end, and not to mention confusing. I read a bit on the background of the story and it apparently was a backlash from Gilman after she was advised by her doctor for a rest cure (and followed the advise leading to her depression).

4 stars

Read the story online

This story is included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006 list)

I had a good short story week! How about you? As always, I welcome any recommendation!


Did you recognize the picture above? In case you’ve been living under a stone, Carl has opened up his Once Upon a Time IV challenge, running from 21 March to 20 June! Isn’t the picture very fitting with Snow, Glass, Apples? Which is by the way, is a perfect story for the challenge! I’m joining for The Journey, because I don’t want to be over-committed that way, and of course, Short Story Weekends.

I have a very short list to share. I’m going to (try to) read Tender Morsels with Claire’s gang (no, the other Claire, and no, her other gang) and The Colour of Magic for Terry Pratchett challenge. I might continue with Fables series too. We’ll see.

Are you joining too?

Short Stories Read

  1. The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change by Kij Johnson (4/5)

Books Read

  1. The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (4/5)
  2. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon (5/5)
  3. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (4/5) — contains 10 short stories
  4. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (4/5)
  5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (5/5)
  6. The Sandman Vol 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman (3.5/5)

Japanese Season Has Ended, For Now

Japanese Literature Challenge 3

Can you believe we have gone through the third round of Japanese Literature Challenge, and it has again, ended?

I did a lot better this time around than last year. Funny. Last round I intended to read a lot and ended up reading much less. This round I intended to read one or two, and ended up reading 4 books by Japanese authors and 3 books by non-Japanese, which is uum.. 5-6 books more than planned.

Books of Japanese origin:

  1. Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara (finished 08/09, 3 stars)
  2. Strangers by Taichi Yamada (finished 09/09, 2.5 stars)
  3. I Am a Cat (Vol 1) by Soseki Natsume (finished 12/09, 4 stars)
  4. Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyoza by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki (finished 01/10, 4.5 stars)

Books about/set in Japan by non-Japanese authors:

  1. Squeamish about Sushi by Betty Reynolds (finished 08/09, 4.5 stars)
  2. Kabuki: The Metamorphosis by David Mack (finished 08/09, 4 stars)
  3. Clueless in Tokyo by Betty Reynolds (finished 10/09, 4.5 stars)

The first three books of Japanese origin were on my original list, so really, I can’t be happier with the result.

I love Japanese Literature Challenge. Not only because of the challenge itself, but also because I seem to meet a different bunch of people that I wouldn’t normally meet anywhere else in the blogosphere. Do you think so too or is it just me?

Thanks again Bellezza, for such a wonderful challenge and for being such a wonderful host. I look forward to sharing more Japanese works in the future with you! And of course, with all of you.

Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge

1 January 2010 – 31 December 2010

You do know that I need to join this challenge, right? Comparing book and its movie adaptation is really my thing. In 2009, I did that with:

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  2. The Color Purple
  3. Silk
  4. A Christmas Carol
  5. Wicked (not a movie, but with its musical)
  6. Dracula + movie (separate post)
  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince + movie (separate post)
  8. Intimacy (uum didn’t finish the movie because it was so bad..)

In 2008, I read the books and see the movies for The Woman in the Dunes, Atonement, Harry Potter 1-5, The Kite Runner, Wuthering Heights, Lolita, and Persepolis. Then in separate years, Memoirs of a Geisha, Battle Royale, The Joy Luck Club, A Walk to Remember. (I don’t link to the book reviews because I think I just started incorporating movie comparison regularly in 2008.) Really, the options are endless!

Therefore I’m quite confident that I can complete the Saturday Movie Marathon level, which requires four books/movies. Easy peasy :)

I know that I’ll be watching The Road and Burton’s Alice in Wonderland this year. Possibly The Reader, The Lovely Bones, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button–all of which I have read. Disgrace and The Secret Life of Bees piqued my interest too (books read). Hopefully I can squeeze in The Revolutionary Road and The Remains of the Day (books not yet read).

What pair would you recommend? I’m all ears!

The pair I did for the challenge:

  1. Flowers for Algernon (reviewed 01/10)
  2. The Road (reviewed 03/10)
  3. The Good Earth (reviewed 03/10)
  4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (reviewed 06/10)
  5. To Kill A Mockingbird (reviewed 06/10)
  6. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (reviewed 10/10)
  7. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (reviewed 11/10)
  8. The Remains of the Day (reviewed 12/10)

Reviews Jan/Feb | May/Jun/Jul | Aug/Sep

Aussie Author Challenge, Oi!

In conjunction with my own personal challenge to read more Aussie authors, I should naturally join the Aussie Author Challenge! (1 Jan-31 Dec 2010)

There are many to choose from. The ones more known internationally like Markus Zusak and Geraldine Brooks, Steve Toltz for his A Fraction of the Whole, to the ONLY two double Booker winners Peter Carey, and now, I’m glad to say, also J. M. Coetzee! (I knew that Coetzee has lived in Adelaide for a while, but I just recently learned that he has fully pledged to be an Aussie citizen!) Then the ones recently got famous: Christos Tsiolkas for the 2009 Commonweath Prize and Nam Le for his debut collection of short stories (also won lots of local prizes). And don’t forget the awesome Shaun Tan (whom I have raved about to no end) and Margo Lanagan whose Tender Morsels won World Fantasy Award in 2009.

Did I forget anyone? Well I feel like I have to mention Tim Winton, because he’s huge here. But somehow his books don’t seem to appeal to me.

I’m going for Tourist level, which requires you to read 3 books. I plan to read one of Peter Carey‘s books (I’m thinking Oscar and Lucinda because it sounds the most appealing to me. I have that and True History of the Kelly Gang on my shelf..) but I would probably end up reading more Shaun Tan‘s graphic novels, Tender Morsels, and The Book Thief. Oh, and I’m reading The Slap by Tsiolkas as we speak.

Do share if you joined or thinking to :)

Books Read

  1. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (finished 03/10, rating 4/5)
  2. The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (finished 03/10, rating 4/5)
  3. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (finished 05/10, rating 4/5)

All the participants’ reviews

Book Awards IV, Bring It On!

Book Awards IV
1 January – 1 November 2010
10 months. 10 awards.

Do I dare say, “Bring it on!” ? I do!

Books read:

  1. Waiting by Ha Jin (finished 01/10, rating 5/5)
    1999 National Book Award for Fiction
    2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
    Finalist of 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
  2. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (finished 01/10, rating 5/5)
    1966 Nebula Award for Best Novel
  3. Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (finished 02/10, rating 4.5/5)
    2008 Ignatz Award for Best Graphic Novel
  4. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (finished 03/10, rating 4/5)
    2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Overall Best Book
    2009 ABIA (Australian Book Industry Awards) Book of the Year
  5. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (finished 03/10, rating 4.5/5)
    1932 Pulitzer Prize
    1938 Nobel Prize for Literature (the author for body of work)
  6. The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (finished 03/10, rating 4/5)
    1999 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year
    1999 Spectrum Gold Award for Book Illustration
    1999 Aurealis Conveners’ Award for Excellence
  7. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon (finished 04/10, rating 5/5)
    2006 IGN Best Original Graphic Novel
  8. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (finished 04/20, rating 5/5)
    1996 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Overall Best Book
    1995 Giller Prize
    Shortlisted for 1996 Booker Prize
  9. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (finished 04/10, rating 4/5)
    1979 Cheltenham Prize for Literature
  10. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (finished 05/10, rating 4/5)
    2009 World Fantasy Award (Novel)
    2009 Honor Book: Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
  11. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (finished 06/10, rating 4.5/5)
    1961 Pulitzer Prize

Reviews Jan/Feb

Orbis Terrarum Wrap-up

I kinda dreaded wrapping up this challenge, because I predicted it would be the longest of them all. And it is. But here we go, my last challenge wrap-up of 2009!

I joined Orbis Terrarum Challenge in March 2009, running from 1 March to 31 December 2009. The rule is to read 10 different books by 10 different authors from 10 different countries. The trick was, you should go by the country of origin of the author, or the country he/she lives in (a bit different with my personal project Reading the World in which I go with either the book setting or the origin of author, whichever is more prominent).

I read many books from 10 different countries (I intended to not count any from US or UK because that’s the majority where the English books are from, but then I counted US anyway because some books are thick with historical and cultural descriptions of parts of the country. I only list here the ones that have a strong sense of place.)

Australia
Sugarbabe by Holly Hill (finished 03/09, rating 4/5)
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (finished 05/09, rating 5/5)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan (finished 06/09, rating 5/5)

Sweden
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (author born in Sweden, US nationality, book set in Poland) (finished 03/09, rating 5/5)

Japan
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (finished 03/09, rating 3/5)
Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara (finished 08/09, rating 3/5)
Strangers by Taichi Yamada (finished 09/09, rating 2.5/5)
I Am a Cat by Soseki Natsume Vol One (finished 12/09, rating 4/5)

Afghanistan
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (finished 04/09, rating 4/5)

Nigeria
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (finished 06/09, rating 4.5/5)

South Africa
Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (finished 06/09, rating 4.5/5)

USA
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (finished 08/09, rating 5/5) – Detroit
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (finished 09/09, rating 4/5) – New York 1940s
Firmin by Sam Savage (finished 12/09, rating 4/5) – Boston, 1950s

Pakistan
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (finished 08/09, rating 3/5)

Italy
Silk by Alessandro Baricco (finished 09/09, rating 4/5)

Cuba
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino (author born in Cuba, now Italian) (finished 11/09, rating 3.5/5)

I enjoyed most of them. My highlights would be Shaun Tan‘s books, The Complete Maus, and Middlesex, but you’ve probably heard me talk about them a few times. Let me see… Purple Hibiscus and Disgrace are totally worth highlighting too (and I read them consecutively) because they deal with important issues. A lot of them are unique, so even if one is not a perfect piece of literature, I still got a lot out of it. I have to make mental note to read more International literature. I love armchair travelling! (And real life travelling too, of course :)

Biggest disappointment was Burnt Shadows, which is Orange shortlisted in 2009, but rather painful to read. Strangers was disappointing too but it wasn’t as long and outrageous as Burnt Shadows. It was just meh. Burnt Shadows was eye-rolling-and-groan disappointing. Okay, I’m gonna stop being mean.

Apart from books, there’s Orbis Terrarum Film Mini-Challenge that challenged us to watch 10 films, 10 different countries, by 10 different directors in 10 months. Again, it has to go by the origin or residence of the director.

I was really really bad at keeping track of this one. I definitely watched a bunch of foreign movies, some deliberate for the challenge, some not, but I’m not sure if the directors were from 10 different countries. I plan to keep track of movies watched in 2010 — just a list, not review for all of them. I’ll try to do mini-reviews for foreign movies and movies based on books.

Let me just point out a few of my highlights below. I highly highly recommended these three movies. Go watch the trailers, I promise they’ll be worth it.

The Cave of the Yellow Dog
Director: Byambasuren Davaa, Mongolia/German, 2005
A gentle movie about the life of a family of Mongolian nomad. The details of their everyday life are so fascinating. Beautiful setting — so beautiful it’s worth seeing for the setting alone. I have a book that the movie is based on, which I look forward to reading, because it would be wonderful to know even more details on the life of the nomads.

Pom Poko
Director: Isao Takahata, Japan, 1994
I LOVE Studio Ghibli’s movies (makers of Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, etc) and this year I watched so many of them, thanks to the Sydney Japanese Foundation Library. If I have to pick a favorite this year, it would be Pom Poko. As you probably know, Japanese people often believe that foxes and raccoons are shape-shifters. In this movie, we get to know a community of raccoons who have to fight human development that keep pushing away and destroying their home forest. They do everything they can, including shape-shifting to fool the humans. It gets sadder and more serious towards the end, but it’s inevitable as the reality hits.

Not One Less
Director: Zhang Yimou, China, 1999
This movie has won many International awards and the girl who played the main character was given a scholarship to Hawaii because the film attracted so much attention. She was able to change her fortune and left the mountainous village in China because of the miraculous encounter. It’s like a fairy tale. You can read her full story here. Not One Less starts when 13 year old girl Wei Minzhi (her real name in life) is brought to be a temporary substitute teacher. She was told to not lose even one student, otherwise she won’t get paid. This is the time when education is often not appreciated by many poor families and students are often disappearing for no notice at all because they are forced to work and stop studying. One day it does happen to one of the students and Wei is off to the city to find the child and bring him back.

The last mini challenge I intended to participate was Bilingual Mini-Challenge in which we are asked to read 5 books in their original languages by 5 different authors (or 10 different short stories or 10 children’s chapter books).

I failed this big time. I didn’t touch any Indonesian or Japanese books I have lying around at home. I was all for English books last year. Oh well, too many books too little time, right?

Thanks so much to Bethany for hosting all these challenges. Given the time, I’m happy with what I achieved :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...