Monday, February 19, 2018

My very belated Japanese Literature Challenge Reviews

I am a huge fan of this challenge, hosted this year my Mel U @ the reading life and Dolce Bellezza, the 11th Japanese Literature Challenge ran from June 2017 to January 2018... Sadly, I didn't get much read during my University studies, but I did enjoy these two books over the summer. 

Having participated in most of the 11 years of this challenge,  I have read nearly all of Murakami's books, some novels in themselves, but many compilations of short stories. Murakami has a reoccurring set of themes in his stories, and these short stories, in Men without Women, are the same. Music, trains and transport (including train stations), school friends and universities as a period of life, and intersections between relationships. While these short stories are written from a mans perspective, I appreciated the reflective approach of Murakami on life, in the moment, and the people you share it with..  While I haven't finished all of this yet, it hasn't disappointed. 
 I have, again, read others by Banana Yoshimoto (and by the way, I love that name), so this one was definitely on my list. My niece studied Japanese at high school, and the one thing I remember about Japanese language that she taught me (when we had the pleasure of travelling together in Japan), was that Moshi Moshi is what you say when you answer the phone. Its a pleasantry like Hello.

So this book is about telephone calls... between the dead father and the living and grieving daughter. But its much more than that too. Without going into the details of her fathers death (I don't want to spoil anything), the narrator is joined by her mother in grief. This is about both of their coming to terms with their loss, but also finding their new..

I really enjoyed this. Banana introduces new ideas and new themes that weave together the fully story of a young women discovering her place in the world. I can safely say, I'll read more from Banana Yoshimoto..

Sunday, February 4, 2018

January Reading

In November last year (2017) I finished an assignment for Uni and some large work, and promised myself I would read some books over summer. As I started to compose this review, I surprised myself... I did  read some books. All very different. 

I'm better at listening to podcasts than reading books, and I heard about this book listening to ABC's Conversations with Richard Fidler. Conversations draws you deeper into the life story of someone you may, or may not, have heard about - someone who has seen and done amazing things. I listened to the interview with Shankari Chandran, and learnt that she had written this novel. The promo for this podcast said this

How the daughter of a Hindu brain surgeon made her mark on Guantanamo BayShankari Chandran grew up watching her father operate on the brain. But rather than following her parents into medicine, she chose an unexpected path

Shankari studied law, and worked in one the worlds largest law firms, and set up that firms human rights law division. She had been involved in some of the era's largest and more complex human rights cases. With her growing up around medicine, and experience of law and international human rights concerns, she wrote this novel. The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia in 2040, after an ebola pandemic and wars have destroyed the world.

This is not my usual choice of reading material - but I was engaged. I felt Chandran took me to a new understanding of global politics and how science can be used for good or not. each new theme opened my eyes to some possible reality. 
Again, from podcast to book. One of my favourite podcasts is Chat10Looks3 with Annabel Crab and Leigh Sales. The podcast is like having Sunday brunch with friends, as Annabel and Leigh (both well known Australian Journalists who focus on politics and current affairs) talk about the books, movies, TV shows and food they love. They never stop talking about the work of Helen Garner. Helen is an Australian author who's words capture the reader and explain cleverly but simply,  every day interactions and emotions.
Helen Garner writes novels, stories, screenplays and works of non-fiction. In 2006 she received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature, and in 2016 she won the prestigious Windham–Campbell Prize for non-fiction and the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award. Her most recent book, Everywhere I Look won the 2017 Indie Book Award for Non-Fiction.
In the Spare Room, Helen tells us of when her long time friend, who lives in a different city, moves in with her while she is accessing an alternative cancer treatment centre in her final months. It's a lovely story of love and anguish, generosity and pain, family and community.  I was really touched by this story.
This next book was one I got for Christmas. Having previously read the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, I thought I'd like this one too. However, I felt this was a bit light on. 
The Zanzibar Wife is a bewitching novel of clashing cultures and conflicting beliefs, of secrets and revelations, of mystery and magic, by the author of the international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of KabulSet both in Oman and on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, The Zanzibar Wife is the story of three different women, each at a turning point in her life . . .
For me, it was a little fanciful and fake, but still I allowed the descriptions of the marketplaces, villages and flavours of Oman and Zanzibar to transport me to a foreign place. It was a easy read. 

I have two  more reviews to write, but a different post will follow, as they are for my Japanese Literature Challenge, which I have again really enjoyed! 
Now, as I'm writing this, I realise that I haven't got something in my kindle for the next read. I do have a hard copy of 'the First Casualty' by Peter Greste which is described as...
Extremely timely, enlightening and passionate, The First Casualty is foreign correspondent Peter Greste’s first-hand account of how the war on journalism has spread from the battlefields of the Middle East to the governments of the West
So here's to the next month of reading...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018.... Wow!!!!

A vine peaks through from the neighbours 
I am so excited about this year... 2018 is going to be fun, full of activity, and a year of new things. I'm not making resolutions, I'm just putting out my intentions.

2017 was kind of like a year in limbo... surgery - waiting for recovery... study - waiting for the end.... working - waiting for the rewards... but then it was a year of big things.. overcoming pain, rehab success.. travelling, climbing big big hills (mountains) in Nepal, and progressing professionally. And in the past 8 days, while on holidays at home, I rode more than 420kms!
Vietnamese Mint in a tea cup
This year I'm working on balance.. I have done half a MBA (I've been doing 3 subjects a year so 2 more years to go), but am in the process of reviewing that. I'm not enjoying it, uts not challenging me, and I'm not really convinced I need this. What's the point of devoting valuable life time to something you dont get joy out of? Plus, its costly..

So I'm really excited about how much energy I will have this year for new things... and the things I love. Being physically fit and well, having brain space, and having time... thats all exciting!
Rhubarb.. always worth being excited about
I dream of spending more time in my garden, riding my bike, walking my dog, and spending time with friends. I want to take a few trips this year too...a big trip to India to visit my friends and the girls at Barathi Girls hostel, and a few shorter trips to visit friends and family in other states... I want to go camping, bush walking, and kyaking... I also want to go to the theatre and see some more live shows.. As I write this I feel my energy rising.. its exciting.

So here I go, head on to 2018!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Seasons reading

 Merry Christmas Friends

What was in your gift pile? I got some reading for the summer time. 

 The summer garden is also celebrating Christmas 
And reminding me of the season... 

How are you celebrating? 
I'm elaxing at home for a couple of weeks. It's quite lovely. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Welcome Bailey

 This is Bailey. 
She's a 12 month old border collie/ kelpie mix 
And a bundle of mischief & energy

 Bailey joined us following being lost & found
Which means we dont know about her past. 

What we do know is she's beautiful & very smart.

Bailey surveying her new territory... 

Friday, December 1, 2017

7 days of black and white

I've been absent from my blog 
while I was winding up some uni assignments
But I've been participating in 
On instagram

Images from my garden and other corders of my life. 


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Poonhill, Nepal - My Mountaintop Experience

It may have been 430 in the morning, and I may have climbed 3000 steps the day before, and my body may have wanted to stay lateral for many more hours, but I rose. I stirred my partner and knocked on the paper thin hostel dorm wall to wake our friend,  and we pulled on our boots, unplugged the camera from its charger, and waited anxiously for our guide to meet us for the pre dawn walk to Poonhill.

Joining the possible 500 other trekkers doing the same pre dawn walk, we marched in an honourable silence, some with headlamps, others enjoying the moonlight path ahead. There were moments when the shrubbery holding us in, opened to glimpses of a pre dawn deep valley below up, and towering peaks above. The respectful crowds stopping just off the path to get that snap, or just to take a breath. We climbed for 45 slow and steady minutes to get to the summit at 3,200 meters. (Just for a reference point, the highest point in Australia is just 2,228 m)

This was both, the highest point we were going to get to on this trek, and the highest point in this, my post operative journey.  I'm a goal setter, and along time ago, I had set myself the goal of doing the Camino Pilgrimage this year, but having time off work for my hip replacement, meant I couldn't have the time off also for the full Spanish holiday I wanted. Next best thing, climb a mountain!! And I did. (Although for Nepalese standards, Poonhill is not a mountain).
 We stood at the top of Poonhill and watched, in awe, as the clouds sank or parted, and the sun rolled across the Peaks of the Annapurna Ranges. The Tibetan Prayer Flags, flapping in the light breeze reminded us of the mountain people & their faith and respect for the mountains. There something amazing about being with other like minded people, from around the globe, with no common language, just taking in the glory of a sunrise.

Our little party, guides and trekkers, took selfies, snapped photos from every vantage point and angle, but eventually you couldn't take anymore photos, it was time just to sit and be. (Luckily for my partner, there was a little tea stand on the top of that hill with hot coffee on offer).

We were on the top of Poonhill for probably 90 mins, before the steep stepped walk back to our trekkers lodge (teahouse) for a big breakfast. But those 90 minutes were really special. It was a time to reflect on just how big our world is, how diverse we all are, but yet how much were are the same. I saw the beauty of the pristine mountain ranges around us, and was reminded of what we do to the lands we have ready access to and how we must care and respect the earth in the places we live. Rescuing damaged lands is not an easy thing and protecting and maintaining natural environments is so important.

I was encouraged to come home and make a place where I will focus on these reflections, where I can find peace in my place, where I can remember and honour the people of the world.
When I share photos of Poonhill with others who have been there, they all gasp as they recall their own experience of being ontop of this hill. I hope I will be the same for along time.