Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favourite Albums

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favourite Albums

Top Ten Tuesday This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is themed All About Audio. I could talk about audio books, but the truth is, I rarely listen to them (mostly because I get too distracted too easily).

So instead, I’ll introduce you to my ten all-time favourite albums. Thing is, I am a huge music lover, even though I rarely talk about it here. Music was my first love, and it will probably be my last 😉 I keep an archive of all the shows I’ve seen over the years here for anyone interested. Much of it is Japanese music, but there is some western rock and symphonic metal around too.

Picking ten favourite albums, all-time favourite albums, is like forcing me to chose which body part I’d most like to chop off. It may possibly be even worse than picking ten all-time favourite books haha. So I cheated, badly 😛 Anyway, all these albums are available on Spotify, and I’ll give alternative recommendations when they aren’t!

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[Review] Breaking Into Japanese Literature

[Review] Breaking Into Japanese Literature

[Review] Breaking Into Japanese LiteratureBreaking Into Japanese Literature: Seven Modern Classics in Parallel Text by Giles Murray, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Natsume Sōseki
Published by Kodansha on June 1st 2012
Genres: Japanese literature, Horror, Classic
Pages: 239
ISBN: 9781568364155
Goodreads
three-stars

Reading great books in the original should be the culmination of language study, but reading Japanese literature unassisted is a daunting task that can defeat even the most able of students. Breaking into Japanese Literature is designed to help you bypass all the frustration and actually enjoy classics of Japanese literature.
Breaking into Japanese Literature features seven graded stories by Natsume Soseki and Akutagawa Ryunosuke, covering a variety of genres.

This book was… not that great. But let me start off on a positive note: I enjoyed the stories. The book contains seven short stories in total, by Natsume Sōseki and Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. The selection of stories, content wise, is good. The stories are quite dark, which I love, and I especially like Akutagawa, so reading these stories wasn’t boring.

Now for the negative…

The aim of this book is to read Japanese literature in the original language. The book is set up to accommodate this: each page contains the original Japanese story on the left page, an English translation on the right page, and vocabulary on the bottom half of both pages. Sounds convenient, but it doesn’t quite get it right. There are no grammar explanations, and the English translations are not 100% literal translations either. The same vocab is repeated every page when necessary, which is convenient but also makes you lazy. On the plus side, there are free audio downloads available for each of the stories, if you like to listen to them while reading (I haven’t downloaded them, so I don’t know if the quality is any good).

The stories themselves are, honestly, too difficult for a book like this. They are separated into three different levels: the first stories are the easiest (and of a pretty good level), and then they gradually become more difficult. They are classic stories, and many use words and kanji that are no longer in use. The same goes for some of the grammar. And the grammar and vocabulary was simply too difficult on the whole. It doesn’t help that there are no grammar explanations in sight and the translations don’t always help with that either (you will get the meaning of the sentence, but you still won’t understand the actual grammar). For me the stories were readable, but I’d judge them as high N2 going up to N1 level.

This book simply doesn’t help anyone ‘break into’ Japanese literature. If you don’t have any prior experience reading Japanese literature in Japanese, this is way too hard. And if you are advanced enough to read stories of this level, there are better choices out there. All of the stories in this book have already been published in English (parts of Soseki’s Ten Nights Dreaming, Akutagawa’s Rashomon, In the Grove, The Nose..), so if you want to read something new and previously untranslated, this is not a great selection of stories.

All in all, a nice book for reading practice at N2+ level. But before buying this book I’d recommend Read Real Japanese Fiction, which is set up better, more accessible level-wise, and has a wider selection of stories (and all of them previously untranslated). If you are looking for more difficult reading material, you might want to check Aozora Bunko instead.

August wrap-up

August wrap-up

Monthly wrap-upI am approximately 100% done with 2016. I was already hugely demotivated, and to top it off I got hit by another bout of bad luck a little over a week ago. Right before visiting a concert with friends, I missed a step at the bus stop when we arrived and twisted my ankle. I now have a tear in my ankle ligament and ugh. It continues to hurt and it’s apparently going to take 6 weeks to heal. I already miss my regular workouts, and I also realised I friggin’ love walking, which I can’t do properly right now 😐 Plus, I was preparing for the Color Run in less than two weeks and my running was going so well… Have to cancel that, obviously.

So big fat sigh.

That said, I’ve been reading. I passed my 52 book goal for 2016 and upped my goal to 65 (which I suspect I will pass easily too). My attention span is really short these days, so I’ve been switching back and forth between multiple books.

Read in August

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne and J.K. Rowling
  2. Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3) by Robert Galbraith
  3. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
  4. Foxfire by Nobuko Yoshiya
  5. Kersenbloed (Een groene bloem #0.5) by Floortje Zwigtman
  6. Schijnbewegingen (Een groene bloem #1) by Floortje Zwigtman
  7. The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho
  8. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alice Bechdel

The Cursed Child did not live up to my expectations at all, but I did manage to grab two tickets for the play for September next year, for me and a friend. I am quite excited! In more HP related news, in November they are doing the Harry Potter in Concert show in the Netherlands and I got tickets for that too, hurray!

I loved Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home! Highly recommended. Also, I have been reading Dutch LGBT+ YA, Een groene bloem series by Floortje Zwigtman. I enjoyed the prologue novella and the first book. I’m currently on the second book (after that, one more to go) and getting a bit tired of it. Must be the attention span thing.

Reading in September
I don’t have any specific plans for September, except for #ReadingRhys, a Jean Rhys reading week. I plan to read Good Morning Midnight and perhaps Sleep it off Lady.

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Classics

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Classics

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
Published by Custom Publishing on December 1st 2010 (first published 1982)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 262
ISBN: 9781407230924
Goodreads
five-stars

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture.

Continuing with short reviews for LGBT+ books I read in 2016 for Pretty Deadly ReviewsLGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge, it’s now time for the classics!

I’ve repeated it multiple times now, but this is one of my highlights for 2016. The Color Purple had been on my want-to-read list for a while now, and I finally found the book in London last December. When Our Shared Shelf picked it as the book club read for February it was clearly time to read it!

Heart-breaking, breath-taking, beautiful, sad, funny, perfect. Every aspect of this book was amazing, from the style to the characters to every little detail in the storyline. An absolute must-read for everyone.

After the book I also took time to watch the movie. Mehhh. The first half was alright, and then it just went down the drain. Everything I loved about the book disappeared from the movie. So whatever you do, do not watch the movie instead of reading the book..! (as if you would do that..!)

***

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsOranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Published by Vintage on 1991 (first published 1985)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult, Classic
Pages: 171
ISBN: 9780099935704
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Jeanette, the protagonist of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and the author's namesake, has issues--"unnatural" ones: her adopted mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche. Already Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel is not your typical coming-of-age tale.

Technically I could’ve reviewed this book as a young adult book, but then the numbers would be too uneven 😉

I love Jeanette Winterson’s style, even though it is not always the easiest to read. I read Oranges after The Passion so I was expecting something very lyrical and quirky. However, Oranges is very accessible while still retaining the quirk. Not everything was easy to follow if you didn’t grow up in the UK though. Still, a very interesting coming-of-age novel not just for young adults. I think this is considered a classic by right!

***

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsMr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Published by Arrow on January 8th, 1987 (first published 1935)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 236
ISBN: 9780413422507
Goodreads
five-stars

On a train to Berlin in late 1930, William Bradshaw locks eyes with Arthur Norris, an irresistibly comical fellow Englishman wearing a rather obvious wig and nervous about producing his passport at the frontier. So begins a friendship conducted in the seedier quarters of the city.

I read this book as a culturally appropriate preparation for my trip to Berlin. Isherwood had been on my TBR for such a long time, so why not read him now? I really regret not doing so sooner! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Mr Norris Changes Trains was wonderful. I read it in as little time as possible.

The characters, based on people Isherwood actually met during his time in Berlin, were fantastic. I had absolutely no problem imagining them, based on the descriptions. They are so vibrant and really make the characters come to life! Definitely one of Isherwood’s strengths. The characters are loveable and awkward, and by the end of the book you don’t really want to leave them.

So it’s no surprise that directly after finishing, I continued with…

***

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsGoodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Published by Panther on 1977 (first published 1939)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780586047958
Goodreads
four-half-stars

First published in 1939, Goodbye to Berlin is a brilliant evocation of the decadence and repression, glamour and sleaze of Berlin society in the 1930's - the time when Hitler slowly starts his move to power. It is inhabited by a wealth of characters: the unforgettable and “divinely decadent” Sally Bowles; plump Fräulein Schroeder, Peter and Otto, a gay couple struggling to come to terms with their relationship; and the distinguished and doomed Jewish family, the Landauers.

…more Isherwood! Goodbye to Berlin was more of a memoir (although quite strictly not) than Mr Norris Changes Trains. Isherwood’s style is very straightforward and he’s great at descriptions without it ever getting tiresome. I really felt myself transported to Berlin in the 1930s, eager to learn more about the city at that time. (And so I did – I went on Brendan Nash’s Isherwood tour around Nollendorfplatz!)

Goodbye to Berlin is much more fragmented than Mr Norris, with many characters being introduced, floating in and out of “Issyvoo”‘s life. But that is precisely what makes this novel such a slice-of-life kind of ‘memoir’. I loved it, and will definitely be seeking out more Isherwood (especially his post-WWII work, as I’m now quite curious how he has developed!).

Goodbye to Berlin was actually the basis for Cabaret (the 1972 movie), which I really should rewatch..!

On another note, if you’re not a fan of these rather uhm ‘classic’ covers, Penguin’s Vintage Classics has released a beautiful set of new covers.

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

[Review] Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

[Review] Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

[Review] Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling
Published by Little Brown on July 31st 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 330
ISBN: 9780751565355
Goodreads
three-stars

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Let me start by saying, I’m not outright dismissing The Cursed Child with my less-than-enthusiastic rating. I still really want to see the play.

Prologue: Of course I had already preordered the book at a local book store but when the publication date was there, I contemplated waiting a few days and picking it up after work. The weather on the release day was nice however, so I set out and picked up the book on July 31st.

I got home, put the book aside and continued reading Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling’s A Career of Evil. After all, I am hoping to get my hands on theatre tickets for the play and why would I read the script for the play if I could see it on stage? Reading plays is such a hit or miss anyway.

But the book was staring at me, people around me had started reading it, and would I really be able to wait nearly a year (if lucky!) before knowing what it was all about?

In the evening I caved. I opened the book, flipped to the first page, and started reading “just to check to see how script-y/readable it was”.

Conclusion after I finished 100 pages (aka act one): it was highly readable, and holy shit I was loving it! Had I not been a responsible adult who had to start work at 8am the next morning and really needed her sleep, I definitely would have finished it there and then.

Clearly this ‘book’ is a script. Scenes are short, there isn’t much depth (except perhaps for one recurring theme, View Spoiler »), because it’s a play. As a book it was a nice read nonetheless, much better than what I was expecting from a script. It wasn’t hard to imagine the scenes at all, as the dialogues were quite straightforward. Quite funny at times (I didn’t feel the serious parts as much though) but all in all I think it will be much better to see in action.

As for the actual story… After finishing, and without even reading any other reviews, my first thought was ‘well, this felt like fanfiction’. Turns out I’m not alone in this.

The thing is, I absolutely adored act one. Adored! And from there it went downhill.

Warning: minor spoilers ahead! (Large spoilers have been hidden)

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