It's All In Your Head

Although I haven’t been posting much, I have been busy reading and attending lots of literary events.

This year kicked off with Han Kang talking about her astonishing novel The Vegetarian and celebrating the publication of her new book Human Acts at Foyles. I’m still gathering my thoughts in order to write about The Vegetarian and may have to do a re-read just because it’s so brilliant. I’ve chosen Human Acts as this month’s book group read for Riverside Readers so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in. She was incredibly composed and collected and I definitely need to hear more from her.

Then I went to see Hanya Yanagihara’s at Foyle’s to celebrate the publication of her Booker Prize shortlisted A Little Life. I have yet to read the book which almost everyone I have met has ferociously recommended but I do have my copy ready. What was interesting was that at the talk, almost everyone had read it and was fangirl/boying over her. Considering the length and darkness of the book, I think that’s amazing. Yanagihara was so smart and vibrant and witty and I want to be her friend.

Then I went to Asia House to see Paul M.M. Cooper introduce his debut novel Rivers of Ink, a historical novel set in 5th century ancient Sri Lankan capital of Polonnaruwa. I don’t think I’ve read a novel set in Sri Lanka’s historical past since Colin de Silva’s Winds of Sinhala series in the 80s so I’m really looking forward to reading this. Cooper, who is currently in the throes of his PhD in Creative Writing at UEA had spent time in Sri Lanka and even learnt Sinhala – colour me impressed.

I also went to see Joanna Walsh in conversation with Claire Louise Bennet about their new novels Hotel and Pond at the London Review of Books Bookshop. Both were fascinating and I loved Hotel. It’s incredibly exciting for me to come across writers who deconstruct women’s lives in new and intellectually stimulating ways that are just outside conventional social norms.

I also attended a bloggers’ brunch to celebrate the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist chaired by Simon Savidge and with the shortlisted authors, Suzanne O’Sullivan for It’s All In Your Mind, Alex Phelby for Playthings, Amy Liptrot for The Outrun, Cathy Rentzenbrink for The Last Act of Love (Steve Silberman for Neurotribes and Sarah Moss for Signs for Lost Children were unable to attend that day). It was lovely to meet and catch up with other book bloggers some of whom I’ve known for a while now. I still think it’s wonderful to hear authors speak of their work as it makes you want to read books that you might not otherwise pick up. I found It’s All In Your Mind , which aims to demystify psychosomatic illnesses, incredibly compassionate and well-written and was really pleased to hear it won the Wellcome Book Prize for 2016.

And finally, I went to see my favourite Russian writer Boris Akunin talk about his Fandorin books and Japan at Asia House as part of their Georgia25 week celebrating Georgia’s independance. I’ve started his last one translated into English, The Diamond Chariot, which has a Japanese focus and loving it as usual. Akunin is such an intelligent, witty and self-deprecating man with such wide-ranging interest in almost everything. He spoke of one of his more disapproving critics (Putin) and how although he is ethnically Georgian, he has always lived in Moscow and wrote in Russian and how being cast into the perpetually alternating role of patriot/traitor can wear him out. He even spoke to me in Japanese when he heard my name and assured me that there is another Fandorin title being translated into English. Hurray!

Phew, that was a long list, right? So what have you all been up to? Any interesting books and authors I need to check out?

Hello and a Happy New Year

29 January, 2015

Hols 1
*Along Marine Drive in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Well, hello there.

It’s almost the end of January and I’ve only posted one review after a month’s silence. I’ve been away, you see, on a three week holiday to Sri Lanka and Thailand where I was planning to catch up on my reviews and read. I even took my heavy laptop with me. However, it was just too warm and sultry and I got no writing done. All I did was eat, sleep and shop and get lots of Thai massages. However, I did a lot of reading, unencumbered with work and commuting and socialising, so my pile of reviews to write has grown even bigger. But I’m happy to say that I’ve read some fantastic books and can’t wait to share them with you this year. The second half of last year was eaten up with work, a promotion and lots of overseas visitors leaving me with little energy to write but I hope to get back into the swing of things again. I miss writing about books, especially the ones which have worked their way into my brain and left a pocket in my heart when they finished and there were so many of them last year.

Hols 2
*The Grand Palace complex in Bangkok, Thailand

But one thing I did when I wasn’t blogging was just reading. Whatever I liked and in any order I liked (that is, except for series which I need to read in order, obvs.) So I read Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 series one after the other after finishing Connie Willis’ Oxford time traveling historian books one after the other. And it was great. I even dipped into a collection of stories about mummies, The Book of the Dead, and the extremely diverse and qualitay We See A Different Frontier. So many books I want to talk about. I took my kindle with me and picked random books I fancied while attempting to wrestle my digital TBR into something more manageable (I failed as I kept buying more titles on sale). It was kind of nice to read without a schedule and something I missed since I started blogging. So this year, I’m hoping to achieve some kind of balance between the two and be a little more consistent in my reviewing.

Hols 3
*Look choop -the best traditional Thai sweets ever

You’d be surprised to hear that I bought NO books in Sri Lanka. I figured I had enough from the last few years to keep me going – they are safely stashed away on my shelves and I really need to start reading them.

So what have you all been up to and what have I missed?

Five! Giveaway result

22 July, 2014

Five

Thank you all so much for stopping by and leaving comments.

I asked a friend to pick a name out of a plastic cup and the lucky winner of chasing bawa‘s 5th birthday giveaway is ………….. MAGDALENA! Congratulations!

Let me know what you would like to read and I’ll wing it over to you asap.

Five!

16 July, 2014

Five

It’s hard to believe but chasing bawa has just turned 5. This blog began as a means to focus my reading and thoughts and it’s turned out to be so much more enjoyable and enriching, far more than I expected. And it’s all down to you. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading, lurking, commenting. This year has already proven to be rather hectic and ultra busy and I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d like, but my aim is to keep this blog fun for you and me so I will continue to post a little haphazardly until I settle back into my usual reading and writing routine. So please bear with me!

And as birthdays usually involve presents, do pop your name in the comments and I will pick one lucky reader who can choose a book they’d like to read from The Book Depository up to the value of £20. I will pick a name next Tuesday, 22nd July. And please let me know what you are currently reading as I’m nosy like that (I’m currently reading Mohawk’s Brood by Amanda Prantera and will be starting The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness).

Please let me know if you don’t want to be included in the draw otherwise your name will go in the hat. And please note that the giveaway is only open to the countries to which The Book Depository offers free delivery (which should be most of you, I think. If not, SORRY!)

Umami Mart

I’m writing about vegetarian temple food and claypot rice in Hong Kong this week so do head over to Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish to check me out!

In bookish news, I’m still pondering upon the brilliant but perplexing The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton which I finished last week and have started two very different books, The Quick by Lauren Owen and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, finally and after being hassled by all my friends.

I also went to two bookish events. The first was the book launch of Clare McGowan’s The Dead Ground which was held at the wonderful Goldsboro Books. I haven’t read the series but it looks very interesting. The second event was Less Than Three, an evening of readings presented by 3:AM Press and the Quietus at The Hospital Club, of which I will write in more detail later. Suffice it to say it was very inspiring to be amongst so many talented people.

Umami Mart

You’re probably wondering how long it’s going to take me to talk about all the food I sampled on my short trip to Hong Kong at the end of last year. Well, we still have a long way to go because WE ATE A LOT. This week, I talk about some of the snacky places we stopped by in between our meals. Go and check me out at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I went to see Eleanor Catton in conversation with Booker Prize judge and author Robert Macfarlane at the Union Chapel in Islington and what an event. Catton is articulate and wise for her age and spoke with such passion about her book and her research into her country’s history and astrology, especially her love of astrological apps which allows you to check the historical position of constellations from anywhere. Particularly interesting was her discussion of the role of women in gold-mining towns such as Hokitika which features in her Booker Prize-winning novel, The Luminaries, and how she wanted to portray her female characters as more than just prostitutes or bar/brothel managers and to avoid any lazy characterisations which is so prevalent in fiction. This is something which happens too frequently, is disappointing and will really stop me from taking a writer seriously. So I’m excited to see how she’ll go about it. I’m right in the middle of The Luminaries at the moment, enjoying it immensely and in awe of Catton’s talent.

The English translation of Haruki Murakami’s Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage will be published this summer but I’m even more excited to learn that Murakami’s new collection of short stories is out in Japan today! It’s titled Onna no Inai Otoko Tachi (女のいない男たち), which can be loosely translated as Men Without Women/Men Who Don’t Have Women, and this is apparently Murakami’s first collection of short stories in nine years.

Firestation Book Swap

The second event I was very much looking forward to in March was the Firestation Book Swap organised by publisher and blogger Scott Pack and novelist Marie Phillips, author of Gods Behaving Badly, at Foyles. Since their inaugural book swap in a firestation in Windsor was such a hit, it’s become a monthly event and I’ve been dying to go to one. But Windsor is so far… Tickets were a fiver and we were told to bring a book to swap and that there would be cake.

On arrival, I was given a piece of paper to write a question that had nothing to do with literature or writing and which we put in a bowler hat for later. The guests were writers Matt Rudd, author of The English: A Field guide, and Nick Harkaway, author of The Angelmaker and The Gone-Away World, who began by pitching the books they brought to swap to hilarious effect, especially Rudd’s copy of Mindfulness of which he apparently has three but has never managed to read. Then there were random questions from the audience picked out of the hat including snappy ones such as ‘cheese or wine?’ and ‘when was your first crush?’ Cake was passed around (I had a ginger parkin) and a second bout of book swapping began culminating in a three-way. See, everyone leaves happy.

I don’t think I’ve laughed so much or had so much fun at a literary event before. People were pitching so many different books, there were lots of self-deprecating jokes and lots of home-made cake! It was so nice being in a place where everyone loves and enjoys talking about books in a very relaxed atmosphere. The evening ended with more cake (I had a slice of lemon and passion fruit sponge) and came away with a book I swapped with Scott for Jacob Ritari’s Taroko Gorge.

photo 1

It was also lovely to finally meet Scott who was so warm and friendly. His book blog, Me and My Big Mouth, is one of the first blogs I started following almost 5 years ago before I began chasing bawa. I can’t wait to dig into Brian Aldiss’ The Complete Short Stories: The 1950s.

I do hope Foyle’s will host another Firestation Book Swap which I urge you all to attend and if you do live near Windsor, lucky you!