Christmas in Tokyo

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Merry Christmas!

There are already so many things I could tell you about our holiday, but as it’s Boxing Day, for now I’ll tell you all about our Christmas. We were expecting a fairly low-key Christmas, and in most of Japan, indeed much of Tokyo, that would indeed be possible. But there are some neighbourhoods that go all out. At Tokyo Midtown (a giant complex of shops, restaurants, museums, hotels and park) we saw the best Christmas light display I have ever seen – and apparently it’s not the most impressive one in Tokyo. But it is one of the few that is definitely Christmas-themed – others are more for New Year.

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Reading round-up December 2016

Happy holidays! I’ve had a week off work and I have read half a book. Crazy! In fairness it’s a big book – 684 pages in the edition I have. And I finally finished it this morning, just in time for a New Year fresh start. If I feel like reading today, I’ll dig out a short story or three, but I think we’re running out of time to do stuff before going out for New Year anyway.

I have sadly failed to complete my reading bingo card. Even cheating a little bit by including short stories for two of the remaining categories, I didn’t manage to tick everything off. But I think in general I did pretty well and it did encourage me to read a few things I otherwise wouldn’t have – including my epic reread of Sophie’s Choice.

Tomorrow I’ll weed out the TBR a little as my kind and generous family gave me 10 new books for Christmas and I’m expecting/hoping for a couple more for my birthday next week. Lovely lovely bookses.

But for now I’ll quickly list my December reads and then get to my annual stats in another post.

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Happy Christmas Eve Eve

I have long felt a special affinity for 23 December. In my childhood we called it Christmas Eve Eve, which delighted me. For several years (or maybe only three, but enough for it to feel like a tradition) this was the day when we would go to the woods in search of holly, mistletoe and other foliage to decorate our house with (along with all the usual paper and foil stuff).

I’m not sure why this was a big deal to me. I mean, I loved romping through the woods, but we lived in the Forest of Dean so that wasn’t exactly unusual. It’s been a long time now, but my memory of those Christmas Eve Eve forages is overwhelmingly of being with my Dad, so perhaps that’s what it was – he worked long hours so time with him was (and still is) precious.

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December reading round-up

Woman Reading by George Henry Boughton, c. 1900
Woman Reading by George Henry Boughton, c. 1900

This past week I seem to have started and abandoned at least four different books, which doesn’t look good for my Goodreads stats, but I have read a lot of other great stuff this month, including finally picking up a New Yorker summer fiction special that a friend loaned me more than a year ago. Yay for holidays!

The Christmas holiday has so far been more about watching films than reading books. I’ve watched Inside Out (brilliant), Kingsman: the Secret Service (fun but silly, better than the comic book), Admission (better than reviews suggested but not Tina Fey’s best work), Mermaids (I love anything with Christina Ricci), My Sister’s Keeper (not as good as the book) and Happy Christmas (Anna Kendrick is great in everything she does, even, or perhaps especially, odd indie films made for about ten pence) and I’m only halfway through my time off!

Tomorrow I’ll do a summary of the year (though I’ve already revealed my top five books) but for now here’s how my December went. Happy holidays!

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Sunday Salon: Merry Christmas!

The Sunday SalonI hope you are all having wonderful Christmases/end-of-year breaks. It’s still unseasonably warm and our time with family was brief, but it’s been lovely. We had a big family party at my Grandad’s yesterday for the first time in years and it was just like the Boxing Days of my childhood – completely wonderful.

Did you get any good presents for Christmas? I got the usual mix of DVDs, CDs, chocolate and random awesomeness, such as a diary stuffed with tickets for awesome events throughout 2016 (Tim’s pretty great at gift-giving). And of course, as usual, I got lots of books. I love getting new books, always.

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Visitors would wade through steaming pools of human blood

holidays on iceHolidays on Ice
by David Sedaris

I thought I would get in the holiday spirit by reading this small volume of essays and short stories about Christmas. I’ve really enjoyed Sedaris in the past and I love Christmas, so I didn’t see how this could go wrong.

Well…I wouldn’t say I disliked it, but I was a little disappointed. I actually really liked the two essays about Sedaris’s own life, which were funny and insightful in just the way I had come to expect.

“SantaLand diaries” describes his time working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s department store in New York. It gives him a perfect opportunity to bring a critical eye to the various people who work as santas or elves, and the people who pay to visit them. Sedaris can be a little cruel in his observations, but he is so honest about his own failings that it all evens out.

“I spent a few hours in the maze with Puff, a young elf from Brooklyn. We were standing near the lollipop forest when we realized that Santa is an anagram of Satan…We imagined a SatanLand where visitors would wade through steaming pools of human blood and faeces before arriving at the Gates of Hell, where a hideous imp in a singed velvet costume would take them by the hand and lead them toward Satan. Once we thought of it we couldn’t get it out of our minds.”

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Merry Christmas

Christmas reading plans

Merry Christmas folks!

As I have two whole glorious weeks off work, I have ambitiously set aside the above pile of books to work my way through, though I will no doubt get distracted by shiny new Christmas present books at some point. We do have lots of people to visit and sensible house stuff to do, so I’m not sure how much reading time I’ll actually get, but here’s hoping!

Happy holidays and happy reading everyone.

Sunday Salon: Christmassy book thoughts

The Sunday SalonIt’s the last weekend before the Christmas holiday starts in the Nose in a book household, so I was expecting to be madly Christmas shopping or present wrapping, but I seem to have already bought everything I can until certain family members respond to my questions, so instead the weekend has been spent hanging out with friends, reading and binge-watching a TV box set that I’m not going to name because we’re about five episodes from the end and I really don’t want it spoiled for me!

One thing I did spot while doing my Christmas shopping was this rather lovely charitable giving project from Blackwells bookshops: the Giving Tree, donating books to less fortunate children. If I can get to a Blackwells in person I’d love to help pick out a book myself but if I can’t I’ll entrust the choice to their booksellers who, let’s face it, know what they’re doing.

It’s a timely reminder that not everyone is in the fortunate position I’m in where I have more books than I can read in a year already piled up invitingly. And I keep buying more for myself! Though I try not to do too much of that around Christmas, this week I did receive my first book from my Peirene Press subscription, which I bought as a present to myself last month. Because I just couldn’t keep resisting these beauties.

peirene

And last week I also received this rather fun advance reading copy of a book being published early next year, along with a kit for knitting a square of a blanket that I can only assume will be gigantic if every reviewer does that part as well. As an enthusiastic amateur knitter how could I not join in this project? They judged me well when they sent that invite! Keep an eye out early next year for my knitting and my review.

a to z of me and you proof

December reading round-up

Christmas bokeh

Well I hope you’ve all had a few days off work and eaten far too much and maybe even found some time to escape into a quiet corner and read. I didn’t get much reading done over Christmas because, as predicted, meeting my newest niece was quite the distraction! Plus it was good to spend some time with my family and old friends, as well as just enjoying being back in the beautiful Forest of Dean for a week.

Having a cuddle with my niece.
Having a cuddle with my niece.

Tomorrow I’ll write a round-up of my year in reading, but for now here’s what I read in December. You’ll notice it’s significantly less than the number of books I was given for Christmas 🙂

Christmas bookses

Books
All is Fair by Emma Newman (review here)

Other Colours by Orhan Pamuk (review here)

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

And as I’m writing this a day early, I’m hoping I will have finished Paradises by Iosi Havilio by midnight tomorrow!

Short stories
“Xingu” by Edith Wharton (Selected Shorts podcast)

“How to relax while broadcasting” by James Thurber (Selected Shorts podcast)

“The topaz cufflinks mystery” by James Thurber (Selected Shorts podcast)

“A ride with Olympy” by James Thurber (Selected Shorts podcast)

“Macbeth murder mystery” by James Thurber (Selected Shorts podcast)

“The secret life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber (Selected Shorts podcast)

“The babysitter” by Jane Yolen (Selected Shorts podcast)

“The pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury (Selected Shorts podcast)

“The wood duck” by James Thurber (Selected Shorts podcast)

“Here we are” by Dorothy Parker (Selected Shorts podcast)

“Just a little one” by Dorothy Parker (Selected Shorts podcast)

“The waltz” by Dorothy Parker (Selected Shorts podcast)

There’s a bit of a pattern to my short stories this month, I notice! This was a particularly good bunch, I thought.

 

Happy New Year, all.

Merry Christmas everyone!

I’ve wrapped the presents, picked out my Christmas Day outfit and had too many Christmas drinks already. I thought I’d share a favourite Christmas tune with you to keep the blog ticking over while I’m busy with family. I do love a good Christmas song.

I have no idea if I’ll find time for reading (I have a new niece to play with and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for board games this year…) but I do (of course) have a stack of books lined up that I’m hoping to snatch a few hours with at some point in the next week and a half off work.

Happy holidays!