#amonthoffaves2016 – 5 Popular Books Worth the Hype


A Month of Faves is hosted by AndiTanya and Tamara

Today’s topic is:

 5 Popular Books Worth the Hype

What constitutes ‘popular’ in the book world? I guess one way to go about this topic is to look at how many Goodreads ratings there are. To give you an idea of what a truly POPULAR book is on Goodreads, The Hunger Games has over 4.5 MILLION ratings. But I don’t want to talk about those books, those books which pretty much everyone has read (or if you haven’t you really have no intention to anyway). Instead I will look at books that I read this year are popular enough with at least 15,000 ratings. I think I tend to read not very popular books with less than 5,000 ratings being more common among books on my ‘read’ shelf than not.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi  (15,148 ratings)

I’m a bit surprised that there are not more Goodreads ratings of Homegoing. Maybe it’s just that lots of people I follow on social media seem to have talked about it/read it. It is an emotional read, deserving of far more readers!

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride – Cary Elwes (29,832 ratings)

I am not much of an audiobook listener so you have to understand how rare it is when I say, LISTEN to this book! Download the audiobook! It is just such a pleasure to hear Cary Elwes’ voice and plenty of other cast and crew from The Princess Bride! And yes it made me go rewatch the movie again!

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn, #1) – Renee Ahdieh (45,601 ratings)

YA isn’t really my thing. I mean I read one John Green and one Nicola Yoon and my teenaged self would have found it all very attractive and devoured all their books. But as a 30-something it doesn’t really appeal to me. So it was a surprise when I really liked Ahdieh’s book!

Seveneves – Neal Stephenson (43,048 ratings) 

I loved how women play a central role in this book, which is one of those ‘help! The earth is doomed” kind of reads.

We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (30,015 ratings)

This essay should be required reading. That is all.

#amonthoffaves2016 – A Few of My Favourite Things


A Month of Faves is hosted by Andi, Tanya and Tamara

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things – eg. to eat, drink, wear, smell, see, do, enjoy, best thing I bought, most used gift received etc, favorite concert, outdoor activity, place visited, most squee worthy moment of the year, biggest change.

It’s A Month of Faves again! I’ve been looking forward to this wonderful December blogging event!

Favourite things for 2016?

That’s a tough one. 2016 has been a big year for us!


Earlier in the year, my five-year-old getting picked for the Mandarin immersion kindergarten programme – it’s a lottery as there’s only one school in my city that has this programme and in the end there were 12 kids on the waitlist. He started kindergarten at the end of August and loves going to school. Kindergarten here is only a half-day programme and he’s in the afternoon class so that means I have a 3yo in AM preschool and a 5yo in PM kindergarten. It’s definitely a year of change for all of us!

A trip to Singapore

So we make this trip to Singapore nearly every year. But this was the first year that the husband and I took a little hotel staycation without the kids. We even dined at a couple of fine dining establishments, one of which eventually received 2 Michelin stars (2016 was the first year Singapore got the Michelin guide). (You can read more details here)

Singapore Day


The Singapore government has a unit catering to “Overseas Singaporeans”, that is, encouraging the return of us Overseas Singaporeans. So once a year they spend a huge chunk of money organizing Singapore Day. It has happened in places like China, Australia, London, New York, but this was the very first time it happened in California. So of course we had to attend. It was free but you had to be Singaporean (or at least know a Singaporean who could invite you). They flew in hawkers who cooked all kinds of Singapore food like roti prata, Hokkien mee, laksa, chicken rice, satay and more! They flew in entertainers – comedians, hosts, singers. Even the Deputy Prime Ministers came. (More details on my post here)



After Book Riot’s post on 10 people to follow on Litsy, I ended up becoming one of Litsy’s “suggested users” to follow. I also host a monthly book photo challenge on Litsy too. It’s a great community of bookish people! (I’m @reallifereading).

My very own library!

(Still shelving books)

We have a loft that has been used as (1) a TV room and (2) a baby room. And then it kind of ended up as a room that we used to store things in. A pity as it’s a lovely room with great light.

When it came time for us to order beds for the boys, the husband decided that we might as well order new shelves and convert the loft into a library! We got two sets of shelves from Ikea, a new sofa and even an armchair. It is quite lovely and before bedtime, we sit there and read together.

How about you? How was 2016 been?

It’s Monday and I bought books and shoes!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date



How was your long weekend? That is, if you’re in the US and celebrating Thanksgiving. Did you buy anything during Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

I succumbed to the bookoutlet.com sale and bought 12 books (for under $50). Hey their 30% sale is still on! (Sorry).

And yesterday, we brought my in-laws to the factory outlet, because that’s what you do when people from Singapore visit – outlet shopping. Singapore prices are rather high. But ahem, I ended up buying two pairs of cute flats for myself. I have an excuse! Hear me out – I have weird bony feet and as a result, cannot wear most flats, so when a pair (two!) actually feel comfortable, I’m so buying them, especially if they’re only about $25 each!

As for Thanksgiving itself, we did our usual hotpot. The day starts off with a trip to Marina Foods, an Asian supermarket, to pick up vegetables, three types of mushrooms, fish balls and fish cakes, also crabsticks. The frozen items go in a cooler box, and we head to San Jose to the Mitsuwa supermarket. We make the mistake of eating lunch first. Mitsuwa is home to Santouka ramen which is a ramen chain from Japan. It’s a food court so it’s self-service and the queue can be long. The husband queued while I took the kids to Kinokuniya where they were oohing and ahing over the Totoro display (very smart, Kinokuniya! Who can resist little Totoros?).

Finally our ramen came. I like mine spicy.
And there was where our mistake was made. After ramen, we head into the supermarket proper and discover that other crazy hotpot lovers had already scooped up almost all the sliced meats! There were only a few trays of shabu shabu Angus left. So we quickly grabbed two and went home.

And here’s our Thanksgiving dinner. I made a chocolate tart for dessert but sadly the crust shrank. It still tasted really good though! I must say that I really liked the texture of it (probably due to the caramel) and the addition of coffee.




I love the writing in this book. And all that music that surrounds the story!

 Do Not Say We Have Nothing is my slow read. This is my fast one!




Gilmore Girls! I’ve watched the first of the four. And I think my heart skipped a beat when Logan appeared. It’s moving a bit more slowly than I expected, but I think that’s probably because it’s 90 minutes long. I mean, why 90 minutes? Why didn’t they just make it an hour long episode like shows are meant to be? It was just so much fun to see everyone again. And Hep Alien playing together again (minus crazy tambourine guy there)! Fun!




I’m typing this on Monday morning before I get the kids up. And I just had a slice of toast with cheese, shared some pumpkin pie (from Whole Foods) with the husband.


Yorkshire Gold with milk.


Not sure yet but I bought some oxtail from Costco last week. So oxtail stew is definitely on the cards sometime soon!


Loving all the bookish holiday decor on this Book Riot post

How American cuisine became a melting pot (The Atlantic) – talks about a book by Sarah Lohman called Eight Flavors. Definitely going to have to check that out.

Over at Read Diverse Books, 2016 book releases by Native Americans

A Month of Faves, hosted by Andi, Tamara and Tanya, is back! I’ve taken part in this month-long blogging event for the past two years now. Always lots of fun. Check out Andi’s post for the daily topics.

Last week:

I read:


Radio Shangri-la: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli
Bhutan is such a fascinating place and I’ve always wanted to go there. This book, written by a broadcast journalist who spends a few months there working at Bhutan’s first youth-oriented radio station, is quite an eye-opener, albeit from a westerner’s point of view.

I posted:

#nonficnov: Immigration reads


#nonficnov: Immigration reads



It’s week 4 of Nonfiction November! You can find all the details here

This week’s topic:

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Immigration and citizenship has been on my mind of late.

I read a lot of fiction about the immigration experience (like Americanah, The Namesake, The Book of Unknown Americans), but not much in terms of nonfiction. These are some of the books I have read that fit into this category.



The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian was a short read about ‘citizens of the world’ including the buying and selling of passports, and the Bidoon, who are the stateless people of countries like the United Arab Emirates.


I read The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea a while ago (it was published in 2004) but I still remember the horror of reading this book about this group of men who attempt to cross from Mexico into Arizona.
The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream by Patrick Radden Keefe was a fascinating tale about a $40 million smuggling business run by a middle-aged woman known as Sister Ping.

Some books I would like to read:
Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives (Voice of Witness) compiled by Peter Orner

Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them by Philippe Legrain

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

The Boys from Little Mexico: A Season Chasing the American Dream by Steve Wilson

We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future by Deepa Iyer

The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee

Do you have any recommendations?

It’s Monday and I have new bookshelves!!!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date



Our IKEA delivery arrived on Friday and we set about putting things together. First, new beds for the boys. They were very pleased with their proper beds. A new sofa to replace our sad one in the loft that’s nearly ten years old. And one for our front living room which we have done nothing with ever since we moved in 6 1/2 years ago. Our front living room has mostly accumulated toys, an old coffee table which we had taken away from the den once we had kids… that kind of thing. It pretty much was more of a storage area. Sad but true. But now we have shelves (mostly to store the kids’ toys)! And a sofa!

More importantly, our loft is now actually a library! One wall is nothing but shelves. We have a new sofa and I got a lovely wing chair! I will put up proper photos once my books are up, but for now here is a preview of some empty shelves….!

It was definitely a tiring weekend of physical labour! But we are so happy with how everything is shaping up. We still have to get rid of old furniture so things aren’t as settled as I would like it yet, but we will get there soon!

Playing in the leaves after preschool. His classmate had a birthday and gave everyone a Doraemon watch!

A book pyramid.





Human Acts – Han Kang

Do Not Say We have Nothing – Madeleine Thien


The Grand Tour. The three car nuts are back, this time on Amazon Prime, in a tent-studio that travels the world apparently. It was lots of fun to watch!


I’m typing this on Sunday night and the last thing I ate was sesame balls from the Hong Kong-style takeout joint near us. We picked up some chow mien, beef chow fun, garlic chicken, green beans, sweet and sour pork.




It was definitely fall weather last week, such a change from the week before when it was still T-shirt weather. So I’ve been thinking of stews and soups and baked pasta and baked rice kind of meals!


In search of the radical bookstores of old SF (Lit Hub)

Oh and look, a book actually set in old SF (Booklist reader)

10 contemporary novels by and about Muslims (LitHub)

I really liked Margot Livesey’s Mercury, so was pleased to read this interview with her (The Millions)

Texas Sheet Cake Brownies 


Last week:

I read:

Shaking hands with death – Terry Pratchett
In order to live – Yeonmi Park

I posted:

Salvation of a Saint – Keigo Higashino

#nonficnov – fiction-nonfiction pairing


Salvation of a Saint – Keigo Higashino


Sometimes, it’s as important to prove there is no answer to a question as it is to answer it.’

Having read two Higashino books in these recent months, I cannot help but marvel at how he keeps the reader, well, reading.

Especially with a detective/crime story that is so quiet and relatively uneventful compared to many others out there which are more action packed. That makes it sound like nothing happens in this book but that is not true.

There is a death. A man is dead, poisoned by arsenous acid, likely something he drank in his coffee. A woman, his wife’s employee, is the one who found him. His wife Ayane is the main suspect – her husband had told her that he was leaving her for another woman – but she was hundreds of miles away at the time. What about Hiromi, the one who found him? It’s a locked-room mystery and Tokyo Police Detective Kusanagi is on the case. But he is smitten with Ayane, and unable to believe that she has anything to do with her husband’s death. His assistant, Kaoru Utsumi, believes otherwise. And so, she seeks the help of Professor Manabu Yukawa, a physicist whom Kusanagi often ropes in to help out, except now the two of them seem to have had a bit of a quarrel.


It’s one of those crime stories where possibilities are tossed around, then shot down. Compared to other crime cases, this one seems rather simple. A man poisoned. And you pretty much know who did it, but the how is really just something you try to puzzle out, along with the detectives on the case.

Salvation of a Saint is a far quieter story than the last Higashino I read, Under the Midnight SunBut I enjoyed it for its intriguing details, its puzzle of a crime and the way Higashino’s ‘villains’ are often themselves victims.

The thing with reading translated works is having to wait for translations to emerge from publishers. This series with Kusanagi and Yukawa is known as the Detective Galileo series. The Devotion of Suspect X (a very good read) is the first in the series, Salvation of a Saint is the second. The third book, A Midsummer’s Equation, (published in 2011) was just released in English earlier this year. It is really confusing! The Devotion of Suspect X is book 3 in the series, but Salvation of a Saint is book 5, A Midsummer’s Equation is book 6. At least according to Goodreads. But when I check Wikipedia I realize that some of the books are classified as short stories, so book 4 (which I now guess to be in terms of publishing order) is a short story, so perhaps that is why the English language publishers decided to skip it? Confused! Also, disappointed! I would love to read his short stories too. Higashino also has another series called the Detective Kaga series, but so far only one of those has been translated into English, called Malice. And once again, the English language publisher has picked a book in the middle of the series, in publishing order, this is book number 4. As I cannot read Japanese, I am at the mercy of publishers who would be willing to have his work translated!

#nonficnov – fiction-nonfiction pairing


(All the details for Nonfiction Nov are here)

Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

I always love when bloggers and book sites do this, but when I sat down and thought about it, I realize that this isn’t an easy task. Maybe it’s because I don’t read much nonfiction? But here are some attempts!

If you liked: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (a fantastic story set largely in space with strong female characters)

try: Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

Seveneves is one of those the Earth is doomed kind of books but with women in the key roles. Hooray! That made me think of the Rocket Girls, women who worked at Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL) as “computers”. That was the term used for their jobs in the 1940s and 1950s – they did calculations (velocities, trajectories) and all the math behind getting these rockets into space. And it was pretty much an all-women team of human computers. 

If you liked: The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang

try: The Chinese in America by Iris Chang

and The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

 I recently read Wangs and loved this smart and funny book about a family whose fortunes have fallen. I thought a good nonfiction pairing would be one about Chinese immigration to America as well as one that talks about the 2008 financial crisis. I haven’t read The Big Short yet but want to after reading the Wangs. 

If you liked: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

try: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick  and In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

Another two-fer. I picked Orphan-Master’s Son as that’s the only popular fiction I’ve read set in North Korea (if you’re interested, Hwang Sok-Yong’s The Guest is set in North Korea, but I’m guessing he’s not a familiar name to many). Barbara Demick has written an unforgettable book about life in North Korea and Yeonmi Park relates her own experiences growing up in North Korea in her book. 
And now for the most obvious pairing of all…

If you liked:
The Princess Bride by William Goldman

try: As You Like It: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. If you can get hold of the audiobook, even better!