Posts by Sharlene

Reader. Book blogger. Parent. Eater of foods aplenty. Tea drinker. Crocheter

Library Loot (January 26 to February 2)

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Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy Wednesday! Claire has the link-up this week.

What I got from the library this week:

Exit Strategy (Murderbot Diaries #4) – Martha Wells

Hooray! Another Murderbot read!

The Guncle – Steven Rowley

Thud! – Terry Pratchett

I picked this up for a reading challenge – book with onomatopoeia in the title

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I borrowed this as an audiobook as it’s narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The Best American Food Writing 2018 – Ruth Reichl

Some good food writing here.

New-to-me Authors #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

I read so many new-to-me authors last year. Here are some favourites.

Maaza Mengiste. She wrote The Shadow King (my review).

Bae Suah. Untold Night and Day. She seems to have written quite a few short stories and novels but not many of them have been translated yet?

Michelle Zauner. The memoir Crying in H Mart. She’s also a musician (Japanese Breakfast).

Alice Oseman. The graphic novel series Heartstopper.

Magda Szabo. The classic Iza’s Ballad. A Hungarian novelist, Szabo died in 2007.

Charlotte McConaghy. The beautiful Once There Were Wolves.

Nalini Singh. I read Silver Silence and Quiet in Her Bones.

Xiran Jay Zhao. Iron Widow (my review)

Cherie Dimaline. The Marrow Thieves

Mizuki Tsujimura. Lonely Castle in the Mirror.


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

Weather by Jenny Offill

Weather is full of fragments and glimpses of moments of the life of Lizzie, who works in a college library, and who has a son in first grade and a husband who makes educational video games. 

I can see why it gets raves, and I wanted to rave about it too. But it wasn’t really for me. Maybe it’s the choppy, free-form narrative style that didn’t work for me. Maybe I just needed something more tangible and this was the wrong book at the time. 

Did you read Weather? What did you think about it?

Himawari House – Harmony Becker

HIMAWARI HOUSE by HARMONY BECKER, pictured with some Singapore treats – love letters and pineapple tarts. 

A delightful graphic novel about three international students who move to Japan. The main character is Nao, who’s in Japan to connect with her birth country. She moves into a house and becomes good friends with two girls – Hyejung from Korea and Tina from Singapore. They all attend the same Japanese language school. 

Himawari House is a story about growing up, about being out there on your own and far away from home. 

I was definitely not expecting a Singapore accent in this book but the writer really hit it spot on. 

The use of different languages in the book was a great highlight. Not just Japanese language but also Korean. And I guess Singlish (Singapore-style English) can also be counted as a language? (“Like English but deluxe flavor”). 

I loved this book. I loved how the different languages were used – casually, yet effectively showing us how it is to struggle in this multilingual world. It feels weird to write this but I guess it shows that Asian people are different, are distinct. The Korean girl is unique, the Singaporean girl is unique, the American girl who is half-Japanese is unique. We are Asian, and to many people we may look similar (black hair, black eyes) but we are so different from each other. 

Library Loot (January 19 to 25)

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Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy Library Loot day! What did you get from your library? Let us know in the Linky or comment below.

What I got from the library this week:

Huda F Are You? – Huda Fahmy

A graphic novel (memoir?) about a girl who moves to town with a big Muslim population. I think I first saw this on Instagram. That title!

Fireheart Tiger – Aliette de Bodard

Well, the main reason for borrowing this one is that it has a tiger on the cover. This fulfils a task for the Popsugar Reading Challenge.

Heart and Seoul – Jen Frederick

A story about a Korean adoptee who goes to Korea to find her roots. It’s interestingly got quite a few low reviews on Goodreads. We will see!

Best Wishes – Mike Henderson

This is described as a “Woody Allen-esque tale of New York, meme madness, fame’s price, and secrets of the heart”. So I was curious!

Pros and (Comic) Cons

This is a comic anthology about the world of comic cons. Sounded fun!

Silk Vol 1 – Maurene Goo

I didn’t realise that there was a new version of Silk. And it’s written by Maurene Goo. I’ve enjoyed her YA books.

The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

The Woman in the Purple Skirt is an ordinary woman who only ever wears a purple-colored skirt. She doesn’t do anything particularly unusual or unique. She looks for work. She eats a cream bun while sitting on a park bench. She seems to barely make ends meet. 

Our narrator isn’t the Woman in the Purple Skirt. It’s the woman in the yellow cardigan, who watches the woman in the purple skirt, and know her life thoroughly. She seems to want to be friends with the woman in the purple skirt. 

“When the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan goes out walking in the shopping district, nobody pays the slightest bit of attention. But when the Woman in the Purple Skirt goes out, it’s impossible not to pay attention. Nobody could ignore her.”

But it’s not just watching, the reader realizes. The narrator helps the woman in the purple skirt by putting out the job listing magazines at the convenience store, she drops off shampoo at her apartment to make sure her hair gets washed. She eventually finds the Woman a job at the same hotel, cleaning rooms. 

This is part of her attempt to befriend the Woman, by making them colleagues at the same job. But still she watches from afar. 

The Woman in the Purple Skirt becomes popular with the other employees. But the narrator remains invisible, not just to the woman but it seems to almost everyone else working there. 

Some might say this book is disturbing. But I just felt this sadness for the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. A nameless, faceless woman who nobody knows, not even the reader. The loneliness of living in a city leads her to longing for a friend, into voyeurism and idolization of an everyday person.

What I Ate In Singapore #WeekendCooking

We had a bit of a whirlwind trip to Singapore in December. Winter break for the kids is only about two weeks here, so we usually don’t go to Singapore for Christmas. But since we hadn’t seen our families for 2.5 years, and Singapore had recently announced the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (where flights are only for vaccinated travellers and no quarantine period is needed), we had to go back.

Being on the Vaccinated Travel Lane required us to take rapid antigen tests for the first seven days. The first PCR test we had to do was at the airport. Days 3 and 7 were supervised rapid antigen tests at government centres. And the rest were done at home, with results submitted online, before we could leave the house.

We tried to minimise our movements to less crowded places for the first few days. But that didn’t mean the eating had to be minimised. Also, since it was the festive season, that meant Christmas Eve and Day dinners with families. And also New Year’s Eve and Day meals too. Here are some highlights of our 2.5 weeks there. 

 

Christmas Eve dinner featured ham, sausages, salads, smoked duck and more. 

 

Christmas Day lunch was British-style, with turkey, bread sauce, Christmas pudding. 

 

 

 

Christmas Day dinner. Lots of seafood! And my mum made pecan pie.

 

A lot of meals were takeout, to minimise any risks, especially since we stayed either with my parents or in-laws.

Fishball noodles

 

And the hawker centre stall that the fishball noodles came from. You can pick from the different types of fresh noodles (the flat type I had is called meepok) and whether you want it to be spicy. It also comes in a soup version.

 

 

One of my favourites – rojak. A kind of salad with pineapple, cucumber, mango, bean sprouts, youtiao,  jicama, grilled dried squid, and mixed with a kind of sweet sour sauce that has tamarind and shrimp paste. Also, satay in the background 

Modern Singapore food at Rempapa

Massive crabs. One was cooked with a chili crab sauce. The other is in an “imperial broth”. The fish noodles in the big box behind were really delicious too.

 

 

The Sweet Stuff

 

Loved this eclair-focused high tea with a friend at L’eclair Patisserie.

 

Being back in December-January meant that Lunar New Year favourites were available. The rolled up biscuits are known as love letters. They’re very thin and delicate. The flowers are kueh bangkit, which are made from coconut milk, tapioca flour etc to create a melt-in-your-mouth delight. 

It’s not so easy to find these fried pastries anymore. This one is known as butterfly bun. We also bought some goreng pisang (fried battered bananas).

 

I was also delighted to have mangosteens. One of my favourite fruits!

 

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Library Loot (January 12 to 18)

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Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy library loot day! Claire has the link-up this week.

So my last few Library Loot posts were really short, without any synopses. The main reason is that I was in Singapore – more on that another time. And it was hard to copy/paste using a phone or tablet. So I did super short posts. I don’t know if you guys actually read these synopses?

What I got from the library this week:

The Woman in the Purple Skirt – Natuso Imamura, translated by Lucy North

lmost every day, the Woman in the Purple Skirt buys a single cream bun and goes to the park, where she sits on a bench to eat it as the local children taunt her. She is observed at all times by the undetected narrator, the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. From a distance the Woman in the Purple Skirt looks like a schoolgirl, but there are age spots on her face, and her hair is dry and stiff. Like the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, she is single, she lives in a small, run-down apartment, and she is short on money. The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan lures her to a job where she herself works, as a hotel housekeeper; soon the Woman in the Purple Skirt is having an affair with the boss. Unfortunately, no one knows or cares about the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. That’s the difference between her and the Woman in the Purple Skirt.

Studiously deadpan, highly original, and unsettling, The Woman in the Purple Skirt explores the dynamics of envy, the mechanisms of power in the workplace, and the vulnerability of unmarried women in a taut, voyeuristic narrative about the sometimes desperate desire to be seen. 

This must be fated. I was just opening my Libby app to see what other ebooks I had borrowed earlier this week… and hello, I saw the notification that my hold on this book had come in.

This Must Be The Place – Maggie O’Farrell

Daniel Sullivan, a young American professor reeling from a failed marriage and a brutal custody battle, is on holiday in Ireland when he falls in love with Claudette, a world-famous sexual icon and actress who fled fame for a reclusive life in a rural village. Together, they make an idyllic life in the country, raising two more children in blissful seclusion—until a secret from Daniel’s past threatens to destroy their meticulously constructed and fiercely protected home. What follows is a journey through Daniel’s many lives told in his voice and the voices of those who have made him the man he is: the American son and daughter he has not seen for many years; the family he has made with Claudette; and irrepressible, irreverent Claudette herself. Shot through with humor and wisdom, This Must Be the Place is a powerful rumination on the nature of identity, and the complexities of loyalty and devotion—a gripping story of an extraordinary family and an extraordinary love. 

Three Bedrooms in Manhattan – Georges Simenon

Two people who didn’t know each other and who had come together by a miracle in the great city, and who now clung desperately to each other, as if already they felt a chilly solitude settling in. A divorced actor and a lonely woman, both adrift in New York, meet by chance in an all-night diner.

It is the start of something, though neither is sure what.

As they move through neon-lit streets, bars, rented rooms and cheap motels, these two lost souls struggle to understand what it is that has brought them, in spite of themselves, inexorably together. 

Infinite Country – Patricia Engel

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These love letters are so delicate that there’s little point packing them in luggage and bringing them back with us. So I’m just eating them every day instead. And enjoying it with a mug of milky tea and Patricia Engel’s Infinite Country

This book is about a family who moves from Colombia to the US and the father’s deportation. It’s a book that asks, what is home? Where is home? Is it one where your family is? Is it one where you can live your life to its fullest? 

Back in Singapore after more than two years of not seeing our families, we are ourselves asking these very questions. Where do we belong? Is it where my children were born and have been growing up? Or is it where I was born? Where I grew up? 

This book asks if America was the right choice. And that’s something I wonder too. 

Another book on the Tournament of Books list.

Afterparties – Anthony Veasna So

Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.

A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.

With nuanced emotional precision, gritty humor, and compassionate insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities, the stories in Afterparties deliver an explosive introduction to the work of Anthony Veasna So.