Posts by Sharlene

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

Legends & Lattes

Legends & Lattes is just delightful. It’s comforting in the way that a warm mug of milky bean water (ie coffee) is, as you breathe in that nutty, chocolatey aroma, and take a sip, ah. 

Viv is an orc and she’s setting up a coffee shop in a city where no one seems to know what coffee is. It’s a bit of a learning curve for this former mercenary, but with the help of some new friends she makes, her coffee house is established. 

Reading this story is just soothing and heartwarming. Yes this is fantasy, and it’s not exactly your typical fantasy with adventures and bloody conflicts, but it’s utterly satisfying. Somehow all the fantasy I’ve read this year (ok so at the moment it’s just The Goblin Emperor) has been not your typical fantasy but that’s just exactly what I need right now.

Library Loot (January 25 to 31)

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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! What did you get from your library this week?

Claire has the link-up this week

What I got from the library this week:

Interior Chinatown – Charles Yu

This book is hard to describe, so here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as the protagonist in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but always he is relegated to a prop. Yet every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. Or is it?

After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis finds himself launched into a wider world than he’s ever known, discovering not only the secret history of Chinatown, but the buried legacy of his own family. Infinitely inventive and deeply personal, exploring the themes of pop culture, assimilation, and immigration—Interior Chinatown is Charles Yu’s most moving, daring, and masterful novel yet.

Bullet Train – Kotaro Isaka

Five killers find themselves on a bullet train from Tokyo competing for a suitcase full of money. Looks like this was made into a movie that starred Brad Pitt.

Haven – Emma Donoghue

To be honest, not really a book I would borrow based solely off its description. But I borrowed this because of the Storygraph Onboarding Challenge. One of the tasks is to read a book that’s based on your reader profile. Apparently my profile is

“Mainly reads fiction books that are reflective, adventurous, and emotional.”

The funny thing is using those 3 criteria to filter the books turns up just a handful books, most I’ve never heard of – or want to read. So after scrolling through these, I figured that Haven would work best as at least I’ve read Emma Donoghue’s books before! 😛

Happy Lunar New Year#WeekendCooking

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

It’s been a busy few days preparing for the Lunar New Year.Spring cleaning is a must. The weekend before, we had vacuumed and cleaned the house, everyone pitching in. On Saturday, we put up some decorations like lanterns and red packets.

But perhaps some of the most important traditions revolve around food. In Singapore, Lunar New Year is a public holiday, at least for the first couple of days of the new year. This means you get to go visiting friends and family. And when people visit your home, you’re supposed to provide different treats and snacks. Common new year treats found in Singapore are:

pineapple tarts

love letters

bakkwa, a kind of grilled pork jerky

kueh bangkit, a crumbly cookie made with tapioca flour and coconut milk

When I was a kid, my mum would also make cookies like peanut cookies and checkerboard cookies. Last year, I posted about enjoying Yusheng in Singapore. This is a vegetable and raw fish salad that’s kinda unique to Singapore and Malaysia. For instance, it’s not easily found here in the Bay Area Chinese restaurants. And so I miss eating it during the new year!

This year, I made Chinese peanut cookies, as well as pork floss and sesame cookies (recipe here). Both cookies are the type that melt in your mouth, so they’re quite small.

It’s not easy being away from our families during these times that are about family and celebration. I often wish that we could go back to visit, so that my kids can get a chance to experience Lunar New Year celebrations too. I guess that’s why I try my best to keep some traditions going, like making new year cookies, even though we don’t have family visiting us!

This year, I also wanted to try making huat kueh or fa gao 发糕, which can be translated to fortune cake. It’s a kind of cupcake that’s steamed. They are often flavoured with brown sugar, but as we love the flavour of pandan leaves, I made this pandan coconut version (recipe here). The green color is from pandan paste. The batter is quite thick.

Steaming it in a pot. Make sure not to lift the lid until the 15 minutes are up.

Our other tradition is always having hotpot for our reunion dinner (tuan yuan fan 团圆饭). This takes place on Lunar New Year eve, and is meant for the family to get together for a meal.

It’s labelled “pudding” but nian gao is really not a pudding. It’s instead a rather firm sweet cake made with rice flour.

The best way to eat it is dip it in flour and beaten eggs, then pan fry it. The nian gao softens with cooking, and is delicious and sweet. I cook this for breakfast for the first couple of days of the new year, for a sweet start to the year.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

It’s Monday (January 23, 2023)

Happy Lunar New Year! It’s the Year of the Rabbit! Following our usual tradition, before the New Year, we spring cleaned, decorated the house a little bit, even managed to donate some old clothes to help a fundraiser at a local high school.

I also made some cookies previously, but wanted to make some huat kueh or fa gao 发糕. It’s supposed to bring fortune and is a delicious light steamed cupcake of sorts. I made a version with pandan and coconut.

For our reunion dinner or tuan yuan fan on the eve, we had hotpot
Thinly sliced meats are a must for hotpot!
A recent love of mine is mixing regular jasmine rice with some Korean mixed grains. I bought this packet at an Asian supermarket. It contains brown rice, sweet brown rice, barley, wild sweet rice, mung bean, millet, glutinous millet, green peas. Per some online recipes, I soak the grains for a bit before adding it to the washed jasmine rice. Then I let my rice cooker do the work. The first time, I tried it on a brown rice setting but that seemed to overcook it. A regular rice setting does much better.

Last Friday evening, while at the Japanese supermarket to pick up some thinly sliced meats for hotpot, we discovered that their sushi and cooked food is 20% off in the evenings. The husband grabbed probably what was a bit too much sushi, and we had a nice dinner out of it.

The mochi doughnuts were also discounted.

Currently…

Reading:

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida – Shehan Karunatilaka

Watching:

Single’s Inferno on Netflix

Listening:

I’m glad my mom died – Jennette McCurdy

Eating and Drinking:

A homemade peanut cookie and coffee

Cooking:

We still have some hotpot broth leftover, so might warm that up with some extra fish tofu and vegetables. Eat it with rice. Later this week, maybe some mushroom pasta as I have extra mushrooms.

Last week:

I read:

Winter in Sokcho – Elisa Shua Dusapin

Legends & Lattes – Travis Baldree

Ducks – Kate Beaton

A Man and His Cat vol 2 – Umi Sakurai

I posted:

Winter In Sokcho

Library Loot (January 18 to 24)

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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

Winter In Sokcho

“Are those postcards?” my son asked. “What are they for?”
“Memories,” I replied.

When tourists visit a place, what do they see? In Singapore, the glitz and glamour, I guess. Do tourists see the rest of it, other than the shopping malls, eateries, hotels, and other tourist destinations?

In Winter in Sokcho, an unnamed narrator works at a guesthouse, and a Frenchman who writes comic books, checks in. He’s looking for inspiration for a new work and she agrees to show him around and tells him about life in Sokcho.

As she shows him around, what is she to him? What does she want him to see?

“I didn’t want to be his eyes on my world. I wanted to be seen. I wanted him to see me with his own eyes.”

There’s something unsettling about this book, much like living so close to the North-South border, I suppose.

“Our beaches are still waiting for the end of a war that’s been going on for so long people have stopped believing it’s real. They build hotels, put up neon signs, but it’s all fake, we’re on a knife-edge, it could all give way any moment. We’re living in limbo. In a winter that never ends.”

A short moody read that shouldn’t be rushed or underestimated.

Library Loot (January 18 to 24)

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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! What did you get from your library this week?

What I got from the library this week:

The Fever – Sonia Shah

I first came across this book on Maphead’s blog. It’s a book about malaria. While Singapore eradicated malaria some decades ago, it’s still plagued by dengue, another mosquito-borne disease.

Vladimir – Julia May Jonas

If I’m not wrong, I probably came across this book on one of those many “best of” book lists last month. That cover is definitely eye-catching!

Legends & Lattes – Travis Baldree

Ah my hold came in for this book! And then I finished reading it on that very day! What can I say, it was just such a fun book.

It’s Monday (January 16, 2023)

Hey, happy Monday to you!

Some things last week:

Another very rainy week. I think we only had one day where there was no rain. It rained so hard last night that I kept waking up!

Rainy days are good for baking, and since the Lunar New Year is coming up on Sunday, I decided to make some peanut cookies (the ones on the left) and some pork floss and sesame cookies. Both these cookies are the melt-in-your-mouth type of cookie, so they’re pretty much bite-sized.
Rainy days also mean soupy noodle cravings. We went to have Taiwanese beef noodles, as well as xiaolongbao. Unfortunately, there were a couple of customers in the restaurant who were coughing away! So we ate quickly!

Currently…

Reading:

Farm City – Novella Carpenter

Watching:

Last night, watched the Penguins documentary on Disney Plus with the kids. It was really funny.

Listening:

Started listening to Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon

Eating and Drinking:

I had homemade sourdough toast and a big mug of coffee

Cooking:

The husband has asked if I could make a pandan cake as I haven’t made one in a while. It’s a light chiffon cake flavoured with extract from pandan leaves (something grown in Southeast Asia), and coconut milk. Of course lots of eggs too since it’s a chiffon cake.

Last week:

I read:

Booked on a Feeling – Jayci Lee

A Man and His Cat – Umi Sakurai

I posted:

Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee

3 manga series

Library Loot (January 11 to 17)

Notes On Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

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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

Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee

I’m here for all the Asian romance novels, as well as romance novels that take place in bookstores. So this book brings both of that together – joy! 

It starts out strong, with lawyer Lizzy, brilliant and determined, working hard but struggling with anxiety. After passing out at work from a panic attack, she takes some time off and takes a break in a small town where she used to spend summers as a child. Her best friend Jack still lives there, where he works at his family’s brewery. He’s had a secret crush on her since he was 10. But doesn’t want to risk their friendship. 

There’s so much of it that I loved – the friends to lovers trope, the bookstore and Lizzy’s love for romance books, Jack’s family, the adorable small town setting. I also appreciate that both Lizzy and Jack had difficult decisions to make about their careers. And that they were afraid of disappointing their families and their expectations, but in very contrasting ways. Is it odd that one of my favorite things about a romance novel was the very sweet and supportive family that Jack has? It was such a contrast to Lizzy’s mum in Korea, who has high expectations and is completely overbearing. 

The romance between Lizzy and Jack was, um, ok? They’re cute together but I wasn’t quite invested in their romance. Maybe because the story lacked major conflict, some kind of painful thorn in the side that’s jabbing away until the couple finally works together to yank the damn thing out. Or you know, leave it there to fester and rot. 

Anyway, this apparently is the third book in the series, and I’m curious to see what the other two books are like. Don’t worry, it reads fine as a stand-alone as the other books are about different characters. 

3 manga series


For #januaryinjapan and #Japaneseliteraturechallenge I started off with 3 different manga series. 

THE FOX AND THE LITTLE TANUKI vol 1 by Mi Tagawa

Initially borrowed for the kids, this cute creature-filled manga soon made me want to read it too.

Senzou the black fox spirit is finally set free after 300 years. But he can’t have his powers back until he helps a little tanuki called Manpachi become a servant of the gods. Senzou can’t be trusted to do this, so he’s made to wear magical pearls that will hurt him if he doesn’t do the right thing. 

The first volume has some background and explanation to get through but the story quickly picks up. The pair help out a low-level god, and learn more about each other in the process. It’s amusing to see how their personalities play off each other – one is gruff and world weary and the other, innocent and full of sunshine and butterflies. 

While initially a bit confusing especially if unfamiliar with Japanese mythology and folklore, this cute manga is enjoyable for readers of different ages. 

SPY X FAMILY vol 1 – Tatsuya Endo

Twilight is a brilliant spy but his next mission has him stumped. He has seven days to marry, have a kid, and infiltrate an elite private school. So he sets out adopting a girl (who happens to be a telepath), and meets a young woman (who happens to be an assassin). All three of them are keeping secrets from each other. But they’re now a family. 

Absurd? Yes. Incredibly fun to read? Also yes! 

A MAN AND HIS CAT vol 1 by Umi Sakurai

A charming story about an unwanted cat at the pet store, who’s finally bought by an older man, a widower. He’s never owned a cat before, and the cat has never had an owner before, so they’re both new to this. Love how Kanda and Fukumaru just adore each other. And we get to hear Fukumaru’s very cute thoughts, “all I wanted was for someone to look meowy way”. 

A truly heartwarming story about relationship between a man and his cat. 

Favourite quote: “Your name will be Fukumaru. Meeting you has been a joy, or koufuku…So you’re Fukumaru.” 

Library Loot (January 11 to 17)

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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! What did you get from your library this week?

Claire has the link-up this week!

What I got from the library this week:

An award winner and some manga!

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida – Shehan Karunatilaka

This book won the Booker Prize last year.

Farm City – Novella Carpenter

I would never have borrowed this book if not for a nonfiction reading challenge I joined – I first found it on Twitter, then joined the challenge on Storygraph.

A Man and His Cat Vol 1 – Umi Sakurai

A manga about an unwanted cat at a pet shop that’s adopted by an older man. It sounds so sweet.

Spy x Family Vol 1 – Tatsuya Endo

Here’s the synopsis:

Master spy Twilight is the best at what he does when it comes to going undercover on dangerous missions in the name of a better world. But when he receives the ultimate impossible assignment—get married and have a kid—he may finally be in over his head!