Posts by Sharlene

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

Quicksand by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki


This book was first published in serial form in a Japanese magazine between 1928 and 1930. But was only published in English in 1993.

The original title is Manji. This apparently refers to the Buddhist swastika and symbolises the four people in this story.

It opens with Sonoko Kakiuchi telling her side of the story (to a writer) about her relationship with Tokumitsu Mitsuko. These two women meet in an art class and begin a friendship that soon turns into an affair.

They’re only a year apart in age but Sonoko, because of her married status, at first seems much older.

Sonoko becomes obsessed with Mitsuko. They see each other every day and she neglects her husband. But Mitsuko has her own secrets. It turns out she has a male lover. And so begins this complex relationship among two women, one husband, and one lover.

Sonoko brings letters to show the writer at one point. And I’m struck by how the writer comments on the physical description of the stationery. He (I’m presuming the writer’s a he, but I don’t think it’s actually said) describes the envelope, the handwriting. He comments that “no Tokyo woman would choose such garish envelopes” and that “the taste for that sort of gaudy excess is indeed typical of Osaka women”. I don’t have the faintest clue about the differences among prefectures in Japan, but I guess he was trying to make a point about that?

This book is full of unlikeable characters. There’s manipulation, a continuous power struggle, jealousy, betrayal, obsession, and deceit. Yet, it is surprisingly readable. Or maybe you have to enjoy reading about these strange manipulative people like I do.

I really liked his other book, The Makioka Sisters. And this book was a completely different read. It was interesting (perhaps even more so with all its twists and deceit). But it didn’t quite have the depth that The Makioka Sisters had.

(I read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge= A classic in translation).

Operatic by Kyo Maclear and Byron Eggenschwiler


(I previously posted this on Instagram)

Oh this graphic novel is such a gem. It was a book I randomly pulled off the shelf at the library while grabbing some books for the kids. 

Charlotte “Charlie” Noguchi is one of three Asian girls at her middle school. Her music teacher’s latest assignment is to choose a song for this moment of their life and to write about it. 

Charlie feels a bit lost with this assignment. As she sometimes feels unsure about what she is in school. As she thinks about the music she wants to use for the assignment, she thinks also about Luka, who’s been absent from school after he was bullied for his gender nonconformity. And also about Emile, a boy in class she’s intrigued by. 

Charlie also discovers the music of Maria Callas, an American-born Greek opera singer, who’s one of the most influential opera singers of the 20th century. I’m clueless when it comes to opera so it was interesting to learn about her background. 

This book is about being both part of a community, a group, but also being an individual. It was about being open to new ideas and about accepting others for themselves.

I really appreciate how the color scheme changes when we go to a different character such as when the focus is on Maria Callas, red is used as the main color. It makes it obvious to the reader that oh, this may be a different timeline or a different feature in this book. I say this also because a recent comic I read, ONION SKIN, was confusing because there wasn’t this clear distinction between past and present. And sometimes it meant reading a page, feeling a bit lost, then reading the next page, only to realize that oh it’s a flashback. 

This book was thoughtful and beautiful. And I’m glad it just happened to be on the library shelf that day! 

Library Loot (June 23 to 29)


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? Let us know in the link-up or comment below.

Finally took the kids to the library last week. It was nice and quiet on a Thursday morning. And I was glad that although California is allowing vaccinated people to unmask almost everywhere, the library still asks for masks on.


Here’s the loot for the week.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

I am learning how to be
and happy
at the same time.

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

Heartstopper Vol 2 by Alice Oseman

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t. 

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself.

Finding Junie Kim – Ellen Oh

Junie Kim just wants to fit in. So she keeps her head down and tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school, Junie must decide between staying silent or speaking out.

Then Junie’s history teacher assigns a project and Junie decides to interview her grandparents, learning about their unbelievable experiences as kids during the Korean War. Junie comes to admire her grandma’s fierce determination to overcome impossible odds, and her grandpa’s unwavering compassion during wartime. And as racism becomes more pervasive at school, Junie taps into the strength of her ancestors and finds the courage to do what is right.

Finding Junie Kim is a reminder that within all of us lies the power to overcome hardship and emerge triumphant. 

The kids’ loot:


It’s Monday (June 21, 2021)

Some things last week:

Made some chocolate chip cookies
Rainier cherries at the farmers market
I missed writing a blog post last week, partly because I had gotten up at 215 on Sunday morning to catch a live concert! It was 230am or 1830 Korea time. Then I did it again the next day because I had bought the two-day ticket. The concert replay was the past Friday and Saturday, thankfully at 1800 California time.



The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert

Watching: Season 2 of Hospital Playlist. Also, Loki.

Listening: No books, just music. But the kids have been listening to The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

Eating: Walnut bread

Drinking: Tea


Hainanese chicken rice

Fried noodles

Last week:

I read:

Arsenic and Adobo – Mia P. Manansala

Once Upon a Marquess – Courtney Milan

Whereabouts – Jhumpa Lahiri

I posted:

Library Loot (June 16 to 22)

Summer 2021 TBR #TopTenTuesday

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

Library Loot (June 16 to 22)


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.

Just a couple of books for now. But I may make a visit to the library tomorrow. So there might be more loot next week, hopefully!

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

The Princess Trap – Talia Hibbert

From bestselling author Talia Hibbert comes a story of wicked royals, fake engagements, and the fed-up office worker trapped in the midst of it all…

Cherry Neita is thirty, flirty, and done with men. As far as she can tell, they’re overrated, overpaid, and underperforming – in every area of life. But a girl has needs, and the smoking-hot stranger she just met at the office seems like the perfect one-night stand…

Prince Ruben of Helgmøre is reckless, dominant, and famously filthy. The outcast royal is rebuilding his reputation – all for a good cause – but he can’t resist a pretty face. And bossy whirlwind Cherry’s got the face, the body, and the attitude to make Ruben’s convictions crumble. Even better, when she propositions him, she has no idea who he really is.

But when paparazzi catch the pair, erm, kissing in an alleyway, Ruben’s anonymity disappears faster than Cherry’s knickers. Now the press is in uproar, the palace is outraged, and Ruben’s reputation is back in the gutter. There’s only one way to turn this disaster around – and it involves Cherry, some big fat lies, and a flashy diamond ring. On her left hand.

Unfortunately, Cherry isn’t pleased with Ruben’s ‘fake engagement’ scheme… and neither is the king.

Summer 2021 TBR #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

Books On My Summer 2021 TBR


I’d like to fill my summer reading list with all kinds of lighthearted fun reads.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3)- Talia Hibbert

Arsenic and Adobo – Mia P. Manansala

A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3) – Alyssa Cole

While We Were Dating (The Wedding Date #6) – Jasmine Guillory

Intercepted – Alexa Martin

Dial A for Aunties – Jesse Q Sutanto

The Happy Ever After Playlist (The Friend Zone #2) – Abby Jimenez

People We Meet on Vacation – Emily Henry

Impostor Syndrome – Kathy Wang

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.

Library Loot (June 9 to 15)


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! How’s your week going? Let us know what you got from your library this week. Link-up above or in the comments below.

It’s the last day of school today. We survived a full year of distance learning…somehow!

Here’s what I got from the library this week.

I’m not sure what to expect with the description of “radically inventive”….

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.

Heartstopper Vol 1 – Alice Oseman

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

Arsenic and Adobo – Mia P. Manansala

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

It’s Monday (June 7, 2021)

Happy Monday! Hope you had a nice weekend.

It’s the last few days of school! We made it through a full year of distance learning (it all started end March 2020. How long ago that seems…).

The school district hasn’t exactly said what’s going to happen when the new school year begins, but the plan at least is to be back in person, finally.

Some things last week:

White nectarines from the farmers market
Rainier cherries are back!
The boys made Japanese curry last week (with some help from me). I usually throw in whatever vegetables I have on hand so this time it had carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli.
The husband’s office had some “international snacks” box sent over. I mean, ok there were a few things I hadn’t seen before like tamarind candy and a Brazilian drink with guarana (apparently has more caffeine than coffee??). But I reckon they could do better than just rice crackers for Asia. Asian snacks are the best! I mean, prawn crackers, salted egg yolk fish skin, White Rabbit candy, all the different Pocky flavours etc..
I wish I could take credit for this spicy beef soup, but all I did was open the packet and warm it up. I did add green onions and instant noodles though. But it was a packet of Korean beef soup I picked up at the supermarket. It was delicious though!
Dinner yesterday was takeout from our favourite Malaysian/Burmese restaurant. We had beef rendang, char kway teow, hor fun, curry mee.



Minor Feelings – Cathy Park Hong

Watching: Hospital Playlist

Eating: Homemade sourdough bread, toasted, with butter.

Drinking: Tea


Maybe some soondubu jigae (tofu stew) I love making this! At first I started out with a soondubu “kit” that comes with a packaged paste and tofu. But I realised that I could make it with the chili powder (gochugaru), kimchi, some broth, and your favourite ingredients. I usually make it with just mushrooms and a packaged vegetable broth paste. And the soft tofu too. Of course, it’s not the traditional way (see the link for a better recipe).

Last week:

I read:

Heiress Apparently – Diana Ma

Tweet Cute – Emma Lord

I posted:

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma

Library Loot (June 2 to 8)

Classics With Great Covers #TopTenTuesday

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

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma


I was thinking about this book after I read about the cancellation of Kim’s Convenience and how a spin-off series is being created around the only non-Asian character in the show. 

They stopped the series after its fifth season (it was supposed to have six). Then decided the only non-Asian character would become the star of a new series?? Ugh. 

So this book doesn’t exactly have a direct link with that (although Kim’s Convenience is mentioned in it!). But it does have a young Chinese-American actress who clinches a starring role in a movie. 

But it’s being filmed in China. A country that Gemma’s parents have told her never to go to. She goes anyway. And it turns out she looks a lot like a socialite and influencer named Alyssa Chua. 

And that’s because… they’re cousins!

Sounds rather soap opera-like, doesn’t it? Very dramatic. And there are some elements in the story that didn’t quite gel with me but I decided to let that go and keep reading. 

The author wrote that she wanted to write a story that she wanted to read when she was a teenager. A story that had Asian-Americans who went on adventures and had romances. And that she did. 

This was a book my teenaged self might have enjoyed. I didn’t grow up as a minority as Singapore is about 76% Chinese. But pretty much all the books I read were by American and British writers. And I don’t remember reading many (any?) books with Asian characters. Much less one with an Asian actress as a lead character. 

I liked when the characters discussed life as an Asian actor. How there aren’t many roles for Asian actors. How they know every Asian actor and the roles they played. How, when the film industry thinks of an Asian woman, it’s of someone who’s “small-framed with delicate features”. 

Anyway, this was Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma. Pictured alongside a salad of cherry tomatoes, avocado, homegrown radish and basil. 

Library Loot (June 2 to 8)


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.

Here’s what I got from the library this week…

I think it’s interesting that she wrote this in Italian and then translated it into English. Does that affect the way you write?

Whereabouts – Jhumpa Lahiri

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. The woman at the center wavers between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties. The city she calls home, an engaging backdrop to her days, acts as a confidant: the sidewalks around her house, parks, bridges, piazzas, streets, stores, coffee bars. We follow her to the pool she frequents and to the train station that sometimes leads her to her mother, mired in a desperate solitude after her father’s untimely death. In addition to colleagues at work, where she never quite feels at ease, she has girl friends, guy friends, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. But in the arc of a year, as one season gives way to the next, transformation awaits. One day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will change. 

This is the first novel she has written in Italian and translated into English. It brims with the impulse to cross barriers. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement. 

I didn’t know about the Chinese survivors of the Titanic until I saw the synopsis of this book. How sad that they survived this horrendous shipwreck only to be accused of sneaking on board the lifeboats dressed as women.

Luck of the Titanic – Stacey Lee

Southampton, 1912: Seventeen-year-old British-Chinese Valora Luck has quit her job and smuggled herself aboard the Titanic with two goals in mind: to reunite with her twin brother Jamie–her only family now that both their parents are dead–and to convince a part-owner of the Ringling Brothers Circus to take the twins on as acrobats. Quick-thinking Val talks her way into opulent firstclass accommodations and finds Jamie with a group of fellow Chinese laborers in third class. But in the rigidly stratified world of the luxury liner, Val’s ruse can only last so long, and after two long years apart, it’s unclear if Jamie even wants the life Val proposes. Then, one moonless night in the North Atlantic, the unthinkable happens–the supposedly unsinkable ship is dealt a fatal blow–and Val and her companions suddenly find themselves in a race to survive.

Stacey Lee, master of historical fiction, brings a fresh perspective to an infamous tragedy, loosely inspired by the recently uncovered account of six Titanic survivors of Chinese descent.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning – Cathy Park Hong

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.” 

As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.

Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth. 

Bright Dead Things – Ada Limón

Bright Dead Things examines the chaos that is life, the dangerous thrill of living in a world you know you have to leave one day, and the search to find something that is ultimately “disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.”

A book of bravado and introspection, of 21st century feminist swagger and harrowing terror and loss, this fourth collection considers how we build our identities out of place and human contact—tracing in intimate detail the various ways the speaker’s sense of self both shifts and perseveres as she moves from New York City to rural Kentucky, loses a dear parent, ages past the capriciousness of youth, and falls in love. Limón has often been a poet who wears her heart on her sleeve, but in these extraordinary poems that heart becomes a “huge beating genius machine” striving to embrace and understand the fullness of the present moment. “I am beautiful. I am full of love. I am dying,” the poet writes. Building on the legacies of forebears such as Frank O’Hara, Sharon Olds, and Mark Doty, Limón’s work is consistently generous and accessible—though every observed moment feels complexly thought, felt, and lived.

The kids’ loot: