Posts by Sharlene

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

River of Stars by Vanessa Hua #AsianLitBingo

At Perfume Bay, women are getting ready to give birth. It is a facility specifically for women from China who want to have their babies in America, for to be born in America gives their babies citizenship.

Scarlett is one of the twelve pregnant women, sent there by her lover Boss Yeung, a powerful man with lots of guanxi and gets her the best room in the house.

But at an ultrasound, Scarlett discovers that the baby boy she’s been expecting is actually a girl. Another daughter for Boss Yeung. She worries about the future of her daughter, and when she learns that Boss Yeung wants to pay her to hand over the baby, whom he still thinks is a boy, she decides to run away. Another Perfurme Bay inhabitant, Daisy, a teenager whose parents sent her away to have her baby, takes off with her too.

The two pregnant women head to San Francisco’s Chinatown where they struggle to figure out how to support themselves and their two babies. Meanwhile, Boss Yeung continues to search for his son, and Daisy begins to search for the father of her baby. Scarlett’s tourist visa is expiring and while desperately trying to scrounge for money for rent and necessities, she also has to worry about how to stay on in the US.

A solid story about motherhood and the American dream. The desperation and struggles that  the two women go through is honest and moving.

(Spoiler alert!)

 

 

 

 

The women’s stories were compelling but the men in this story seem rather uneven. Boss Yeung, I can’t really tell sometimes whether we are meant to dislike him or not. At times he’s  heartless or is he really just in pursuit of his true love? But for me, the part that doesn’t seem to sit well with the rest of the book is the super-sweet ending that Daisy receives. Maybe if her ending turned out different, I would have rated this higher. Maybe if the book had kept more of its focus on the two women? It bothered me, this saccharine ending. Maybe I am just too skeptical…

 

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Asian Immigrant MC

Advertisements

Library Loot (May 22 to 28)

badge-4Library 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.

Unmarriageable – Soniah Kamal

A scandal and vicious rumor concerning the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won’t make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and have children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire the girls to dream of more.

When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat, certain that their luck is about to change, excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for rich, eligible bachelors. On the first night of the festivities, Alys’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful—and single—entrepreneur. But Bungles’s friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. As the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal—and Alys begins to realize that Darsee’s brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.

Told with wry wit and colorful prose, Unmarriageable is a charming update on Jane Austen’s beloved novel and an exhilarating exploration of love, marriage, class, and sisterhood.

 

 

If You Leave Me – Crystal Hana Kim

An emotionally riveting debut novel about war, family, and forbidden love—the unforgettable saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea and the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that continues to haunt us today

When the communist-backed army from the North invades her home, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother and ailing brother, is forced to flee to a refugee camp along the coast. For a few hours each night, she escapes her family’s makeshift home and tragic circumstances with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan.

Focused on finishing school, Kyunghwan doesn’t realize his older and wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has his sights set on the beautiful and spirited Haemi—and is determined to marry her before joining the fight. But as Haemi becomes a wife, then a mother, her decision to forsake the boy she always loved for the security of her family sets off a dramatic saga that will have profound effects for generations to come.

Richly told and deeply moving, If You Leave Me is a stunning portrait of war and refugee life, a passionate and timeless romance, and a heartrending exploration of one woman’s longing for autonomy in a rapidly changing world.

 

 

The kids’ loot:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did you get from your library this week?

 

 

Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee #AsianLitBingo

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while but never got around to picking it up from the library. But I wanted to read a book with an Asian superhero for Asian Lit Bingo so this filled the theme perfectly.

Although when we first meet Jess Tran, she’s desperately trying to find out what exactly her superpower is – does she even have any in the first place? Why so desperate? Well, it is post World War III, and there are meta-humans. More specifically, her parents are superheroes – her father can fly and so can her older sister. Her parents are Smasher and Shockwave, the two resident heroes of Andover. C-list heroes that is.

And since Jess will be turning 17 in a week, she needs to find out what powers she has, as no one has presented with powers after the age of 17.

She doesn’t even have an “unacceptable” ability like the power to change the colour of her fingernails. She’s resigned to the possibility that she will never have powers and lands herself a dream internship instead. But it turns out that she’s working for the town’s villains (and her parents’ enemies). On the other hand, she gets to work with Abby, whom Jess has had a secret crush on.

I love that Jess is bisexual Vietnamese- Chinese, and that she struggles with trying to figure out who she is. The background to the story is fun and Jess and her friends are very appealing. The romance in the story was sweet too. But parts of the book were a bit meandering and the plot wasn’t the greatest. I don’t want to spoil it for you but it’s kind of the way Superman puts on his glasses and tada he is unrecognisable as Clark Kent.

It was a fun read though and I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Not Your Villain, which has Bells as the main character.

It’s Monday

 

 

 

Last week…

 

My mother-in-law arrived from Singapore bearing gifts!

I made Pai Bao, a soft condensed milk that originated from Hong Kong. It uses the tangzhong method, which I really love using as it makes extra soft bread.

 

We ate at Super Duper Burger. Still one of the best burgers in the area!

The farmers’ market has nectarines in!

Korean food for lunch at Jang Su Jang.

Currently…

 

Reading:

Edinburgh – Alexander Chee

I’m slowly making my way through this one. There are some books you breeze through and some books you struggle through. But then there are beauties like this one filled with such great writing that you want to just sip at it and savour it before it is all gone.

 

 

Watching:

How To Get Away With Murder season 5 – I have a love-hate relationship with this show. It has moments of brilliance and it’s full of great actors (Viola Davis, Liza Weil, who if this name sounds somewhat familiar, played Paris Geller on Gilmore Girls) but sometimes things just are a bit TOO dramatic.

I attempted to watch Wine Country but gave up about 1/3 of the way in.

Listening:

 

Eating:

Pain au chocolat from Paris Baguette

Drinking:

Yorkshire Gold with milk

 

Browsing:
Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer is back! More specifically it will kick off June 3!

#ownvoices mysteries for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – I’ve read the Widows of Malabar Hill, Shelter and Little Fires Everywhere

Find out which are the finalists in the Best Translated Book Awards

Last week:

I read:


Emergency Contact – Mary HK Choi
My Brother’s Husband Vol 2 – Gengoroh Tagame
Not your Sidekick – CB Lee
A River of Stars – Vanessa Hua

I posted:

My Brother’s Husband Vol 2 by Gengoroh Tagame

Bad Friends by Ancco #AsianLitBingo
The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay #AsianLitBingo

Library Loot (May 15 to 21)

Adaptations that are better than the books #TopTenTuesday

 

 

badge
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

 

My Brother’s Husband Vol 2 by Gengoroh Tagame

This is volume two of this two-part series so if you haven’t read it yet, please understand that there may be spoilers!

So go go go! Go read the first part!

Ok!

So since you’re still reading, I’m guessing you know that this is a continuation of the stories of Mike, Yaichi and Kana. Mike is still staying with Yaichi and Kana.

Yaichi continues to understand more about his feelings towards Mike’s relationship with his brother. He’s starting to realize that they make a family too, even though they may not look like your typical Japanese family.

The three of them, as well as Kana’s mother, take a trip to an onsen and you’re going to want to start booking a trip to Japan because oh, I definitely did after reading those pages!

But wanderlust aside, I loved how Yaichi continues to grow in this volume. His talk with Kana’s teacher is a lesson in calm and sensibility. His realization about his treatment of his brother is devastating and yet also redeeming.

And I shed many a tear as the book drew to an end.

What an absolute pleasure this series was to read.

(I just found out that there is a TV series based on the book – three episodes were aired in Japan in 2018 – hopefully it’ll be something that will be available in the US??)

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Graphic novel with Asian MC.

#WeekendCooking Pai Bao

Oddly, this is not a bread I’ve really seen in Singapore. This 排包 is a bread that originates from Hong Kong. But we Asians like our bread to be super soft, and while Singapore doesn’t have Pai Bao, the old-school bakeries has very soft white bread.

Also there is that love for condensed milk, which is swirled into coffee and tea.

And so this is a recipe that combines the sweetness of condensed milk with the soft Asian-style bread.

Adapted from Christine’s Recipes

(makes two loaves)

370g all-purpose flour
65g sugar (I used brown sugar)
5g salt
12g milk powder (this helps with the milky flavour)
6g instant dry yeast
1 egg
200ml milk (I used whole milk)
120g tangzhong*
35g condensed milk
35g unsalted butter, softened

*The tangzhong is made from 25g of flour and 1/2 cup of milk, which you cook over a low heat, stirring regularly. This mixture will thicken. You’ll know when it’s thick enough when your spoon leaves “lines” as you pull it through the mixture.

 

I used a breadmaker and simply added all the ingredients and let the machine knead and do the first rise. In the original recipe it says to let rise for about 40 minutes.

I divided the dough into six portions but didn’t realize that this was for two tins! Instead of splitting it into three portions each, I put all six portions in my own loaf tin. Oops….

Anyway, so the instructions are to roll out the dough until it’s about the length of your loaf tin, then fold in half and roll it all the way down. Don’t forget to seal it by pinching. Do that for all your portions and then place three in each tin.

Cover with cling wrap and let rise until it almost reaches the top of the loaf tin.

Christine’s recipe has egg wash but I brushed milk on the the surface instead.

I baked it in a 350F oven for about 35 minutes.

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads 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

Bad Friends by Ancco #AsianLitBingo

Wow this book was really brutal and, to be honest, quite depressing.

Why read it then?

What made me borrow this book was because it’s a translated comic, and one from Korea. I haven’t read many Korean comics, and this was a rare one on the library shelves.

The story is told from the perspective of 16-year-old Pearl, growing up in the 1990s in a poor neighbourhood in Seoul, South Korea. Her father is abusive, but then so is nearly every relative in the building she lives in, who treat her like a punching bag.

“But in all the times Dad beat me, I never once hated him.

Any parent would have done the same.”

Those lines just made me ache with anger and sadness.

Pearl has a group of close friends at school. Her best friend is Jeong-Ae and the two of them run away for a while, staying at a motel and trying to get work as hostesses. But they both eventually return home. While Pearl has an abusive father, she realizes that her family is more ‘normal’ than the other girls’ families, especially Jeong-Ae’s. That while her father beats her, there is still someone who cares for her and wants better for her. One day, Jeong-Ae doesn’t turn up at school and no one knows where she is, although rumors are rampant. Pearl, ten years later, wonders what happened to her best friend.

“Why did it take me so long to figure out that being beaten didn’t have to be part of life?”

I came away from this book wondering if Korean culture was still like that – this acceptance of physical abuse. Parents, usually fathers, hitting, kicking, punching their children. Students physically hurting each other in school. Even teachers abuse their students.

It’s not uncommon to have canes in households in Singapore, even today. I don’t know about schools now but when I was in primary school, I remember that some teachers had canes. Is it something that’s just more accepted in Asian societies?

A harsh but honest look at the lives of these young women. One of the most disturbing books I’ve read.

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Poor or working class MC