It’s Monday! What are you reading? (July 1 2013)

itsmonday“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney to share with others what we’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

Oof! We made it through the heatwave!!

Plenty of ice cold drinks were downed, tank tops and shorts were worn, and sweat was sweated. It was like being in Singapore minus the humidity!


Tiny beautiful things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed
This book is great for dipping into here and there. It has some sad stories and plenty of beautiful advice.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Yup decided to download this library e-book and see what the fuss is about. Am probably one of the few people who have yet to read this!

A natural history of the senses – Diane Ackerman
Filled with such lovely passages, this book is a treat to savor.

The whole fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese – Kathe Lison
Andi’s post brought this book about cheese to my attention.

Kasutera (castella) cake. A Japanese sponge cake that we bought from the Chinese supermarket.

Cold water (it’s still too hot for me!)

Goonies! Just found it on Amazon instant video the other day. Makes me nostalgic.

Listening to:
Katie Costello

“Things would be much easier
And it would really save some time
If you knew my favorite color
And my favorite kind of pie

I wish there was a social excuse to make you a cassette tape
I’d teach you all about my life from side B to side A”

Looking forward to:
Fourth of July! We might check out the town’s parade and have a barbecue. And then hope that the baby won’t be woken by illegal fireworks…

The Summer Lovin’ Readathon!

What I read last week:

A letter of Mary (Mary Russell #3) – Laurie R King
The Mary Russell series is a lot of fun, and this third book is no different. But this time King offers up some archaeological/theological intellect with a papyrus supposedly written by Mary Magdalene, and of course a murder, some red herrings and fun disguises for Mr and Mrs Holmes.

Jane and Prudence – Barbara Pym
Oh Barbara Pym and her charming characters. Jane is a vicar’s wife living in a small village. She fancies herself a bit of a matchmaker for her single friend Prudence who lives up in London. It’s quite a delightful read this book, plus I love reads that have plenty of tea references. 😛

What I reviewed last week:

Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

What are you reading today?

SoCal again!


There was snow on the mountains as we drove south on the 5, luckily this wasn’t reflective of the weather to come! It was indeed warmer in San Diego and Anaheim than in the Bay Area.


All that sugar was making my hand tremble…. Haha, not really, but these tiramisu pancakes from Cafe 21 (which I shared with the husband as well as a prosciutto omelette) in downtown San Diego was awesome! Sinfully so!


Another sinful treat (not on the same day that is) from Azucar in Ocean Beach, a Cuban-influenced patisserie which we first visited in November and which I was determined to return to, because it was just that good (so is their coffee). This was chocolatey and crunchy and just a delight to savour.



Did you guess it yet? We went to Disneyland! It was wee reader’s first visit and I had been worried. Worried that it would be too much for him, that it would be too crowded, too tiring. I am a worrier.

But it turned out great! The first ride he sat was Dumbo and he loved it so much he didn’t want to get off. He loved pretty much everything that went round and round, like the rocket ride pictured above (he rode it twice), and clapped and laughed during It’s A Small World (which was Christmas-themed!). But his favourite ride was interestingly enough, the train that goes around Disneyland. He sat it three times! Of course he cried when getting off some rides and wanted to be carried when waiting in those long queues. But at least there were none of the tantrums and screaming incidents that we spotted throughout the park.

And since we had grandparents in tow, the husband and I were able to pop over (having first collected FastPasses) to sit the more adult rides like Star Tours (we are big Star Wars fans) and Indiana Jones (we are also big fans). I wasn’t really supposed to sit these rides, since they do say ‘expectant mothers should not ride’, and at 21 weeks I am indeed expecting (due in early May). But these weren’t exactly Six Flags upside-down and head-spinning rides so they were fine, and fun!

It was a great week-long trip, and made for great memories and photos. I don’t expect wee reader to remember much (or any) of this in the future, but I’m sure the rest of us will!

The 2012 round-up post

Ok so January has been upon us for quite a few days now. But I have an excuse! A week-long roadtrip to Southern California with the family! A great time was had by all – more on that in another post. Meanwhile I’ve been catching up on everyone’s year-end round up posts, and figure that it’s time for my own.

It was a year of discovering new-to-me authors, borrowing heaps of library books and reading a fair amount of translated books.

Total books read: 227 (not counting 7 books I started but did not finish) 2011’s total: 171 

Woah… was not expecting that!

Fiction/literature (by which I mean general literature that doesn’t fit into the more specific genres below): 64 (28.2%) 2011: oddly, it wasn’t on my 2011 round-up post, although of course I had read fiction!
Non-Fiction: 42 (18.5%) 2011: 25 (14.62%)
Comics/Graphic Novels: 36 (15.9%) 2011: 25 (14.62%)
Science fiction/fantasy: 32 (14.1%) 2011: 17 (9.94%)
Mystery/crime: 17 (7.5%) 2011: 9 (5.26%)
Classics: 15 (6.6%) 2011: didn’t count
Young adult/children’s: 11 (4.8%) 2011: 18 (10.53%)
Short story collections: 7 (3.1%) 2011: didn’t count
Poetry: 2 (0.9%) 2011: 1 (0.58%)


By Women: 114 (50.2%)  2011: 82 (47.95%)
By Men: 102 (44.9%) 2011: 79 (46.2%)
By Men and Women: 11 (4.8%) 2011: 9 (5.26%)


Longest bookThe Forsyte Saga at 912 pages
2011: Vanity Fair at 912 pages

Shortest book: Angel and Faith Volume 1: live Through This at 32 pages
2011: The Night Bookmobile at 40 pages (page numbers taken from Goodreads)

New-to-me authors: 135 (59.5%) 2011: didn’t count

E-books: 65 (28.6%)  2011: 62 (36.26%) 
Library books: 190 (83.7%) 2011: 127 (74.23%) (includes Overdrive e-books)

So fewer e-books (odd considering that 2012 is when I acquired my first e-reader!) and more library books!

Translated books: 39 (17.2%) 2011: didn’t count
Languages translated from: Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish

Countries I visited: The Arctic, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Congo, France, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scandinavia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Surinam, The Netherlands, UK, US, Vietnam, and made-up realms and the future.

I’ve been thinking about what my favourite reads of the year were. And boy, is that a difficult task! Because there were so many amazing reads. Of course there were also plenty of DidNotFinish-es and books that were more meh than anything else. So I went down my list of books read in 2012 and just plucked out all those books that stood out. Books that made me cry, made me laugh, made me just so happy to be a reader.

Best fantasy reads
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy #1) – N.K. Jermisin
China Mountain Zhang – Maureen McHugh

Best graphic novel series
Locke and Key – Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez
The Color series – Kim Dong Hwa

Best translated reads
Out – Natsuo Kirino
To the end of the land – David Grossman
Girl from the Coast (Gadis Pantai) – Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Best short story collection
Married Love: and other stories – Tessa Hadley

For making me think of home
The garden of evening mists – Tan Twan Eng

Starting out right: series to continue reading
The Giver series – Lois Lowry
The Dreamblood series – N.K. Jemisin
The Dr Siri Paiboun series – Colin Cotterill

Because everyone should read something by Sara Wheeler
Too close to the sun: The Audacious life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton – Sara Wheeler

A foodie read: for its intriguing insight into the restaurant business (hidden cameras!)
The Fourth Star: Dispatches from inside Daniel Boulud’s Celebrated Restaurant  – Leslie Brenner

Here’s to many more fantastic reads in 2013! Happy new year!

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas presents are wrapped and ready under the tree. The grandparents have settled in, having arrived a week or so ago from Singapore. The butter cookies have been baked (it doesn’t feel Christmassy till the cookie cutters have been used!). The ham is in the fridge, ready for its beer bath later. It will be accompanied simple salad, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and a pear bread pudding with a salted caramel sauce. In case that’s not enough, there’s coconut ice-cream in the freezer. I think we’re almost ready for Christmas. At least for Christmas Eve dinner.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Oh and I opened some Christmas presents early (they arrived via amazon). A food book and Lucky Peach magazines from my parents and sister in Singapore. A lovely red teapot from the husband!


TLC Book Tours: An Extraordinary Theory of Objects

An Extraordinary Theory of Objects

A whale’s tooth, a skeleton key, a mushroom.

These are among the objects that Stephanie LaCava collects, an obsession of hers that began in childhood, a way of understanding herself and the world around her:

“Collecting information and talismans is a way of exercising magical control. You can hold a lucky charm and know everything about nature’s creatures yet still be terribly lonely.”

Stephanie LaCava’s family moves to the Parisian suburb of Le Vesinet when she’s twelve, and there she feels like she doesn’t belong either: “From then on, I would never be quite American and, by virtue of my birthplace, never truly French either.”

Stephanie’s story initially resonated with me. While I didn’t suffer from the depression that she struggled with, I too was a quiet kid who liked reading and tended to keep to myself. And reading was a way to escape that awkwardness I felt with other people, although for Stephanie, it was slightly different:

“Reading was a Pascalian diversion; stories and facts were a diversion from spiraling thoughts. I had always hated loudness. It was loud enough inside my head.”

But I felt like she was holding so much back. It’s a really short book and a quick read. And at the end of it, I didn’t really get to know her, despite the fact that this is categorised as a memoir. Still it was an enjoyable read and made me curious about the various aspects of Parisian life that she talked about.


This book is one of the reasons why I’m reluctant to buy e-books. Because it is a delight to look at. The lovely green hardcover with the artwork printed directly on it, the drawings of the various objects that LaCava uses to tell her story of her teenaged years in France.

However, the footnotes can be a little distracting and didn’t offer quite as much in-depth information as I would like, although the bibliography at the end has provided some interesting additions to my TBR list.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for this review copy.

tlc logoDon’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour

Wednesday, December 5th: Dolce Bellezza

Thursday, December 6th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]

Friday, December 7th: Great Imaginations

Monday, December 10th: Stephany Writes

Tuesday, December 11th: Bibliosue

Wednesday, December 12th: nomadreader

Thursday, December 13th: Conceptual Reception

Monday, December 17th: Walking With Nora

Tuesday, December 18th: Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, December 19th: West Metro Mommy

Thursday, December 20th: Olduvai Reads

Wednesday, December 26th: BookNAround

Thursday, December 27th: Luxury Reading

Friday, December 28th: What She Read …

Monday, December 31st: Becca’s Byline

Tuesday, January 1st: In the Next Room

What I’m reading

Ok this is a too-lazy-to-write-a-proper-review post!

The Riddle of the Sands – Erskine Childer

It’s been two days and I’ve only read three pages. Will I finish this before the year is over? Stay tuned!

The Birds on the Trees – Nina Bawden

I think the changes in points of view is throwing me off a little.

Nobody’s Fool – Richard Russo

It’s been so long since I’ve read Empire Falls that I can’t quite recall the plot. Ah well. This book, while plot-wise isn’t much of a caper, is stuffed with such wonderful characters and set in one of those dying towns, that it just lingers in my mind everytime I put down the Kindle (it’s an e-book). So much fun to read!

What I just read

The Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness

A hefty book. Nearly 600 pages! I like that she really seemed to bring 1500s London and France to life. I’m not really a fan of Matthew or Diana, but I quite liked the other characters like Matthew’s father Philippe and Gallowglass, and surprisingly, Queen Elizabeth. There were perhaps a bit too many details about the clothes (especially the ruffs….). And it’s probably just me but I kept wondering about Diana’s seeming lack of first trimester symptoms.

What I’m eating


A gingerbread-molasses cake (recipe from Food and Wine) that I made over the weekend, simple to make, delicious whether eaten straight from the fridge or warmed up in the microwave. I didn’t bother with the mascarpone or orange confit and it is still moist and gorgeous. A keeper of a recipe!

Gorgonzola baked crackers from Trader Joe’s. Ridiculously addictive.

Lemon verbena tea.

Library Loot (8 December 2012)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

One book set in a made-up world, one set in South America, and the last in Europe. Perfect for a dreamy armchair traveler!

The Killing Moon (Dreamblood) – N.K. Jemisin


The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon.

In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.

But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru – the most famous of the city’s Gatherers – must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess’ name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh’s alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill – or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.

The Silence of the Rain: An Inspector Espinosa Mystery – Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, translated by Benjamin Moser

And after reading that very personal, very revealing travel narrative of Brazil that Thomsen Moritz wrote (The Saddest Pleasure – not really for everyone but beautiful in its starkness and honesty), although of course learning more about the author than the country itself, I wanted to read more books set in Brazil.


In a parking garage in the center of Rio de Janeiro, corporate executive Ricardo Carvalho is found dead in his car, a bullet in his head, his wallet and briefcase missing. Inspector Espinosa is called in to investigate the apparent robbery and murder, but the world-weary Espinosa knows that things are not always as they seem. Carvalho’s recently acquired one-million-dollar life insurance policy and the subsequent disappearance of his secretary Rose complicate matters—as does Espinosa’s attraction to Carvalho’s beautiful widow, one of the suspects. And when two more people turn up dead, Espinosa must speed up his investigation before anyone else becomes a casualty.

From the Land of the Moon – Milena Agus, translated by Ann Goldstein

After reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, I wanted to read another book by an Italian author, and this one, set in Sardinia, caught my eye.


But what do we really know about other people? In this international bestselling novel, a young unnamed Sardinian woman explores the life of her grandmother, a romantic, bewitching, eccentric figure, and a memorable literary creation. Her life has been characterized by honor and fierce passion, and above all by an abiding search for perfect love that has spanned much of the twentieth century. Ever in the background of this remarkable woman’s story is the stunning Sardinian landscape the deep blues of the Mediterranean, the rugged mountains of the Sardinian back-country dotted with charming villages lost in time.

With warmth, great humor, and deep insight Milena Agus writes about the customs and the beauty of her native Sardinia, about love, family, immigration, war, and peace. From the Land of the Moon is the moving English debut of one of Italy s most important new literary talents.

What books did you get from the library this week?

What’s in a Name 6 challenge

Beth Fish Reads is hosting this fun challenge and it’s my first time joining! Here’s the link to the sign-up page.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2013, read one book in each of the following categories (my ideas in blue):

    1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: Hand Me Down World (Lloyd Jones), Under Heaven(Guy Gavriel Kay)



    1. A book with something you’d find in your kitchen in the title: The Price of Salt (Patricia Highsmith), The Cookbook Collector (Allegra Goodman)



    1. A book with a party or celebration in the title: The Shooting Party (Isabel Colgate), Larry’s Party (Carol Shields)



    1. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: Enna Burning (Shannon Hale), The Bonfire of the Vanities (Tom Wolfe), The Moon and the Bonfire (Cesare Pavese)



    1. A book with an emotion in the title: The Pleasure Seekers (Tishani Doshi), Comfort and Joy (India Knight). Read: The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg



    1. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: Lost Souls (Poppy Z Brite), What was Lost (Catherine O’Flynn)



Gosh that was fun! I’m tempted to go look up the previous challenges just to make more lists!

I’m sure I’ll be coming across other books with titles to fit these categories. And I’m looking forward to spotting them.

Which challenges do you have your eye on for 2013?

Library Loot (December 1 2012)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

How can it be December already? There are so many books that I want to read, especially with all those ‘best of’ lists popping up everywhere (see Largehearted Boy’s ‘best of’ aggregator). I’ll see what I can do with the rest of this month, but with in-laws visiting and all the festivities, I’m not sure how December will go!

Shadow of Night: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) – Deborah Harkness
It finally reached my turn. Boy is it a huge book!


Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

The Riddle of the Sands – Erskine Childers

Spy novels aren’t really my thing so we’ll see how far I get with this one!


The Riddle of the Sands: a Record of Secret Service is a classic early example of the espionage novel, with a strong underlying theme of militarism. It has been made into a Hollywood film and TV film.
As a novel it owes much to the adventure genre, and perhaps more significantly, it was a spy novel that established a formula that included a mass of verifiable detail, which gave authenticity to the story – the same ploy that would be used so well by John Buchan, Ian Fleming, John le Carré and many others. Ken Follett called it “the first modern thriller.” The Observer, in a list published to coincide with the Big Read campaign in 2003, listed the book at number thirty-seven in “The 100 Greatest Novels” from the past 300 years.

And some e-books for the Kindle from the library

Gathering Blue – Lois Lowry

Quite enjoyed the first book. Hope this will be good too. Interesting to note that it seems to focus on a new character?


Six years after The Giver, Lois Lowry ushered readers back into that mysterious but plausible futuristic world to tell the story of Kira, orphaned, physically flawed, and left with uncertain prospects. Like The Giver, Gathering Blue challenges readers to imagine what our world could become and how people could evolve.

Nobody’s Fool – Richard Russo

It feels like an awful long time since I read Empire Falls and having started on Nobody’s Fool already, I’m quite pleased by it thus far.

It is Thanksgiving in North Bank and Sully, old Miss Beryl’s feckless lodger, does not have much to be thankful for. His arthritic knee is acting up and so is his truck; his ex-wife is at the end of her tether, his mistress is giving him the cold shoulder, and the grinning ghost of his father won’t leave him alone. The future looks bleak when Sully’s son Peter, a morose college professor, returns, offering Sully a chance to address a lifetime of neglected responsibilities and threatening his carefree existence.

What did you get from the library this last week?

Read in November 2012

November was a fun month for reading, in terms of new-to-me authors (Elena Ferrante, Lydia Peelle, Ellis Avery, James M. Cain, Colin Cotterill, Marge Piercy, and especially Tessa Hadley), and exploring different countries and cultures (the amazingly researched Japanese tea ceremony in The teahouse fire, Cameron Highlands, Laos, Naples, Korea, and of course lovely England and the US).

My favourite reads of the months were The English Patient, Persuasion, Married Love: and Other Stories, My Brilliant Friend. 

Fiction (13)
The English patient – Michael Ondaatje (library e-book)
The teahouse fire – Ellis Avery (library book)
Reasons for and advantages of breathing – Lydia Peelle
Persuasion – Jane Austen (library book)
The garden of evening mists – Tan Twan Eng (library book)
Married Love: and other stories – Tessa Hadley (TLC Book Tour)
Everything will be all right – Tessa Hadley (library book)
The postman always rings twice – James M. Cain
Far from the madding crowd – Thomas Hardy (e-book)
The Coroner’s Lunch (Dr Siri Paiboun #1) – Colin Cotterill (library e-book)
My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante (library book)
Woman on the edge of time – Marge Piercy (library e-book)
The new moon with the old – Dodie Smith (library book)

Graphic novel (1)
The Color of Heaven (Color Trilogy #3) – Kim Dong Hwa (library book)

Non-fiction (4)
Eleventh Draft: Craft and the writing life from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop – Frank Conroy (ed) (library book)
Bad mother: a chronicle of maternal crimes, minor calamities, and occasional moments of grace – Ayelet Waldman (library e-book)
Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man – Mark Kurlansky (library e-book)
The end of men: And the rise of women – Hanna Rosin (library book)

Total: 18