The 2013 round-up post

Oh 2013, you were quite a remarkable year.

Wee Reader turned two in March. And is such a chatty, silly, sometimes ridiculously whiny when told to go to the toilet, little boy. Who will be three this year. Three! He still loves his trucks and construction vehicles. And thankfully, his books (especially those featuring trucks and construction vehicles). He loves being read to, and now wants to ‘read’ to us too.

And 2013 brought along little C, who is now a grand old 8 months old. A personality so different from his big brother – he’s easygoing and sociable and a terrible napper. And like his brother, he’s quite fond of chewing books.

So much of 2013 was about adjusting to life with a newborn and a toddler undergoing toilet training. And of course we had the brilliant idea of flying with those two young fellas halfway across the world (20 plus hours and a transit) to spend a month in Singapore with our families. The jet lag was a killer and so was the heat and humidity but everyone had a good time (after we started sleeping better).

And I did quite a bit of reading, although not as much as in 2012.

On to the numbers!

Total books read: 223

2012’s total: 227
2011’s total: 171 

More female authors than male!

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Mostly fiction (too broad a genre I know), crime/mystery (especially considering that I’ve only quite recently started reading this genre of books) and graphic novels. I really ought to read more non-fiction!

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More e-books! I am very very grateful for my Kindle Paperwhite, which accompanied me through those months of middle-of-the-night feeds.

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Most of the books I read in 2013 were library books, whether print or e-books. The ‘own books’ included books that were sent from publishers and book tours, as well as free classic e-books.

Library

I travelled to:

the Antarctic
Australia
Botswana
Burma
Canada
Chile
China
Egypt
France
Germany
Greece
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Italy
Japan
Laos
Mexico
The Middle East
Nepal
New Zealand
North Korea
Poland
Portugal
Russia
Scotland
Singapore
Senegal
Sweden
Thailand
Tibet
The United Kingdom
The United States
Vietnam

I read 20 works translated into English from:
Arabic
Chinese
French
German
Indonesian
Japanese
Norwegian
Portuguese
Spanish
Swedish

The oldest book I read was first published in:
1719 (Robinson Crusoe)

I read:
– 1 book published in the 18th century
– 6 books published in the 19th century
– 55 books published in the 20th century
– 162 books published in the 21st century (out of this, 28 books published in 2013!)

The shortest book I read was:
46 pages long (Griffin & Sabine)

The longest book I read was:
994 pages long (The wise man’s fear (Kingkiller Chronicle #2))
(Page counts via Goodreads)

New-to-me authors:
128 of them!

Memorable reads

Ah this is the part I both love and dread. Where to begin? Did I leave anything out? I frantically scrutinize my Google Docs list of books read in case my memory fails me.

namewind

 

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The Name of the Wind brought the red-headed Kvothe into my world and for that I am grateful.

I fell for Wang Anyi’s gorgeous The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, set in the longtangs of Shanghai.

Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls broke my heart into tiny pieces, as did Xinran’s Sky Burial and Karen Connelly’s The Lizard Cage, set in a Burmese prison.

It was also the year that I finally read William Goldman’s Princess Bride!

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And delved into a solid number of books written by Global Women of Colour (see my list of books and reviews here)

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I was also blown away by Carol Shields’ The Republic of Love, and Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy.

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And enjoyed the Austen-inspired magical (or glamour-filled) Glamourist HistoriesShades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass. Although with my fondness for starting new series and never quite completing them, I’ve yet to read the third book, Without a Summer.

A surprising number of horror books were read, written by the King family (Stephen and his son Joe Hill). I’m looking forward to reading more from Mr King this year, and eagerly awaiting Volume 6 of Hill’s Locke and Key series.

It was also a great year for non-fiction reading, with Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop talking; one of my favorite re-reads 84, Charing Cross Road

 

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And ah, those graphic novels, like Margaux Motin’s cute But I really wanted to be an anthropologist, the Amulet series, Craig Thompson’s beautiful Habibi, Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers and Saints, and Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My life in the kitchen. (Plus, great covers!).

Thank you 2013 for being an unforgettable year. Here’s to a 2014 of great reads!

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Books read in October and November 2013

A quick write-up of the books read in October and November!

 

October 2013

Fiction (12)
This Earth of Mankind – Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Toer is one incredible writer. His determination to write (he wasn’t allowed pen or paper when imprisoned by the Dutch but managed to compose his books orally and write them down after he was released) never fails to impress me.

Haunted (Women of the Otherworld #5) – Kelley Armstrong
The Women of the Otherworld series is always such fun, even if it’s one which has the rather bitchy Eve (who’s haunting the afterworld) as the main character.

A monster calls – Patrick Ness
Absolutely heart-wrenching. But so very good. I had to buy myself a copy.

Save yourself – Kelly Braffet
For some reason I thought this was a supernatural tale but it turned out to be a story about some very messed up families.

The Accursed – Joyce Carol Oates
Set in Princeton, involves vampires, Woodrow Wilson and Upton Sinclair. Bizzare and intriguing but ultimately too ramble-y.

The thin man – Dashiell Hammett
I finally meet Nick and Nora. And I don’t like them. There’s a lot of drinking involved, and a bizarre scene in which Nick knocks out his wife as there’a man pointing a gun at them.

The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer
It’s made many ‘best of’ lists and it’s easy to see why. Wonderful relationships and characters. I could see this being dissected in creative writing classes.

The Willoughbys- Lois Lowry
A quirky fun little read.

The Death of Bees Lisa O’Donnell
My review

Hikikomori and the rental sister – Jeff Bauhaus
Promising – a shut-in in the US, a Japanese girl helps him out – hate the way it turned out (does the author have an Asian fetish?)

NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
My review

Touch not the cat – Mary Stewart
Kind of awesome.

Graphic novels (3)
Boxers and Saints – Gene Luen Yang; Lark Pien
If I were writing a best of 2013 list (maybe I am, if I can actually get organised enough), this, or rather these two graphic novels would be on my list.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 – Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaa was the first Miyazaki film I saw and it will always have a special meaning for me.

Non-fiction (1)
How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and Everywhere in Between) -Mei-Ling Hopgood
A fun parenting read but I didn’t exactly take anything away from it.

 

Total : 16

In November I read:
Some contemporary fiction, two set in the US and two set in the UK

The House Girl – Tara Conklin
The Middlesteins – Jami Attenburg
Longbourn – Jo Baker
Letters from Skye – Jessica Brockmole

Some crime/mystery books, one by a writer I already love (Touchstone is the prequel of Bones of Paris), and the other a new-to-me writer whose series I’m keen to follow
Touchstone – Laurie R King
The last policeman – Ben H Winters

Some fantasy/sci-fi. The first book of which I quite enjoyed, the imagining of countless parallel Earths, on which no humans ever existed, and those who ‘Step’ to discover them. The second book continued the story, and was still quite a good read, especially seeing from the non-western point-of-view, of sorts
The long earth – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The long war (The Long Earth #2) – Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett

A little bit of YA and children’s books. Kate DiCamillo has got to be one of my favorite children’s authors. Too bad I only started reading her as an adult! Shannon Hale is always a fun read too, with wonderful female characters. I wasn’t all that fond of Every Day.
Princess Academy – Shannon Hale
Every day – David Levithan
Flora and Ulysses: the illustrated adventures – Kate diCamillo and KG Campbell
The tale of Despereaux – Kate DiCamillo

The sole non-fiction read was a little startling. Piper Kerman’s story is quite different from what the TV series makes it out to be (PLEASE NOTE THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR BOTH BOOK AND SHOW IF YOU READ ON). She is far more likable in her book, as is her fiancé, and her ex only makes an appearance at the end of the book. She doesn’t get sent to SHU and there is a lot less backstory to the many fellow inmates than in the TV series. 
Orange is the new black: my year in a woman’s prison – Piper Kerman

Total for November 2013: 13

Read in 2013

1. Beautiful Children – Charles Bock
2. Three Strong Women – Marie Ndiaye (Global Women of Colour Challenge)
3. The Uninvited Guests – Sadie Jones (TLC Book Tour)
4. The Messenger (The Giver, #3) – Lois Lowry
5. Under heaven – Guy Gavriel Kay (What’s in a Name Challenge)
6. The cookbook collector – Allegra Goodman (What’s in a Name Challenge)
7. Scent of darkness – Margot Berwin ( TLC Book Tour)
8. Obernewtyn – Isobelle Carmody
9. Sold – Patricia McCormick
10. If you lived here, I’d know your name: News from small-town Alaska – Heather Lende
11. 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff (Read for Postal Reading Challenge)
12. The Worst Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry-Garrard
13. Water baby – Ross Campbell
14. Gen13. Superhuman like you – Adam Warren
15. Waterwise – Joel Orff
16. The Umbrella Academy Vol 1: Apocalypse Suite – Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba
17. Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale – Belle Yang (Read for Global Women Challenge)
18. American Widow – Alissa Torres
19. Habibi – Craig Thompson
20. The song of everlasting sorrow: a novel of Shanghai – Wang Anyi (Global Women of Color challenge)
21. The Secret of Nightingale Palace – Dana Sachs
22. The mysterious Benedict Society – Trenton Lee Stewart
23. Bel-Ami – Guy de Maupassant
24. Happy birthday Turke!: A Kayankaya thriller – Jakob Arjouni
25. Lost souls – Poppy Z Brite
26. The house I loved – Tatiana de Rosnay (Postal Reading Challenge)
27. Malinche – Laura Esquivel (Global Women of Color challenge)
28. The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy
29. The magician’s elephant – Kate DiCamillo
30. Stories: All-New Tales – Neil Gaiman (ed)
31. Sky Burial: an epic love story of Tibet – Xinran (Global Women of Color challenge)
32. The princess bride – William Goldman
33. Zeina – Nawal El Saadawi (Global Women of Color challenge)
34. The best exotic Marigold Hotel – Deborah Moggach
35. The red badge of courage – Stephen Crane
36. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl – Li Yiyun
37. Industrial magic (Women of the Otherworld #4) – Kelley Armstrong
38. Empress – Shan Sa(Global Women of Color challenge)
39. Maisie Dobbs – Jacqueline Winspear
40. Thirty Three Teeth – Colin Cotterill
41. Thunderhead Underground Falls – Joel Orff
42. The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) – Kazu Kibuishi
43. Daybreak – Brian Ralph
44. The Stonekeeper’s Curse (Amulet #2) – Kazu Kibuishi
45. Red scarf girl – Jiang Ji-li (Global Women of Color challenge)
46. A spy in the house (The Agency #1) – Y.S. Lee (Global Women of Color challenge)
47. Horseradish: Bitter truths you can’t avoid – Lemony Snicket
48. Real World – Natsuo Kirino (Global Women of Color challenge)
49. The daughter of time – Josephine Tey
50. Red Poppies – Alai
51. Monday Mornings – Sanjay Gupta
52. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
53. Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – Susan Cain
54. The Thief – Fuminori Nakamura
55. Feed – MT Anderson
56. Revenge – Yoko Ogawa (Global Women of Color challenge)
57. More baths, less talking – Nick Hornby
58. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster – Jon Krakauer
59. The last letter from your lover – Jojo Moyes
60. The 8:55 to Baghdad – Andrew Eames
61. The Bird King: an Artist’s Notebook – Shaun Tan
62. Griffin & Sabine – Nick Bantock (Postal Reading Challenge)
63. Beautiful ruins – Jess Walter
64. The boy in the striped pajamas – John Boyne
65. Anthropology – Dan Rhodes
66. Houdini: The Handcuff King – Jason Lutes
67. The squirrel mother – Megan Kelso
68. Witness: one of the great correspondents of the twentieth century tells her story – Ruth Gruber
69. But I really wanted to be an anthropologist – Margaux Motin
70. Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America – Firoozeh Dumas (Global Women of Color challenge)
71. A doll’s house – Henrik Ibsen
72. Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1) – Dan Simmons
73. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me – Ellen Forney
74. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
75. Three Shadows – Cyril Pedrosa
76. Wide Awake (Fairest #1) – Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges
77. Regeneration – Pat Barker
78. A prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
79. Mirror of the World: A New History of Art – Julian Bell
80. The year of pleasures – Elizabeth Berg
81. Birds of a feather (Maisie Dobbs #2) – Jacqueline Winspear
82. Alif the Unseen – G. Willow Wilson
83. Late For Tea At The Deer Palace: The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Family – Tamara Chalabi (Global Women of Color challenge)
84. Nick and Norah’s infinite playlist – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
85. The elephant’s journey – Jose Saramago
86. What was lost – Catherine O’Flynn
87. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
88. Sabine’s Notebook – Nick Bantock
89. Heidegger’s glasses – Thaisa Frank
90. Tithe (Modern Faerie Tales #1) – Holly Black
91. Have mother, will travel – Claire and Mia Fontaine (TLC Book Tour)
92. Dreaming in Hindi – Katherine Russell Rich
93. The eye in the door – Pat Barker
94. Murder in Mesopotamia – Agatha Christie
95. Dark lord of Derkholm (Derkholm #1) – Dianna Wynne Jones
96. The Ghost Road – Pat Barker
97. A different sky – Meira Chand (Global Women of Color challenge)
98. The magic toyshop – Angela Carter
99. Travels with Charley: In Search of America – John Steinbeck
100. The republic of love – Carol Shields
101. Maya’s Notebook – Isabelle Allende (Global Women of Color challenge and TLC Book Tour)
102. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #1) – Alexander McCall Smith
103. Blue nights – Joan Didion
104. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain – Oliver Sacks
105. Swamplandia! – Karen Russell
106. Fear of flying – Erica Jong
107. The thorn birds – Colleen McCullough
108. The prince of tides – Pat Conroy
109. The red chamber – Pauline A Chen (Global Women of Color challenge)
110. The Paris wife – Paula McLain
111. Flight behavior – Barbara Kingsolver (TLC Book Tour)
112. Graceling – Kristin Cashore
113. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson
114. Away – Amy Bloom
115. The space between us – Thrity Umrigar (Global Women of Color challenge)
116. Among others – Jo Walton
117. To the people, food is heaven: Stories of food and life in a changing China – Audra Ang
118. Black boy – Richard Wright
119. Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet – Jamie Ford
120. Girls in white dresses – Jennifer Close
121. Shades of milk and honey – Mary Robinette Kowal
122. Dragonflight – Anne McCaffrey
123. The leftovers – Tom Perrotta
124. Tales of the jazz age – F Scott Fitzgerald
125. MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search For A New Best Friend – Rachel Bertsche
126. The Best American Travel Writing 2012 – Jason Wilson (Editor), William T. Vollmann (Editor)
127. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
128. My life in France – Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme
129. Speaking from among the bones – Alan Bradley
130. Breasts: A natural and unnatural history – Florence Williams
131. The end of your life book club – Will Schwalbe
132. Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
133. The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer
134. Jane and Prudence – Barbara Pym
135. A letter of Mary (Mary Russell #3) – Laurie R King
136. Cod: A biography of the fish that changed the world – Mark Kurlansky
137. Glamour in glass – Mary Robinette Kowal
138. The Last Council (Amulet #4) – Kazu Kibuishi
139. The Cloud Searchers (Amulet, #3) – Kazu Kibuishi
140. The girl with the dragon tattoo – Stieg Larsson
141. A natural history of the senses – Diane Ackerman
145. Tiny beautiful things: advice on life and love from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed
146. The wind in the willows – Kenneth Grahame
147. Price of salt – Patricia Highsmith
148. The whole fromage – Kathe Lisson
149. The orphan master’s son – Adam Johnson
150. Queen of the air: A true story of love and tragedy at the circus – Dean Jensen
151. Five Star Billionaire – Tash Aw (Reading Southeast Asia in August)
152. The strange files of Fremont Jones (Fremont Jones #1) – Dianne Day
153. Loki’s wolves – K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
154. Bangkok 8 (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #1) – John Burdett (Reading Southeast Asia in August)
155. Crazy rich asians – Kevin Kwan (Reading Southeast Asia in August)
156. The bones of Paris (Harris Stuyvesant #2) – Laurie R King
157. Disco for the departed (Dr Siri Paiboun #3) – Colin Cotterill
158. Fire from heaven – Mary Renault
159. Harriet the spy – Louise Fitzhugh
160. The Headmaster’s wager – Vincent Lam
161. Case histories – Kate Atkinson
162. The name of the wind (The Kingkiller chronicle #1) – Patrick Rothfuss
163. Human remains – Elizabeth Haynes (TLC Book Tour)
164. Raising a Reader: A Mother’s Tale of Desperation and Delight – Jennie Nash
165. The Lizard Cage – Karen Connelly (Reading Southeast Asia in August)
166. The rose garden – Susanna Kearsley
167. Wildwood – Colin Meloy
168. Iggie’s House – Judy Blume
169. Aunty Lee’s Delights: A Singaporean Mystery – Ovidia Yu (Reading Southeast Asia in August)
170. A grave talent (Kate Martinelli #1) – Laurie R King
171. The Cutting Season – Attica Locke (TLC Book Tour)
172. Relish: My life in the kitchen – Lucy Knisley
173. Heart shaped box – Joe Hill
174. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4) – Agatha Christie
175. The wise man’s fear (Kingkiller Chronicle #2) – Patrick Rothfuss
176. Tales of terror from the tunnel’s mouth – Chris Priestley
177. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing – Anya Von Bremzen
178. Before I go to sleep – S.J. Watson
179. Mrs Queen takes the train – William Kuhn
180. This Earth of Mankind – Pramoedya Ananta Toer
181. Haunted (Women of the Otherworld #5) – Kelley Armstrong
182. A monster calls – Patrick Ness
183. Save yourself – Kelly Braffet
184. The Accursed – Joyce Carol Oates
185. The thin man – Dashiell Hammett
186. How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and Everywhere in Between) – Mei-Ling Hopgood
187. Boxers – Gene Luen Yang; Lark Pien
188. Saints – Gene Luen Yang; Lark Pien
189. The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer
190. The Willoughbys – Lois Lowry
191. The Death of Bees – Lisa O’Donnell (TLC Book Tour)
192. Hikikomori and the rental sister – Jeff Bauhaus
193. NOS4A2 – Joe Hill (TLC Book Tour)
194. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 – Hayao Miyazaki
195. Touch not the cat – Mary Stewart
196. My ideal bookshelf – Thessaly La Force (editor); Jane Mount (illustrator)
197. Touchstone – Laurie R King
198. The last policeman – Ben H Winters
199. The House Girl – Tara Conklin
200. The Middlesteins – Jami Attenburg
201. The long earth – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
202. Princess Academy – Shannon Hale
203. Every day – David Levithan
204. Orange is the new black: my year in a woman’s prison – Piper Kerman
205. The long war (The Long Earth #2) – Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett
206. Flora and Ulysses: the illustrated adventures – Kate diCamillo and KG Campbell
207. Longbourn – Jo Baker
208. The tale of Despereaux – Kate DiCamillo
209. Letters from Skye – Jessica Brockmole
210. The jungle book – Rudyard Kipling
211. The Alchemyst (The secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel #1) – Michael Scott
212. It’s not the end of the world – Judy Blume
213. The Museum at Purgatory – Nick Bantock
214. Foreign student – Susan Choi
215. The elegance of the hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
216. Last night at the lobster – Stewart O’Nan
217. A great and terrible beauty – Libba Bray
218. Enna Burning – Shannon Hale
219. Guarding the moon: a mother’s first year – Francesca Lia Block
220. A rogue by any other name (The rules of scoundrels #1) – Sarah McLean
221. Consider the fork: how technology transforms the way we cook and eat – Bee Wilson
222. Adrian Mole: the prostrate years – Sue Townsend
223. Tell the wolves I’m home – Carol Rifka Brunt
224. At the mouth of the river of bees – Kij Johnson
225. Joyland – Stephen King
226. Imaginary Friends – Melanie Lee

Of childhood libraries and Imaginary Friends

So among the joys of parenthood is rediscovering childrens’ books (other joys include being up before six but that’s a different story).

While Wee Reader hangs out at the tables (in our library there are plenty of wooden puzzles and bead mazes to play with – and in any other library, other kids to observe and books to browse), I browse the shelves and shelves of board books and picture books. And there are plenty to delight the adult reader!

When we were back in Singapore, I made sure to introduce Wee Reader to my childhood library, the Queenstown library, the inside of which has been renovated but it’s still the same two-story building, built in 1970, the first full-time Branch library (once a solemn blue, now a very happening orange!) along Margaret Drive. This is quite a feat in forever-changing, always-a-construction-site Singapore.

The rest of the neighbourhood is a different story altogether, with the polyclinic now a dormitory for construction workers, the old cinema and bowling alley all long gone. And sadly, so is the hawker center that used to hold food stalls that sold some yummy duck rice, chicken rice and fishball noodles!

But the library still stolidly stands on (at least for now). And for that I am grateful. For it is a part of Singapore that I am truly fond of.

It’s been many years since I’ve patronized the children’s section of the Queenstown library. Long gone are the days when I would have to open all the books to the front pages for the librarian to stamp a date. These days, the borrowing machines are so smoothly high-tech that the books don’t even need to be opened or barcode-scanned at all, thanks to RFID. And I was delighted to learn that the borrowing limit has been upped from FOUR (yes, that meant that I always carried around other people’s library cards, so that I could borrow 12 instead of FOUR) to SIXTEEN.

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But back to the picture books. I wish I were a child today, there are so very many board books and picture books to suit every interest and theme. My little fellow zooms in for the vehicle/construction books – trains, planes, trucks, cement mixers, bulldozers? That’s his ideal book!

(In case you have a like-minded toddler, Wee Reader and I would highly recommend Demolition by Sally Sutton, Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, and B is for Bulldozer by June Sobel, among others. Perhaps that would make a good future post!)

imaginary

So it was with some delight that I read Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us, written by my friend Melanie Lee and illustrated by Sheryl Khor. While not a picture book, its short tales and cheerful artwork make for a fun visual read.

This e-book takes us from shiny Apples to Zealous Zithers, with even a Tenacious Teabag in between.

I enjoyed the Singaporean flavour of it, with Dan the Durian Man looking for love among the fruits.

And sniggered as I recalled being a primary school student who enjoyed poking pens into erasers, leaving them looking “diseased with small black dots all over”, just like in E is for Elly Eraser, who finds that life in the Pencilbox isn’t looking so great anymore, thanks to Loratio Liquid Paper.

But perhaps the most apt tale for me these days is S is for Sheila the Sleepy Salmon, where after the school is attacked, Sheila finds herself teaching the young ones to rest in order to live another day.

The moral of the story: “In the hustle and bustle of life, we could all do with more sleep.”

With two kids under the age of three in the house, I could not agree more.

Imaginary Friends is an e-book available on Kobo

MELANIE LEE is a writer and editor in Singapore. Her work has been published in Travel + Leisure (Southeast Asia), Yahoo! Singapore and TODAY newspaper, amongst others. She has also co-authored a spiritual book, Quiet Journeys: Finding Stillness in Chaos, and edited heritage and architecture coffee-table books. For more information, please visit her website at melanielee.sg

SHERYL KHOR is a writer and self-taught illustrator in Singapore. Trained in Creative Arts, with experience in theatre, web and fashion design, she now hones her skills with crafting sessions at home with her two young children. She also designs for bricolageboutique.com, an online fashion store. 

Weekend Cooking: Season’s Eatings!

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Brussel sprouts with bacon and brown butter, beer-glazed ham with pineapple sauce; Hasselback potatoes; Sweet Potato Casserole; Pear Bread Pudding with Salted butter caramel sauce

Hello! How has your holiday season been? Hope you’ve been staying warm (yes, even in hot and humid Singapore, which saw cooler than usual temperatures, to everyone’s relief I imagine) and enjoying good food and good company.

My blog’s been lagging behind I know! Who knew that life with an 8-month-old and an almost 3-year-old (in march!) could be that hectic (haha). What? No leisurely afternoons spent sipping tea in a quiet kitchen? No mornings spent sleeping in? A clean toy-free family room? No wailing and crying to be heard? All the time in the world to read and write? :p

I jest. Life is an amusement park, a rollercoaster, full of tears and laughter, spilled milk and sticky tables. Unlike spotless Disneyland I clean when I can (as in barely) and put the dust out of my mind when I can’t, battle with a toddler constantly trying to assert his independence, soothe an easygoing baby learning that not everything can be put into his mouth (and in contrast not liking when I try to put puréed stuff in his mouth). I’m typing this at 545 am. On the phone. In bed. On Sunday. That is how we roll.

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Well at least my stomach is contented. It has had many days of cuisines from all over. Sashimi and homemade sushi on Sunday. Monday saw us enjoying hotpot with two kinds of stock, three types of mushrooms, four types of veg and just one very amazing shabu-shabu style thinly cut beef from Mitsuwa supermarket. Tuesday being Christmas Eve we had steak, garlic bread, grilled mushrooms, spinach and kale salad, sausages for dinner. And my first attempt at tiramisu (I used the recipe from Pioneer Woman as it had the most coffee and alcohol content, but didn’t add the cream to the mascarpone. It was really sinful and really boozy! Yum.)

Christmas Day was pizza day, where I attempted a kabocha squash (if you remember, I’m quite fond of kabocha) and bacon pizza (verdict: very good, but would consider adding some goat cheese or something for an additional kick) and a more typical salami and mushroom pizza. Pizza dough and sauce recipe via Smitten Kitchen although my oven takes a bit longer than in the recipe.

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The husband and I celebrated our fifth anniversary (5! Imagine that!) at a lovely Italian restaurant in Redwood City. Prosciutto, a rose brut, risotto, macchiato. It was nice to have a meal by ourselves for a change. And such a delicious one at that.

On Saturday, a big post-Christmas lunch to thank our friends and neighbours who kindly sent us and picked us from the airport (an hour’s drive each way) and kept an eye on the house while we were away in Singapore for a month. My mother-in-law made a beer-braised ham with pineapple sauce, I put together some sweet potato casserole (another first), Brussels sprouts with bacon and brown butter, Hasselback potatoes,and a pear bread pudding with a salted butter caramel sauce.

Happy new year! May 2014 be full of good reads, good eats and other good things!

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Brownie rollout cookies; Chai shortbread (I used the Martha Stewart Earl Grey recipe, didn’t have Earl Grey but had plenty of chai); Tiramisu (minus the heavy cream)

 

 

weekendcooking

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

The baby’s napping and the boy is….

In the guest room being entertained by the grandparents. He had a busy morning at the open gym session where he was in the bouncy house and slide non-stop. It was $5 well spent.

Then we were off to the diner next door, where breakfast is an all-day affair and so we shared pancakes, eggs and some sad limp bacon (crispy is the only way to go!).

Right now, beef stew is in the slow cooker filling the house with all kinds of wonderful smells (I’ve added some bay leaves, star anise, a tiny piece of cinnamon bark, some all-spice and cayenne pepper, plus some L&P sauce and soya sauce – not your typical recipe but I’m about experimenting).

I should be reading but I’m sitting at the computer syncing my phone anyway so figured I might as well stop into wordpress and type out a quick hello to all of you, and hope your week goes well!

I am currently enjoying Consider the Fork: how technology transforms the way we cook and eat, which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen. It made me see my KitchenAid mixer in a different light yesterday as I turned it on and let it whisk egg whites into an airy dream.

And just last night I finished reading A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean, the first book in her Rules of Scoundrels series. Now I’m not much of a romance reader. And in fact would usually turn up my flat nose at anything that has the faintest whiff of ‘romance’, you know, like bulging biceps, ripped bodices, long manes, heaving bosoms and that sort. But I remember reading some good reviews about MacLean’s series (here’s one), and was curious. And it was in a way, oddly satisfying. It was at times sweet, at others, well, dirty. Sure I got irritated by the whole “I want you but I really shouldn’t want you” thing but on the whole, it was rather entertaining. And the second book sounds like it might be even better – a bespectacled, intellectual heroine!

On the TV front (or Netflix front), I’ve been watching the Carrie Diaries. I’m many years past the targeted age group (Carrie Bradshaw is a high schooler!) but it’s been some fun frivolous viewing so far. The things she gets up to as a teenager! Her seemingly normal dad! Her multiethnic friends, where did they all go when she grew up?

And oh it’s nearly Christmas isn’t it? Well our Christmas tree is finally up. The presents are waiting to be wrapped. Waiting because it turns out I have no more sticky tape. The cookies are still in the form of flour, eggs, sugar and butter. And I reckon that my baking goals are far too ambitious this year but we will see how it goes! It isn’t the holiday season till the house smells of cookies! Yesterday it smelled of a mocha cake with coffee buttercream icing but that’s a different, albeit tantalizing, smell all together. The Christmas music has been playing thanks to the husband and his fondness for carols (although every time I am driving I make sure to switch away from that darn station that plays nothing but carols). So I suppose we are relatively ready for the season. I hope yours is going well too.

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Oh Singapore

So here’s the main reason I haven’t been blogging. I was away. As in physically away from the computer.

Ok that’s not really the truth.

The Macbook Air got dragged along in our carry-ons to Singapore. With five of us flying there (two kids, the husband, my mum who had been visiting us, and I), we had plenty of things to carry on board the plane and as we are a very gadget-y family, plenty of electronics: iPad, iPhones, Macbook Air, husband’s work computer, his Nexus, my Kindle. But with a toddler and an infant, there’s so much else that fills the bags, allergy-free snacks (Singapore Airlines while accommodating nut allergies with nut-free kids meals, does serve nuts on board, so in order not to risk it, we had to pack snacks galore, from crackers to cookies to applesauce), baby formula, changes of clothes for everyone, toys, diapers and all kinds of other amenities for two young travelers. It was a long long flight after all (14+ hours from SF to Hong Kong, a quick transit – same plane but having to reboard and go through customs etc again, then nearly 4 hours to Singapore)!

Luckily it being a 1am flight (the choice was taking off at 1am or arriving in Singapore at 1am!), things went pretty well. Wee Reader was up way past bedtime, all excited about the flight, but conked off for quite a few hours not long after taking off. Wee-er Reader didn’t do too badly either, dozing off in the rather roomy bassinet, squawking now and then when he wanted to be held, but he’s not the screaming type, thank goodness.

Well we made it to hot muggy Singapore. The doors of the airport glided open and bam, we stepped into the sauna that is Singapore.

Heat and humidity aside, it was good to be back. To see my parents and sister, to meet up with friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in two years. To see the numerous changes in this constantly changing, constantly moving city-state. To marvel at the traffic, the malls that seem to have popped up everywhere (unfortunately with mostly the same stores), the construction sites and heavy machinery that my boy couldn’t help but stare and point out: “cement mixer! excavator!”.

We were all well fed, from my mum’s homemade quiche and kong bah, my uncle’s cold crab, my mother-in-law’s kueh pie tee, to Hainanese chicken rice, roti prata, horfun, orhnee. And plenty of flat whites for me.

Of course there were foods I missed out on – Tong Heng egg tarts, muahchee, kueh tutu, where were you?

We hit the touristy spots: the zoo, the Bird Park, Sentosa and its gorgeous brand spanking new aquarium, the Botanics.

But it was the simplest things that Wee Reader marveled at: double decker buses, the MRT trains, playing with the dog, and thunderstorms (we live in California, it seldom rains and never do we hear thunder).

So as you can imagine, the computer was seldom turned on, but the Kindle was put to very good use (thank you Alameda County library system for having Kindle e-books!). And hopefully I will have a post about what I read soon.

Oh and I bought books! Singapore is expensive compared to the US, not just cars, houses, food, clothing, but books are too. Still I made sure to visit bookstores and get my hands on some local works for myself and the kids. And plenty of kids books in Chinese too. It was a sizable haul! Friends and family added to the kids’ book collection!

All holidays must come to an end and it has been a struggle getting into a routine, especially with a baby still on Singapore time and waking several times at night! Wee Reader took a couple of days to adjust and is still a bit unhappy about sleeping by himself again (bedtime is a bit of a struggle). And we are all trying to get used to the dry and cold (yes, the Bay Area doesn’t really get THAT cold but it’s a huge change from temps in the higher 30s C!). Creams are smothered, baths taken to keep the eczema at bay.

And things are still waiting to be put away.

It has been that kind of week.

So while I tidy up my life and ignore this blog again, here are pictures!

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Wee Reader digs for gold at East Coast Park

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A very boozy sundae at Udders (Orange Chocolate Bitters is the flavour for me! Dark chocolate spiked with triple sec!). A lovely flat white at Melbourne-originated Brunetti. And a chocolate souffle from Bakerzin.

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We had all kinds of sushi, sashimi, seafood! Perfect for the hot climate.

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The number of indoor playgrounds (top left) in Singapore is mind-boggling. Just two years ago, I don’t think I remember hearing about any! And they aren’t exactly cheap, especially on weekends when the rate can be $20 for 2 hours (this small one at Changi City Point was I think $16 for unlimited play on a weekday). But with Singapore’s heat and humidity, and constant rain, sometimes indoor playgrounds are your best bet for entertaining a young one.

Top right: The fish tanks at Ah Yat Seafood at Turf City. Pick your seafood, watch them catch it, pay for it, and head back to your table for some tasty fresh treats. The prawns were simply cooked but their freshness just shone. Brilliant!

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The hipster enclave at Tiong Bahru. Old-school buildings, new-school shops (with prices that fit today’s pricey economic climate).

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Books Actually in Tiong Bahru. Pretty pretty books for hipster shelves. But they do have also publish local works via Math Paper Press. Of course the books they publish are good lookers too.

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The SEA aquarium in Resorts World Sentosa was just gorgeous. While I will always be fond of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, for being one of the first aquariums to blow my mind, this brand-new aquarium in Singapore is just beyond compare. From the way they flow the pedestrian traffic through the building, to their perfectly clear glass, to the many lovely displays both of the sea-creature kind and the historical sea routes kind, it was an exceptional visit.

The lories were part of our trip to the Jurong Bird Park.

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Ah the wonders of Singapore food. Top left: kueh pie tee (a crunchy little shell filled with a mixture of cooked daikon and carrots, topped with chili sauce and sweet sauce, prawn and coriander. A mix of spicy, sweet, savoury and herby). Top right: Starfruit! I miss tropical fruits like mangosteen, starfruits etc. Bottom left: Orh Nee. A sweet sticky paste made of yam, coconut milk. This one has pumpkin and gingko nuts. Bottom right: Ang ku kueh. The sticky exterior is made of rice flour. And the filling inside can be peanut or mung bean or red bean.

Since this is a rather food-related post, I guess it works for a Weekend Cooking post too.

weekendcooking

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