TLC Book Tours: The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

The Death of Bees

“Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard.
Neither of them were beloved.”

And with that shocker of an opener, we jump straight into the lives of teenaged Marnie and her little sister Nelly who live in Glasgow.
Marnie is your typical angsty, self-destructive teen. She’s bright (gets As in school without studying much) but with alcoholic drug addict parents who didn’t care much for children, does the whole smoking-drinking-sex with older men thing. She’s been looking after Nelly, changing nappies at five, shopping, cleaning, laundry and all.

Nelly is a very proper 12-year-old who likes cornflakes with Coke, and Bette Davis. She plays the violin and talks like the queen of England:

“She has sentences in her head like “What the devil’s going on?” And “What on earth’s all this hullabaloo?” I’ve also heard her say “confounded” and “good golly”.”

And their parents Gene and Izzy were the kind who never showed up and never did much for their kids:

“They were never there for us, they were absent, at least now they know where they are.”

Essentially, Gene is found dead in bed and Izzy subsequently kills herself. Leaving the two girls alone.

Marnie is only a year away from being considered an adult and she’s determined not to go back to foster care, so they muddle along with things, beginning with burying the two bodies.

Their elderly neighbour Lennie soon notices their parents’ absence and reaches out to them, feeding them and taking them in. He’s lonely and enjoys cooking for someone else. He makes a good impression on Nelly:

“He smells of talcum powder, is possessed of china cups and matching saucers. How I love to hold a teacup. He uses side plates for breads and for cakes. It was all rather wonderful. Pristine. Polished.”

He really is a sweet old guy, but with his less-than-stellar past, he’s earned himself a bad reputation in the neighbourhood and is tormented by graffiti and other un-niceties. So he’s careful with the girls, never probing too much about their parents and their lives.

Somewhere along the way I wonder where O’Donnell is taking us with this story. She whacks us full on the head with that startling opener then we wander along, seeing through the eyes of enchanting and naive Nelly, brash but sweet Marnie, and loving and grandfatherly Lennie, as they make their way through the obstacles of daily life. In Nelly’s case figuring out the other girls in school and playing her violin. In Marnie’s case, drinking, smoking, partying with friends and her boyfriend. In Lennie’s case feeding the two girls and his dog, and wondering about the girls’ secrets. And in both girls’ case, their very very big secret that Lennie’s dog keeps trying to dig up.

She said she can smell rats like some dogs can smell cancer. She reckons one of them probably died in Izzy and Gene’s bedroom somewhere. If only she knew what had died in Izzy and Gene’s bedroom.

But in the end, what makes this story worthwhile are the distinct voices that tell this story. It is an honest, if at times brutal, look at life in Glasgow from the perspectives of two young girls. You can’t help liking Nelly, a 12-year-old not meant for this modern age. Marnie takes a while to get used to but she has a good heart. And Lennie is just such a sweetheart. The Death of Bees is a surprisingly good, wonderfully different coming-of-age story, an absolute delight to read.


Lisa-ODonnellLisa O’Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift. A native of Scotland, she is now a full-time writer and lives in Los Angeles with her two children. The Death of Bees is her frst novel and was the winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize.

Visit Lisa at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

tlc logo

I received a copy of this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Check out the other tour stops:

Wednesday, October 23rd: Peppermint PhD

Friday, October 25th: Booksie’s Blog

Monday, October 28th: she treads softly

Tuesday, October 29th: BoundbyWords

Wednesday, October 30th: Book-alicious Mama

Thursday, October 31st: Olduvai Reads

Monday, November 4th: Love at First Book

Tuesday, November 5th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, November 6th: red headed book child

Thursday, November 7th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, November 12th: Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, November 14th: guiltless reading

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (October 28 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.

Oh hello. Looks like it’s Monday noon already and I’m just typing this now while Wee Reader eats his lunch (Boston Market leftovers from yesterday).

Scratch that.

It’s now mid-afternoon. The kids are finally napping – both! Woohoo! – and here my post finally is.



Touch Not the Cat – Mary Stewart

Is there an actual cat in this book? I have yet to find out

Touchstone – Laurie R King
I can see why this book wasn’t too popular (her latest, Bones of Paris,
is actually the second book in this series but no one seems to know that beforehand!). It is a bit long and at moments political. Still it is Laurie R King so it’s well-written and well-researched.


Nothing at the moment. But I had some Korean seafood pancake from Jang Su Jang that we had for lunch yesterday. They still taste yummy after heating them in the toaster oven.
(I realise that the photo doesn’t have a seafood pancake in it, but these were the other dishes from the lunch – pan-fried dumplings, bulgogi and ginseng chicken soup)

Green tea.


The Good Wife season 4. Almost done.

Last week:

I read:
The Willoughbys – Lois Lowry
Lowry took me by surprise with this enchantingly odd story about old-fashioned children whose parents don’t like them very much (and vice versa). Highly recommended!

The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer
There is plenty to be awed by in this book.

Saints – Gene Luen Yang; Lark Pien
As with Boxers, a great read. Saints is the story of Four-Girl (she’s the unwanted fourth daughter and her grandfather couldn’t be bothered to name her. The number ‘four’ is unlucky in Chinese culture) who finds Christianity at a time when it was dangerous to be Christian (brought in by the ‘foreign devils’) in China.

The Death of Bees

The Death of Bees – Lisa O’Donnell
For an upcoming book tour
NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
For an upcoming book tour

What are you reading this week?

Weekend Cooking: Mastering the art of Soviet cooking by Anya von Bremzen



“Food was an abiding theme of Soviet political history, permeating every nook and cranny of our collective unconscious.”

“Food, as one academic has noted, defined how Russians endured the present, imagined the future, and connected to their past.”

And as it is for von Bremzen’s memoir of food and longing.

“Inevitably, a story about Soviet food is a chronicle of longing, of unrequited desire. So what happens when some of your most intense culinary memories involve foods you hadn’t actually tasted? Memories of imaginings, of received histories; feverish collective yearning produced by seventy years of geopolitical isolation and scarcity …”

She takes the reader from the 1910s and the last days of the czars, the 1930s and her mother’s childhood with Comrade Stalin keeping a watchful eye, the 1940s and the war, to her parents’ first meeting in 1958, when they were both queueing for something (“My parents met in a line, and their romance blossomed in yet another line, which I guess makes me the fruit of the Soviet defitsit (shortage) economy with its ubiquitous queues.” Then comes her birth in 1963, the year of one of the worst crop failures in post-Stalinist history. Then the 1970s, when she and her mother make it to America, and her First Supermarket Experience, in which she felt “entombed in the abundance” and she slowly began to realise that American food wasn’t exactly delicious. The 1980s and their visit to Russia. Then the 1990s, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and research for her cookbook. The 21st century brings Putin’s Moscow of extravagance: “not for the fainthearted and shallow-pocketed”.

It is, as you can see, quite a read.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is very much the story of  von Bremzen and her family. And with food at its centerpiece.

And here I have to admit that I’ve never actually had real Russian food. The closest I’ve had is a kind of faux Russian restaurant, run by Hainanese-Singaporean-style Russian in Singapore. It’s a place called Shashlik and it was opened in the 1980s (and still looks like it belongs in the 1980s). There’s borscht on the menu, but there’s also baked Alaska, so something tells me it’s not exactly Russian. 😛

So whether you’re familiar with Russian food or not, this makes for a delectable read, a delve into Soviet history and its food so loaded with meaning. One telling moment is when she first steps into an American supermarket and realises that food, “now drained of its social power and magic” meant little to her if she couldn’t feel the envy of others, couldn’t parade it in front of those without, and didn’t have to queue for hours to get.

It is a book that reminds me to be grateful that I have never gone without, and that I do live in this land of abundance, with all kinds of treats and goodies from different countries just a short drive away. For instance, I had scrambled eggs and baguette at home for breakfast, take-away kabobs, pita bread and salad for lunch, followed by Taiwanese shaved snow for dessert. All in half a day.

In contrast, Von Bremzen tells of her mother, aged seven, having to join a hundreds-long queue for bread, only to realise that she has lost her kartochki or ration cards, a month’s worth of coupons, irreplaceable. And having to sell her father’s suits for millet instead. A time when those living in the cities foraged for birch buds, clover, tree bark. And a pair of galoshes would buy you five ounces of bread, and a grave cost four and a half pounds of bread and 500 rubles.

Von Bremzen’s writing style is conversational and engaging, her story and her family absorbing, if occasionally a little hard to swallow with its depictions of hunger and harshness.

In case you’re wondering, there is indeed a ‘cooking’ element in this memoir. Von Bremzen and her mother reconstructed “every decade of Soviet history – from the prequel 1910s to the postscript present day – through the prism of food. Together, we’d embark on a yearlong journey unlike any other: eating and cooking our way through decade after decade of Soviet life, using her kitchen and dining room as a time machine and an incubator of memories.” And the last pages of the book feature a recipe for each decade, such as Kulebiaka, or fish, rice and mushrooms in pastry; Chanakhi, a Georgian stew of lambs, herbs and vegetables; and Blini.

Anya von Bremzen is one of the most accomplished food writers of her generation: the winner of three James Beard awards; a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure magazine; and the author of five acclaimed cookbooks, among themThe New Spanish Table, The Greatest Dishes: Around the World in 80 Recipes, and Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook (coauthored by John Welchman). She also contributes regularly to Food & Wine and Saveur and has written for The New Yorker, Departures, and the Los Angeles Times. She divides her time between New York City and Istanbul.


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

TLC Book Tours: Mrs Queen Takes the Train

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train

Many girls dream of being princesses, and I was no exception. I always thought living in a castle would be so wonderful, moat, buttresses and all. Of course I never thought of how drafty and gloomy it all could be.

Several years ago, on a dark afternoon in December, Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, Defender of the Faith, Duchess of Edinburgh, Countess of Merioneth, Baroness Greenwich, Duke of Lancaster, Lord of Mann, Duke of Normandy sat at her desk, frowning at a computer screen. The desk had once belonged to Queen Victoria. Its surface was polished but uneven, like many other pieces of furniture in Windsor Castle, so the computer keyboard wobbled when The Queen pressed on it. She folded a piece of paper into a tiny square and slipped it underneath a corner.

And perhaps how ordinary – and tedious – the life of a royal could be sometimes, no matter how many UpperCased titles there are in one’s name. And that The Queen herself could feel unhappy and out of sorts. And one day just happen to walk out of the palace, unrecognizable beneath a hoodie with skull on its back (can you imagine?), and catch a train to Scotland to see her former royal yacht.

But The Queen being The Queen, she’s never quite left on her own for very long, and a motley bunch soon joins up in search of her.

There is Shirley MacDonald, the most senior of The Queen’s dressers. She draws the bath, looks after the wardrobe (cleaning, cataloging, repairing), lays out the clothes etc. “Shirley respected The Queen, but she was not in awe of her.” Her family had long been in service to the royal family and she had grown up used to the ins and outs of royal life.

Her good friend William de Morgan, senior butler, a “connoisseur of privilege”, for whom service is his religion: “It was what he knew how to do well. He was proud of it.”

Lady Anne, from one of the country’s richest and most aristocratic families. Whose husband lost her money in the City and died of a stroke, leaving herbs widow in her forties. Her job as lady-in-waiting (which comes with a small stipend) means being a companion to The Queen in her formal duties outside the palace: replying to letters, making conversation with politicians before The Queen was ready.

Shirley is a little suspicious of Lady Anne, as she is to most ladies-in-waiting. So it doesn’t help that the two women are thrown together in this madcap search.

Luke Thomason is the equerry, whose duties include being an extra man at the dinner table, arranging transport, entertaining guests, steering visitors through the bows and curtseys: “It was not hard work. It was an acknowledgement of hard work elsewhere. Few people knew how much The Queen’s court was still a military court, and how many of the male duties in the Household were undertaken by officers whose more ordinary experience was of unglamorous, uncomfortable postings in remote corners where they had often served with distinction.” He’s ironically not fond of people in uniform and distrustful of the Secret Service, and intends to find The Queen before alerting them, thus leaving him to lead the team to boldly go where they have never been before.

Then there is Rebecca who tends to The Queen’s horses at The Mews, who prefers animals to people. And Rajiv, who works at a gourmet cheese shop, who doesn’t quite know how to handle himself with the opposite sex and has a bit of a thing for Rebecca, whom he serves in the shop when she comes looking for cheese for Elizabeth. Elizabeth the horse that is.

And it so happens that The Queen wanders into this cheese shop on her little solitary stroll. In Rebecca’s hoodie.

It is, as you can see, quite a quirky little tale.

So not only is it a great bunch of distinct characters who band together to find her, The Queen and all the ins and out of her regular days, like figuring out ‘Mr Google’ and ‘Miss Twitter’, and practising her yoga poses, and reminiscing about the good old days , makes this story such a delightful read.

It reminded me a little of Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, which Kuhn’s Queen mentions too:

“Fancy making me out to be a reader. There’s imagination for you”

One of the more fascinating aspects of this book was learning about the goings on at the palace. While this is a work of fiction, Kuhn previously authored non-fiction works about the court of Queen Victoria, and the life of Benjamin Disraeli, so I am inclined to believe that he knows what he is talking about.

And The Queen’s train trip proves to be quite the highlight of the book. She is seated at a table with a blind couple and a young man with piercings, who thinks she looks familiar but can’t quite place her. Instead he asks if she’s Helen Mirren, to which The Queen replies:

“Helen Mirren, now, she’s a beauty. Much more svelte than me,” said The Queen, patting her tummy.

“Well, you do look like her,” said the young man defensively.

Tee hee. Can you imagine?

tlc logoI received this book for review from TLC Book Tours and its publisher Harper Perennial

William KuhnWilliam Kuhn is a biographer and historian, and the author of Reading Jackie, Democratic Royalism, Henry & Mary Ponsonby, and The Politics of Pleasure. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. This is his first novel. His next book, a work of historical fiction, explores the friendship over nearly forty years of Isabella Stewart Gardner and John Singer Sargent.

Find out more about William at his website, connect with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Check out the rest of the tour:

Tuesday, October 8th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, October 9th: Lavish Bookshelf

Thursday, October 10th: Drey’s Library

Monday, October 14th: Kritters Ramblings

Tuesday, October 15th: Olduvai Reads

Wednesday, October 16th: BookNAround

Thursday, October 17th: Booktalk & More

Friday, October 18th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, October 21st: What She Read …

Tuesday, October 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, October 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, October 24th: Walking with Nora

Monday, October 28th: My Bookshelf

Tuesday, October 29th: guiltless reading

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (October 14 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.


We had a busy weekend!  We were out and about early, taking that hour-plus drive from the East Bay to the city to make use of our passes (from the library!) to the Bay Area Discovery Museum in the Marin headlands. To get there we crossed both the newly opened Bay Bridge (above, you can see the old bridge on the left) and the always lovely (and especially gorgeous on a sunny morning like today) Golden Gate (yes the sky really was that blue – no photoshopping here!)


The center has a lovely view of the bridge too. And we got to have our little picnic lunch of sandwiches, carrot sticks and homemade oatmeal raisin cookies while gazing at the bridge on a nice warm sunny day.




As well as this fascinating sky-typing by five planes flying in formation.


And when we got home, I made pizza!




The thin man – Dashiell Hammett
Ugh the things that happen in this book. Is a strange man pointing a gun at your wife? Well knock her out of course!


Hikikomori and the rental sister – Jeff Bauhaus
Hikikomori is a Japanese term for those who retreat from society, usually young men, who seek out isolation. In this case, an American, a married man who has, as we find out, lost his child. Sad.


The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer
I am kind of adoring this book and Wolitzer’s writing so far.


How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and Everywhere in Between) – Mei-Ling Hopgood

The Argentines keep their kids up late at night! The Chinese start toilet training before the age of two!


张信哲 (Zhang Xin Zhe or Jeff Chang). I used to listen to him when I was a teenager in Singapore! And I just discovered that Spotify has some of those very songs I used to sing to… nostalgic!

Apple pie! (Unfortunately not a very good one.) A Whole Foods recently opened nearby! I’ve never really shopped there (too far) so we went in to have a look and to try a few things and this pie called out to the husband. One of the first things I saw when entering was the price of organic avocados – $2.99 each!

Rooibos chai from Trader Joe’s.

Last week

I read:


The Accursed – Joyce Carol Oates
I have no idea what to say… it’s kind of bizarre, but fascinatingly so (although a little rambly at parts). It’s set in 1905 Princeton, and has among its cast of characters Woodrow Wilson, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, and demons!
I wrote:

       Library Loot (October 11 2013)     

       Books read in September 2013     


What are you reading this week?


Library Loot (October 11 2013)

 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.

Whee! Fridays at the library are back on again. We get there when it opens at 11, browse the picture books or sometimes play with the puzzles/bead mazes or just people-watch. Then it’s preschool storytime at 1130, a very well-organised session of three to four short picture books, with plenty of songs and music in between. Lots of fun.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 – Hayao Miyazaki


Unfortunately I ran out of hold space (the library limit is just 10!) so I could only get three of the Nausicaa books. The film adaptation was my first Miyazaki. And I was smitten ever since!

Nausicaä, a gentle but strong-willed, young princess, has an empathic bond with the giant insects that evolved as a result of the ecosystem’s destruction. Growing up in the Valley of the Wind, she learned to read the soul of the wind and navigates the skies in her glider. Nausicaä and her allies struggle to create peace between kingdoms torn apart by war, battling over the last of the world’s precious natural resources

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 2 – Hayao Miyazaki


Princess Nausicaä has left the Valley of the Wind to join Princess Kushana’s forces. However, Nausicaä gets separated from the Torumekian fleet and finds herself face to face with the mysterious Ohmu, who open their hearts to her. But will Nausicaä be able to interpret their urgent warning about the southern forest? And what of the war which rages all around her?

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 3 –


Nausicaa finds herself on the edge of despair as she comes to realize the full extent of the ecological destruction that’s ravaging Earth. Meanwhile, Queen Kushana of Torumekia plots to lead her troops back to the imperial capital and seize the crown. Nausicaä agrees to join Kushana and her people in the fight against the Doroks and her scheming brothers.

Touch not the cat – Mary Stewart

It was Mary Stewart reading week in September. So that’s why I kept seeing blog posts about Mary Stewart’s books! This is the first of hers I’ve ever picked up, thanks in part to Melwyk’s review in which she mentions that it has to do with a maze. I’m kind of fascinated by the cover art.


Bryony Ashley knows that her family’s grand estate is both hell and paradise; once elegant and beautiful, yet mired in debt and shrouded in shadow. Devastated by her father;s sudden strange death abroad, she is nonetheless relieved to learn the responsibility of running Ashley Court has fallen to a cousin. Still, her father’s final, dire warning about a terrible family curse haunts her days and her dream

The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer
Its colourful stripes called out to me. It was meant to be.


The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt


Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn’t share his brother’s appetite for whiskey and killing, he’s never known anything else. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm’s gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne’er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love

Boxers – Gene Luen Yang; Lark Pien
Andi’s review made me request this series immediately!



Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers – commoners trained in kung fu who fight to free China from “foreign devils.”Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils” – Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.

Saints – Gene Luen Yang; Lark Pien


China, 1898. An unwanted fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn’t even given a proper name by her family. She finds friendship—and a name, Vibiana—in the most unlikely of places: Christianity. But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie . . . and whether she is willing to die for her faith.

Sunny, Vol. 1 – Taiyo Matsumoto


The latest manga masterpiece from the Eisner Award-winning creator of Tekkonkinkreet.What is Sunny? Sunny is a car. Sunny is a car you take on a drive with your mind. It takes you to the place of your dreams.

Sunny is the story of beating the odds, in the ways that count. It’s the brand-new masterwork from Eisner Award-winner Taiyo Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most innovative and acclaimed manga artists.

My ideal bookshelf – Thessaly La Force (editor); Jane Mount (illustrator)

This post by Buried in Print reminded me that I’ve yet to check this book out.


The books that we choose to keep –let alone read– can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves. In MY IDEAL BOOKSHELF, dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most; books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many cases helped them find their way in the world. Contributors include Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Keller, Michael Chabon, Alice Waters, James Patterson, Maira Kalman, Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman, Miranda July, Alex Ross, Nancy Pearl, David Chang, Patti Smith, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers, among many others. With colorful and endearingly hand-rendered images of book spines by Jane Mount, and first-person commentary from all the contributors, this is a perfect gift for avid readers, writers, and all who have known the influence of a great book.

Over the past week I’ve also downloaded some e-books:

Hikikomori and the rental sister – Jeff Bauhaus


hikikomori, n. h kik mo ri; literally pulling inward; refers to those who withdraw from society.

Inspired by the real-life Japanese social phenomenon called hikikomori and the professional rental sisters hired to help, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister is about an erotic relationship between Thomas, an American hikikomori, and Megumi, a young Japanese immigrant hiding from her own past. The strange, insular world they create together in a New York City bedroom and with the tacit acknowledgment of Thomas s wife reveals three human hearts in crisis, but leaves us with a profound faith in the human capacity to find beauty and meaning in life, even after great sorrow. Mirroring both East and West in its search for healing, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister pierces the emotional walls of grief and delves into the power of human connection to break through to the world waiting outside.

Touchstone – Laurie R King

I always enjoy reading King’s works and Bones of Paris, while readable by itself, was part two of this series starring Harris Stuyvesant and left me wondering about the history that Bennett Grey and Harris had. So here’s the first book.


It’s eight years after the Great War shattered Bennett Grey’s life, leaving him with an excruciating sensitivity to the potential of human violence, and making social contact all but impossible. Once studied by British intelligence for his unique abilities, Grey has withdrawn from a rapidly changing world—until an American Bureau of Investigation agent comes to investigate for himself Grey’s potential as a weapon in a vicious new kind of warfare. Agent Harris Stuyvesant desperately needs Grey’s help entering a world where the rich and the radical exist side by side—a heady mix of the powerful and the celebrated, among whom lurks an enemy ready to strike a deadly blow at democracy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here, among a titled family whose servants dress in whimsical costumes and whose daughter conducts an open affair with a man who wants to bring down the government, Stuyvesant finds himself dangerously seduced by one woman and—even more dangerously—falling in love with another. And as he sifts through secrets divulged and kept, he uncovers the target of a horrifying conspiracy, and wonders if he can trust his touchstone, Grey, to reveal the most dangerous player of all …

Wee Reader’s Loot


Raise the roof – Anastasia Suen; Elwood H. Smith

Weather – Pippa Shaw

Hello baby! –  Mem Fox; Steve Jenkins

Soup day – Melissa Iwai

In the leaves –  Huy Voun Lee

Mouse went out to get a snack – Lyn Rossiter McFarland; Jim McFarland


Digger and Tom – Sebastien Braun


Ok that was a long list! What did you get from the library this week?

Books read in September 2013

Oh September, where did you go? I know that time passes and all that but September just seemed to vroom past. Maybe cos so much happened. Wee Reader started preschool! And that’s a huge step for both of us as it’s the first time he was away from my care! I think I was more nervous. He amazingly only cried once, although it took a few days before he willingly stepped into the classroom himself. And another big step for him was toilet training! He’s had some accidents but is a happy and proud underpants-wearer! Meanwhile, Wee-er Reader is a cheerful and smiley five-month-old. He drools a lot, loves to be with people, and is all ready to be moving around – he’s always kicked himself into a different position in the crib each morning.

And on a more bookish note, plenty of good reading was had this month. Lots of chilling reads for RIP VIII, and a little bit of other genres to balance things out – and make sure I can sleep at night!

Fiction (10)

Iggie’s House – Judy Blume
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4) – Agatha Christie
The wise man’s fear (Kingkiller Chronicle #2) – Patrick Rothfuss
Tales of terror from the tunnel’s mouth – Chris Priestley
Before I go to sleep – S.J. Watson
Mrs Queen takes the train – William Kuhn
Aunty Lee’s Delights: A Singaporean Mystery – Ovidia Yu
A grave talent (Kate Martinelli #1) – Laurie R King
The Cutting Season – Attica Locke
Heart-shaped box – Joe Hill

Non-fiction (2)

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing – Anya Von Bremzen
Relish: My life in the kitchen – Lucy Knisley

Total: 12

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (October 7 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.




The Accursed – Joyce Carol Oates


The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett



Kabocha bread


Green tea


The Walking Dead Season 3

Last week:

I read:

Save yourself – Kelly Braffet
A monster calls – Patrick Ness

I posted:

TLC Book Tours: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Mini reviews (September 2013)

Oh hello

Weekend Cooking: Kabocha squash three ways

What are you reading this week?

Weekend Cooking: Kabocha squash three ways

Kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin is an ugly thing. Green and often kind of knobby and gnarly on the outside. Although sometimes there are nicer looking, smoother skins (wait, am I talking squash or facials? :p).

The kabocha available at the Chinese supermarket last week were an ugly bunch. Large and ugly. I don’t usually buy such big ones but I had a hankering for oven-roasted squash!

So here it is – one kabocha squash done three ways!


Oven roasted kabocha squash, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper

(Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes until soft).

You could leave the skin on – it is edible and kind of tasty, and I guess nutritious? But the squash I bought was kind of sandy on the outside and didn’t look very tasty.


Spaghetti with garlicky sauteed kale, oven-roasted kabocha squash (as above, cut into cubes) and crispy bacon, sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Inspired by a recipe from a Donna Hay magazine.


Then a kabocha squash bread, that is, a pumpkin bread recipe (this one by Brown Eyed Baker). I substituted the canned pumpkin for kabocha (microwaved until soft and mashed), reduced the sugar to 2 1/4 cups (kabocha squash seems to me a bit sweeter than pumpkin), replaced the nutmeg (didn’t have any) with a pinch of cinnamon and all spice. No nuts because of Wee Reader’s allergy. Moist, gently sweet, and kabocha-y! Yum!

A note to those new to kabochas, it is a tough one to crack. A sharp knife, some muscle work and plenty of patience!


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

Oh hello

So my aforementioned Internet problems continued to plague us. Until just a few hours ago when a technician from our service provider figured out that a corroded cable was at fault.

Whee! The Internet is back and along with it all its many wonders and dangers (Season 3 of The Walking Dead on Netflix for instance).

But I’m still reading. A little bit.

Cos without the Internet I did quite q bit of reading and just finished A Monster Calls and I’m kind of all weepy (I did my bawling earlier) so I need something kind of cheery. Any suggestions?