Severance by Ling Ma

What exactly was I expecting from this book? Yet another dystopian tale. And yes there was that (this thing called Shen Fever has affected the world) but there was also so much more. There was a story about immigrants – a couple from Fujian province who leave their young daughter to be raised by grandparents while they try to find a better life in the US, bringing her over only a few years later. I was excited – Fujian province, that’s where some of my family is from!

But also I was intrigued by how this woman continues to work at her job in New York City as the world crumbles around her.

And the unusual epidemic, in which the “fevered” go through the motions of their daily lives over and over. For instance, a woman sets the table and her family raises their utensils to “eat” then she clears the table and it all begins again. And yet there are subtle differences with each repetition.

There is a kind of coldness to the book and yet it is irresistible and I am drawn to this woman and the cult of sorts she finds herself in.

A strange and intriguing read.

It’s Monday and it’s the last day of 2018!

Here’s wishing you all a very wonderful new year ahead!

We tried a new ramen place. Quite tasty and with great service. May return.

My mum flew back to Singapore on Saturday morning. It was great to have her with us for over a month!

Did Korean fusion takeout for our last dinner with my mum before she flew off. She loves Korean food. That large green thing is a kimchi-bulgogi burrito. Looks weird but so good!






Had leftover kimchi fried rice for dinner




I recently used up the last of my bolognese stash – every now and then I cook up a large pot and freeze portions for those nights where I’m too tired or can’t think of what to cook or “crap, I forgot to go to the supermarket“. So I’m going to be cooking up a bolognese storm!

Also fried noodles with green beans because I bought a bag of green beans from Costco and it’s a big bag. I’ll probably cook it with thinly sliced carrots and tofu.



Last week:

I read:

About a third or more of the way through, this book just grew on me and I didn’t want to stop reading it. Luckily I had the excuse of a cold (yup I caught a cold while on vacation) so I could stay in and read while the family went out on a hike! So yes there are widows and yes they’re writing erotica but it was also how these women were fighting to better themselves, to be seen as more than just widows, a book full of heart




I posted:

Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park

#AMonthOfFaves – This is How I Read

#AMonthOfFaves – Fave Book Covers

Library Loot December 26 to January 2

#AMonthOfFaves – Challenges and Goals


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date


Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park

We just returned from a stay in Palm Springs and it was such a change from the Bay Area.

We did some sightseeing, lots of relaxing and the kids were in the pool every single day.

Golden Barrel Cactus at The Living Desert zoo.

We had several ice creams at Lappert’s including Dole Whip and an amazing flavour called Kauai Pie, which is coffee ice cream with coconut flakes and macadamia nuts.

The vacation rental was quite lovely and had a nice pool and hot tub!

The best part of our trip was getting to Joshua Tree National Park. As you may know, the government shutdown meant that the National Parks employees weren’t working, but the locals were devotedly helping maintain restrooms and taking out the trash!

Facilities aside, it was a chilly and windy morning out there in the desert. We started from the northern entrance near the visitors center and slowly wandered our way down south, stopping to climb boulders and take lots of photos. It was amazing to see the Joshua trees and all the strange rocks and boulders around, many of which had rock climbers ascending them.

As we made our way further south, the landscape changed quite a bit as we left the higher elevation Mojave Desert and entered the lower Colorado Desert. No more strangely cantilevered boulders and magical Joshua Trees, instead grasslands and Cholla Cactus.

#AMonthOfFaves – This is How I Read



A Month of Faves is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge

FRI. | Dec. 28 – #AMonthofFaves This Is How We Read and Blogged This Year 

Ah the end of the year post. Always fun to look back and see what I’ve read. The prompt today asks for blogging stuff as well, but this is already a long enough post (and with pie charts!) so it’s just all about the books. 

I’ve done these year-end summaries for a few years now, you can check out what I was up to in 201720162015, 2014, and 2013.

2018 total: 226

2017’s total: 216

2016’s total: 234
2015’s total: 286
2014’s total: 217
2013’s total: 223
2012’s total: 227
2011’s total: 171 

The shortest book I read was just 35 pages long (Bourbon, Sugar,Grace), the longest book I read was 928 pages (Drums of Autumn).

My reading has taken me around the world: Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, UK, US, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and to many imaginaries spaces and places. 


Ugh! This statistic became even more skewed towards books I borrowed. I mean I love my library but I really ought to start reading more of the books I own!!

I tend to read more books by women writers and that continues to be the case. 


These figures for diversity are about similar to last year’s. So not much improvement there! I’m hoping for at least an even spread next year!

Surprisingly, I read more new-to-me authors. Last year the numbers were more even. 

Genre is a tough one. I mean, comics isn’t exactly a genre, nor is short stories. But well, that’s what I’ve decided works for me! This year, I’ve tried to be a bit more specific when it comes to genres. One change for me is I’ve been reading more romance!

I definitely am doing a lot more e-reading nowadays. It is just so much more convenient! I do visit the library every week but my tote bags are filled to the brim with children’s books and so I am often reluctant to add more weight to it. Sometimes I consider bringing a suitcase instead…

Not surprising at all. More specifically, I read 40 books published in 2018.

And that was how my reading year went. How was your reading year?

#AMonthOfFaves – Fave Book Covers


A Month of Faves is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge


WED. | Dec. 26 – Favorite Book Covers From Our Reads This Year – what did you like about each one?


There were so many beautiful covers to pick from!

I read some pretty awesome YA novels and just look at these covers! (Just ignore that ‘Love Simon’ “sticker” on Leah)

It was also a great year for adult fiction covers

I quite like covers that Pushkin Press has been putting out for their Japanese books like Ms Ice Sandwich. And I adore this reissue of Two Serious Ladies by Ecco.

In some cases, the cover was beautiful but the book itself was just so-so. I love the vibrant colours of The Music Shop but felt that the book itself lacked vibrancy. The cover of Hazel Wood is dark and intriguing and the story was kind of almost there but not quite.

#AMonthOfFaves – Challenges and Goals

A Month of Faves is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge

MON. | Dec. 24 – #AMonthofFaves Challenges and Goals –  Reading challenges, personal goals, resolutions – how did you do? What are your goals for this month, this season or next year. Check in here.

Happy Christmas Eve everyone!!

Every year I set myself a Goodreads challenge. It tends to hover around the 200 mark. By the way, I do read quite a few comics each year and they tend to be quick reads, so I do make it past 200 books each year.

And I will continue to keep my Goodreads challenge around that mark for 2019.

One goal I had in mind for next year is to read a book in translation by a woman writer each month. I have tried to be more conscious about reading more women writers, more books in translation, more writers of colour this year, but I think I’d like to be more definite about it in 2019.

I want to write more reviews, even if it’s a really short one like the ones I do on Litsy and Instagram. And so with that in mind, I have signed up for some reading challenges. And hopefully I actually finish them in 2019!!

Also, in this post, I talked about some challenges that I have signed for next year. 

New year, new challenges! Hope you all have a wonderfully bookish 2019!

#AMonthOfFaves – On the Screen

A Month of Faves is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge

FRI. Dec 21 – #AMonthofFaves On the Screen – What did you watch this year that you absolutely loved and did you see any movies inspired by books you’ve read – what did you think.

I am more of a TV watcher than a movie watcher these days. But here I should also add that by TV I really mean whatever is available on Netflix and Amazon Video. Because we don’t have cable TV or satellite or whatever else one can get TV from.

So here are some shows that I have been absolutely addicted to this year! (Yeah I realize that I’m quite off-topic this time 😂)

Terrace House: Opening New Doors

Oh man I love this show. At first I didn’t quite understand the setup. It’s a reality TV series in which six strangers (3 men, 3 women) live together in a beautiful house, this one in Karuizawa, Nagano (there are 3 other seasons, the first in Tokyo, and the second in Honolulu). They are free to go out and about, out to eat, shop, whatever, some of them work or study or both. Sometimes it feels like certain people are on the show more to promote themselves or their brand really. The six people in the photo above are the original cast members: two models, one inspiring chef, one snowboarder/waiter, one ice hockey player/gym staff, one writer trying to start her own lingerie brand.

Then there are also the six hosts, also three women and three men, who provide commentary in between shots of the cast members. That was the part I found very strange at first but then I grew to love hearing their comments, jokes, criticisms, and I think I learnt quite a bit more about Japanese culture from these hosts. It’s like sitting there and watching it with a group of friends, and I guess that’s why they make the set look like a living room.

The Great British Bake Off

THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF 2018 (photo by Radio Times)

It moved to Netflix this year and the amazing thing was that the current British series was available on Netflix just a few days (I think?) after they announced the winner. I really love this series, it’s always heartwarming to see it, and while I still miss Mel and Sue and Mary Berry, I think this latest season has some amazing contestants! I especially was a fan of Kim-Joy, who made things like pandan chiffon cake and tangzhong bread, both things I’m a big fan of. Of course Paul Hollywood decidedly did not like the taste of pandan, probably losing tons of fans in Southeast Asia as a result :p


This series about a facility designed to help veterans stars Julia Roberts and while that was initially a draw, I realized that one of the recurring cast members was Jeremy Allen White, who played Lip on Shameless, another series I love. Also, Homecoming has that fantastic “What in the world is going on?” kind of feel, the good kind, that is. There are some shows that frustrate you and you stop watching it, but this is the kind that makes you want to keep watching, to figure out what’s going on. Roberts’ character now seems to be working as a waitress and has seemingly no memory of her time at the facility. Or is she pretending? One of the veterans wonders if they’re really in Florida. Or is this just a facility designed to make them think they’re in Florida??

#AMonthofFaves – This is How We Holiday

A Month of Faves is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge

WED. Dec. 19 #AMonthofFaves This is How We Holiday – Rep your home’s holiday look, share pictures of your holiday decorations. Christmas tree, your favorite holiday traditions, holiday festivities, favorite ornaments, places to go, holiday drinks, holiday eats, holiday themed reads.

Happy holidays!

This is a special holiday season as my mum is here to spend December with us. We put up our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving and everyone helped.

The boys got Lego advent calendars this year and they’re always excited to go open it up at the end of each day.

Last year the boys made gingerbread cookies and we did that again this year, but I’ve also decided to make biscotti as I reckon those will be easier to make for the number of people I want to give to!

Holiday eats? Well usually we have a nice big dinner on Christmas Eve. Last year we did a ham with a homemade chunky pineapple sauce, and sides like hasselback potatoes, sweet potato casserole, brussels sprouts. And last year was my first attempt at a bûche de noel. The photos above are from last year’s Christmas Eve dinner.

We always take a walk to the cul de sac behind us, where every house is beautifully decorated for Christmas.

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!

Keep kids road trip-happy with these great audiobooks

About a year or so ago, I started having my kids listen to audiobooks in the car. We don’t have long commutes – their school is less than ten minutes’ drive from our house. But with two rambunctious boys – one a five-year-old and the other a seven-year-old – audiobooks can help make these drives a peaceful one. Needless to say a long road trip.

I started out with the Harry Potter series. I had wanted to get them started on the books but ahem, got tired of reading out loud. So I turned to the professionals. In this case, Stephen Fry who narrates the series (Jim Dale narrates the US version) and he definitely does a fantastic job with the voices.

And from there we have taken off into so many different standalone books and series! Here are some great ones.

The Wild Robot – Peter Brown

This is a great story about a robot that lands up on a remote island and befriends the wildlife that live there, especially this little orphaned gosling. Love the gentle narration by Kate Atwater and the sound effects – not too obtrusive, just nice.

This also goes for the second book in the series, The Wild Robot Escapes.

Mr Popper’s Penguins – Richard Atwater, Florence Atwater, read by Nick Sullivan

The kids thought this audiobook was a hoot.

Wings of Fire series, beginning with The Dragonet Prophecy – Tui T Sutherland, read by Shannon McManus

I have to admit that I tend to tune out this audiobook so I haven’t followed along that much. It’s really long! And there are so many books! But I guess for kids it’s really fascinating as there are seven different dragon tribes who are at war. And the book is all-dragon, all the time. The kids have finished book four and are eagerly waiting to listen to the next one.

James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

Classic story, great narration!

Harry Potter series – JK Rowling, read by Stephen Fry (the US version is read by Jim Dale)

What can I say, I enjoyed listening to the audiobooks every bit as much as the kids did.

Some books that didn’t work as well for us:

The Mysterious Benedict Society – Trenton Lee Stewart, read by Del Roy

The boys listened to the first few minutes but said they didn’t like the narrator’s voice! I guess we may have to try this in print form

Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library – Chris Grabenstein, read by Jesse Bernstein

This audiobook, for the most part, worked great. But there are some parts of the story that should be read instead of listened to, because they were clues to the game in the story. So maybe in this case the audiobook needs a print book to be read alongside.


#AMonthofFaves – Winter Reading

A Month of Faves is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge

Mon. | Dec 17 – #AMonthofFaves Winter Reading – Your fave reads from last Winter, and /or seasonal reads you love, and 5 books on this year’s winter reading list.

Other than reading some horror novels in the run-up to Halloween, I’m not really much of a seasonal reader. Some days in summer I might opt for a book set in winter, just to take my mind off the heat, but that’s probably the opposite of what seasonal reading means, right?

So instead of seasonal reads, how about some of my favorite reads from last winter!

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

What a fun journey full of wine

The Book of Dust Vol One La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

It’s Pullman!

My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol 1 by Emil Ferris

Beautiful and breathtaking illustrations!

What’s on this year’s winter reading list?

Well, here’s the thing, the end of the year is when major publications churn out their “Best Books” lists and I am obsessed with these lists. I love them. I love poring over them. And I love finding out that I have read like 5 out of 100. And then I love making plans to read them – which never really happen because I’m too easily distracted by other books. But I do HOPE to read some of these books which are on the Kirkus Review, NYT, and Tournament of Books lists.

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. I love that cover.

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. I loved Urrea’s previous works: Into the Beautiful North, and The Devil’s Highway. And for some reason kept mistaking this title as The House of Broken Angles and really that was what intrigued me.


How Long ’til Black Future Month? by NK Jemisin

Because it’s by Jemisin!

Washington Black – Esi Edugyan