Recent reads – magic, urban fantasy, Chinese sci-fi.

Ok it has been forever since I actually talked about the books I read recently. So while I have the willpower and the kids are taking a break and playing Lego, here are some thoughts!

 

sorcerycecelia

Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country – Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Stevermer 

I adored this epistolary story that was written separately by the two writers, in a kind of writing exercise – they didn’t plan out the plot, and Wrede wrote as Cecelia, Stevermer as Kate. And here, I have to add that I wish the title were different. Kate is just as an important character here, why doesn’t she get into the title?? Or just not put any of their names in the title and call it something else, like Sorcery & Crumpets; Sorcery, Tea, & Biscuits. At any rate, if you’ve never heard of this book, it’s set in 1817 England and there is magic. It was the first time I’ve read anything by either author, and am curious to see what else they’ve written. Let me know if you have a recommendation.

trailoflightning

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) – Rebecca Roanhorse

I’ve been drawn to more speculative fiction lately, escaping from our current reality you say? Why yes indeed. Roanhorse is another new-to-me author and she has set this series in the Navajo nation, with most of the world drowned beneath the rising tides. Maggie is a powerful monster slayer who lives alone, far from anyone else, but she needs help from a young and handsome medicine man as there is a strange new monster threatening her people. Maggie takes a while to grow on the reader, emerging from her isolation and learning to accept others. The introduction of Navajo magic and legends was quite fascinating, the pacing of the story was quick and just what I needed as a distraction from the world.

 

threebody

The Three-Body Problem – Liu Cixin

I had a really hard time with this book. Parts of it was quite fascinating but a lot of the science went way over my head and many times I wanted to give up. But at the same time, I wanted to know what was going on. It was clever and thought-provoking but honestly a bit too much of a slog for me at the moment. Will I continue with the rest of the series? I do not know at the moment. Definitely not in the near future…my brain is not ready. I need to read more fluffy floofy things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Library Loot (June 3 to 9)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

 

Hello and welcome to the first Library Loot of June. My kids will be on summer vacation next week! It feels weird not having any concrete plans this summer, but that’s how this year goes. I’m sure we will fit in lots of reading!

Don’t forget to share with us your library loot. Claire has the link-up this week!

Meanwhile, here’s my haul for the week.

 

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World – Debbie Tung

Sweet, funny, and quietly poignant, Debbie Tung’s comics reveal the ups and downs of coming of age as an introvert.

This illustrated gift book of short comics illuminates author Debbie Tung’s experience as an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Presented in a loose narrative style that can be read front to back or dipped into at one’s leisure, the book spans three years of Debbie’s life, from the end of college to the present day. In these early years of adulthood, Debbie slowly but finally discovers there is a name for her lifelong need to be alone: she’s an introvert.

The first half of the book traces Debbie’s final year in college: socializing with peers, dating, falling in love (with an extrovert!), moving in, getting married, meeting new people, and simply trying to fit in. The second half looks at her life after graduation: finding a job, learning to live with her new husband, trying to understand social obligations when it comes to the in-laws, and navigating office life. Ultimately, Quiet Girl sends a positive, pro-introvert message: our heroine learns to embrace her introversion and finds ways to thrive in the world while fulfilling her need for quiet.

 

My library has quite a few issues of this series so I expect I’ll probably end up borrowing most of them!

Ronin Island #1 – Greg Pak

After a mysterious attack wipes out the major cities of 19th century Japan, Korea, and China, survivors from all three lands find refuge on a hidden island and build a new society. Hana, the orphaned daughter of Korean peasants, and Kenichi, son of a great samurai leader, have little in common except for a mutual disdain for the other. But these young warriors will have to work together when an army invades the island with shocking news: there is a new Shogun and the Island is expected to pay fealty in exchange for protection from a new enemy…a mutated horde that threatens to wipe out all humanity. Award-winning writer Greg Pak (Firefly, Mech Cadet Yu) and artist Giannis Milonogiannis (Prophet) present a story that examines how we move forward when our past divides, set against the backdrop of a post-disaster 19th century Japan.

 

 

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy – Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole returns with a fun, sexy romance novella in the Reluctant Royals series!

While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy–so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.

When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.

Library Loot (May 27 to June 2)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

Hi there! How’s your week going? I hope you all are staying healthy, both mentally and physically. We had a long weekend here in the US, it was Memorial Day on Monday and we had a nice time relaxing in the backyard (although it was quite hot on Monday itself!).

What have you borrowed from your library this week? Share it in the link-up or in the comments below!

 

 

 

Oh I am so excited to get my hands on this one! I don’t usually go for new releases but I would read anything Sittenfeld writes. Here’s a bonus: Judy Blume and Sittenfeld discuss the book!

 

Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld

From the New York Times bestselling author of American Wife and Eligible, a novel that imagines a deeply compelling what-might-have-been: What if Hillary Rodham hadn’t married Bill Clinton?

In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Lifemagazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.

In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.

But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.

Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.

 

I’ve still got a few other books from previous library loots going! So the rest of my haul this week are comics.

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast

From the #1 NYT bestselling author of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast’s new graphic memoir–a hilarious illustrated ode/guide/ thank-you note to Manhattan.

A native Brooklynite-turned-suburban commuter deemed the quintessential New Yorker, Roz Chast has always been intensely alive to the glorious spectacle that is Manhattan–the daily clash of sidewalk racers and dawdlers; the fascinating range of dress codes; and the priceless, nutty outbursts of souls from all walks of life.

For Chast, adjusting to life outside the city was surreal–(you can own trees!? you have to drive!?)–but she recognized that the reverse was true for her kids. On trips into town, they would marvel at the strange visual world of Manhattan–its blackened sidewalk gum-wads, “those West Side Story-things” (fire escapes)–and its crazily honeycombed systems and grids.

Told through Chast’s singularly zany, laugh-out-loud, touching, and true cartoons, Going Into Town is part New York stories (the “overheard and overseen” of the island borough), part personal and practical guide to walking, talking, renting, and venting–an irresistible, one-of-a-kind love letter to the city.

 

I wanted to throw in a super light read – this is a middle grade comic.

Click – Kayla Miller

A debut graphic novel about friendship and finding where you “click” in school.

Olive wants to get in on the act . . .
. . . Any act!

Olive “clicks” with everyone in the fifth grade—until one day she doesn’t. When a school variety show leaves Olive stranded without an act to join, she begins to panic, wondering why all her friends have already formed their own groups . . . without her. With the performance drawing closer by the minute, will Olive be able to find her own place in the show before the curtain comes up?

 

 

What did you get from your library this week?

 

Pork floss buns #weekendcooking

 

It’s a bit tricky explaining pork floss (also available as chicken or fish floss, also known as rousong or yuk sung in Mandarin and Cantonese respectively) to someone who’s not eaten it before. It’s made of meat yes but has a sweet-savory taste as it’s cooked with soy sauce and sugar and shredded (here’s a recipe). It’s very popular in places like Taiwan and Singapore. I used to bring pork floss sandwiches to primary school when I was growing up in Singapore. 

Some years ago, the pork floss buns became popular in bakeries in Singapore. It’s a soft bun topped with meat floss. I never was quite sure what exactly sticks the meat floss to the bun. But now I do.

I’m not big on the pork floss bun mostly because I don’t like the commercial bakery version of the topping.

So having looked up some recipes, I learnt that it’s a combination of kewpie mayo (Japanese-style mayo), condensed milk, and something sticky – I’ve seen maple syrup in one recipe and corn syrup in another. I decided to use honey. Weird huh, but strangely kinda tasty. 

You really only need to slap a thin layer on top of your bun, then pile on the pork floss. It’s how the floss sticks on to the bun. 

In case you’re wondering, you can buy pork floss from many Asian supermarkets. I bought this one from Costco. Pork floss is also a great topping for porridge or rice. Also, the other day, our neighbour dropped off a sticky rice roll from a local eatery. It was something I’d never eaten before, but so delicious. It was a youtiao or a savoury fried dough stick, topped with pork floss and pickled radish and wrapped in rice. I later googled it and it’s a Shanghai breakfast rice roll or “ci fan”, 粢饭. 

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo before we finished it (it was that good), so please check out the blog above for photos and a recipe.

(Edited to add) I made the buns using a Hokkaido milk bread recipe, it uses my favorite tangzhong method for a soft crumb. And instead of making a loaf I shaped it into a dozen small buns.

Weekend Cooking is now at The Intrepid Reader and 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

Library Loot (May 20 to 26)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

My library recently announced that they would allow curbside pick-up of library holds soon but when I tried to sign up, all the time slots were full! Oh well. Maybe there will be another chance in the future. For now, library books are due July 7 and there’s always ebooks and audiobooks.

 

 

I don’t really listen to podcasts much but once in a while I check in with the Reading the End Bookcast (hi Jenny!). And in their most recent episode, the Gin Jenny and Whisky Jenny mentioned this book. And it’s not a book I had heard of before, but sounds just perfect for reading now. Also, it has the word ‘chocolate’ in its title.

Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot – Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

A great deal is happening in London and the country this season.

For starters, there’s the witch who tried to poison Kate at the Royal College of Wizards. There’s also the man who seems to be spying on Cecelia. (Though he’s not doing a very good job of it–so just what are his intentions?) And then there’s Oliver. Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone where he is.

Clearly, magic is a deadly and dangerous business. And the girls might be in fear for their lives . . . if only they weren’t having so much fun!

 

I didn’t really want to get this as an audiobook but my library only has it as an audiobook, so no choice at the moment!

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) – Brandon Sanderson (audiobook)

Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed to save the world

 

What did you get from your library this week?

 

It’s Monday (May 18, 2020)

 

Last week we marked 60 days of school closure. It sounds really long but somehow it hasn’t felt like that. It’s strange to think that we have been sheltering-in-place since before both my kids had their birthdays, since before spring break, and now we are in the last month or so of school. I’ve been reading that some places (like the city’s programmes) are planning summer camps (of course there have also been other news like a major summer camp company cancelling all their camps completely – and not giving refunds!).

I had been waiting and trying to decide and had not signed the boys up for summer camps in the Before. So now I’m glad I had waited because who knows what will be happening in the next few months. At this point, I’m still not comfortable with them going to be in a camp with strangers. And so I will have to figure out some summer fun of our own.

What about you? Do you have summer plans?

Some things we did last week…

Currently…

 

Reading:

The Three Body Problem – Liu Cixin

The Bridegroom was a dog – Yoko Tawada

 

 

Watching:

Dead to Me Season 2

 

Listening:

I just finished Frankly in Love yesterday so have not figured out my next audiobook.

 

Eating:

Homemade scones

Drinking:

Tea

Cooking:

Lots of vegetables! I had a big order from an online Asian grocer and I have a big bag of broccoli and another of bok choy.

Last week:

I read:


Frankly in Love – David Yoon
The Fall – Tracy Townsend

I posted:

The Nine by Tracy Townsend #review

Library Loot (May 13 to 19)

Recent DNF books #TopTenTuesday

 

 

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

 

The Nine by Tracy Townsend #review

 

One of the best things about being part of the online book loving community of Instagram is discovering new-to-me authors! I would never have heard of Tracy Townsend if not for @basiclandcave’s posts.

And I loved every bit of The Nine, the first book in the Thieves of Fate series. This book is a complex, fascinating world that resembles our own a bit but for some very key elements. Like how science is a kind of religion and the Nine are the people (or creatures) whose actions determine the world’s fate (so say this self-scribing book that only some can decipher). There are fascinating walking tree-like beings and giant beasts with eyes on their feet (and in my mind, Komodo dragon-like but perhaps because my 7yo likes Komodo dragons and was telling me all about it over the weekend).

Similar to the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson (the last fantasy series I read before this), there is a young girl who has seen tough times working as a courier for the black market. Also, some fascinating world-building, but in a more of a steampunk variety, along with this exploration of the melding of science and religion.

I immediately jumped from this first book to The Fall, the second (is there more or is this a duology?), but am only just a couple of chapters in.

Library Loot (May 13 to 19)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

The month of May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the US and so this week’s Library Loot is full of writers

Add your link to the link-up or post in the comments below!

 

I couldn’t help clicking the “borrow” button when I saw this ebook while browsing the library catalogue.

The Bridegroom was a Dog – Yoko Tawada

The Bridegroom Was a Dog is perhaps the Japanese-German writer Yoko Tawada’s most famous story. Its initial publication in 1998 garnered admiration from The New Yorker, who praised it as, “fast-moving, mysteriously compelling tale that has the dream quality of Kafka.”

The Bridegroom Was a Dog begins with a schoolteacher telling a fable to her students. In the fable, a princess promises her hand in marriage to a dog that has licked her bottom clean. The story takes an even stranger twist when that very dog appears to the schoolteacher in real life as a dog-like man. They develop a very sexual, romantic courtship with many allegorical overtones — much to the chagrin of her friends.

This Is Paradise – Kristiana Kahakauwila

Elegant, brutal, and profound, this magnificent debut captures the grit and glory of modern Hawai’i with breathtaking force and accuracy.

In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai’i, making the fabled place her own. Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, façade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua’i and the Big Island.

In the gut-punch of “Wanle,” a beautiful and tough young woman wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps as a legendary cockfighter. With striking versatility, the title story employs a chorus of voices—the women of Waikiki—to tell the tale of a young tourist drawn to the darker side of the city’s nightlife. “The Old Paniolo Way” limns the difficult nature of legacy and inheritance when a patriarch tries to settle the affairs of his farm before his death.

Exquisitely written and bursting with sharply observed detail, Kahakauwila’s stories remind us of the powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home.

 

It’s Monday (May 11, 2020)

 

Hello and happy Monday. Hope you all had a good weekend! I had a nice Mother’s Day on Sunday, with a big sushi feast for dinner.

A little Mother’s Day present to myself was that I got to pick up some plants I had ordered from our local ecology centre – I got some sage, thyme, a mini bell pepper, a tomato plant, and hyssop anise.

And unfortunately I can’t do much in the garden for the next few days. I seem to have done something to my knee and it’s been hurting when walking around and if it’s bent for too long.

 

 

Currently…

 

Reading:

 

The Three Body Problem – Liu Cixin
America is Not the Heart – Elaine Castillo
 

Watching:

Dead to Me season 2

Listening:

 

Eating:

For breakfast this morning, toast with butter

 

Drinking:

Tea

Cooking:

With my grocery delivery last week, I can make some spaghetti carbonara with bacon. I had been trying to get my hands on Parmesan for a while and finally got it!

My kids aren’t fans of carbonara though but too bad. We are not the kind of family with different meals for kids and adults, unless I am cooking something specifically spicy, especially with a premade paste like laksa. I sometimes sneak in chili flakes into my pasta in an attempt to get the kids to be able to eat spicy food (still not working).

Last week:

I read:

This Could Be Home – Pico Iyer
The Nine – Tracy Townsend

I posted:

Very veggie risotto #WeekendCooking

Library Loot (May 6 to 12)

 

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

 

Library Loot (May 6 to 12)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

 

 

Hello and welcome to this week’s Library Loot!

Claire has the link-up this week, so please head over to post your link-up, or if you’d like, share in the comments here.

 

This was spotted while browsing the library’s ebook catalogue, and I had this moment of hmm, did I know that this book exists? I decided to download it anyway, because it’s Iyer.

This Could Be Home – Pico Iyer

As Singapore marks the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the British and an iconic hotel unveils a dazzling new design, best-selling author Pico Iyer explores how both can offer a fresh model for our world of crossing cultures. Drawing upon numerous stays in Raffles Hotel over thirty-five years and the fast-ascending city around it, this lifelong “global soul” finds new ways of considering not just yesterday, but tomorrow.

What might Somerset Maugham write if he were watching East and West mingling around the Palm Court tonight? Why do writers gravitate towards the foreign counter-homes that are hotels? And how have Singapore and its iconic, intimate white-stucco monument evolved to meet the needs of a shifting world? Offering a seasoned observer’s meditations on multicultures everywhere, Iyer—whom Outside magazine calls “arguably the world’s greatest living travel writer”—draws the curtains on a personal, thoughtful and surprising look at places we too often take for granted.

 

 

 

It’s Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US every May, and what better than this book set both in the US and the Philippines.

America is Not the Heart – Elaine Castillo

How many lives can one person lead in a single lifetime? When Hero De Vera arrives in America, disowned by her parents in the Philippines, she’s already on her third. Her uncle, Pol, who has offered her a fresh start and a place to stay in the Bay Area, knows not to ask about the first and second. And his younger wife, Paz, has learned enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. Only their daughter Roni asks Hero why her hands seem to scream with hurt at the steering wheel of the car she drives to collect her from school, and only Rosalyn, the fierce but open-hearted beautician, has any hope of bringing Hero back from the dead.

 

Last, a new audiobook.

Frankly in Love – David Yoon

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

 

What did you get from your library this week?