The Disaster Tourist – Yun Ko-eun

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Simple dinner tonight of a salmon, mushroom, spinach miso soup over rice. Also, some kimchi on the side because I love kimchi! 

It’s probably just me growing old but I often crave simple meals like this soup and rice these days. Although in THE DISASTER TOURIST, they mentioned samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly) a couple of times and that made my mouth water…😅 

This book isn’t about food of course. It’s about a woman who works in a disaster tourism agency. She surveys disaster areas, turns them into travel destinations. She’s told to go to an area where the tour isn’t doing so well, a remote island with a sinkhole that’s not living up to people’s expectations of a disaster area. 

And turns out that’s because it’s not exactly a disaster area anymore. 

“According to the rules, it’s only possible for you to quit in the middle of a business trip if you die.”

A quick read, although not exactly the thriller the blurb makes it out to be. 

This book takes off in unexpected ways. It touches on capitalism, the dark side of tourism. Towards the end, it veered off toward the surreal. 

Strangely entertaining and thoughtful. 

Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter – Rich Moyer

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It’s hot. So this calls for ice-cream and a fun comic! This is HAM HELSING VAMPIRE HUNTER by Rich Moyer, and it was such a blast! The kids read it first and it looked like such fun that I knew I had to read it too. 

Ham Helsing is on his first assignment, to hunt down a vampire. But the vampire isn’t the one terrorizing the town. So who is? 

The illustrations are delightful. The dialogue is witty. And the characters are great. A vampire with social anxiety. Treasure-obsessed rats. A ninja pig. 

Just brilliant! 

Reading: Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin

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I’m very slowly making my way through LAST WORDS FROM MONTMARTRE by QIU MIAOJIN, translated by Ari Larissa Heinrich. 

This book begins by telling the reader to “begin anywhere”. It’s a collection of letters. Some to Xu. Some to Yong. Some that read more like a journal entry. But the narrator is unnamed. 

The reason I’m taking this book slowly is it’s full of all this raw emotion that’s pouring out. It’s intense in its musings and meanderings over love and loss. 

Perhaps the hardest part about reading this is knowing that Qiu committed suicide not long after finishing this book (before it was published). She was only 26. And knowing that, I can’t help but read this novel wondering if it’s fiction or based on Qiu’s life. 

“True love makes it through any ordeal. I yearn to be in a relationship that can shake off the frosty wind and the couple still stands hand in hand. I yearn for a love that, because of devoted vigilance, can withstand time’s ceaseless erosion and come out alive.”

Qiu is known as the pioneer of Taiwanese queer literature. She also wrote NOTES OF A CROCODILE. 

Operatic by Kyo Maclear and Byron Eggenschwiler

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(I previously posted this on Instagram)

Oh this graphic novel is such a gem. It was a book I randomly pulled off the shelf at the library while grabbing some books for the kids. 

Charlotte “Charlie” Noguchi is one of three Asian girls at her middle school. Her music teacher’s latest assignment is to choose a song for this moment of their life and to write about it. 

Charlie feels a bit lost with this assignment. As she sometimes feels unsure about what she is in school. As she thinks about the music she wants to use for the assignment, she thinks also about Luka, who’s been absent from school after he was bullied for his gender nonconformity. And also about Emile, a boy in class she’s intrigued by. 

Charlie also discovers the music of Maria Callas, an American-born Greek opera singer, who’s one of the most influential opera singers of the 20th century. I’m clueless when it comes to opera so it was interesting to learn about her background. 

This book is about being both part of a community, a group, but also being an individual. It was about being open to new ideas and about accepting others for themselves.

I really appreciate how the color scheme changes when we go to a different character such as when the focus is on Maria Callas, red is used as the main color. It makes it obvious to the reader that oh, this may be a different timeline or a different feature in this book. I say this also because a recent comic I read, ONION SKIN, was confusing because there wasn’t this clear distinction between past and present. And sometimes it meant reading a page, feeling a bit lost, then reading the next page, only to realize that oh it’s a flashback. 

This book was thoughtful and beautiful. And I’m glad it just happened to be on the library shelf that day! 

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma

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I was thinking about this book after I read about the cancellation of Kim’s Convenience and how a spin-off series is being created around the only non-Asian character in the show. 

They stopped the series after its fifth season (it was supposed to have six). Then decided the only non-Asian character would become the star of a new series?? Ugh. 

So this book doesn’t exactly have a direct link with that (although Kim’s Convenience is mentioned in it!). But it does have a young Chinese-American actress who clinches a starring role in a movie. 

But it’s being filmed in China. A country that Gemma’s parents have told her never to go to. She goes anyway. And it turns out she looks a lot like a socialite and influencer named Alyssa Chua. 

And that’s because… they’re cousins!

Sounds rather soap opera-like, doesn’t it? Very dramatic. And there are some elements in the story that didn’t quite gel with me but I decided to let that go and keep reading. 

The author wrote that she wanted to write a story that she wanted to read when she was a teenager. A story that had Asian-Americans who went on adventures and had romances. And that she did. 

This was a book my teenaged self might have enjoyed. I didn’t grow up as a minority as Singapore is about 76% Chinese. But pretty much all the books I read were by American and British writers. And I don’t remember reading many (any?) books with Asian characters. Much less one with an Asian actress as a lead character. 

I liked when the characters discussed life as an Asian actor. How there aren’t many roles for Asian actors. How they know every Asian actor and the roles they played. How, when the film industry thinks of an Asian woman, it’s of someone who’s “small-framed with delicate features”. 

Anyway, this was Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma. Pictured alongside a salad of cherry tomatoes, avocado, homegrown radish and basil. 

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

This was a series that I never read as a child, although my sister actually owned the books. Why did I never venture into this world, I’m not quite sure. I did love lots of books written by British authors, like Noel Streatfeild and Enid Blyton.

This was a series that I never read as a child, although my sister actually owned the books. Why did I never venture into this world, I’m not quite sure. I did love lots of books written by British authors, like Noel Streatfeild and Enid Blyton.

Well I’m making up for it now. And just nicely, this fits into the Back to the Classics challenge for “a children’s classic”.

And I must say, that Vintage Classics cover is rather a striking one, isn’t it?

When I started reading this, I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy it. It took a while to get into it but when I did, it was a fun read.

In case you’ve not heard of this series before. Here’s a little about it. It was published in 1930. And the Walker children (also known as Captain John, Mate Susan, Able-Seaman Titty, and Ship’s Boy Roger) are given permission to sail their boat Swallow and stay on Wild Cat Island. They meet the Blackett sisters, who are also a sailing family. They’re the “Amazon” part as they’re the “pirates” and their boat is named Amazon. Luckily they become fast friends.

Camping on deserted island, sailing, cooking their own meals, sailing to the nearby farm to get fresh milk. What a life!

It was interesting to be reading a book about these young children allowed to go about doing all this on their own. I mean, sure their home wasn’t too far away. But still, they were pretty much left to figure things out for themselves. Like cooking meals and fetching fresh milk.

There’s something rather charming about this more innocent way of life. When children are able to roam independently. I think especially in contrast to this past year, where we have been largely confined to our home and neighbourhood. Would I even let my kids walk to the nearby park (about 15 minutes walk) by themselves? Um, probably not.

While it was a pleasant read, I honestly didn’t even consider borrowing the second book in the series. I don’t think I ever felt so absorbed in any of the characters that I longed to remain in their realm. Maybe because I’m reading this book decades too late? Would I have loved it more as a kid?

Library Loot (May 19 to 25)

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Library 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.

Happy Wednesday! Claire has the link-up this week.

I haven’t seen the movie yet but it looks really good. Is it a good idea to read the book first? I have no idea.

Nomadland – Jessica Bruder

The inspiration for Chloé Zhao’s 2020 Golden Lion award-winning film starring Frances McDormand.

From the beet fields of North Dakota to the campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older adults. These invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in RVs and modified vans, forming a growing community of nomads.

Nomadland tells a revelatory tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy—one which foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, it celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive, but have not given up hope.

Sounds like a fun read although the first few Goodreads reviews seem a bit meh? We’ll see!

Heiress Apparently – Diana Ma

The first book in an epic and romantic YA series following the fictionalized descendants of the only officially recognized empress regent of China

Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent. Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing. Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost. 

What did you get from your library this week?

Library Loot (May 12 to 18)

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Library 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.

Happy Library Loot Day!

Don’t forget to link up or comment below. We’d love to know what you picked up from your library this week.

I finally went to the second floor of the library! They moved the adult fiction up there (it’s also where the nonfiction has always been). The last time I went into the library, I had just popped in to grab some kids’ books.

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Here’s what I got for this week’s Library Loot.

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White Ivy – Susie Yang

Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates.

Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.

Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.

Filled with surprising twists and offering sharp insights into the immigrant experience, White Ivy is both a love triangle and a coming-of-age story, as well as a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.

Brave Chef Brianna – Sam Sykes

To prove herself as a great chef, a young woman sets up a restaurant as the sole human in a city full of monsters.

Brianna Jakobsson has big cooking dreams, and when her ailing restaurateur father poses a challenge to his only daughter and fifteen sons, she seizes the opportunity. She’s going to have the best restaurant around and earn the family empire. Thing is, the only place she can afford to set up shop is in Monster City. Her menu is full of weird delicacies, her kitchen is run by a half-bird harpy, and her dining room is filled with skeleton businessmen. Add on the nefarious Madame Cron, some highly competitive siblings and Brianna’s plate is literally . . . full.

Brave Chef Brianna from writer Sam Sykes (Munchkin) and artist Selina Espiritu explores one woman’s incredible journey to realize her dreams in the unlikeliest of places. Welcome to Monster City!  

The Breakaways – Cathy G Johnson

Quiet, sensitive Faith starts middle school already worrying about how she will fit in. To her surprise, Amanda, a popular eighth grader, convinces her to join the school soccer team, the Bloodhounds. Having never played soccer in her life, Faith ends up on the C team, a ragtag group that’s way better at drama than at teamwork. Although they are awful at soccer, Faith and her teammates soon form a bond both on and off the soccer field that challenges their notions of loyalty, identity, friendship, and unity.

The Breakaways is a portrait of friendship in its many forms, and a raw and beautifully honest look into the lives of a diverse and defiantly independent group of kids learning to make room for themselves in the world. 

The kids’ loot:

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I used to love reading Asterix when I was a kid! So when I saw this in the kids’ graphic novel shelves, I had to pick it up for the boys.

What did you get from your library this week?

Library Loot (May 5 to 11)

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Library 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.

Happy Library Loot Day!

Claire has the link-up this week.

It’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US. And with the exception of one Canadian writer, these books are all by Asian Americans.

Here’s what I got from the library this week.

Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

I took Kerry’s literary matchmaking quiz on her blog and this was the result! Luckily one of the libraries had this ebook available.

Accidentally Engaged – Farah Heron

Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Loveboat, Taipei – Abigail Hing Wen

When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart? 

This series has been on my TBR list for a while now!

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street – Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

Library Loot (April 28 to May 4)

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.

Happy Wednesday!

Share your library loot in the link-up or comments!

(Edited to add: Oh boy, sorry about that. I have no idea why this previous version got published. And of course it’s on the day that I didn’t actually check my blog until the afternoon!).

The Mermaid from Jeju – Sumi Hahn

In the aftermath of World War II, Goh Junja is a girl just coming into her own. She is the latest successful deep sea diver in a family of strong haenyeo. Confident she is a woman now, Junja urges her mother to allow her to make the Goh family’s annual trip to Mt. Halla, where they trade abalone and other sea delicacies for pork. Junja, a sea village girl, has never been to the mountains, where it smells like mushrooms and earth, and it is there she falls in love with a mountain boy Yang Suwol, who rescues her after a particularly harrowing journey. But when Junja returns one day later, it is just in time to see her mother take her last breath, beaten by the waves during a dive she was taking in Junja’s place.

Spiraling in grief, Junja sees her younger siblings sent to live with their estranged father, Suwol is gone, the ghost of her mother haunts their home–from the meticulously tended herb garden that has now begun to sprout weeds, to the field where their bed sheets are beaten. She has only her grandmother and herself. But the world moves on without Junja.

The political climate is perilous. Still reeling from Japan’s forced withdrawal from the peninsula, Korea is forced to accommodate the rapid establishment of US troops, and her grandmother, who lived through the Japanese invasion that led to Korea’s occupation understands the signs of danger all too well. When Suwol is arrested for working with and harboring communists, and the perils of post-WWII overtake her homelands, Junja must learn to navigate a tumultuous world unlike anything she’s ever known.

 

 

I really enjoyed the first book in this series. 

Class Act – Jerry Craft

Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?

To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together.

As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?

 

I couldn’t resist borrowing this. 

Diary of an Oxygen Thief – Anonymous

Hurt people hurt people.

Say there was a novel in which Holden Caulfield was an alcoholic and Lolita was a photographer’s assistant and, somehow, they met in Bright Lights, Big City. He’s blinded by love. She by ambition. Diary of an Oxygen Thief is an honest, hilarious, and heartrending novel, but above all, a very realistic account of what we do to each other and what we allow to have done to us

What did you get from your library this week?