#AsianLitBingo – Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

“I also began to notice how white everything was. The students, the students’ teeth, and the fences surrounding the outdoor swimming pools we never used. We all seemed to categorize ourselves without ever explicitly saying anything. Where does that leave students who don’t have a clear category?”

It’s not easy being different in school. Leila already stands out because of her Iranian background, but she also holds close to her a secret – she likes girls.

“I’m not ready to announce my lady-loving inclinations as yet. I can hear the whispering, knowing that what they are snickering about could easily be me. I’m already different enough at this school. I don’t need to add anything else to that.”

A new girl joins Armstead Academy and Leila is immediately drawn to her. Saskia stands out – she’s just moved from Switzerland and is Dutch-Brazilian and is the rare person to ask about Leila’s heritage.

“It’s nice to be able to talk to someone about this stuff. Tess and Greg don’t get it, because people see basic white or black when they look at them. It’s the ambiguity that throws people; they want to know which box to put you in.”

Leila is drawn to Saskia – she’s confident, clever, poised, she stands out yet is comfortable with that. She’s not quite so sure why Saskia wants to befriend her though.

Leila constantly worries about coming out to her family. A family they know have shunned their son who was seen kissing another man. How would her own conservative Iranian parents react?

“You know where they’re from, being gay is illegal? They imprison people over there for feeling like I do! Sentence them to death sometimes.”

When I reflect back on Lucy and Linh, the other book I recently read that focuses on teenagers in school, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel is less complex, more simply told. There’s nothing wrong with that though. Sometimes a lighter read is what’s needed. It’s a lighter read yet it discusses some complicated issues that face many teens out there – discovering their own identity, standing up for themselves and what they believe in, relationships with family and friends, and learning that it’s ok to be different.

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo -LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC

See the rest of my TBR list here

Find out more details about the challenge here.

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The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A Flynn

“Queasy as I was from the bumping carriage, with the stink of horse and mildew in my nose, with the gibbet and the meat pie and the innkeeper’s rudeness still vivid, the Jane Austen Project no longer seemed amazing. What I’d wanted so badly stretched like a prison sentence: wretched hygiene, endless pretending, physical danger. What had I been thinking?”

I’m so thoroughly pleased with this book. I hadn’t really heard much about it but was attracted by the title when browsing the library’s ebook catalogue. It’s an intriguing storyline, going back in time to retrieve (i.e. steal) a manuscript from Austen herself. One that wasn’t published in her time. Rachel and Liam are well prepared and well researched. Rachel is a doctor and has worked in disaster areas and Third World countries. But nothing could really prepare her for this.

But eventually, with mishaps often skirted by their use of their back story – that of a brother and sister who grew up in Jamaica and who have only for the first time stepped into England – they get used to life in the 18th century. It’s especially hard for Rachel – she’s the doctor but has to let Liam play the doctor (of course women couldn’t be doctors at the time). The plan is to befriend Henry Austen, Jane’s brother, and somehow weasel their way to Jane.

The chief danger of time travel, aside from the obvious physical risks to travelers themselves, was of somehow changing the past so as to decisively alter the future you’d come from, setting in motion some version of the grandfather paradox.

Time travel is always such a fascinating idea. What do their actions change, for example, the simple hiring of their staff, or when Rachel saves a young climbing boy from a horrendous future by paying his employer and letting him live in her household?

I wasn’t that big a fan of Rachel at first. She seemed a bit tactless at times but she eventually grew on me. I like the way Flynn brought the Austen family to life, especially Jane, sharp and intelligent, an acute observer initially wary of Rachel.

I tend to stay away from any Jane Austen spinoffs (if that’s the right word) but I really enjoyed this one. I mean of course every time travel story leads to many many questions and possibilities but I feel like Flynn handled it all really well.

Summing up 2017 in books

Happy new year!

I’ve done these year-end summaries for a few years now, you can check out what I was up to in 20162015, 2014, and 2013

Total books read: 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 

 

Gender

I like this female-majority reading that I’ve been doing, and hope to continue with it.

 

I was surprised by this one – not expecting that many new-to-me authors.

 

I know that technically comics are a medium and not a “genre” but it just simplifies things to put it as such.

Source

I’ve been trying to read more of my own books and I think I’ve done slightly better this year!

 

Type of reading material

This is one statistic that really surprised me. Last year, e-books made up 57% of my reads and I thought I was on track for a similar half-half statistic this year.

I realize now that it’s because last year I read a lot of comics on Scribd. I don’t use Scribd anymore so this year my comics all came from the library, as physical books (my library has a great e-book catalogue but not really much of a e-comic catalogue).

 

Diversity

A slight improvement from last year which was 32-68. But I will continue to try to make that more equal.

Decade published

The oldest book I read was published in 1817.

I read 39 books published in 2017!

 

Page length

The longest book I read was Voyager by Diane Gabaldon at 870 pages. The shortest book was Locke and Key: Small World at 32 pages.

Places visited in books

Thanks to these books, I travelled to many strange imaginary lands but also some incredible real-life places like Bangladesh, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, England France, Haiti, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad, Vietnam, and also plenty of states in the US like Texas, Florida, Michigan, California.

Here’s to a wonderful reading year ahead! Despite everything else that happens, we will always have books.

Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books

toptentues

Top Three Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books (Does a character eat something you’d love? Or maybe the book takes place in a bakery/restaurant that makes yummy things? You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don’t read foody books.)

Sugarbread- Balli Kaur Jaswal

Chilli crab. Tofu with peanut sauce. Chinese vegetables with plump stalks and juicy leaves. Hainanese chicken rice with sweet soy sauce and ginger chilli. Noodles – both thick and thin – with fish cake and pork balls. Red-hot South Indian curries served with sticky bread and milk tea. Durians, longans, rambutans for dessert. Chendol. Ice kachang.

Delicious! – Ruth Reichl

She had fed me a fluffy cloud, no more than pure texture, but as it evaporated it left a trail of flavour in its wake.

“Lemon peel,” I said, “Parmesan, saffron, spinach.” She held out another spoonful, and this time, at the very end, I tasted just a touch of something lemony but neither lemon nor verbena. It had a faint cinnamon tinge. “Curry leaf!”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

“What a marvellous smell!’ answered Grandpa Joe, taking a long deep sniff. All the most wonderful smells in the world seemed to be mixed up in the air around them — the smell of roasting coffee and burnt sugar and melting chocolate and mint and violets and crushed hazelnuts and apple blossom and caramel and lemon peel.”

#RIPXII The Bear and the Nightingale

 

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From the very start of the book, I am hooked.

And that is not a usual thing. I am a reader of many books. By that I mean that I tend to read several things at once. So it can sometimes take me several tries to get into a book.

(You might just wonder then, why not just concentrate and read that one book, finish it, and then move on to another? Well, that’s just not the way I work. I just like multiple books going on!)

First of all, I love that it’s a fairytale. And more than that, that it’s a snowy, wintry kind of read. I have lived most of my life near the equator – where the only seasons are hot and dry or hot and rainy. And I now live in Northern California where winters are, at the most, rainy, although we could easily drive a few hours to find snow. So I’ve never really been in that kind of dense and intense winters that  the north of Russia must have.

Vasilisa is the youngest child of a wealthy lord of a northern Russian village. She can see  the spirits of the house, forest, river, the spirits that protect them from evil, like the domovoi, which lives in the oven. Her new stepmother can see these spirits too, but she calls them demons and seeks refuge in the church. She soon forbids the household from honoring these spirits with offerings. But Vasya tries to continue this ritual when she can, fearing that something bad is about to happen.

“The domovoi was small and squat and brown. He had a long beard and brilliant eyes. At night he crept out of the oven to wipe the plates and scour away the soot. He used to do mending, too, when people left it out, but Anna would shriek if she saw a stray shirt, and few of the servants would risk her anger. Before Vasya’s stepmother arrived, they had left offerings for him: a bowl of milk or a bit of bread. But Anna shrieked then, too. Dunya and the serving-maids had begun hiding their offerings in odd corners where Anna rarely came.”

Things get even more interesting when Father Konstantin is sent to their village and the villagers grow more fearful, and so is bold and brave Vasya.

“No, Vasya was frightened of her own people. They did not joke on the way to church anymore; they listened to Father Konstantin in heavy, hungry silence. And even when they were not in church, the people made excuses to visit his room.”

Something is waking, something evil. And without these spirits’ protection, crops start failing, the creatures of the forest roam closer, danger lurks.

The Bear and the Nightingale was an absolute charmer of a book. I loved all the Russian folklore throughout and the rural setting. Perhaps the only part that didn’t sit too well with me was the last act, which seemed a bit rushed.

 

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This is my fourth read for RIP XII

#ripxii The Unquiet Dead

Goodness, I was not expecting this. Not at all.

What was I expecting? A crime/police procedural/mystery type book.

And yes, this was that. But it was also a lot more.

What is truly amazing is that this is a debut.

Inspector Esa Khattak is the head of Canada’s CPS, Community Policing Section, which handles minority-sensitive cases, but he’s a former homicide detective and counterintelligence agent. The story opens with him at prayer, which is interrupted by a phone call requesting him to investigate a suspicious death.

It seems simple at first – a man has fallen off a cliff.

But it turns out that this man Christopher Drayton may instead be Drazen Krstic, a war criminal behind the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 in which thousands of Muslims were slaughtered. So of course they have to figure out – was he pushed? Was he murdered? And did it have something to do with his war crimes or does it have something to do with his money-grubbing fiancée?

Rachel Getty,  “a strong, square-built, hockey-playing female police officer”, is Khattak’s partner. I like how they are so very different yet are still kindred spirits of sorts, with family problems and other personal issues that plague them.

Khan intersperses all this with testimonies from war crime trials. And she leaves us guessing until the last pages. A truly impressive debut!

Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans, so she definitely knows what she’s talking about.

Bibliography:

Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak series

  • The Unquiet Dead (2015)
  • The Language of Secrets (2016)
  • Among the Ruins (2017)
  • A Death in Sarajevo (2017) (novella)
  • A Dangerous Crossing (forthcoming 2018)Khorasan Archives series
  • The Bloodprint (2017)

This is my third read for RIPXII

Joining #RIPXII

Happy RIP season! I’ve been taking part since RIP IV – it was the very first challenge I took part in, so it will always be special! Every September 1 through October 31 for the last 11 years Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings has hosted the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge, affectionately known as the R.I.P. Challenge. And now it’s being run by Andi of Estelle’s Revenge and Heather of My Capricious Life.

But it remains the same, it’s always about books of:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
And I always go for
Peril the First:
“Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (our very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shirley Jackson or Tananarive Due…or anyone in between.”

I’ve decided this year to focus on women writers!

Here’s my pool:

The Vicious Deep – Zoraida Cordova

Ink and Ashes – Valence E. Maetani

Waiting on a Bright Moon – JY Yang

The Reader – Traci Chee

The Chaos – Nalo Hopkinson

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

City of the Lost – Kelley Armstrong

The Witches of New York – Ami McKay

The Unquiet Dead – Ausma Zehanat Khan