The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy

This book was just an absolute delight to read.

Can I leave it at that? And then, you know, you can go run out to your library or bookstore or open your Amazon app and just get this book already?

Not enough?? Really…

Ok then. It has cats.

A clan of cats living in a neighbourhood in Delhi. There is Miao, a wise Siamese; the warriors Katar and Hulo; Beraal the queen; the kitten Southpaw and many more. And their lives are interrupted by a young kitten with amazing powers, she who is able to send out her thoughts and feelings so powerfully that it disrupts and unsettles any animal who senses it.

And of course cats can link up with each other. Because of course cats can do that.

“Mews reached only so far; scents and whisker transmissions formed an invisible, strong web around their clan of colony and dargah cats. But linking allowed them only to listen to each other. A true sending, where the Sender’s fur seemed to brush by the listener, its words and scents touching the listener’s whiskers, was rare.”

I don’t have a cat. I have two kids and I figure that’s enough for me to handle. But I am more of a cat person than a dog person. I like dogs too (well most dogs at least) but there’s something about cats. I don’t think you need to be a cat lover to read this book but it certainly would appeal to cat lovers!

Also, good news, there is a sequel and it’s called The Hundred Names of Darkness. 

#AsianLitBingo: Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

I’ve been wondering why I’ve not read Selvadurai’s works before. Why have his books escaped my eye? It’s such a pity because he is such a great writer.

I knew that this book was a gay coming-of-age story but didn’t know that a big part of the story would be about the riots in Sri Lanka.

“But we are a minority, and that’s a fact of life,” my father said placatingly. “As a Tamil you have to learn how to play the game. Play it right and you can do very well for yourself. The trick is not to make yourself conspicuous. Go around quietly, make your money, and don’t step on anyone’s toes.”

Funny Boy is also a story about Sri Lanka and the ethnic violence that erupted in the 1980s – which is what drove the author and his family to flee Sri Lanka for Canada. Selvadurai’s mother is Sinhalese (the majority group) and his father is Tamil. The 1983 “Black July” riots resulted in the deaths of an estimated 400 to 3,000, thousands of shops and homes destroyed, and some 150,000 people were made homeless.

What seemed disturbing, now that I thought about those 1981 riots, was that there had been no warning, no hint that they were going to happen. I looked all around me at the deserted beach, so calm in the hot sun. What was to prevent a riot from happening right now?

Arjie and his cousins spend one Sunday a month at their grandparents’ house, free of their parents. The boys play cricket for hours in the front and the field, the girls play in the back garden and porch. Arjie plays with the girls, mostly “bride-bride”, where he, being the leader of the group, plays the bride.

“I was able to leave the constraints of my self and ascent into another, more brilliant, more beautiful self, a self to whom this day was dedicated, and around whom the world, represented by my cousins putting flowers in my hair, draping the palu, seemed to revolve.”

But his “funny” ways are soon discovered and the adults insist that he stick to the boys’ games.

“I would be caught between the boys’ and the girls’ worlds, not belonging or wanted in either.”

Arjie starts to attend a new school, as his father explains, it will force him to “become a man”. It is at this academy that Arjie meets Shehan, who is rumored to be gay. They become friendly and then, more than friends, but even that is something of a risk, as Arjie is Tamil while Shehan is Sinhalese.

Throughout the book, ethnic identity is brought to the fore. Arjie’s aunt falls for a Sinhalese man. But the community’s prejudice tears them apart. His mother meets an old friend, a reporter investigating police abuses of power, who disappears in Jaffna, where violence erupted.

Funny Boy is a moving, engaging read about a young boy’s journey into adulthood in Sri Lanka.


I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – South Asian MC

#AsianLitBingo wrap-up

Boy did this challenge fly by.

I loved pushing myself to read – and more importantly, review! – these books in a month!

Here’s what I read. All are #ownvoices

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkataraman 

 Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen  (South East Asian MC)

The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino (Retelling with Asian MC)

The Boy in the Earth by Fuminori Nakamura (Translated Work by an Asian Author)

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee  (SFF with Asian MC)

Malice by Keigo Higashino (East Asian MC)

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Multiethnic Asian MC)

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fatah (Asian Muslim MC)

Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam  (LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC)

 Goat Days by Benjamin (Poor or working class Asian MC)

Ms Marvel: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa (Artist), Adrian Alphona (Artist) (Asian Superhero MC)

Turning Japanese by MariNaomi (Graphic novel with Asian MC)

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi (Central Asian MC)

The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui (Asian Refugee MC)

#AsianLitBingo: A Time to Dance by Padma Venkataraman

I wasn’t expecting a novel in verse. And really, I didn’t know what to expect except that this book nicely fit into the Asian Lit Bingo category of “Asian MC with Disability”. And of course, dance.

“Both feet on the ground again, I pirouette and leap,

rejoicing in the speed at which

the body obeys my mind’s commands,

celebrating my strong, skilled body — 

the center and source of my joy,

the one thing I can count on,

the one thing that never fails me.”

Growing up in Singapore, I knew a little (just a little) about Indian dance. In Singapore, ‘Indians’ (that is, anyone of South Asian ethnicity) make up about 7% of the population. And at my all-girls secondary school, there was a strong Indian dance group that performed at many occasions. I remember watching them walk on stage, the bells on their legs jingling. And all the many whirling and strenuous vibrant movements they made. It was such a huge contrast to the more gentle movements that the Chinese dance troupe performed. 

Veda is a dancer. A Bharatanatyam dancer. It is her life, it is her passion, it is her world. She lives and breathes dance. 

But her world comes crashing down when she loses her leg in a car accident. She now has to figure out how to walk again with a prosthetic leg. 

“It feels like Shiva destroyed my universes of possibility,

like He’s dancing

on the ashes 

of my snatched-away dreams.”

Somehow she finds the strength in herself to learn to dance again. She finds a new teacher and begins at the beginning with the youngest dancers. 

Veda is such a great character. She’s strong and resilient yet also very vulnerable and innocent. I love that she has a great relationship with her grandmother, who encourages her dancing, while her relationship with her mother is much more constrained. 

A Time to Dance is a sweet and beautiful story with dance at its heart and a courageous inspiring young woman at its soul. 


I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Asian MC with Disability

#AsianLitBingo: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen


I probably should have first read Little House on the Prairie before reading this book. While I know of the story – and think I remember watching some episodes of the TV show – I cannot confirm if I’ve actually read the book.

This book luckily has plenty of layers and even a non-Little House reader like me can find plenty to love.

The story goes as such. Lee Lien is jobless. She has a PhD but she’s finding it hard to find a job. So she goes home to a Chicago suburb where her mother and grandfather still live – and where they run a Vietnamese restaurant. She has a younger brother who’s convinced that their mother is hiding money from them. He leaves, taking all the cash in the register and all their mother’s jewelry, except for a single brooch. This  brooch was left behind by an American journalist their grandfather had met in Vietnam in 1965. Lee Lien wants to find out if there’s any truth to the idea that the American was Laura Ingall Wilder’s daughter.

So in one hand, a literary mystery that takes Lee from Chicago to Iowa to San Francisco.

The story goes as such. Lee Lien is jobless. She has a PhD but she’s finding it hard to find a job. So she goes home to a Chicago suburb where her mother and grandfather still live – and where they run a Vietnamese restaurant. She has a younger brother who’s convinced that their mother has been hiding money from them. He leaves, taking all the cash in the register and all their mother’s jewelry, except for a single brooch. This brooch was left behind by an American journalist their grandfather had met in Vietnam in 1965. Lee Lien wants to find out if there’s any truth to the idea that the American was Laura Ingall Wilder’s daughter Rose.

So on one hand, a literary mystery of sorts that takes Lee from Chicago to Iowa to San Francisco in search of Rose Wilder. (I say ‘of sorts’ because if you’re coming to this book looking for an actual mystery, then you may be disappointed. Also, if you’ve already read all the Little House books and all kinds of non-fiction about the Wilders then you will also be disappointed. I’m adding these caveats as I’ve read some reviews on Goodreads and I reckon these readers were coming into the story expecting new revelations about the Wilders. It was however an interesting experience for myself, not knowing anything about the story behind the books, to learn  about Rose Wilder Lane, who, despite her own work, her journalism, her books (she was the first biographer of Herbert Hoover and her collaboration on the Little House series), she is today best known as being the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

And on the other hand, this is a story about family. Her mother wants her to take over the business. Lee Lien feels a tug towards her family, wanting to help her mother and her grandfather. But she also knows that it is time to figure out things for herself, to learn where her research can take her, to carve her own path.

I really enjoyed this one.

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – South East Asian MC

#AsianLitBingo: The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

“And so it came to pass that sisters who had been the best of friends were forced to follow separate paths. ‘Separate’ is not quite the right word. Our paths were more distinctly different, as if she were to follow the day and I the night; or she the inner road and I the outer, she to traverse the heavens and I the earth. That was the ‘law’ of the island – that was our ‘destiny’.

It feels like a bit of a gamble for Natsuo Kirino, best known for her crime/mystery novels, to have written this retelling of the Japanese creation myth.

Yet it also remains true to her female-focused narratives, with this being a more feminist rebelling.

Apparently when Kirino’s books, especially Out, were first published in Japan, many criticized  her plots and one radio DJ refused to speak to her because in Out, a woman murders her husband.

Also, later I realize that The Goddess Chronicle is part of the Canongate myth series and that Kirino was invited by the publisher to write a story based on ancient Japanese myth.

I didn’t know anything about this myth of Izanaki and Izanami before reading the book – and you don’t really need to but I guess it would enhance your reading of it.  Izanaki and Izanami are deities commanded to make the lands of Japan. Their first attempt resulted in a deformed island and upon consulting the other deities, they learn that it’s because Izanami (the female) had spoken first. And when they try procreating again, Izanaki speaks first and Izanami gives birth to the many islands of Japan. After giving birth to the fire deity, Izanami dies. Izanaki pursues her to the underworld. (You can read more here)

The Goddess Chronicle begins with a dual thread of a story of a young woman whose journey has echoes of the goddess’ life. Namima who lives on a tiny remote island, where the islanders believe they are ruled by ancient gods.

“They sustained our lives; the waves and wind, the sand and stones. We respected the grandeur of nature. Our gods did not come to us in any specific form, but we held them in our hearts and understood them in our own way.”

Her sister Kamikuu is apprenticed to the Oracle on her sixth birthday. She lives with her and learns from her. And she is to no longer see Namima again. Namima is tasked to carry food to Kamikuu. Despite the poverty and scarce resources of the village, the food for Kamikuu is bountiful and rich. Yet she barely eats it, and as is tradition, the leftovers are tossed into the sea

Namibia is due for a very different life.

“Kamikuu, Child of Gods, is yang. She is the high priestess who rules the realm of light. She resides at the Kyoido on the eastern edge of the island, where the sun rises. But you are yin. You must preside over the realm of darkness. You will live here, in the Amiido, on the western edge where the sun sets.

That is, she is to care for the dead. She is to live with them, tend to their decaying bodies, and never return to her village.

But Namima wants more than this dreadful life she is expected to live, just because she is second-born. Things take a very different turn for her when she meets a young man, a fellow outcast whose family is shunned because his mother cannot produce a female child.

We eventually meet the deities Izanaki and Izanami and gods being gods, their story does sound rather silly and petty but they will never change. Or will they?

It took me a while to get into this story. Sometimes with translations one can never tell – is it the translation or is it just how the original story is written? Quite a bit of over-explaining makes the narrative a bit clunky. But overall, I really enjoyed learning about this Japanese myth and I especially liked the human story running alongside. Although I so wish that there was a better resolution to Namima’s story.




I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Retelling with Asian MC

#AsianLitBingo: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Reading a book like this takes work. 

You’re cast into an unknown world. With strange people. With different lingo. And in space. 

The author isn’t going to be babying you, there’s no handholding here. There are no footnotes explaining strange new words or worlds. There is no glossary. 

In fact it opens with a battle. A huge battle with formations and attacks and well, it’s not easy to grasp what’s going on and at times I have to put down the book and wonder, is this for me? 

But I persist. There must be a reason why this book has been raved about, why it has won awards. Right? 

And it is when we met General Jedao, a disgraced general, long dead yet also undead. He is one of two main characters here. The other is Kel Cheris whom we meet when the book opens. She’s a captain who gets into trouble with some tactics she uses in a battle. And to redeem herself she has to take back an important station that has fallen into enemy hands. Her solution?Taking Jedao out of stasis and…. downloading him into her body? There’s something about how no one can seem him except for his shadow. And only she can hear him and speak for him. 

What is especially intriguing is that Jedao, while being a brilliant tactician and all, kinda went cuckoo and massacred his own people. 

The thing is I spent a lot of time reading this book, mind completely bamboozled. I didn’t know what was going on with regards to the war and the military tactics and all that. But I did know that I really enjoyed this very bizarre relationship between a female soldier and the dead disgraced male general. 

And it made even more sense when I read more about Yoon Ha Lee who at 12 realized he was trans, identifying as male. 

In an article for Book Smugglers, he writes:

“There isn’t a single trans character, but Cheris (body) and Jedao (mind) ended up being a trans system, metaphorically anyway.”

So it’s a space opera! With math! And complicated battles that you won’t understand! And a wonderful combination of female-male character(s), one of whom is probably a psychopath and may try to kill the other (despite inhabiting her body)! 

It’s clever! It’s mad! It’s clever mad! 

(It makes me write in a lot of exclamation points! )

And hey, Raven Stratagem will be available June 9!

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – SFF with Asian MC

Malice by Keigo Higashino #AsianLitBingo

My love affair with Japanese crime fiction continues with this beauty by Keigo Higashino who may be better known for his Detective Galileo series, which begins with The Devotion of Suspect X, a brilliant crime story.

Malice features a different police detective and his name is Detective Kaga. According to Wikipedia, this is the fourth book in the series but the first three don’t seem to have been translated into English as yet. 

The Galileo series has faired better in terms of publication, with three out of four being published. Hopefully more of Higashino’s works will be translated. 

Because he has such an amazing way with plot twists. 

(I will try my very best to avoid spoilers in this post.)

Bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found dead in his home. A paperweight has been used to bludgeon him. In case that wasn’t enough, he has also been strangled. 

His body is found by a fellow author, Osama Nonoguchi, who writes children’s books, and Hidaka’s wife Rie. 

Hidaka was in his locked office. He and his wife, whom he had recently married, had been about to make their move to Vancouver, Canada, to start life anew. 

This is quite a puzzle for Detective Kyoichiro Kaga, who happens to have known Nonoguchi when they were both teachers. 

What is especially intriguing in this mystery novel is that the guilty party is arrested early on in the story. But Detective Kaga continues to puzzle over the case and digs far deeper and deeper until he finally figures it out. 

I loved the plot of this story. It’s hard to talk about it without giving much away. It definitely made me sit up in awe of the way Higashino twists and turns his plot around.

Malice was a quick read and it was entertaining with its plot puzzle. But I think Higashino’s other books like Under the Midnight Sun and Devotion of Suspect X are better reads, more elegantly written, than this one which, while decently written, wasn’t quite as stellar. 

Higashino nonetheless is one Japanese crime author I always look out for. I just wish I wasn’t at the mercy of American publishers and the way they pick whichever books to translate! 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – East Asian MC

#AsianLitBingo: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig 

I am not fond of “girl” titles. 

But I am very fond of this book. 

If there’s a map, Captain Slate can sail to any destination, even if it is mythical. He’s taken his ship and crew (which includes his teenaged daughter Nix) to 19th century Hawaii, the land from 1001 Arabian Nights. He sure has a fancy ship to do all this time traveling in:

She was a striking caravel, her black hull copper clad below the waterline to keep out works (and worse, depending on what waters we traveled). She rode on a keel fashioned from what looked like the rib of a leviathan, carved with labyrinthine runes from stem to stern, and at the prow, a red-haired mermaid bared her breasts to calm the sea. 

Nix is 16. Her parents met in an opium den in Honolulu and her mother, a Chinese immigrant, died the day she was born. In 1868. Oh and her father is actually from modern day New York. He uses his special time-traveling Navigation skills to make money, which is why he was in Hawaii at that time – and also away when she gave birth. 

(Yeah I was kinda confused in the beginning…)

Slate was at sea when Nix was born and when her mother died. And always, he is trying to find a way back to 1868, to find the right map to take them there, to save his love from death. 

So they’ve been traveling the world, traveling across time, to find the map that would bring them back to 1868 Hawaii. And when that perfect map does come along, it brings with it some devastating consequences. 

Reading The Girl from Everywhere is a truly immersive experience. The research that went into this book is astounding. I felt like I was walking into 1868 Honolulu. Heilig does such a beautiful job with her worldbuilding. 

I was especially intrigued to learn about the mercury “rivers” that supposedly surround the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (the action takes them there for a bit). The belief at the time was that mercury would make one immortal. Emperor Qin took mercury pills – which was probably what killed him at age 50. 

(I later went to look up more about the emperor’s tomb – it’s still unexcavated as they fear that current technology may be unable to fully preserve what is inside. The mausoleum itself was only discovered in 1974 and it’s a sprawling necropolis with terra-cotta warriors. And although the tomb is still unopened, the ground above it has been found to have unusually high levels of mercury.)

The one thing I didn’t really enjoy was the possible love interests. It’s probably just me but I don’t think the book really needed it. Is it because it’s marketed as YA that this is seen as a requirement? But I did like both fellas very much though. Also I am so not a “YA” reader, both in terms of being a fan of YA or in the right age group. So it’s probably just me. 

Also hey, I just discovered that part two of this… series? trilogy? was published this year. Definitely looking forward to that! 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Multiethnic Asian MC (Nix is half-Chinese)

#AsianLitBingo Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah 

So when you’re a non-pork eating, Eid-celebrating Mossie (as in taunting nickname for Muslim, not mosquito) with an unpronounceable last name and a mother who picks you up from school wearing a hijab and Gucci shades, and drives a car with an “Islam means peace” bumper sticker, a quiet existence is impossible.”

16-year-old Amal is Australian-Muslim-Palestinian: “That means I was born an Aussie and whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens.” 

She decides to wear the hijab full-time. It’s her decision, not something her parents or relatives or friends made her do. She’s ready but she’s nervous because she’s recently started at McCleans, a prep school where she’s pretty much the only Muslim student. She wants to prove to herself that she’s strong enough to wear a badge of faith and she believes it will make her feel close to God. 

The hijab was part of her school uniform when she had attended Hidaya Islamic College although Amal would take it off as soon as she left school because “man oh man do you need guts to get on public transportation with it on”. 

Even her parents are worried and wonder if this is the right move at first. Her friends are supportive but it takes her classmates a few days before they confront her. Of course her mortal enemy Tia continues to insinuate things about her. And then there’s Adam, fun, funny and kinda cute. What does he think about her hijab? 

Amal’s got some great friends. Some of them are her McCleans classmates and there’s also Leila and Yasmeen from her old school. 

Abdel-Fattah cleverly introduces us to a diverse group of Muslim families. Leila’s conservative mum wants to find her a good husband, although she’s just a teenager, and doesn’t allow her to go out even if it’s with girlfriends. Amal’s family, while religious, are more open-minded. Amal’s uncle takes a very different track in being Australian. He’s “Uncle Joe”, not Ismail, wants his children to “live as Aussies”, disdains fasting and halal food and even prayer time. 

I love how Randa Abdel-Fattah took what is a tough topic and made it a fun yet insightful read.   I tend not to read YA but I’m so thoroughly thrilled with this book. It was so real and down to earth, and filled with such fantastic characters. I look forward to reading more of her books!

I read this for #AsianLitBingo – Asian Muslim MC