#RIPXIII – Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike

Graveyard Apartment doesn’t bring on the creep factor early on. Instead it opens very much like a typical domestic story. A family moves into a new apartment. But this apartment so happens to be located next to a graveyard. Which is of course the main reason why it’s so affordable – and thus attractive to this young family buying their first home.

And it does seem pleasant enough at first, with some beautiful daphne flowers blooming, and even cherry blossoms bordering the graveyard. The family sets about getting routines down, like getting kindergarten uniforms for their daughter and meeting the neighbors. A couple of unusual things does happen, like their pet bird dies and there seems to be a strange image on the TV but nothing to ruffle feathers. That is, until their daughter gets injured while playing in the basement, and things start getting weird from then on.

Graveyard Apartment is rather slow-moving as horror fiction goes. It was originally published in 1986 and perhaps the pacing of the storyline reflects that.

But when it got going, it did get pretty creepy for me – but then I am a big chicken when it comes to horror fiction – and found myself wishing I weren’t alone at home (and I live in a very quiet neighborhood).

Would you live near a cemetery? I wouldn’t.

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RIP XIII

As we near the end of August, it’s time to start thinking about autumn leaves and spooky reads!

The Readers Imbibing in Peril Challenge is in its 13th year!

If you’re new to RIP, this is what it’s all about:

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.

Suspense.

Thriller.

Dark Fantasy.

Gothic.

Horror.

Supernatural.

The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

The goals are simple. 

1. Have fun reading.

2. Share that fun with others.

You can find more details here

I’m joining in for

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (our very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature.

And here are some books I hope to read!

I always try to go for a pool centered around POC writers and female writers.

Death Notice – Zhou Haohui, translated from the Chinese by Zac Haluza

A police thriller set in Chengdu, China. A new-to-me writer

Last Winter We Parted – Fuminori Nakamura

I’ve read a couple of Nakamura’s books, The Boy in the Earth, and The Thief, and they’re always kinda weird and dark.

In the miso soup – Ryu Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Ralph McCarthy

Something about a possible serial killer in Tokyo and sleazy nightlife. I figure I might just give it a try.

The Graveyard Apartment – Mariko Koike, translated from the Japanese by Deborah Boliver Boehm

This was on some list of horror books online. It was originally published in 1984 and sure sounds creepy.

The Between– Tananarive Due

I loved Due’s The Good House and always say I should read more of her books.

The City of Brass – S A Chakraborty

I like the idea of fantasy set in the Middle East and don’t read enough of it. This goes for the next book too.

Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed

Want more suggestions?

Here’s my RIP XII pool (lots of women writers)

Here’s my list of POC authors that I posted for RIP XI

Back to the Classics 2018

I am horrible when it comes to finishing challenges. I am really good at starting them and I am truly awesome at coming up with reading lists 😀. But finishing them? Not really.

Every year-end I wonder if I should join challenges in the new year but the truth is, I cannot resist them! So here I am again, joining the Back to the Classics challenge hosted by Books and Chocolate.

This year, I’ve decided to try as much as possible to read books by women authors.

1. A 19th century classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.

Adam Bede – George Eliot (1859)

2. A 20th century classicany book published between 1900 and 1968. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.

Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles (1943)

3. A classic by a woman author.

The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1948)

4. A classic in translation.

The Innocent Libertine by Colette (1909)

5. A children’s classic.

The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit (1907)

An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott (1869-1870)

6. A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction.

Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay (1935)

The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green (1878)

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction

A Voyage in the Sunbeam by Anna Brassey (1878)

8. A classic with a single-word title.

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1907)

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë (1849)

9. A classic with a color in the title.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (1847)

The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer (1921)

10. A classic by an author that’s new to you.

The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton (1958)

11. A classic that scares you.
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (990s to 1000s)

12. Re-read a favorite classic

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery (1908)

#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

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

#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: 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