Top Ten Tuesday: Diverse royals



It’s a freebie week!

So if you’re a Litten (a regular on Litsy), you may know that I run a monthly book photo challenge (I’m @reallifereading). And one of my prompts this month was “royals”.

While thinking of books that would fit this for my own photo, and while browsing through the hashtag, I realized that most books about royalty that were featured were of the western kind – that is, the many royal families past and present (and fictional) of Europe, especially the United Kingdom.

But what about the rest of the world? There were – and still are – royal families in non-western countries. In Singapore, I remember a visit from a Thai princess to my secondary school. The Sultan of Johor (the closest state in Malaysia just across the Causeway from Singapore) and his family regularly visit Singapore. In fact, Asia has more monarchs than any other continent and that’s the focus of my list.

I’ve read just a few of these books, and many are new-to-me discoveries from researching this topic. Most of them are works of fiction, some classics, and non-fiction, and as far as possible, #ownvoices.

The Red Chamber – Pauline Chen (my review)
A retelling of the Chinese classic, The Dream of the Red Chamber.

My Last Empress – Da Chen 
‘A sweeping story of passion and obsession, set against the upheavals of 19th-century imperial China”

Empress Orchid – Anchee Min
The Last Empress – Anchee Min 

A young girl enters the Imperial Palace as a low-ranking concubine.

Empress – Shan Sa (my review)

A ravishing historical novel of one of China’s most controversial historical figures: its first and only female emperor, Empress Wu, who emerged in the Tang Dynasty and ushered in a golden age.

Empress Dowager Cixi : The Concubine Who Launched Modern China – Jung Chang

Packed with drama, fast paced and gripping, it is both a panoramic depiction of the birth of modern China and an intimate portrait of a woman: as the concubine to a monarch, as the absolute ruler of a third of the world’s population, and as a unique stateswoman

Love and Death in Kathmandu: A Strange Tale of Royal Murder -Amy Willesee, Mark Whittaker

(This is of interest to me as it happened just a few weeks after I left Nepal – I had been there for a two-week hiking trip and it is one of the most unforgettable vacations I’ve ever had).

On June 1, 2001, the heir to the Nepalese throne, Crown Prince Dipendra, donned military fatigues, armed himself with automatic weapons, walked in on a quiet family gathering, and, without a word, mowed his family down before turning a gun on himself. But Dipendra did not die immediately, and while lying in a coma was declared king. He was now a living god.

The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

Written in the eleventh century, this portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world’s first novel. The Tale of Genji is a very long romance, running to fifty-four chapters and describing the court life of Heian Japan, from the tenth century into the eleventh.

The Pillow Book – Sei Shonagon

Written by a lady of the court at the height of Heian culture, this book enthralls with its lively gossip, witty observations, and subtle impressions.

The Confessions of Lady Nijo – Lady Nijo

In about 1307 a remarkable woman in Japan sat down to complete the story of her life. The result was an autobiographical narrative, a tale of thirty-six years (1271-1306) in the life of Lady Nijo, starting when she became the concubine of a retired emperor in Kyoto at the age of fourteen and ending, several love affairs later, with an account of her new life as a wandering Buddhist nun.

The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor – Zahirud-din Muhammad Babur, Wheeler M. Thackston (Translator)

Both an official chronicle and the highly personal memoir of the emperor Babur (1483–1530), The Baburnama presents a vivid and extraordinarily detailed picture of life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India during the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries

The Twentieth Wife (Taj Mahal Trilogy #1) –  Indu Sundaresan

An enchanting seventeenth-century epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India’s most legendary and controversial empresses — a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal empire.


Raj – Gita Mehta

Jaya Singh is the intelligent, beautiful, and compassionate daughter of the Maharajah and Maharani of Balmer. Raised in the thousand-year-old tradition of purdah, a strict regime of seclusion, silence, and submission, Jaya is ill-prepared to assume the role of Regent Maharani of Sirpur upon the death of her decadent, Westernized husband. But Jaya bravely fulfills her duty and soon finds herself thrust into the center of a roiling political battle in which the future of the kingdom is at stake… and her own future as well.

The Glass Palace – Amitav Ghosh

Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest.

In the Shadow of the Banyan – Vaddey Ratner (my review)

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.
The Girl from the Coast

Monarchy in South-east Asia – Roger Kershaw

(Sounds more academic but it is hard to find books about SE Asian royal families)

This title is the first study to relate the history and contemporary role of the South East Asian monarchy to the politics of the region today.

Moon Princess – Sao Sanda

“Narrated by the eldest daughter of Sao Shwe Thaike, the Prince of Yawnghwe, The Moon Princess recounts both the story of her early life and at the same time provides a fascinating memoir of her father who, in 1948, became first President of the Union of Burma after the country gained its independence. She describes growing up in the Shan States and records the changes that occurred during the periods of British colonial rule, war and Japanese occupation, the return of the British administration, the troubled years after Burma’s Independence and, finally the military takeover in 1962.”

#amonthoffaves2016 – A Few of My Favourite Things


A Month of Faves is hosted by Andi, Tanya and Tamara

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things – eg. to eat, drink, wear, smell, see, do, enjoy, best thing I bought, most used gift received etc, favorite concert, outdoor activity, place visited, most squee worthy moment of the year, biggest change.

It’s A Month of Faves again! I’ve been looking forward to this wonderful December blogging event!

Favourite things for 2016?

That’s a tough one. 2016 has been a big year for us!


Earlier in the year, my five-year-old getting picked for the Mandarin immersion kindergarten programme – it’s a lottery as there’s only one school in my city that has this programme and in the end there were 12 kids on the waitlist. He started kindergarten at the end of August and loves going to school. Kindergarten here is only a half-day programme and he’s in the afternoon class so that means I have a 3yo in AM preschool and a 5yo in PM kindergarten. It’s definitely a year of change for all of us!

A trip to Singapore

So we make this trip to Singapore nearly every year. But this was the first year that the husband and I took a little hotel staycation without the kids. We even dined at a couple of fine dining establishments, one of which eventually received 2 Michelin stars (2016 was the first year Singapore got the Michelin guide). (You can read more details here)

Singapore Day


The Singapore government has a unit catering to “Overseas Singaporeans”, that is, encouraging the return of us Overseas Singaporeans. So once a year they spend a huge chunk of money organizing Singapore Day. It has happened in places like China, Australia, London, New York, but this was the very first time it happened in California. So of course we had to attend. It was free but you had to be Singaporean (or at least know a Singaporean who could invite you). They flew in hawkers who cooked all kinds of Singapore food like roti prata, Hokkien mee, laksa, chicken rice, satay and more! They flew in entertainers – comedians, hosts, singers. Even the Deputy Prime Ministers came. (More details on my post here)



After Book Riot’s post on 10 people to follow on Litsy, I ended up becoming one of Litsy’s “suggested users” to follow. I also host a monthly book photo challenge on Litsy too. It’s a great community of bookish people! (I’m @reallifereading).

My very own library!

(Still shelving books)

We have a loft that has been used as (1) a TV room and (2) a baby room. And then it kind of ended up as a room that we used to store things in. A pity as it’s a lovely room with great light.

When it came time for us to order beds for the boys, the husband decided that we might as well order new shelves and convert the loft into a library! We got two sets of shelves from Ikea, a new sofa and even an armchair. It is quite lovely and before bedtime, we sit there and read together.

How about you? How was 2016 been?

Top Ten Tuesday – Book recommendations


This week’s question from the Broke and the Bookish is:


All About Books You Read Because of Recommendation — Ten Books I’ve Read Because Of Another  Blogger (Or Book Person) or Ten Books I Read On Recommendation From People Outside Of This Community or you could talk about recommendations of books you read from other sources — a magazine, a podcast, a “because you read this” algorithm.

I’m going to talk about where I get my book recommendations from, instead of specific books!


Book bloggers

  • Read Diverse Books for great diverse reads, especially with his recent Latin X Heritage month posts!
  • If You Can Read This for diverse reads with a focus on female writers. She’s running a Diverse Detectives Month too!
  • BookDragon, which is run by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center – “books for the multi-culti reader”
  • I pretty much get all my CanLit suggestions from Buried in Print!
  • Pickle Me This for CanLit and great kids books
  • Earl Grey Editing for speculative fiction

Bookish sites

  • Bookriot – especially those lists of 100 books that they randomly do for various topics
  • Lit Hub – lots of great interviews and features
  • The Millions – always a good read


I’m on Litsy several times a day (find me @reallifereading) and my tbr keeps growing thanks to all my bookish friends there!

The library

I like browsing my library’s shelves especially their themed picks. Last month it was music books and there I found Pitch Perfect, the book that inspired the movie. Unfortunately, the book fell a bit short of my expectations.

Real life friends

Sometimes the people I’ve known in real life are the ones that kick me to read books that have been on my TBR list for ages. Like The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which one of my friends mentioned a few months ago in a WhatsApp conversation!

Where do you get your book recommendations from?