Notes On Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

This book surprised me. I thought it was possibly a mystery/thriller – see “sudden disappearance” in the title. But this is instead a story about grief. Sally loses her older sister Kathy in a car accident. The story is set over 15 years, told to Kathy by Sally before, during, and after her death.

Sally’s parents struggle badly with their grief. And Sally finds herself drawn to Kathy’s boyfriend, the only other person who understands how she feels. He was also the one driving when the accident happened. 

There’s a melancholic tone throughout, it’s a story about pain and loss after all. Yet Sally’s voice manages to be refreshing, somehow humorous, and heartbreakingly honest. 

Moving and elegantly written, this dark coming-of-age story was exactly the book I needed this rainy January. 

Favourite quote: “I was thinking that there was nothing better in this world than to discover someone who was weird in exactly the same way I was weird. To be weird and then loved for it.”

It’s Monday (January 9, 2022)

Some things last week:

The kids are finally back at school. They had a nice two week winter break, where we didn’t travel, and instead spent time at home. And the weather last week was not the greatest. Luckily, we didn’t have it as bad as places on the coast, like the beach towns of Santa Cruz and Capitola – you can see some of the damage in this news article.

Besides hanging out at home and playing video games and board games, reading books, and watching movies (we watched all the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring movies, the kids’ first time), the kids also helped me with some cooking and baking.

We made pizza
The kids wanted breakfast burritos
On the day it didn’t rain, we went out for some seafood. Great calamari!
And after being bored at home on yet another rainy day, we drove out to a Barnes & Noble (there isn’t one in our town). The kids discovered that they have a pretty big manga and comic collection!

Portofino bag (pattern)

Long summer crochet duster (pattern), but I don’t think I’ll make it duster length.

Currently…

Reading:

I was Born for This – Alice Oseman

Booked on a Feeling – Jayci Lee

Cult X – Fuminori Nakamura

Watching:

I’m still watching West Wing!

Listening:

I’ve just finished Hooked by Sutton Foster and am looking for a new audiobook.

Eating and Drinking:

Banana bread and coffee

Cooking:

We went to a relatively new Korean supermarket that opened in our city. It doesn’t have as huge a variety as the popular Korean supermarket chain, HMart, but it was not too bad. HMart after all is a bit of a drive from us, so it’s nice to have this just 10 minutes away.

Last week:

I read:

The Fox and the Little Tanuki vol 1 – Mi Tagawa

The Violin Conspiracy – Brendan Slocumb

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

I posted:

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

Pozole and Tortillas for a California Missions project #WeekendCooking

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Library Loot (January 4 to 10, 2023)

Favorite Reads of 2022

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

An unflinching look at racism in the classical music world. Ray is a young Black violinist who is determined to compete at an international classical music competition. But his violin has been stolen just months before the event. This is no ordinary violin. It’s a family heirloom passed down from his great great grandfather. It also happens to be a Stradivarius, and insured for $10 million. 

Racism is at the forefront of this novel. Ray faces so much abuse and mistreatment in the classical music world. Yet he pushes on, continues toward his dream of being a classical violinist, a performer, but with little support. He has the encouragement and friendship of his music professor but his family wants only money from him. 

While it’s called a thriller/mystery, a lot of the book is Ray’s coming of age story. The mystery and coming of age parts don’t quite go together and instead feels like I’m reading two different books. 

Unfortunately, I found that the “bad” characters were very one-dimensional. Ray has two younger siblings but there’s no interaction among them, and they seem to be used to as a tool to show his mother’s dislike for Ray and little else. His mother treats him horrendously but we’re never told why. And that constantly bugged me, his relationship with his mother who seems to despise him so, but for what reason? Also, while his grandmother Nora seems so loving towards Ray, why does she allow her daughter to treat him that way? Ray could also be better developed. All the reader knows is that he’s passionate about music but other than that, he feels like a snow plow pushing a path towards the end of the story. 

An interesting premise and a promising start. This book opened my eyes to racism in the classical music world. But an unbalanced story, a ho-hum mystery, and flat characters resulted in a disappointing read.

Pozole and Tortillas for a California Missions project #WeekendCooking

In California, fourth graders in public schools do a research project on the California missions. Coincidentally, my 9yo got assigned the same Mission as his older brother, the Santa Clara de Asís, located in Santa Clara University. His older brother did a diorama of the Mission, but honestly, that was such a pain to do, having to help measure and draw and cut and paint and glue etc etc etc…

So I gently nudged the 9yo towards something else on the teacher’s list. Luckily he was happy to try out the cookbook. The project was to research about the food eaten at missions and to write a cookbook with at least two recipes of the foods. We looked it up together and I realised that Pozole, a kind of meat and hominy soup/stew, is actually quite manageable. And he wanted to try making tortillas too.

This is the Pozole Roja recipe we used. We also watched this Youtube video together. The whole wheat tortilla recipe came from Isabel Eats, which was convenient because I didn’t have shortening and this one just used oil.

I picked up about 3 pounds of pork shoulder from the supermarket. Luckily, managed to order the dried ancho and guajillo chillies, as well as the can of hominy, from Weee!

As this was the first time cooking with these chillies, I wasn’t sure if it would be spicy. So instead of the four and five chillies used, I halved it. But these chillies actually weren’t spicy at all.

Cut the pork shoulder and put it in a pot of water to boil for about an hour. Skim off the scum and fat.
The chillies have to be soaked in boiling hot water for about 15 minutes, then blended. I had forgotten to add the garlic and shallots to the chillies. Some recipes call for the chilli mixture to be added straight to the boiling pork. But others say to cook it down a bit for 30 minutes. I decided that I might as well cook it a bit more before adding to the pork. After adding it to the pork, cook for another hour.
I was curious about hominy but it turns out to be dried corn kernels treated with alkali to strip and soften the corn. We drained the can and rinsed the hominy before adding it to the pot and cooking for 45 more minutes. Finally the pork was super tender after some 3 hours of cooking.

Kneading the dough for tortillas.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The first book I finished in 2023, although I have to admit that I started reading it in the last days of 2022, was this ambitious and completely delightful fantasy published in 2014. 

Maia, half-goblin, aged 18, the youngest son of the Emperor of the Elflands lives in seclusion far from the Imperial Court. When his father and three brothers in line for the throne are killed in an airship accident, he becomes Emperor. Having lived far from the palace all his life, under the care of a cruel cousin, he has no one, no friends, no family he can trust, and no one really to school him in the court politics. But he is the Emperor and rule he must. 

Don’t go into this book expecting bountiful action and epic battles. There is some court intrigue but ultimately it is a riveting but gentle book, with an awkward, flawed, and completely likeable young man who so happens to find himself now Emperor. A coming of age epic fantasy. 

Maia is a fascinating character. The writer has crafted him so carefully, although he may be rather mild and passive for some readers. He is goodhearted, even toward those who have wronged him. As a half-goblin,the dark skin and hair inherited from his mother give him no advantages at the Elflands court. But he bravely takes up the role, showing his humility and empathy in a hostile world. 

The many characters, as well as the Elvish and Goblin names take a bit of getting used to. The world building is complicated. But it was entirely worth it. 

Favourite quote: 

‘In our inmost and secret heart, which you ask us to bare to you, we wish to banish them as we were banished, to a cold and lonely house, in the charge of a man who hated us. And we wish them trapped there as we were trapped.’

‘You consider that unjust, Serenity?’

‘We consider it cruel,’ Maia said. ‘And we do not think that cruelty is ever just.’

Library Loot (January 4 to 10, 2023)

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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 first Library Loot post of 2023! What did you get from your library this week? Let us know in the link-up or comments below!

We made a rainy day trip to the library on the last day of 2022 to pick up some holds, since they would be closed January 1 and 2.

What I got from the library this week:

Booked on a Feeling – Jayci Lee

I couldn’t resist this cute cover. I’m slightly confused now because on Goodreads, it’s described as #3 in the Sweet Mess series but the synopsis sounds like it’s a standalone. Maybe it’s one of those linked collections, where the characters from previous books make minor appearances.

Marigold and Rose – Louise Glück

Spotted this tiny volume on the new arrivals shelves and was intrigued. It chronicles the first year of twin girls.

Mercury Pictures Presents – Anthony Marra

A book that’s made some best of 2022 lists.

Ebooks

For January in Japan, I borrowed some ebooks:

Parade – Hiromi Kawakami, Allison Markin Powell (trans)

This short read (96 pages) with a funny cover stood out to me. Also, it has tengu, a mysterious supernatural being in Japanese folktales.

Cult X – Fuminori Nakamura, Kalau Almony (trans)

This book has been on my TBR for a while. Might as well read it!

Kids’ loot:

Favorite Reads of 2022

I wanted to take a look at some of my favorite reads of the year. I had a wonderful year of reading. I hope you did too. 

Nonfiction

I managed to read 29 nonfiction books this year, and these were my favorites:

Dopesick by Beth Macy

You Can’t Be Serious by Kal Penn

Winter Pasture by Li Juan

Made in China by Anna Qu

Savor by Fatima Ali 

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

Diagnosis by Lisa Sanders

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson

Speculative Fiction

Here are my favourite speculative fiction reads of 2022. 

Here we have:
⭐️ Amari and the Night Brothers – B.B. Alston 
⭐️ Kaiju Preservation Society – John Scalzi
⭐️ The Starfarers Quartet – Vonda N. McIntyre
⭐️ Sea of Tranquility – Emily St John Mandel
⭐️ Hunt the Stars – Jessie Mihalik 
⭐️ The Book Eaters – Sunyi Dean
⭐️ A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik
⭐️ The Last Graduate – Naomi Novik 
⭐️ The Golden Enclaves – Naomi Novik

With these books, I escaped to parallel worlds and other universes, braving mals and kaiju, meeting telepaths and magicians. What a whirlwind year of reading fantasy and science fiction! 

Translated Books

These were my favourite translated books. I read 37 translated books this year, and featured two already in the section on nonfiction reads. 

Here are my favourites, which happen to all be written by women: 

🔹 The Waiting by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, translated by Janet Hong
🔹 Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, translated by Janet Hong
🔹 The Old Woman with the Knife by Gu Byeong-mo, translated by Chi-Young Kim
🔹 The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura, translated by Lucy North
🔹 Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Asa Yoneda 

Remarkable Reads

These are the rest of the books that stuck to me, whether because of unforgettable characters, setting, plot, beautiful writing or a combination of all.

▪️Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So
▪️Joan is Okay by Weike Wang
▪️Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall 
▪️Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
▪️Himawari House by Harmony Becker 
▪️XOXO by Axie Oh 
▪️Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean
▪️If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
▪️When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill 
▪️The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huynh 
▪️Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
▪️Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

It’s Monday (January 2, 2023)

Happy new year! I hope that this year will be a wonderful one, a healthy and safe one, one filled with delicious eats and awesome reads.

Some things last week:

Our New Year’s Eve dinner was Korean BBQ at home. We had pork belly, beef, three kinds of mushrooms, zucchini, and more.

In California, fourth graders (at least those in public schools) have to do a research project on the California missions. I mentioned last week that we went to visit the Santa Clara Mission, which is the mission that my 9yo was assigned. Coincidentally, his older brother had also been assigned the same mission! His brother had chosen to construct a diorama of the Mission and it was really quite a pain to do. So I gently nudged the 9yo towards something else. Luckily he was happy to do the cookbook, which is research the food eaten at the Missions, and write a cookbook with at least two recipes. I’ll write up a proper post on it later this week, but here’s a photo of the Pozole rojo we made.
We’ve been hit with rain, rain, and more rain over the past week. You may have read about closures of some major highways due to flooding. The Oakland zoo has to be closed due to a major sinkhole at their entrance! Luckily, we were fine here, just a lot of rain. Anyway, after being tired of staying at home, we took the kids out to lunch at a sushi conveyor belt eatery, then to the Barnes and Noble – there isn’t a big bookstore in our city, so we had to drive out to this one. It’s supposed to rain more this week too!
Rain = hotpot weather! So since we were already at the Korean supermarket to pick up some meat, might as well get thinly sliced pork and beef, and all the mushrooms and vegetables for hotpot. This time, tried different fish balls and fish tofu at HMart. Delicious!
Last week was our wedding anniversary, so we went out to this lovely Japanese restaurant. Their sashimi was fresh and delicious. I also really enjoyed the drinks we had. I had ordered a mango ginger for the kids, this is a ginger beer, mango puree, shiso leaf concoction. But they said it was too gingery, so I ended up drinking most of it. It was very refreshing!

Currently…

Reading:

Booked on a Feeling – Jayci Lee

Watching:

Going to watch Glass Onion tonight on Netflix

Listening:

Hooked by Sutton Foster

Eating and Drinking:

I made cream tea scones (recipe from King Arthur) last week to use up the heavy cream I had leftover from the Christmas cake. So I’m having one now with some tea.

Cooking:

We still have the Pozole leftovers from last night, so maybe I won’t have to cook tonight. Maybe we will make some shepherds pie tomorrow, using turkey instead of beef.

Last week:

I read:

Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

I posted:

Library Loot (December 28 to January 3)

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

Library Loot (December 28 to January 3)

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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! What did you get from your library this week?

Claire has the link-up this week.

What I got from the library this week:

I was Born for This – Alice Oseman

Sounds like a YA book that has to do with a pop-rock band. Oh well, I’m really happy to read anything that Alice Oseman writes actually.

Winter in Sokcho – Elisa Shua Dusapin

I guess winter is as good a time as any to read this wintery read set in Korea.

Hiroshima Mon Amour – Marguerite Duras

This is the screenplay for the movie – which I haven’t seen before. But I’m curious about it!

It’s Monday (December 26)

Ok so it’s Tuesday now. I forgot it was Monday yesterday! All those celebratory days just threw me off. I hope you had a lovely Christmas if you celebrate it, and if you are on vacation, hope it’s been a lovely one. We are having a rather rainy week, with rain forecasted for most of the week. Otherwise, we haven’t really been affected by the horrendous weather that most of the country has been seeing. Hope you are warm and safe wherever you live.

Some things last week:

We usually do a big Christmas Eve dinner, and even when it’s just the four of us, I still cook a small ham and all the sides that go along with it. We had pineapple and honey glazed ham with a pineapple sauce, hasselback potatoes, sweet potato casserole, roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts. I also made a bûche de Noel with meringue mushrooms.

Made a Minecraft axolotl and creeper for the kids

Also, before Christmas, we tried out a newish Korean-Chinese eatery. I liked the jjampong (spicy seafood noodle soup). The kids say their jjajangmyeon was good too.
We took a sunset walk along the marshlands, which is a wildlife refuge.
And had also visited the Mission Santa Clara. Fourth graders in Santa Clara do a project on the California Missions. Coincidentally, the 9yo was assigned the same mission as his older brother was. And it’s only about 20 minutes drive from us, so we went to take some photos for his report.

Currently…

Reading:

The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren

Watching:

Run BTS. This is a variety show of sorts that stars, well, BTS. They’ve been doing it for years but it was only recently uploaded onto Youtube (previously it was on Vlive).

Listening:

Hooked by Sutton Foster

Eating and Drinking:

A slice of Yule log cake and tea.

Cooking:

Tonight, we’re having hotpot, it’s just the right weather for it. Yesterday, we had picked up some thinly sliced beef and pork from the Asian supermarket. Also, some bokchoy, cabbage, beech and oyster mushrooms.

Last week:

I read:

Nuclear Family- Joseph Han

Saha – Cho Nam-Joo

I posted:

Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

Library Loot (December 21 to 27)

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date