It’s Monday (October 5, 2020)

Hello October!

And we are still in tshirts and shorts and the fans are going at full speed. It looks like it may be a bit cooler this week so here’s hoping! I just long to be able to pull on a sweater, you know? I’m happy to leave the flip flops behind and get down to autumn.

Here’s what we did last week….

It was Mid-Autumn Festival on Thursday, according to the lunar calendar. Unfortunately it was also a bad air day so we couldn’t go outdoors for our lantern walk, and the kids had to do it indoors.

But the kids’ teachers had some small fun crafts to do during distance learning (in case you’re new here, my kids attend a Mandarin immersion program at a public school). The second graders made mooncakes out of play dough. The fourth graders made “mooncakes” out of puff pastry and a tangyuan (Chinese dessert ball made of glutinous rice flour and a sweet filling usually red bean or black sesame, most times served in sweet soup. Tastes a bit like mochi). It really isn’t like the usual mooncakes you get, which have a pastry that’s more like shortcrust and inside is often lotus paste – although there are very many different mooncake fillings, especially if you’re in Singapore, like chocolate, earl grey, champagne truffle even!

Oh and my order from Lupicia tea came in! Lupicia is a tea company from Japan and there used to be a store in San Jose inside the Mitsuwa supermarket. It unfortunately closed maybe two years ago? And so the only Lupicia outlet in the US seems to be in Hawaii! I really wanted some Gyokuro tea which is different from regular green tea in that it’s grown in the shade. And it tends to have a “greener” taste.

And yesterday, we had takeout from The Counter. I got a build your own and added lots of vegetables including roasted red peppers and spring mix.

Currently…

Reading:

Empire of Wild – Cherie Dimaline

Watching:

Game of Thrones

Also, the Great British Bake Off!

Listening:

I just finished The Woman in White yesterday, so I haven’t figured out what’s next. Another classic perhaps?

Eating:

Had some baguette for breakfast

Drinking:

Oolong tea

Cooking:

Picked up some lamb loin chops so I’ll probably cook that with some baby potatoes and whatever vegetable I pick up later this week.

We were left with one more sheet of puff pastry and I want to use that to make a Guinness pie

Last week:

I read:

The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

Dim Sum of All Fears – Vivien Chien

The Wandering – Intan Paramaditha

I posted:

Library Loot (September 30 to October 6)

The Deep by Alma Katsu #ripxv

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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 (September 30 to October 6)

badge-4Library 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 Library Loot Day! What did you get from your library recently? Link up your post or let me know in the comments!

I’ve heard of this a while back but not sure why I didn’t pick it up earlier. Another RIP-related read!

Strange Practice (Dr Greta Helloing #1) – Vivian Shaw

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.

They had me at Labyrinth. Also, I found this book on this Tor.com list on books that centre mental health. 

Wintersong – S. Jae Jones

Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Cruel Prince.

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

Oh hey, a non-RIP book for a change! I wanted to read this after seeing that awesome cover.

We Are Not Free – Traci Chee

From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.
 
Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco.
 
Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted.
 
Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.
 
In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.

What did you get from your library this week?

The Deep by Alma Katsu #ripxv

Creepy book set on both the Titanic and the Britannica (its sister ship that also sank) that is perfect for Halloween season. Also since I’m not going any where near a cruise ship in the near future, perfectly fine to be reading about water spirits and that unsettling feeling of being on the deep sea (at least for me). I don’t know much about the history of either ships but later learned that a few characters in the book were real life passengers and that indeed there was a staff member, Violet Jessie, who served on both ships – and survived. Fascinating. Also rather disturbing… I can see how she served as inspiration for this book.

But back to The Deep. Like Katsu’s previous book, The Hunger, this is historical fiction with a supernatural twist. But it is done so very skillfully and woven into the plot and brings in both ages-old mythology and superstition as well as the spiritualism that was popular at the time. 

I loved all the detail and research that went into this book. Even the minor characters are just felt so well-rounded and believable. And while we all know the fates of these ships, I couldn’t put this book down thanks to great characters both real and imaginary, all those small historical details, and that delightful satisfying feeling about reading a well-written book.

It’s Monday (September 28, 2020)

It’s the last week of September! And we are in a heatwave again, hooray…

I really appreciated last week’s great air quality and cool breezes but Sunday was hot and today will be even hotter! And so will the rest of the week….

I tell you, this always happens once we actually hit autumn, the sun decides those of us in the Bay Area haven’t had enough of her power, and has to whack us with one good solid heatwave to let us know she’s in charge.

But pandemic + hot hot heat means home with the AC on, while others flock to the beaches.

I’ve been slowly introducing the kids to the Studio Ghibli movies. They’ve loved Totoro for quite a few years now and have also seen Ponyo but in recent weeks we have also watched The Cat Returns and Spirited Away. I think next weekend we will give one of my favorites, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, a try. This weekend, the husband wanted to watch Long Way Up, the TV series starring Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman who ride motorcycles (this time, electric Harleys) around different countries. In this series they’re traveling from the bottom of South America to Los Angeles. And the crew are in electric pickup trucks.

Meanwhile, here’s what else we did last week.

On Friday, the Mister Softee truck randomly stopped outside our house. We live at the back of the neighborhood so it’s not exactly a place that would be a stop for an ice-cream truck. But it was meant to be!

I had some cod to use up and decided to make it two ways, cod chowder (which the kids wanted) and a cod and prawn stew.

Oh hey, I joined Storygraph. Are you on there? It’s intentionally un-social media-like so it’s not the easiest to find out who’s following you. Please let me know what your username is. Mine is RealLifeReading.

Currently…

Reading:

Watching:

Game of Thrones

And also the latest season of the Great British Bake-off! It was so interesting reading of how everyone on it had to quarantine to form a GBBO bubble and take 3 COVID-19 tests before they could start.

Listening:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Eating:

 A slice of homemade Lemon Bliss Cake (recipe from King Arthur Flour) made with homegrown Meyer lemons.

Drinking:

Assam Calcutta Auction tea from Lupicia

Cooking:

I haven’t a clue! Although I was craving for some Hawaiian-style macaroni salad a couple of days ago… and it’s such a hot week too, so that’s a perfect one to make.

Last week:

I read:

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Camp Spirit by Axelle Lenoir

I posted:

Strawberry ice-cream #weekendcooking

Recent reads: There’s Someone Inside Your House; Sex and Vanity

Library Loot (September 23 to 29)

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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

Strawberry ice-cream #weekendcooking

For too long, I despised strawberry ice-cream. Probably because it was the cheap kind of strawberry ice-cream that was more food coloring and less strawberry. Growing up in Singapore, we ate mostly Magnolia ice-cream I think (?) and it was not very good.

I probably only had a decent strawberry ice-cream when I had a Haagen-Dazs one. Thanks to the kids who really wanted strawberry flavor. I was surprised that it actually tasted fresh like strawberries and had strawberry pieces in it.

Then again, led by the kids, I tried a homemade strawberry ice-cream at a farm in Watsonville (which makes amazing pies). And really enjoyed it.

Perhaps the highlight of my strawberry-eating life was the strawberry dessert at the French Laundry in July 2013. It’s possibly that the strawberries were grown across the street in that little farm they had. I actually preferred it to the chocolate dessert – and that’s coming from a chocolate lover.

Since there were still organic strawberries at our local farmers market – farmers market strawberries really are the best! – I had thought about making strawberry ice-cream. Also I knew the kids would love it. But as I read up about strawberry ice-cream, I wondered about all that liquid from the strawberries, would it make for a good ice-cream? I wasn’t all that convinced.

However, something that had been in my pantry for a while was a bag of freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe’s. This was something I had picked up (pre-pandemic) to make my older boy’s birthday cake. He had asked for a funfetti cake with strawberry frosting and I love the kind of strawberry frosting you get from using freeze-dried strawberries, it’s a favourite in our family for the past few years.

Putting it in the fridge to cool overnight.

It wasn’t easy finding a recipe for strawberry ice-cream using freeze-dried strawberries though, is it not a popular idea? But it just seems to make life so much easier. I just wasn’t sure about the proportion of freeze-dried strawberries needed. I was about to wing it and try adding freeze-dried strawberries to a vanilla ice-cream recipe when I found this one on Baking Sense, which called for 2 cups of freeze-dried strawberries. Luckily I had enough.

The recipe calls for the freeze-dried strawberries to be crushed so that you are left with pieces of strawberries, not blitzed like in the frosting, as a result, the colour of the ice-cream won’t be very pink. But I decided to add one drop of a magenta food colouring gel I had, and it made a nice subtle difference.

This was a really delicious strawberry ice-cream. I did decrease the sugar a little – to about 200g – and added a really big pinch of salt, but otherwise, stuck to the ingredients.

Now I have to brave the queue at Trader Joe’s to get more freeze-dried strawberries for another batch of ice-cream!

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Recent reads: There’s Someone Inside Your House; Sex and Vanity

These are just super short reviews of books that didn’t quite make it for me.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

This reminded me of those teen slasher movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. The villain has a tendency to move objects around victims’ houses (I don’t really know why – to freak people out perhaps?) and so that finding out that kitchen drawers are open or the egg timer has suddenly appeared in a different place was really creepy. I liked the main character Makani, who has recently moved from Hawaii to small town Nebraska, and she is half black and half Native Hawaiian, also there are hints at a big dark secret.

And here we have to keep in mind that Perkins is a writer of cute romances like Anna and the French Kiss, so she’s got a romance thrown in here, and that slows the plot down a bit. But when we get back on track with the murders, the pace picks up. So that part was fine with me.

However, once we got to the villain’s reveal, the story just went downhill from there for me. And then it ended so quickly after the big finish that it felt that the author got tired of writing the story. It was an ok story, some good build-up at the beginning, but a 3* read for me.

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

A fun escapist read perhaps? I enjoyed all the descriptions of the wedding in Capri but the main character was a bit boring and I found it hard to root for her. And about half way through the book, I actually thought, ok how many more pages of this do I need to get through? Admittedly, I was not fond of Crazy Rich Asians, never read the rest of that series, but thought I would give Kwan’s new book a try, so you ought to take my opinion in that light.

Library Loot (September 23 to 29)

badge-4Library 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.

Hello! And welcome to the last Library Loot of September! Also, hello autumn!

Claire has the link-up this week

Some RIPXV-related holds came in for me this week.

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Joan has been searching for her missing husband, Victor, for nearly a year—ever since that terrible night they’d had their first serious argument hours before he mysteriously vanished. Her Métis family has lived in their tightly knit rural community for generations, but no one keeps the old ways . . . until they have to. That moment has arrived for Joan.

One morning, grieving and severely hungover, Joan hears a shocking sound coming from inside a revival tent in a gritty Walmart parking lot. It is the unmistakable voice of Victor. Drawn inside, she sees him. He has the same face, the same eyes, the same hands, though his hair is much shorter and he’s wearing a suit. But he doesn’t seem to recognize Joan at all. He insists his name is Eugene Wolff, and that he is a reverend whose mission is to spread the word of Jesus and grow His flock. Yet Joan suspects there is something dark and terrifying within this charismatic preacher who professes to be a man of God . . . something old and very dangerous.

Joan turns to Ajean, an elderly foul-mouthed card shark who is one of the few among her community steeped in the traditions of her people and knowledgeable about their ancient enemies. With the help of the old Métis and her peculiar Johnny-Cash-loving, twelve-year-old nephew Zeus, Joan must find a way to uncover the truth and remind Reverend Wolff who he really is . . . if he really is. Her life, and those of everyone she loves, depends upon it.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

Oooh very excited to have this hold come in!

When No One is Watching – Alyssa Cole

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

This is by an Indonesian writer and translated from Indonesian. It’s not RIP-related but sounded interesting.

The Wandering – Intan Paramaditha

You’ve grown roots, you’re gathering moss. You’re desperate to escape your boring life teaching English in Jakarta, to go out and see the world. So you make a Faustian pact with a devil, who gives you a gift, and a warning. A pair of red shoes to take you wherever you want to go.

But where will you choose to go?

To New York, to follow your dreams?

To Berlin or Amsterdam? Lima or Tijuana? Or onto a train that will never stop?

You’re forever wandering, everywhere and nowhere, but are you ever home?

The choices you make may mean you end up as a tourist or an undocumented migrant, a mother or a murderer, and you will meet many travellers with their own stories to tell. As your paths cross and intertwine, you’ll come to realise that no story is ever new.

The Wandering is a novel about the highs and lows of global nomadism, the politics and privileges of travel and desire, and the freedoms and limitations of the choices we make, by one of Asia’s most exciting writers. It’s a playful and ingenious reminder that borders are real, that turns the traditional adventure story on its head.

What did you get from your library this week?

It’s Monday (September 21, 2020)

It’s Monday, again! How was your weekend? We actually had good air quality for a few days so it was nice to take walks, let the boys go to the park for a bit, get some fresh air. But today, the air quality is back in the not-so-good range again. Here’s hoping it will clear up again!

I did some baking on Thursday, churning out my favourite walnut bread (recipe from King Arthur Flour) as well as some scones (my favourite recipe is from The Baking Bible and they are the most buttery scones ever).

We got flu shots over the weekend!

Had a hankering for laksa over the weekend. Luckily had some of the ingredients and the laksa paste!

We had Korean fried chicken from Bonchon – half spicy, half soy garlic. Wasn’t very good, sadly.

Currently…

Reading:

The Deep – Alma Katsu

Watching:

We recently got HBO Max after switching to AT&T and that means I finally get to watch Game of Thrones.

Listening:

The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

Eating:

Had homemade walnut bread for breakfast

Drinking:

Tea

Cooking:

The 7yo told me last night, “we haven’t had Japanese curry for a long time!” So Japanese curry it is.

Also I feel like having pad thai so will try to make some later this week.

Last week:

I read:

Dirt by Bill Buford (see below for link to my review)

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan (thoughts to come)

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins (I have things to say, will formulate a post!)

I posted:

(Go me! I actually had book reviews last week!)

Dirt by Bill Buford #weekendcooking

Loner by Georgina Young

Library Loot (September 16 to 22)

Gorgeous covers #TopTenTuesday

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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

Dirt by Bill Buford #weekendcooking

“I pressed on. “No one in America eats food out of a pig’s bladder.”

Oh boy, it’s been ages since I’ve read a foodie book, and I was so excited to read this one. I read Buford’s previous book, Heat (published in 2006), and really enjoyed his adventures in the cooking world. In that book, he got to train in Mario Batali’s kitchen (of course, now that things have come to light about Batali, I wouldn’t know what to think of that), but at that time, I really enjoyed Buford’s writing, and his brashness in being able to jump into a professional kitchen and move from station to station.

Similarly, this happens again in Dirt, this time in Lyon, France. Why Lyon? It’s the home of Paul Bocuse, Daniel Boulud grew up near there, and some consider it the gastronomy capital of the world.

Also, Buford had come across the idea that French cuisine originated in Italian Renaissance kitchens:

“In any case, the implications were intriguing to consider: that at one point French cuisine did not exist, or at least not in a form that we would recognise today; and that then, at another point, it did, and that the Italians may have had something to do with its coming into being.”

Packing up and heading to a new country for a while is nothing new to Buford and his family. They lived in Tuscany for a year, his wife loved to travel and could easily pick up languages. And Buford had been wanting to work in a French kitchen. But they soon learned that France was not Italy. That is, while it was easy to land in Italy, figure things out as they went along, even just the process of getting to France (legally that is) was hard. All kinds of supporting documents were needed, even financial statements for each child (though they were still in diapers). And somehow needing to prove residence in France – although they were still in the process of applying to be residents??

At any rate, they made it there, with a little help from some friends.

But there, still, Buford had a hard time getting his foot into any restaurant kitchen. He does, however, work for a baker, and attends culinary school for a bit – not just any culinary school, but L’Institut Bocuse – then eventually lands up at La Mère Brazier, which first opened in 1921.

I have enjoyed eating French food, one of my favourite all-time meals is Duck Confit. But I have no clue about the food of Lyon, some of which sounds like nothing I’ve ever seen on French restaurant menus. For instance, andouillette, which sounds like the andouille sausage (common in the US), but is instead full of pigs intestines and stomach. Or the volaille à Noelle (I could only find recipes in French, so the link here is to a Youtube video of a chef making the dish), it’s essentially a deboned bird, refilled and stuffed with vegetables and meat. And then there’s the Poulet en Vessie, which is a chicken cooked in a pig’s bladder. Yup. The dish looks like a ball in which a chicken is enclosed. Fascinating!

“After twenty minutes, the vessie is transformed: No longer thick and opaque, it has the appearance of a beautifully golden, nearly translucent beach ball that some maniac is still insisting on pumping more air into. Also, you can see the chicken.”

And reading about French schools, especially their school lunches – three course meals, the food served at the table, and kids cannot get the next course if they haven’t finished.

Another fascinating part, is the principles of a French plate:
“If your dish uses colour strategically, volume (i.e. has height), and texture (mixes soft and hard, or juicy and crunchy), then it will appeal to a diner.”

This was a book I needed to read. The thought of someone travelling to a different country is such a foreign concept right now. Getting on a plane and moving your family to another part of the world, to live there for a few months – which turns into five years? What a dream! This was armchair – and foodie – travelling during a pandemic.

Here’s a tip: If you’ve ever watched the late Anthony Bourdain’s TV series Parts Unknown, Season 3 Episode 4 is the Lyon episode and it features Daniel Boulud, who is often mentioned in Dirt. The episode also brings in Buford himself. The season was aired in 2014 and so that possibly means that he was still living in Lyon when it was taped? He had moved to Lyon in 2009 and they stayed for five years. Also, the chefs cook the Poulet en Vessie, and that is quite a sight.

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Loner by Georgina Young

This is a book my early-20-something-year-old probably would have appreciated

Lona is 20, a university dropout, she works at a skate rink and at a Coles supermarket in Melbourne. And she’s lonely. Her friend Tab is in a new relationship and Lona is infatuated with a former classmate but she doesn’t know what to do about that. She’s learning to be an adult, she’s moved out of her parents’ house and into the curtained-off living room of a house that two other friends are renting. And she feels like she’s weird, she would rather leave a party early and go home to watch TV, or just stay in with takeout and watch Buffy. She wonders why she can never say what she really wants to say, why others can, and why they don’t seem as awkward as she always feels

I appreciated the super short chapters and its cynical, humorous tone. It’s a book that would be relatable if you’ve ever felt lost or unsure about what you want to do with your life. It’s not exactly plot-driven so it was a bit hard to get into initially but I really enjoyed reading it as I felt that Young managed to capture that adult, but not quite an adult, feeling of being a 20-something. Also, that cover, which so happens to match my crocheted throw