The Wandering by Intan Paramaditha

My boys were into those Choose Your Own Adventure books last year, although that interest faded away surprisingly sooner than I expected. I remember liking those quite a bit when I was a kid. Then again, the variety in children’s literature nowadays is so much better, maybe the Choose Your Own Adventure books no longer hold kids in thrall these days?

Or maybe I am just still a kid at heart, for I was tickled with delight when I reached that moment in The Wandering where I got to pick between two choices. Do I go with (choice one) and turn to this page, or do I go with (choice two) and turn to this other page? What would be a wiser choice? Or really, what would be a more thrilling choice?

When you get to pick, would you pick something you personally would have gone with or would you pick the one which make for a more exciting story?

We begin with the devil. And you are his lover. He worships you and courts you with gifts of chocolate and flowers. But soon, you tire of his gifts. You ask him to grant you a wish – to get away from Jakarta, Indonesia, not to be a tourist, but to live in places far away, places you’ve never been to. The next day, you wake to find a pair of glittering red shoes by your bed and a contract. The contract says, if you return home, you will lose everything, your home will not be what it was. To accept the contract, you wear the shoes.

And find yourself in a taxi, heading to the airport, ready to leave New York. But as you leave the taxi, you realise one red shoe is missing. And here you are given the first choice – return to New York, report your loss to the police, or continue on your journey to Berlin.

It is a wander through the world, through self-discovery, through mythology and Indonesian folklore as well as popular culture.

And as I finished one version of the story, I immediately went back for a different version. Until I finally read through all the different storylines. In the end, it wasn’t really about the plot lines, but like the title, it was a wandering between alternate possibilities, a meandering through different countries (although admittedly, fewer than I was hoping), different stories, via the decisions the reader takes.

The Wandering is an especially interesting book to read during these times (it was originally published in Indonesian in 2017 and then in English in 2020) – when border crossings are restricted, when flights have dwindled to just a handful a day, newspaper articles about families separated for months because of illness, immigration issues, visa problems. Personally, I have often wondered (and more often since the way the mangled way the US has handled the pandemic), what if we had returned to Singapore, instead of staying on here? What would our lives have been like?

Dim Sum of All Fears

This is the second book in the series, the first was Death by Dumpling. And Lana Lee is back but this time she is (gasp!) put in charge of the restaurant while her parents visit her grandmother in Taiwan. She’s not exactly thrilled about that. But worse news are to come – her friend Isabelle, who works at the new business next door, and her husband are found dead.

An enjoyable read with some interesting twists that I wasn’t expecting! The different characters that are involved in the series (set in a strip mall full of Asian-owned businesses in Ohio) are what make this series for me. I did however find the romance part a bit awkward, maybe it will be discussed more in the next book?

A fun cozy mystery that will make you want to eat some dim sum and drink tea

X-23 and Abbott – 2 comics for #ripxiv

X-23 Vol 1: Family Album by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Juann Cabal

Abbott Vol 1 by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Sami Kivelä

I loved this X-23 series! If you’ve not heard of X-23 (Laura) she’s a clone of Wolverine and she has her own clone, a young girl named Gabby. What I know about X-Men I learnt from that cartoon series that aired in the 90s (I think) and from the movies. X-Men comics have never really attracted me much but I did read the previous X-23 series a few years ago and I always thought her character was kinda overlooked – although I’ve since realized that she became the All-New Wolverine. (Side note: how does one keep up with all these different comic series??)

Anyway in this volume, Laura and Gabby have great interaction (I especially liked that short story set in a high school). And the Stepford Cuckoos! This is the first time I’ve come across the multiples and they are fascinating – they have a telepathic hive mind and erm, well, some of the sisters are dead.

Very suitable for #ripxiv I reckon.

Also extremely in the #ripxiv mood is Abbott, a new series by Saladin Ahmed. I wasn’t expecting the supernatural aspect of this series though! But it adds a different element that has me wanting more. It’s set in 1970s Detroit with a black female reporter as its main character. The artwork has a gorgeous vintage feel and Ahmed deftly weaves in issues like racism and sexism into the storyline. I’d love to read more!

Readers Imbibing in Peril 14 #ripxiv

 

 

 

RIP season always sneaks up on me, probably because California weather always seems to go for the extra strong hot hot heat boost just as summer is ending.

And I realized I never actually posted a TBR list on the blog! I’m so behind on blogging! So here it finally is, many days already into the challenge.

If you’re new to this challenge, check out the original post here.

But the gist of it is:

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.

And my plan is to 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.

 

Here are some books I’ve downloaded or borrowed from the library just for this challenge!

 

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Sami Kivelä

A Beautiful Place to Die – Malla Nunn

The Frangipani Tree Mystery – Ovidia Yu

The Betel Nut Tree Mystery – Ovidia Yu

Dead Beat – Val McDermid

Moon Called – Patricia Briggs

Monstress volumes 1 to 3 – Marjorie M Liu and Sana Takeda

X-23 – Mariko Tamaki

 

The Three – Sarah Lotz

A Fierce and Subtle Poison – Samantha Mabry

The Hunger – Alma Katsu

#ripxiii Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien

A fun cosy foodie mystery series set in an Asian mall in Ohio. The main character is a young woman working in her parents’ Chinese restaurant (thanks to a bad breakup, a lost job ie desperation and bills to pay). She delivers the mall owner’s usual lunch order only to find later that he had a fatal allergic reaction to the shrimp in it – where was his epipen? Who would want him dead? Lots of fun to read & I especially liked the setting!

#ripxiii – Death Notice by Zhou HaoHui

An action-packed crime thriller set in China that sold more than 1 million print copies and is now published in English. The killer styles himself as an avenger of unpunished crimes, calling himself Eumenides & sending out death notices listing their crimes and date of execution. This is the first book in a trilogy has a complicated plot & sometimes stilted dialogue but it was a pretty exciting page turner!

I read this for RIP XIII

RIPXIII – Tangerine by Christine Mangan

I wasn’t expecting this plot line. I thought it would just be a more generic expat story and what attracted me was its setting – Morocco. Instead it has echoes of The Talented Mr Ripley, an obsessive friendship told in alternating viewpoints. Dark and twisted, this book was a bit uneven and I wish the women were more distinguishable and the Morocco setting utilized more. Still, a decent read. .

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

#RIPXII The Bear and the Nightingale

 

img_6099

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.

 

img_5396

 

This is my fourth read for RIP XII

#ripxii Fox Woman

I have a bit of a fascination with the Japanese folklore of fox spirits. We don’t have foxes in Singapore but I’ve seen foxes in the wild in other countries. Once when I lived in Brighton, England, and it was nighttime and I was walking back to the student apartments after a pub crawl with some friends. At first I thought I was seeing things but no, it really was a fox, nonchalantly loping down the pavement with the rest of us. It was smaller than I expected.

Sometime earlier this year, in Livermore, a fox dashing along the sidewalk as we drove by. As I looked in the side mirror, it jumped into the street and ran across the road. Luckily the car behind us stopped for it and it got to live another day.

“Humanness is more than robes. Or tiled roofs, or poetry.”

“Then what?”

“Expectations. Separation from things. Lonelinesss. Sadness. Truthfully, I was glad to give it up, to run again. Not even love can make it worthwhile.”

Kij Johnson, whose short story collection In The Mouth of the River of Bees is one of my favourites (I especially loved The Man Who Bridged the Mist), writes an intriguing story told from three perspectives. Kaya no Yoshifuji has failed at the emperor’s court and has brought his wife and young son to his estate in the countryside. Kitsune is a young fox and she falls in love with Yoshifuji. Yoshifuji becomes obsessed with the foxes living in his garden. And this obsession frightens his wife Shikujo and she returns to the city with her son. Meanwhile, Kitsune and her fox family attempt a strange kind of magic that creates a whole illusion – Kitsune and her family seem like humans who live in a large wealthy house nearby, complete with manservants and handmaidens. Yoshifuji falls head over heels for the magic and for Kitsune and her family and this world they have created, and he married Kitsune and they have a child. But soon the magic unravels – can Kitsune keep her hold on her love?

I loved how the stories are told from Shikujo’s pillow book, Yoshifuji’s notebook and a fox diary. How strange it is that I easily accept the idea of a fox diary while it felt so strange reading of the life of Shikujo – often she would hide behind screens, surrounded by her women servants. Social norms of 11th century Japan make me feel so grateful I live in modern times.

“Like her poems, her life has always been elegant but lacking spark. Still, she has a beauty I will never attain, bareheaded in the rain like a peasant.”

Sometimes a quiet, subtle story like this is exactly what I need. The writing is beautiful and has a great dark feel to it. It does require a bit of time to sink into it, to be able to take on this tale of a fox falling in love with a human.

Kij Johnson has also written a second book in this series, Fudoki, which tells of a cat turned woman warrior and sounds just wonderful.

 

This is my second read for RIP XII