Creepy TBR #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:
It’s a Halloween freebie 

Ok so I messed up last week and got the dates wrong for the Halloween topic, and posted my recent fave creepy reads last week. And since it is the Halloween week, I figured I would put up some creepy (note: not necessarily in the “horror” genre) books on my TBR list. I’ve specifically chosen books written by women.

Have you read any of these? Which would you recommend?

(Links are to Goodreads pages)

The Year of the Witchling by Alexis Henderson

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses)

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing 

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James

Horrid by Katrina Leno

Brother by Ania Ahlborn

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Water Ghosts by Shawna Yang Ryan

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

The Bone Weaver’s Orchard by Sarah Read

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

This Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book


Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

  • Works in translation – it always makes me glad to see more works in translation!
  • Own voices – I recently had a prompt on the photo challenge I run on Litsy, “set in Southeast Asia” and despaired a little at the very few books that showed up on Litsy that were by Southeast Asians (true, I did not say “written by Southeast Asians” as I thought that would have been too difficult for many participants). But my point is that if I were to read a book set in, say Thailand, I would prefer it to be by a Thai writer.
  • An unusual setting – countries I’ve never been to like Turkey, Russia, Iceland, Trinidad. Or something set in space or other worlds

  • Comics/graphic novels – the truth is, put something in comic form and I would happily give it a try. Even if it’s by a writer I’ve had no success with previously. Of course I recently had the reverse happen – a writer I’ve adored whose comic book debut was sadly very clichéd. 
  • A great cover – well, who doesn’t judge a book by its cover? Sadly that also works the other way – if it’s a terrible cover, I would tend to shun it, unless I read otherwise about it!
  • Retellings of myths and fairytales

  • International crime series – I am especially intrigued by Japanese crime fiction. Just don’t call Higashino the “Japanese Stieg Larsson”. Gaaaahhh….
  • Recommended by my favourite bloggers and Littens!


What are some things that would make you want to read a book?

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.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent underrated reads



Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So

Marriage Material – Sathnam Sanghera

This is an epic tale of family, love, and politics, spanning the second half of the twentieth century, and the start of the twenty-first. Told with humour, tenderness and insight, it manages to be both a unique and urgent survey of modern Britain by one of Britain’s most promising young writers, and an ingenious reimagining of a classic work of fiction.

The Sundial – Shirley Jackson

Most people know of Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and of course, her most famous short story, The Lottery. But I would like to add this book, set in an old sinister house, and the occupants within are convinced that the world is coming to an end and that they have to close themselves off from the world. The paranoia! The wit of Jackson! The creepy old house they are in! Just brilliant.

Half a Lifelong Romance – Eileen Chang (my review)

A love affair set in Shanghai. A story of class differences. Beautiful and cinematic. Many know of Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City and Lust, Caution, and I definitely recommend this one too.

Memoirs of a Porcupine – Alain Mabanckou (my review)

I mean, what other book are you going to read that’s narrated by a porcupine?

Harbinger –  Joshua Dysart (Writer), Khari Evans (Artist), Lewis LaRosa (Artist), Ian Hannin (Colourist), Mico Suayan (Cover Artist)

Faith first made her appearance in the Harbinger series, kind of like the X-men. The main character Peter is a powerful psiot who’s being recruited by philanthropist and fellow harbinger, Toyo Harada, to the Harbinger Foundation where he can learn to control his abilities. Of course Harada is not the man he seems. Peter is a flawed character and hard to like, but that’s where Faith comes in, she’s fun and it’s so easy to see why she got her own spin-off. I just adore Faith and while the Harbinger series is a lot more ‘doom and gloom’ than the Faith series, I’m really glad I read it!


Master Keaton – Naoki Urasawa, Takashi Nagasaki, Hokusei Katsushika (Creator)

This manga by Urasawa is such a delight. Keaton is an Indiana Jones type character, but, wait for it, he is an insurance investigator! Ok before you stifle a yawn, the stuff he investigates is quite fascinating, and he’s armed with an archaeology education as well as his experience as a former member of the SAS! Such a great manga series.

The Song Poet – Kao Kalia Yang (my review)

I know I’ve talked about this book a lot, but it really deserves every mention (it still only has 152 ratings on Goodreads!). Go read it!

Genius – by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman (writer), Afua Richardson (artist)

Riveting and action-packed comic.

The Makioka Sisters – Junichiro Tanizaki, Edward G. Seidensticker (Translator) (my review)

Why haven’t more people read this Japanese classic? Go read it! And hey, if you’re doing the Read Harder challenge, it fits in the “classic by an author of colour” category!

Flight – Oona Frawley (my review)

This book only has 45 ratings on Goodreads! It is definitely deserving of a wider audience. Set in Ireland in 2004 as a referendum on citizenship approaches, Flight discusses among other things, immigration, citizenship, and is beautifully written.

Have you read any of these books? 

2016 releases I didn’t get to (but plan to)



Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To (But TOTALLY plan to)


Lab Girl – Hope Jahren

I really need to read more nonfiction and this one has been getting such great reviews from blogger/Litsy/Instagram friends. (I just downloaded the audiobook the other day!)


The Border of Paradise – Esme Weijun Wang

I bought this on a rare solo trip into the city in late spring, from the lovely Book Passage at the Ferry Building. I was in the city to pick up my passport, and I had been determined to buy myself a book. I’m not sure why I was looking in the “w” shelves but when I saw this book, I had to buy it, even though I hadn’t heard of it or its author. I sat on a bench, a view of the Bay Bridge, a ridiculously expensive and tiny (but SO good) hot mocha in hand, the glorious California sun shining down. A group of elementary school kids sat at the benches nearby, behaving, eating their lunch, probably on the way to or from the nearby Exploratorium.


Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

Part of me is always apprehensive about reading a story about loss. I mean, it’s got the word ‘grief’ in the title. As its very first word. So that’s like a warning right there. But hey give me a cover with greys and yellows and that just reels me in.

Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler

One of my friends really liked this book so I’m curious. Plus it’s got a restaurant industry setting. And I’m a sucker for foodie books.

The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee


Because Liberty said so.

The Mothers – Brit Bennett

Another one I already own! Seriously what is up with that…


The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

Because it’s won the hearts of many critics

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race – Jesmyn Ward (ed)

Because in today’s world, this is more important than ever.

In the Country We Love – Diane Guerrero

Another book that is an important one for these tough times ahead.


The Obelisk Gate – NK Jemisin

I think I keep hesitating about this one because it’s part of a trilogy and I’m thinking, should I just wait for the third book to come out so I can read it all at one go?


Ahhhh…there were so many 2016 books that I never got to! I hope to read these too and not get distracted by the shiny new 2017 publications!

Here Comes the Sun – Nicole Dennis-Benn

Eleven Hours – Pamela Erens

The Art of Waiting – Belle Boggs

Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City – Matthew Desmond

Diverse and speculative fiction debuts I’m looking forward to!


Top Ten 2017 Debuts I’m Excited For 

(links are to Goodreads)

Temporary People – Deepak Unnikrishnan

Combining the irrepressible linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the satirical vision of George Saunders, Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp, to a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress, to a man who grows ideal workers designed to live twelve years and then perish—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert. With this polyphony, Unnikrishnan brilliantly maps a new, unruly global English. Giving substance and identity to the anonymous workers of the Gulf, he highlights the disturbing ways in which “progress” on a global scale is bound up with dehumanization.

The Leavers –  Lisa Ko

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.

Hold back the stars – Katie Khan

Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return.
For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it?

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) – Vic James

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.


What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories – Lesley Nneka Arimah

In “Who Will Greet You at Home”, a National Magazine Award finalist for The New Yorker, a woman desperate for a child weaves one out of hair, with unsettling results. In “Wild”, a disastrous night out shifts a teenager and her Nigerian cousin onto uneasy common ground. In “The Future Looks Good,” three generations of women are haunted by the ghosts of war, while in “Light,” a father struggles to protect and empower the daughter he loves. And in the title story, in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to “fix the equation of a person” – with rippling, unforeseen repercussions.
Evocative, playful, subversive, and incredibly human, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Skyheralds the arrival of a prodigious talent with a remarkable career ahead of her.

Empress of a Thousand Skies – Rhoda Belleza

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace – Patty Yumi Cottrell

A bleakly comic tour de force that’s by turns poignant, uproariously funny, and viscerally unsettling, this debut novel has shades of Bernhard, Beckett and Bowles—and it announces the singular voice of Patty Yumi Cottrell.

Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays – Durga Chew-Bose

Too Much and Not the Mood is a beautiful and surprising exploration of what it means to be a first-generation, creative young woman working today.

When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Books I’m Looking Forward To in 2017 (the diverse version)



Books I’m Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017

(links are to Goodreads)

The Refugees – Viet Thanh Nguyen (Feb. 7)

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Feb. 7)

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, trans. by Srinath Perur (Feb. 7)

Exit West – Mohsin Hamid. Riverhead, Mar. 7

Tender – Sofia Samatar (April 11)

Notes of a Crocodile – Qiu Miaojin, trans. by Bonnie Huie (May 2)

Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami, trans. by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen (May 9)

The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami, trans. by Allison Markin Powell (June 6)

Boundless – Jillian Tamaki (June 6)

Sorcerer Royal – Zen Cho (July 4) – I realize this isn’t the first half of 2017 but I’m too excited to care.




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?

Top Villains



All About The Villains –top ten favorite/most compelling villains in books, top ten of the most vile villains/bad guys in books, top ten villains I secretly (or not so secretly) love, favorite tv villains, favorite comic book villains, ten “villains” of contemporary lit.

Coincidentally, on the book photo challenge I host on Litsy, one of the prompts last week was ‘fave villains’. And these were my choices


Professor Moriarty (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.

It’s fascinating that a character who has direct roles in only two of the Sherlock Holmes stories can capture the imagination so.

Tom Ripley (Patricia Highsmith)

‘Villain’ may not be the right word for Ripley, but he is a killer and a con artist, though very charming.

Count Olaf (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

The kind of villain you just love to hate! I mostly can’t stand Jim Carey but I have to admit he played Count Olaf perfectly.

Lady Macbeth (William Shakespeare) 

“Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures: ’tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil,”

The White Witch (CS Lewis)

Her face was white – not merely pale, but white like snow or paper or icing sugar, except for her very red mouth. It was a beautiful face in other respects, but proud and cold and stern


The shadow in The Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula Le Guin)

I first read The Wizard of Earthsea as a young teenager (I may have been 13? 14?) and I still remember being stunned by the dread I felt for this shadow creature, the unknown, the unnamed.


Saruman (J.R.R. Tolkien)

One of the best examples of how power can corrupt. And also played so brilliantly by Christopher Lee.


Agatha Trunchbull (Roald Dahl)

“I have never been able to understand why small children are so disgusting. They are the bane of my life. They are like insects. They should be got rid of as early as possible. We get rid of flies with fly-spray and by hanging up fly-paper. I have often thought of inventing a spray for getting rid of small children. How splendid it would be to walk into this classroom with a gigantic spray-gun in my hands and start pumping it.”

And you know, that chocolate cake scene.

Who are your favourite villains?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my fall TBR list


 Books On My Fall TBR List

Well I’m going to interpret this as books that are coming out in the rest of 2016 that I really want to read!



Him, Me, Muhammad Ali – Randa Jarrar (short stories)

Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood (retelling of The Tempest)

The Loved Ones – Sonya Chung (fiction)

The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher (memoir)

The Private Life of Mrs Sharma – Ratika Kapur (fiction, set in Delhi)

Demon Book 1 – Jason Shiga (comics)

Crosstalk – Connie Willis (SF)

Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation – Edited and trans. by Ken Liu (SF)

IQ – Joe Ide (crime, set in LA)

Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2015, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week – Ursula K Le Guin (nonfiction)

What books are you looking forward to this fall?