Man Booker 2014 Longlist

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (Viking)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent’s Tail)
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre)
J, Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (Sceptre)
The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)
Us, David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Dog, Joseph O’Neill (Fourth Estate)
Orfeo, Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
How to be Both, Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
History of the Rain, Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)

As usual, I have yet to read any of these books. But I have had quite a few of them on my TBR list, like those by Richard Flanagan, Karen Joy Fowler, David Mitchell.

How about you?

It’s Monday and I’m reading Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Hello from my couch! It’s Sunday morning and the kids are playing on the rug in front of me. Cars all over, blocks, a front loader.

We’ll be heading out to the farmers market later to get fruits and vegetables. And then to lunch at a Korean restaurant in Santa Clara as my Dad wants to pop into a golf shop to look at golf shoes (yawn!).

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(And here’s what we ate: Kimchi stirfried with pork and served with steamed tofu, Bulgogi, Acorn noodles with lots of fresh vegetables, and not pictured is seafood pancake)

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We had a busy Saturday starting with some outlet shopping in Livermore. It’s a thing most of our visitors from Singapore do around here – Singapore is a rather expensive place to live and everything here seems so cheap in comparison! And luckily it was a pleasant enough day to be in the Livermore outlets which are of the indoor-outdoor kind and can be really warm some days. I managed to pick up some long-sleeved tops and pants for Wee Reader at a good price and my mum managed to do a bit of shopping for herself too so we didn’t do too badly. Somehow we made it out of there in less than two hours (!) and off to dim sum at Koi Palace in neighboring Dublin where we ordered all our favourites and some more.

Reading:

everythinginevertoldyou

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
My Dad used to work for an American company headquartered in upstate New York and he once considered moving us there. When I was a kid I always thought it would’ve been so awesome to live in the US! Reading a book like this about the Asian-American experience – in this case a mixed-marriage – I am glad that we remained in Singapore.

souschef

Sous Chef – Michael Gibney
The second person POV is a bit confusing but it’s quite a fascinating read.

thefever

The Fever – Megan Abbott
At first I wondered if it was for me but then somewhere I got caught up in the story and the pages just flew by. I love the cover!

Eating: We had doughnuts for breakfast! A rare treat for Wee Reader who was so very excited (oh dear…)

Drinking: I had my usual black tea with milk for breakfast and right now, water.

Cooking: We might be making sushi tonight so it’s more of cooking and seasoning the rice and slicing stuff.

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Watching: Surprisingly I don’t think I’ve really watched much this week. An episode of Masterchef on Hulu one day, an episode of What Not To Wear on instant Netflix another day. I’ve been doing a bit more reading this past week.

Listening: Two Door Cinema Club

Looking forward to: Wee Reader’s first swim class

Last week

I read:

ruby

Ruby – Cynthia Bond
Review to come

missfinch

The facts in the case of the departure of Miss Finch – Neil Gaiman
This graphic novel is based on one of Gaiman’s short stories and features a strange circus/theatre show in underground London. And the disappearance of a rather annoying woman who has accompanied Gaiman and his friends to this weird spectacle. Interesting enough.

anarchyolddogs

Anarchy and Old Dogs (Dr Siri #4) – Colin Cotterill
I always enjoy catching up with Dr Siri and his motley crew and this was no exception. Things take a turn for the political this time around but still has its very welcome wit and sarcasm as well as devoted and delightful cast of characters – plus a potential girlfriend for Dr Siri?!

 

What are you reading this week?

 

 

Weekend Cooking and Cook it Up: Black bean patties, hearth bread and pizza!

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Trish’s Cook It Up!: A Cookbook Challenge  encourages us to use our cookbooks more. And I managed to do just that this week!

 

 

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I owe this one to my mum who was flipping through the May issue of Cooking Light (we get it in exchange for airline miles that we will never use) and pointed out this recipe for black bean patties with a cilantro cream sauce.

We didn’t follow it exactly as we are the glance at the recipe, get the gist of it and adapt it to our tastes/pantry kind of people. I always thought that was how people cooked until I met my mother-in-law, who firmly sticks to recipes, measuring out sauces exactly.

The recipe calls for a can of black beans to be mashed, and a mixture of cooked onion and garlic and spices (it uses ground coriander, cumin, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper but we went with paprika and a mixed herb thing I had lying around, as well as some chopped up cilantro leaves and stems) and two eggs to be mixed together. Then shape into patties and cooked.

We added the onion mixture to the beans and a bit of egg. Then did the flour-egg-panko coating that we had already done with the pork chops then fried them.

The recipe also includes a ginger-cilantro cream but required sour cream which we didn’t have (we seldom have any sort of cream in the house). But the patties worked great with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh cilantro leaves!

I imagine that they would taste even more fabulous with a spicy salsa or a fruity one too – peach and avocado? Or mango and avocado? Or for a southeast Asian twist, achar, a Nonya style, very spicy pickle of cucumber, cabbage, pineapple and various other vegetables.

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Now this one is cheating a bit. Because we make kong bah (or loh bah) once in a while. And it’s really easy so there’s no need to use a recipe, at least not for us. But there was a recipe for this (although they call it loh bah) in Jo Marion Seow’s Soya and Spice. 

But I figure that most of you reading this post will have no idea what I’m talking about so here it is. Stewed pork belly (we used what the Asian supermarket called pork shank – less fatty and a bit tougher than belly meat) or what we in Singapore know as kong bah. 

It has long been a favourite of mine, something I would request my late maternal grandmother to make for my birthday when I was growing up in Singapore. It is delectable with its soft tender fall-off-the-chopsticks meat, its soya sauce-based gravy with a hint of spices (star anise, cinnamon) and a bit of sugar. The crockpot makes it all too easy to cook this dish but many prefer to do it on the stove. Sometimes eggs are cooked together with the meat, but we aren’t fans of hardboiled eggs here so we do without. But my Mum wanted to add some dried mushrooms. And these soak up the gravy so well. Yum.

It’s best served with steamed buns or steamed rice.

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I mostly turn to my cookbooks for baking recipes. And this Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum is one I’ve been slowly making my way through. I really like her very clear precise instructions as well as ways of shaping loaves, which are great for this beginner.

On Friday I made the Basic Hearth Bread. Bread always takes more advanced planning than I’m ready for! We were going out to Ardenwood Historic Farm in the morning for a picnic lunch so there wasn’t time in the morning to make the bread. So I made the sponge and the starter, popped it in the fridge after an hour and a half on the counter. We got back after 1pm. And it was only around 2 that I managed to get started again. This dough requires about 4 hours of rising – one hour here, shape it then another hour there, that kind of thing. In between all the shaping and rising I was attempting to: put the little ones to nap, feed them a snack, clean up all the picnic stuff, clean the floor, and… type this post!!! It’s sitting in its final rise while I’m typing this sentence. Also rising is my pizza dough that will be dinner.

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And that pizza dough is TA DA!!! also from a cookbook.

Alas, it is not something new that I dared to experiment with. Instead, it is a quick pizza dough from Smitten Kitchen that I have talked about here before. It is quick, it is easy. It is half an hour of rising and then you get to rolling and topping. And Wee Reader gets to join in the fun. He, thankfully, is good at not making too much of a mess, but hasn’t quite figured out that it’s all about scattering the cheese and instead prefers to dump big handfuls over the sauce. His favourite topping? Broccoli. And cheese. He happily ate two big slices of pizza. And fast too. That’s a sign of a good dinner.

All in all, not a bad week in terms of cooking from cookbooks!

 

 

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads 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

 

Library Loot (July 17 2014)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

 

After a health-ish lunch at a salad bar – vegetables sure, but Wee Reader also enjoys the mac and cheese and jello. How American!

(Here I have to add that I grew up eating agar agar, which is like jello but far more solid and less wobbly. I always wanted to eat Jello but it wasn’t as easily available in Singapore as agar-agar. And now it’s the opposite here in the US. Funny that.)

Anyway, I was trying to say, that after lunch, we popped over to the library. The AC was very welcome on this rather stifling day.

I got me some books!

The facts in the case of the departure of Miss Finch – Neil Gaiman, art by Michael Zulli

Ooh graphic novel by Gaiman. I always enjoy his graphic novels.
missfinch

Come, come and hear of the strange and terrible tale of Miss Finch, an exacting woman befallen by mystery and abduction deep under the streets of London! New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivers another stunning hardcover graphic novel with longtime collaborator Michael Zulli (Creatures of the Night, The Sandman). This is the first comics adaptation of his popular story “The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch,” which saw print only in the U.K. edition of Gaiman’s award-winning work Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions and was recently interpreted for his Speaking in Tongues CD. The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is a “mostly true story” that combines the author’s trademark magic realism with Zulli’s sumptuous paintings, and has been newly rewritten for this hardcover. Join a group of friends, with the stern Miss Finch in tow, as they enter musty caverns for a subterranean circus spectacle called “The Theatre of Night’s Dreaming.” Come inside, get out of the pounding rain, and witness this strange world of vampires, ringmasters, illusions and the Cabinet of Wishes Fulfill’d

 

Ten Little Indians: Stories – Sherman Alexie
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Offers eleven stories about Native Americans who, like all Americans, find themselves at personal and cultural crossroads, faced with heartrending, tragic, sometimes wondrous moments of being that test their loyalties, their capacities, and their notions of who they are and whom they love.

Everything I never told you – Celeste Ng

Very eager to read this one!

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Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another

 

Americus – MK Reed

 

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Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activists are trying to get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it. With youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy at his back, Neal finds himself leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series that makes his life worth living.

Some e-book holds came in!

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) – Marissa Meyer

scarlet

Ok so I actually finished reading this already.

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner

The Fever – Megan Abbott
Keep seeing this on various book blogs and on Goodreads so I just had to jump in and check out a copy. Plus that cover!

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The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire,The Fever affirms Megan Abbot’s reputation as “one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation” (Laura Lippman).

Kids’ loot:


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?
What did you get from your library this week?

TLC Book Tours: Last Night at the Blue Angel

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“Mother is a singer. I live in her dark margin.

For the first ten years of my life, I watch her from the wings.”

Sophia Hill, 10, often spends her evenings watching her mother Naomi perform, “singing us through all our feelings”, at the Blue Angel, a Chicago nightclub, sharing her mother with the audience but waiting for “those tiny moments that are just between us”.

It is the 1960s and it is a time of transformation and tension. Even more so for a young girl whose mother is far from conventional.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a heartfelt, well-written tale of family and growing up, as well as chasing those traces of stardom. Naomi’s tale reaches back into her childhood in small town Kansas where her relationship with another girl causes her to be more or less run out of town by that girl’s family. She escapes to Kansas City and eventually finds her way onto the stage, where her voice captures and enraptures.

Naomi’s struggle for fame doesn’t make life easy for her daughter who is wise beyond her years, the caretaker, the one who tends to her mother, but who is still a 10-year-old girl, teased at school, wanting a friend of her own.

Then there’s Jim, a photographer who has devoted his time to the two of them, helping look after Sophia, taking photos of Naomi, hopelessly infatuated with her.

It’s a moving story of love and devotion – to family, to art, to passion and to one’s own self.

The soulful music of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday playing in the background helped set the mood for my read.

And it’s a book I really enjoyed reading. It might have been Naomi’s story and rise to stardom but Sophia’s voice rang pure and clear. She hasn’t had the easiest of childhoods, having to pick her mother up time and again, so it is sometimes easy to forget that she is still very young. Her fears of a nuclear fallout, her lack of friends at school, her devotion to Jim and her mother’s friends, all these little bits and pieces of Sophia’s life are pulled expertly together by Rotert to create this amazing girl, an unforgettable character. I imagined Naomi’s voice as low and a bit raspy and wondered what it would be like to listen to her sing. I kept thinking of Grace Potter although she’s more of a blues rock style.

While thinking about this book and what to write about it, I recalled my own first tentative experiences with live jazz in Singapore. A jazz bar called Somerset’s was where we used to go listen to Eldee Young and his band when we were in university. Young was from Chicago but played mostly in Asia. He passed away in 2007. Young often played with Singaporean jazz pianist Jeremy Monteiro whom we also saw perform a few times, but never together. It’s odd that I don’t really listen to much jazz music – then and now – although it was something I enjoyed watching perform live. I think it was about the being together with my girlfriends, sipping a cocktail (the legal drinking age in Singapore is 18) and marveling at these people playing in front of us.

It was kind of fun to reminisce about those times – they seem so very long ago now.

Rebecca RotertRebecca Rotert received an M.A. in Literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her poetry and essays have appeared in a range of magazines and journals. She’s an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @RebeccaRotert.

tlc logoI received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Check out the other stops on the book tour

Tuesday, July 1st: Drey’s Library

Thursday, July 3rd: Kritters Ramblings

Friday, July 4th: Sweet Southern Home

Monday, July 7th: Book-alicious Mama

Tuesday, July 8th: Books in the Burbs

Thursday, July 10th: Books à la Mode

Monday, July 14th: Becca Rowan

Tuesday, July 15th: BookNAround

Wednesday, July 16th: Olduvai Reads

Thursday, July 17th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

TBD: The Written World

 

It’s Monday July 14 2014 and I’m reading …

 

itsmonday“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney to share with others what we’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

So it is Sunday morning as I’m typing this. Wee Reader is playing with my Dad, the Wee-er one is upstairs supposedly napping but he’s kicking the crib and complaining about his situation (so it sounds like). We’ll be heading off to the farmers market in a bit!

It has been such a weekend! Starting with Friday when my parents flew in from Singapore on my birthday! It was a present in itself to see them, especially my Dad, who hasn’t visited us since last year (my Mum was here earlier this year). They arrived of course with plenty of goodies for everyone! Edible treats for us like ang ku kueh (red turtle cake – yellow bean paste wrapped in a glutinous rice skin) and my favourite kueh bangkit (a kind of light egg white biscuit). The kids got new toys and books! (Check out my Instagram feed for the food pictures!). It made my day so much better – it hadn’t been a great start to the day, thanks to a ridiculous sore throat…grrr… which still lingers today in the form of a scratchy throat. Erm and yes, despite that I did eat a small piece of cake. And the next day and the next…. I suppose you can guess why I’m still sounding hoarse!

 

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On Saturday I finally got a chance to really celebrate with a delicious lunch at our favourite Japanese restaurant. We ordered the omakase sashimi platter! It was so so good. Seven different types of seafood from scallops to tuna to yellowtail. My parents noted that this would probably cost us over $100 in Singapore! We’ve been customers since Wee Reader was a few months old so the waiter always says hello, remarks on how big he is now, and gives him some candy to take home.

 

 

Reading:

 

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The Memory Wall – Anthony Doerr

I’m taking my time, making my slow – and mesmerized – way through this book of short stories. Because Mr Doerr is a master at drawing up these places, these people, these emotions and plots. A couple trying to conceive a child. A man reading letters from his son stationed at the DMZ. A woman whose memories are slowly being extracted – and ‘bottled’.

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Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) – Marissa Meyer

I’m quite interested in where this is going. At first I thought it was completely about Scarlet so I was glad to read about Cinder again. Lots of fun as usual. And Iko is back!

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The Red Pony – John Steinbeck

I picked up a copy of this at my library’s book sale and popped it into my bag the other day for the drive to the airport. I only managed a few pages though!

anarchyolddogs

 

Anarchy and Old Dogs (Dr Siri #4) – Colin Cotterill 

This series is all sorts of fun. It’s set in Laos and features the country’s official – and only – coroner. I love Cotterill’s sarcasm and humour.

Eating:

 

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Erm, birthday cake again. It is very chocolatey. It is just so ridiculously good.

Drinking:

Hot green tea. In an attempt to combat my cough and the side effects of eating chocolate-y cake when already having a cough.

Cooking:

We are barbecuing later after our farmers’ market visit, where we will hopefully be getting plenty of grill-able vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and zucchini. As well as plenty of fruits.

Watching:
Six Feet Under. And I’m alternating that with some Tru Blood.

Looking forward to:

Getting over this cough! And eating MORE BIRTHDAY CAKE.

Also, finally getting to the library some time this week. I have every intention of borrowing all sorts of good books for the kids, especially those which have recently been banned in Singapore. ARGH! I’ve been so saddened and angry by what the National Library Board has done, especially since the announcement that the banned books are to be pulped instead of donated or purchased by the public. Sigh… However, I am also so very proud of what some Singaporeans have done – spoken up, started a read-in (where they brought along their own copies of the banned books). Some Singapore writers have also decided to withdraw their participation from the library’s events.

I’ve signed an open letter and joined a Facebook group. So the other thing for me to do is to go and borrow some banned books.

What I read last week:

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Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

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The Birth of Venus – Sarah Dunant

What a read! Atmospheric, well-researched, with such believable characters. I’m looking forward to more from Sarah Dunant.

 

teareader

 

A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time – Katrina Avila Munichiello

Last week I posted:

Weekend Cooking and Cook it Up!: My cookbooks

TLC Book Tours: The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

Things to love this Wednesday

 

What are you reading this week?

 

 

 

Weekend Cooking and Cook it Up!: My cookbooks

cookitup

 

 

Trish at Love, Laughter and Insanity is hosting a cookbook challenge! The details are over at her blog but she’s left it up to us to decide whether to focus on one cookbook a month or perhaps, like Andi, to try something different each week.

I’m hoping to cook from one of my cookbooks once a week. It’s all too easy to turn on the phone or tablet and google whatever it is I’m thinking of cooking. It’s a bit harder to figure out if my cookbooks have a particular recipe I’m looking for. It all seems to come down to meal planning! We hit the farmers market on Sunday mornings to get fruits and vegetables (luckily my farmers market has plenty of stalls selling Asian vegetables), but have to visit Costco and my usual Asian supermarket (Marina Foods or Ranch 99) for other things like meats, fish and other ingredients.

My cookbooks sit in a shelf just below water bottles and other random things, above my Kitchenaid mixer, paper towel, and water jugs. They’re always there, always accessible but it’s just too easy to reach for a device these day!

And as I snapped this picture I realized how much history I have with some of them.

 

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The Best of Singapore Cooking (orange cover on the left) is actually my husband’s, it was a gift from his Mum when he left for the US for college.

Next to that  is The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook, which its author (the granddaughter of the original author) updated. I interviewed her when I was working for a newspaper in Singapore and she gave me the cookbook. The book next to that, Penang Heritage Food, is written by my cousin’s father-in-law. Consuming Passions next to it, is a collection of recipes from ‘old girls’ of my secondary school, which my mum picked up for me in Singapore.

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Speaking of my Mum, she actually gave me quite a few of these cookbooks! The baby cookbooks were all presents from her, as is Bake by Rachel Allen, Sylvia Tan’s Taste, and Soya & Spice by Jo Marion Seow, the last two being Singaporean writers.

The Bread Bible was a Christmas present from my sister (by my request). It’s got great illustrations on bread-making techniques like how to form a round loaf!

Harumi’s Japanese Cooking was a gift from my Japanese friend and former flatmate. I wrote about it – and my friendship with her – here. 

The top two books lying horizontal are bread-making books by a Malaysian baker that my mother-in-law gave me one Christmas, as she knows how much I enjoy baking!

Bills Food by Aussie chef Bill Granger was a gift from my good friends in Singapore when I was leaving Singapore for the UK to study for a year. It might be the most thumbed of all my cookbooks! I regularly bake his oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and brownie recipes. Simple and delicious.

I’ve also got a couple of books by Nigella Lawson (always fun – and wow, those ice-cream recipes in Forever Summer sound fantastic), one by Nigel Slater (his kitchen diary), some food magazines by Donna Hay (so pretty!), and Smitten Kitchen, whose quick pizza dough recipe I depend on.

Now where do I begin?!?! 

 

 

 

 

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads 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

TLC Book Tours: The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

seagarden

(Here I am wishing that I had some kind of portal in which I could step right into this cover and walk out to that gorgeous blue sea.)

 

Persistence and patience is the key to reading this book.

If I were the kind of reader who gave up after fifty pages, this book might have ended up in the Did Not Finish pile. But while the first story left me a little confused, I kept on going and in the end was oddly satisfied.

With the opening pages, one can see why Lawrenson is known for her atmospheric, descriptive tales (so says the back of the book).

Ellie Brooke, British, garden designer, arrives at Porquerolles, a lush Mediterranean island, where she is to work on restoring a memorial garden. An accident on the ferry mars her arrival on the island. But the garden she is to work on excites her.

“The grounds ran down to the sea, through wind-twisted pines, crumbling rocks, and the unexpectedly lush green of the bushes and trees that held fast to every scrap of earth. On a cliff to be right was the lighthouse. Now she understood the way the house sat on its land, with the open sea to the south and the rocky bay of the Calanque de l’Indienne to the southwest.

The warmth poured over her like hot water. The wide blue sky and lustrous sea were all light and sea. For a few heady seconds she felt a sense of freedom more intense than she had ever experienced.”

But the family that commissions her is a little more than eccentric. An old woman with strange episodes who is convinced about the presence of spirits haunting the place. Her son is more down to earth but isn’t around often enough to alleviate Ellie’s worries and fears. Then there’s a mysterious man who might have had something to do with the accident on the ferry? Bizarre.

The first story dazzled with its atmosphere and descriptions, its scents and smells, its sights and sounds, but its narrative didn’t impress and instead left me a little confused as I moved to the second story.

Thankfully the second and third novellas were far better. And more importantly, did not contain this supernatural element.

In the second novella, The Lavender Field, we meet Marthe, a blind woman who works at perfume distillery in France. It is 1944 and the Germans are everywhere. The Musset family who owns the distillery are allowed to continue production, although they are secretly serving in the Resistance. Marthe, with her knowledge of Braille, is roped in, and volunteers to play a key role in one of the missions, where she meets an American soldier the Resistance is trying to fly out of France.

Iris Nightingale, a British junior intelligence officer, stars in the third novella. She falls for a French agent who later vanishes after a failed landing in Provence. When the war is over, she is determined to learn what happened to him.

In the final 30-odd pages or so, Lawrenson ties the three tales together but I fear that that might be too late for some readers of this book. It is a pity that the first novella lacks the strength of the other two, for those sections are worth reading. And Lawrenson’s writing is undeniably elegant and atmospheric.

Read this book if you, like me, are stuck at home and are looking for some armchair traveling. But be patient with it and you’ll be rewarded.

 

 

 

Deborah Lawrenson photo credit Rebecca Eifion-JonesDeborah Lawrenson studied English at Cambridge University and worked as a journalist in London. She is married with a daughter and lives in Kent, England. She and her family spend as much time as possible at a crumbling hamlet in Provence, France, the setting for her novel The Lantern and inspiration for The Sea Garden.  Find out more about Deborah at her website, read more at her blog, and connect with her on Facebook.

 

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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Check out the other stops on this book tour:

 

Thursday, June 26th: Doing Dewey

Monday, June 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, July 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, July 7th: Book Dilettante

Tuesday, July 8th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

Thursday, July 10th: The Written World

Friday, July 11th: Olduvai Reads

Monday, July 14th: Luxury Reading

Tuesday, July 15th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Wednesday, July 16th: Diary of an Eccentric

Wednesday, July 16th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, July 17th: Stitch Read Cook

Monday, July 21st: BookNAround

Tuesday, July 22nd: Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, July 23rd: Kritters Ramblings

TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

TBD: Ageless Pages Reviews

Ooops

For some reason WordPress hasn’t been sending me emails notifying me about comments….grrrr….

So I’ve only just realised that there have been some comments on my previous posts. And have now replied to them. Sorry about that!

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As my little one would say, after he throws all his toys out, oh oh…

Things to love this Wednesday

Now how did most of the day go by already?

It’s Wednesday! The weekend’s going to be here soon, or perhaps not soon enough!. Wee Reader’s preschool lets out tomorrow and this marks the end of his first ever preschool year! He’s grown from that overly cautious, unsure 2.5-year-old who was still being potty trained (SO many days in which he came out of school with a bag of wet clothes!!) to being completely diaper-free, more confident, happy to go to school (most days) 3.5-year-old! He’s learnt all sorts of important things like how to hold a pencil/crayon properly, put on his shoes, jackets, pants and underwear (the tops are a bit trickier), songs and rhymes, and things that surprise me like how he nods and says ‘yes’ when he’s listening to a story and peeing standing up (!). I put him in school last year mostly because I wasn’t sure if I could handle two kids under three by myself so I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all these little changes I see in him.

Anyhow, here’s what I’ve been loving lately:

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Populaire – a 2012 French film that’s currently streaming on Netflix. It’s set in the 1950s and features speed typing!

This very summery snap pea, watermelon and edamame salad! from Joy the Baker

I am so craving a milkshake right now, thanks to these ice-cream-sandwich milkshakes from Bake at 350

The Millions’ post on the most anticipated releases for the second half of 2014. These kinds of posts just make me sigh and wish I had more time to read. Because I so want to read SO MANY of these books. David Mitchell! Sarah Waters! Hilary Mantel! Christos Tsiolkas!

Added to my TBR list: On Black Sister Street by Chika Unigwe thanks to Me, You and Books

An article on the art of the opening sentence from The Millions

Ok all that talk about food is making me hungry. Plus the house smells great thanks to the beef stew that is in the slow cooker. It’s currently got beef, onions, cabbage, garlic, tomato paste, star anise, cloves, cinnamon bark, coriander roots, a bit of soy sauce and fish sauce in it. I’ll be adding carrots and potatoes a little later. But meanwhile I’m hungry! I think I’ll go for some crackers and brie.

What are you snacking on today?