#AMonthofFaves – Top 5 Winter Reads

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A Month of Favorites is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T, and Andi at Estella’s Revenge

Today is all about last winter!

So after scanning through my handy dandy spreadsheet, I have discovered that last winter was the year I read these amazing books – how quickly we soon forget!

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The elegance of the hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
I bought my copy at a library book sale, and of course held on to it for at least a year before reading it. I brought it with me on our trip to Singapore. It was a month-long visit so I would have plenty of time to read it. And I loved it. Oh those two wonderful characters and their intelligence. I passed the copy on to my sister, whom I thought would enjoy it. I haven’t yet checked if she’s read it! A delightful tale. Not very wintry but its Parisian setting makes for some welcome armchair traveling.

 

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Last night at the lobster – Stewart O’Nan
A very wintry tale this one, although it doesn’t sound it! I love books that are set over the course of a day, and this one was awesome. We follow the employees of a to-be-closed chain restaurant as they make it through their last day of work. And it is winter. And there is snow.
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At the mouth of the river of bees – Kij Johnson
A collection of stories by the amazing Kij Johnson, including the unforgettable The Man Who Bridged the Mist, which you can read part of here at Asimov’s. Not all the stories agreed with me but those that did were quite something. In case you are wondering, yes, there is a story about bees, and others about cats, dogs, monkeys, wolves.
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The tale of Despereaux – Kate DiCamillo

There’s something about winter that makes me want to read fairytales. And this was sweet and enchanting.

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The last policeman – Ben H Winters

This has such great concept. It’s not the trendy post-apocalyptic type of plot but a pre-apocalyptic one. Six months left till an asteroid hits Earth with devastating consequences! So there are going to be suicides and disappearances (people going Bucket List), but sometimes there are suicides and disappearances that might be suspicious and Detective Hank Palace is on the job! Mostly cos he’s the only one who cares. It’s a very different crime series. And a fun read. Despite, that is, the impending doom.

What were your favorites last winter?

#AMonthofFaves – Top 10 #Books That Blew My Mind in 2014

amonthoffaves

A Month of Favorites is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T, and Andi at Estella’s Revenge

HOW DOES ONE PICK TEN BOOKS?!?!?!

Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? – Roz Chast (my thoughts)

The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell (my thoughts)

The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood, #2) – NK Jemisin (my thoughts)

Monkey Beach – Eden Robinson (my thoughts)

Ruby – Cynthia Bond (my thoughts)

Bitter in the Mouth – Monique Truong (my thoughts)

The People in the Trees – Hanya Yanagihara (my thoughts)

 

 

Morning Glories – Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma

Is it fair to include a comic series? Well, fair or not, this won’t be the only one on my list! But man this series…. I don’t know where to begin. Which is probably why I never attempted to write an actual post about it. Let’s begin with where I first heard of the series from – Debi (thanks Debi!) who described it as “plain FUN. In a sinister, creepy, WTF sort of way.” And definitely it is all about WTF. It’s set in a prep school with all kinds of weird things going on. There are more questions than answers and as I soon learnt, that’s how the rest of the series goes. The more you look for answers, the more questions pop up. Until you just don’t bother looking for answers but hop onboard and try to keep your head on while the ride is rocketing you sky-high and then plummeting you down into the deepest of abysses and your head is in your stomach and your stomach in your head and you don’t know where is up anymore.

Sunny – Taiyo Matsumoto (my thoughts)

Locke and Key – Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez

To be fair, I only read volumes 5 and 6 this year.

It seems that my preference for graphic novels tends to be of the WTF range. I forced encouraged the Husband to read the first book a few years ago, and when he was done, he refused to read further, saying it was far too morbid for him. He might have said that with a shudder. And yes, these books aren’t for the faint of heart, although I do think that Morning Glories goes a bit further with more shocking images. But what you should know is that there is some awesome writing here from Joe Hill and some gorgeous illustrations from Gabriel Rodriguez. There is violence and gore, sometimes a bit too much for even Morbid Me, but there is also such fun and imagination and creativity. Minus the gore and violence it’s actually kind of whimsical, a story about keys that perform some amazing feats – one door that takes you anywhere, another turns back time and so on. Thinking about it makes me reread all six again – a project for 2015!

 

So these are my top 10 (or 22!) reads of 2014.  I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

What were your favourites of 2014? 

 

#AMonthofFaves – #Reading Challenges for 2015

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A Month of Favorites is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T, and Andi at Estella’s Revenge

Today’s topic is a review or discussion of your choice, so I’m turning my attention to READING CHALLENGES!

So last year I didn’t commit to many reading challenges, just a few short ones like Diversiverse, Nonfiction November, RIP and Once Upon a Time – I fully intend to rejoin these shorter challenges in 2015 too! These shorter ones tend to work better for me as I never can remember to stick to my challenge lists! But one thing that challenges make me do is sit down and write about the books I read. And that is something I really need to do more of! I’m hoping these challenges will add to my reading experience in 2015!

It’s going to be 2015!! And we are still not living on the moon! My younger self would be so disappointed.

Foodies Read 2013

Foodies Read 2015

Food and books. What better than that??!

I’m going for Pastry Chef: 4 to 8 books

The Reach of a Chef – Michael Ruhlman
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks – Kathleen Flinn
Eat To Live: Healthy Asian Recipes – Sylvia Tan
Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America – Chen Yong
The Language of Food: A Linguist reads the Menu – Dan Jurafsky
The secret financial life of food: from commodities markets to supermarkets – Kara Newman
The third plate: field notes on the future of food – Dan Barber
Burnt toast makes you sing good: a memoir of food and love from an American Midwest family – Kathleen Flinn
Provence, 1970: MFK Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste – Luke Barr

 

 

 

 

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Back to the Classics 

Ok! So I need to read more classics. And I like that the cut-off date is 1965 – or at least 50 years ago. That I can do! I’m listing books in all twelve categories, which is a bit ambitious. I just hope to be able to complete six categories. But I tell you, I had such fun putting this list together!

 

A 19th Century Classic
Ruth – Elizabeth Gaskell (pub. 1853)

The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells (pub. 1897)

A 20th Century Classic

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey (pub. 1962)

They came like swallows – William Maxwell (pub. 1937)

Tender is the Night – F Scott Fitzgerald (published 1933)

A Classic by a Woman Author.

Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne DuMaurier (pub. 1941)

A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry (pub. 1959)

A Classic in Translation

The Pillow Book – Sei Shōnagon (translated from Japanese, pub. 1002)

I am a Cat – Sōseki Natsume (translated from Japanese, pub. 1905)

A Very Long Classic Novel – a single work of 500 pages or longer

Shirley – Charlotte Bronte (pub. 1849, 624 pages)

A Classic Novella – any work shorter than 250 pages

The Pearl – John Steinbeck (pub. 1945)

Candide – Voltaire (pub. 1759)

The Duel – Giacomo Casanova (pub. 1789)

A Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title

Heidi – Johanna Spyri (pub. 1880)

Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell (pub. 1848)

Lady Susan – Jane Austen (pub. 1791)

A Humorous or Satirical Classic

Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K Jerome (pub. 1889)

The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves #2) – P.G. Wodehouse (pub. 1923)

A Tale of a Tub – Jonathan Swift (pub. 1704)

A Forgotten Classic

When the Sleeper Wakes – H.G. Wells (pub. 1899)

Love On The Dole – Walter Greenwood (pub. 1933)

Four girls and a compact – Annie Hamilton Donnell (pub. 1906)

A Nonfiction Classic

Seven Years in Tibet – Heinrich Harrer (pub. 1952)

Kon-Tiki – Thor Heyerdahl (pub. 1948)

A Classic Children’s Book.

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (published 1937)

Pinocchio –  Carlo Collodi (pub. 1880)

A Classic Play

A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams (pub. 1947)

Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller (pub. 1949)

 

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Reading England 2015

And because I cannot resist a good map-banner-thing. And it kind of ties in with the classics challenge above! I first saw this on Much Madness is Divinest Sense

I’m going for:

Level two: 4 – 6 counties

The first five counties I picked because of the books suggested, London as an alternate, and Sussex because I once lived there

CumbriaSwallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Devon: Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore or And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (which is according to this list, set in Devon, and since it’s published in 1939, it’s kind of a classic, right?)

GloucestershireCider With Rose by Laurie Lee

Lancashire: The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

YorkshireThe Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

London: Keep the Apidistra Flying by George Orwell

Sussex:  The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

Yorkshire: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (I hope it’s ok that I reread this – it was something I read many years ago as a child, and am now curious to see if I would enjoy it!)

PS I might have to change the counties/books chosen here depending on the availability of the books from the library!

 

What reading challenges are you thinking of joining next year? 

It’s Monday and I’m reading The Dream Thieves

itsmondayIt’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.

 

I’ve spent the last couple of days nursing a bad cough. The kind that gets you up several times at night hacking away. My mother-in-law has been simmering barley and winter melon with some rock sugar for a cooling drink. Also, in case you too have a cough and don’t have access to barley and winter melon, beer is cooling too! :)

 

Speaking of alcohol, my father-in-law enjoyed his trip to our local BevMo, buying root beer, ales and cider. Alcohol in Singapore is on the expensive side (as most things in Singapore are – it is the land of the $100,000+ Honda Civic after all), so he always makes a BevMo stop when he visits.

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And other exciting things that happened, my sister in Singapore sent me some books by local authors! And a very cute Christmas postcard!

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We also survived #hellastorm #stormageddon or whatever else they were calling the great storm of December 11. And we’re due for another on Monday.   Thankfully the storm didn’t hit my town too hard. Sandbags were offered, roads were closed, we had bought extra batteries and torchlights but didn’t need to use them as our power stayed on. We were the lucky ones – some half a million homes in California were without power for quite a while.

 

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Wee Reader and I made Christmas cookies!

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My mother-in-law made big pots of chicken curry and sayur lodeh, a vegetable curry.

Currently…

Reading:

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Little, Big – John Crowley

It is a strange and wondrous world that Crowley has created. There is a hue of dreaminess, a fairytale-like shade about this book. It’s kind of meandering but rather fascinating.

dreamthieves

The Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater

Part two of the trilogy. I’ve only just started but judging by the first book, this ought to be interesting.

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A Natural History of Dragons – Marie Brennan

I’ve also just started this one but the beginning is already a good read.

Listening:

We recently introduced my father-in-law to Spotify by playing all sorts of oldies or rather, getting him to name his favourite songs like A Lover’s Concerto by The Toys, and playing them for him. He’s caught on to the giant library and has apparently been listening to music on Spotify till late at night!

Watching:

I was curious about Marco Polo, the new Netflix series, and just started watching the first episode. Have you seen it yet?

Eating:

Cantaloupe

Drinking:

Green tea

Cooking:

Oxtail stew! I love oxtail but the Husband doesn’t. So I have to wait until either my parents or my in-laws visit till I get to cook and eat some!

Also we bought a big bag of spinach from Costco the other day and I’ll probably use it with spaghetti, maybe with sausage or salmon.

Last week…

I read:

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West of Sunset – Stewart O’Nan

Review to come

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Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

I’m trying to figure out what to write about this. Check back soon.

I posted:

#AMonthofFaves – Favourite New-to-Me Authors     

TLC Book Tours: Fog Island Mountains     

Library Loot (Dec 10 2014)     

#AMonthofFaves – my year in #reading     

#AMonthofFaves – Favourite TV series for repeated viewing     

#AMonthofFaves – Picking Favourites     

What are you reading this week?

#AMonthofFaves – Picking Favourites

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A Month of Favorites is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T, and Andi at Estella’s Revenge

Today it’s all about favorites from other bloggers’ posts!

Megan at Leafing Through Life brought my attention to some great movies this year in her Five Fave Movies of the Year list. I don’t often go to the cinemas so we tend to rent or e-rent (?) movies to watch at home when the kids go to bed. St Vincent and The Giver are going on my (mental) list of movies to watch next.

And Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves’ timeline post led me to her interesting post about Liane Moriarty, an author I’ve been curious about but have yet to read.

I just made a pot of mushroom soup for lunch, but now I want to try the Slow-Cooker Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup from Helen at My Novel Opinion‘s Fave Winter-Warmer Recipes. Slow-Cooker! Tomato! Basil! Parmesan!

And now I am hungry.

#AMonthofFaves – Favourite TV series for repeated viewing

amonthoffaves

A Month of Favorites is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T, and Andi at Estella’s Revenge

So today it’s all about five favorite digital lifehacks OR five favorite non-bookish things.

Most of my spare time is spent reading. And with two littles aged 1.5 and 3.5, there isn’t very much time to spare! This probably sounds a bit crazy but I like to re-watch TV shows. You’re probably thinking, but there are so many other new series to watch! For me it’s kind of a background viewing while reading a book. Yeah you’re right that does sound crazy!

Anyway, here’s what I love to re-watch:

FireflyCast

Joss Whedon’s Firefly

The Husband first introduced me to the show when we were dating. I thought he was insane. Space outlaws! Why would I watch that? But it is a show with such heart and humour, fun and moving stories, great characters. Plus they curse in Chinese or their version of Mandarin Chinese – it’s my second language and I have no idea what they say most of the time. It’s a fun show! Don’t let that ‘space’ ‘sci-fi’ ‘western’ thing put you off.

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House MD 

I’m currently re-watching season four and am marveling at how they wrote the two-part season finale. I knew what was going to happen (very dramatic and shocking the first time I saw it), yet it still stunned and moved me throughout. You probably don’t immediately reach for a medical drama when it comes to re-watching, but I love this series. And it’s Hugh Laurie!

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Sex and the City 

The series. Just not the movie. Not ever again. The clothes, the city life, the shopping, the nights out, and their friendship.

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Band of Brothers

Another series that was introduced by the Husband, with whom I’ve re-watched this twice so far. We attempted to watch The Pacific, the companion series which focused on the Pacific Theatre of Operations (Band of Brothers’ focus is the European Theatre), but didn’t get past two episodes. So very moving. The comradeship, their bravery and all the hardship and tragedy of war. A wonderful tribute to these amazing people.

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Gilmore Girls

I saved the best – and most-re-watched – for last. How I love this show. I loved it so much I bought the DVD box sets and re-watched them over and over. And now it’s on Netflix so I can see it anytime! The quirky residents of Stars Hollow, the relationship with Richard and Emily, bossy Paris, rebellious Lane! And the Gilmore Girls themselves, although I can’t take too much of Lorelei at one go! Best show ever.

#AMonthofFaves – my year in #reading

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A Month of Favorites is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T, and Andi at Estella’s Revenge

January

abominable

Off to a good start with my usual mix of fiction and graphic novels (Hawkeye! Clockworks!). And somehow I finished reading two Dan Simmons books this month, The Abominable (Mt Everest madness) and The Fall of Hyperion (sci-fi goodness).

February

sunny

I did a lot of graphic novel reading for Graphic Novel Month (the brainchild of Debi and Chris)! Eight graphic novels/memoirs this month!

March

stitchintime

March seems to have been a month of kid lit. Homecoming by Cynthia Voight, A stitch in time by Penelope Lively, Cart and Cwidder (Dalemark Quartet #1) by Diana Wynne Jones were some of the highlights of this month. Also my boy turned 3!

April

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Ooh in April I got hooked on Brian K Vaughan’s Saga as well as the very bizarre Morning Glories! And my other boy turned a big old ONE!

May

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The highlight of May was Monique Truong’s Bitter in the MouthAn absolutely amazing unforgettable book!

June

goldfinch

In June, new-to-me authors included Rachel Hartman, Maggie Shipstead, Howard Cruse, Laurie Colwin, Kathryn Ma. And I read Goldfinch. That was quite a feat.

July

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I read a book called Everything I never told you and it is on almost every “Best of 2014″ book list I’ve come across!

August

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This was a month for female authors! Shin Kyung-Sook, Yangsze Choo, Maria Semple, Emma Straub, Thrity Umrigar, Barbara Gowdy, Leigh Bardugo!

September

monkeybeach

Aarti’s Diversiverse got me paying special attention to what I read this month! And also it was RIP IX time!

October

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I started a new comic series, Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, and fell hard for its characters and their relationships. And it was Read-a-thon time! The kids ‘helped’ so I didn’t get much reading done!

November

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Nonfiction November got me finally reading some more nonfiction this month! Roz Chast’s graphic memoir was probably my favourite read.

December

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I’m tackling the books I’ve been really wanting to read! Like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.

It’s been a fun reading year. How has yours been?

Library Loot (Dec 10 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.

Lots of books to return. A storm brewing. Hurry hurry home with library loot! Just one for me. I haven’t downloaded any new e-books either. Hmmm what is going on??!?!

Kill my mother: a graphic novel – Jules Feiffer
Not sure why I requested this but the hold came in and I picked it up. Ok rather long blurb here from Goodreads

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Adding to a legendary career that includes a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, Obie Awards, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Cartoonist Society and the Writers Guild of America, Jules Feiffer now presents his first noir graphic novel. Kill My Mother is a loving homage to the pulp-inspired films and comic strips of his youth. Channeling Eisner’s The Spirit, along with the likes of Hammett, Chandler, Cain, John Huston, and Billy Wilder, and spiced with the deft humor for which Feiffer is renowned, Kill My Mother centers on five formidable women from two unrelated families, linked fatefully and fatally by a has-been, hard-drinking private detective.

As our story begins, we meet Annie Hannigan, an out-of-control teenager, jitterbugging in the 1930s. Annie dreams of offing her mother, Elsie, whom she blames for abandoning her for a job soon after her husband, a cop, is shot and killed. Now, employed by her husband s best friend an over-the-hill and perpetually soused private eye Elsie finds herself covering up his missteps as she is drawn into a case of a mysterious client, who leads her into a decade-long drama of deception and dual identities sprawling from the Depression era to World War II Hollywood and the jungles of the South Pacific.

Along with three femme fatales, an obsessed daughter, and a loner heroine, Kill My Mother features a fighter turned tap dancer, a small-time thug who dreams of being a hit man, a name-dropping cab driver, a communist liquor store owner, and a hunky movie star with a mind-boggling secret. Culminating in a U.S.O. tour on a war-torn Pacific island, this disparate band of old enemies congregate to settle scores.

In a drawing style derived from Steve Canyon and The Spirit, Feiffer combines his long-honed skills as cartoonist, playwright, and screenwriter to draw us into this seductively menacing world where streets are black with soot and rain, and base motives and betrayal are served on the rocks in bars unsafe to enter. Bluesy, fast-moving, and funny, Kill My Mother is a trip to Hammett-Chandler-Cain Land: a noir-graphic novel like the movies they don t make anymore.”

The kids’ loot.
We are becoming fans of Mo Willems in our house. Wee Reader has caught on to the sense of humor and quite enjoys it. And of course the usual construction-related books, some of which we had borrowed before and that I’ve not featured here.

What did you get from your library this week?

TLC Book Tours: Fog Island Mountains

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A man gets the life-changing news of cancer. He is alone. His wife who is meant to meet him at the hospital never arrives. She is unable to confront him and his situation, unable to wrap her head around losing him, about being left behind, and so she runs away. She flees their little town of Komachi, a typhoon approaching, the mist gathering, the cloud sea sweeping in.

Alec Chester is South African, a teacher of English, thus sensei to many of the Komachi residents. His wife, Kanae, is the one who grew up here. He has tried his best to integrate into Komachi, following their customs and rules, all while knowing that he will never truly fit in.

Fog Island Mountains is a carefully crafted book, a delicate, gentle read, which might sound like an odd choice of description for a book that touches on something tragic amidst an incoming storm. But I guess it might have to do with the way the Japanese tend to hold back on showing their emotions and feelings, even about something like cancer. I love that the story runs over just a few days, that so very much can happen in a few days. Bad news, a storm, a missing wife.

Azami, a rather mysterious woman who cares for hurt wild animals and tells stories at the town library, narrates the story. And introduces its influence – the kitsune, or the fox with nine tails, a Japanese folktale in which the fox takes on human form, tricks a lonely young man to fall in love with him. And they have a child together. But one day the fox-woman turns back into a fox and runs away.

The mountains, the town and its residents are weaved into the story so that it feels like one whole, a tale into which the reader is absorbed fully and from which this reader emerged, expecting to find myself in the aftermath of the typhoon in Japan. Fog Island Mountains was unexpectedly absorbing, a short read that takes barely more than one or two readings but leaves the reader with food for thought (what if it were me?) and gorgeous imagery to remember.

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Michelle Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator. Her novel Fog Island Mountains won the Christopher Doheny Award from the Center for Fiction in New York City. She translated Charles Ferdinand Ramuz s 1927 Swiss classic Beauty on Earth. She is the reviews editor at the web journal Necessary Fiction, and her fiction, poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in a number of journals, including the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Quarterly Conversation, PANK, Spolia Mag, Two Serious Ladies, and the Atticus Review. Michelle lives in Switzerland.

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

Check out the other tour stops:

Tuesday, November 4th: The Discerning Reader

Thursday, November 6th: BookNAround

Tuesday, November 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, November 13th: Bell, Book, & Candle

Monday, November 17th: Book Nerd

Thursday, November 20th: Too Fond

Tuesday, December 2nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, December 3rd: Regular Rumination

Friday, December 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, December 8th: Book Dilettante

Tuesday, December 9th: Olduvai Reads

Wednesday, December 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

TBD: Sara’s Organized Chaos

 

#AMonthofFaves – Favourite New-to-Me Authors

amonthoffaves

A Month of Favorites is hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T, and Andi at Estella’s Revenge

Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees was such a different book, such an amazing read. And it was her debut! I was so pleased to learn from River City Reading that she has a new book out next year!

I LOVED Taiyo Matsumoto’s Sunny manga series, set in a home for children in Japan. The sad stories of these kids’ lives, how they become their own family in this home and adapt to life without their parents around. Moving, funny, sad. And such great illustrations.

A book about dragons who know math? I’m waiting to read the next one from Rachel Hartman because Seraphina was such fun.

Yangsze Choo brought me back to Southeast Asia with her debut Ghost Bride. I try to read as much as I can about Southeast Asia so this Malaysian author (who now lives in the US) is definitely on my list of keep-a-look-out-for-her-next-book authors.

Eden Robinson, who is from Haisla First Nation, an Indigenous nation in British Columbia, Canada, wrote Monkey Beach, a completely absorbing read set in a small First Nations community with restless spirits.

Can’t We Talk about something more pleasant? was my first read from Roz Chast and her humor and honesty is what makes me want to read more.

Who are your favourite new-to-you authors this year?