Posts in Reviews
A Feast of Japanese Cusine
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She said that was the only way for us to live, to be like the poets. That’s what she said. If all you ever see is reality, you just want to die. The only way to get over barriers, she said, is to live in the spirit of already being over them.
— Durian Sukegawa, Sweet Bean Paste

I just finished Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa, and I will admit, this kind of soft soft slice-of-life stories are not my usual fare, but they definitely deserve a place in any diet (When it comes to Japanese writing I am more a Yoko Ogawa / Junji Ito kind of a person.) If you liked Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen, you’ll probably enjoy this one a lot; it gives me that same warm fuzzy feelings. It is a simple story that follows the unlikely couple formula; washed out man working at a dorayaki store meets an extraordinary woman with extraordinary circumstances and gives him a new perspective in life and gently encouraging him. His problems aren’t all magically solved in the end but there is some hope for his future. And at the same time, the story sheds light on social issues in Japan - the way lepers (yes literal leprosy not a metaphor) were treated and continue to be treated today. 

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And then a friend of mine introduced me to the mobile game Hungry Hearts Diner (Available on the Apple store and Google Play store). I highly recommend this! The game takes place in a post WWII Japan, where an old lady is trying to keep her husband’s diner going after he’s had an accident. You interact with customers, which unlocks conversations and you find out more about them as well as the old lady, and you have to be heartless to not be moved by the storylines.

I also adore reading the descriptions of the different dishes she cooks. The Braised Pork description is sassy “Some heathens leave behind the fatty bits” while Edamame is educational '“Selectively bred to accompany beer… or so you would think. Did you know they’re actually baby soybeans?” The game has also given me an intense desire to try to cooking Nikujaga, and also maybe giving Japanese potato salad (which is superior to the Western variety I maintain) a go.

Two Reviews

So I somehow managed to miss that LocalBooks.sg tagged me three days ago with glowing praise I am stunned by but I am more stunned that I also somehow missed the fact that I was featured on Her World Singapore (article here) and only found out with this tag. I am also featured next to amazing female writers Clarissa Goenawan, Pooja Nansi, and Sharlene Teo and am so honoured.

You can get my book from BooksActually. Also, BooksActually will be having a 40% discount on all Math Paper Press (including my book) from 1-3 Feb. Just key in MPP40 at the checkout. Local shipping is free, and international shipping is a flat rate so you can go wild.

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The Wicked King, and more squealing about Holly Black
All hail the Faerie Queen

All hail the Faerie Queen

No spoilers below I promise

Yes, I know I gushed plenty about Holly Black in my previous post , but this is my site and I can do what I want, and what I want now is to scream to the world on how much I enjoyed The Wicked King and everyone should start on The Folk of Air series now.

I have been going around squealing about the series since finishing and have been demanding that friends began reading the first book, The Cruel Prince, immediately so we can discuss fan theories and just talk about the overall awesomeness of the series. I foolishly ordered it off Book Depository because I saw that Kinokuniya hadn’t stocked it yet and in the website they stated that it wasn’t in stock and would take two weeks and was almost twice the cost of the Book Depository item. So I ordered it off Book Depository and found it in stock in Kino two days later and was kicking myself every day afterwards until I received my Book Depository order.

To make it more bearable, I started to read Holly Black’s older Modern Faerietale series. While you don’t need to have read everything she’s written to get started on The Folk of Air series, it’s a lovely easter egg for longtime fans to see her characters pop up; the some characters from Tithe are mentioned in her other book, The Darkest Part of the Forest , but it’s only in The Cruel Prince that all the characters actually interact and meet. Tortured angsty elf boy Roiben (from Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside) pops up again a lot in The Wicked King.

Yes, it deeply annoys me that the covers are not a matched set. I’m this close to shelling out money for another copy of Ironside just so that they will.

Yes, it deeply annoys me that the covers are not a matched set. I’m this close to shelling out money for another copy of Ironside just so that they will.

It’s after reading her older writing that I really appreciate how ambitious The Folk of the Air series is. Black introduces a much larger cast of characters than in her previous books and you get to know them more intimately in this book. There are multiple intrigues and plot twists with enough setup and foreshadowing so that nothing feels like it’s completely out from the left field. Jude is the first protagonist we see who actually dishes out murder consciously and it shakes her up each time. I’ve been seeing how reviewers are complaining that a lot of her problems would be solved with better communication, but it makes sense that she doesn’t; much of the book sets up the reasons for her paranoia and she’s right to have trust issues.

Your ridiculous family might be surprised to find that not everything is solved by murder.
— Holly Black

I also really appreciate that romance isn’t the main focus of the book. Also, with the Modern Faerietale, we already knew that the love interests were head over heels with each other and as readers could only shout at them from the sidelines for being so stupid. In The Folk of Air, I still don’t know what to think of Cardan (male supernatural love interest) and his intentions. It helps that we never get a chapter in his point of view (which we did with Roibin in Tithe), which I think is fantastic as we constantly feel on edge knowing that Jude is not the most reliable narrator given her paranoia but don’t have any other point-of-view to corroborate with her reliability/unreliability.

Also that ridiculous mic drop of a cliffhanger is driving me nuts and 2020 couldn’t come quickly enough.

The Folk of the Air series books #1 and #2

The Folk of the Air series books #1 and #2

Beyond romance though, I think where Black really excels is in writing about dysfunctional families, and how difficult it is to not care or cut ourselves away from them, no matter how toxic they can be. We saw this a lot in The Curse Worker series, where the protagonist has a lying psychopathic brother who turns out to have been abusing him for years but they have to work together to save each other anyway. Jude is brought to Faerieland because her parents’ murderer takes her there, and basically brings her up like a daughter. It makes things complicated and my favourite scenes are the ones where the two of them interact; there is grudging respect and affection on both ends and Jude doesn’t know whether to count him as ally or not throughout.

If any of you get around to reading Holly Black please do let me know and we can talk! There’s a lot to unpack in this series and it was hard to write a spoiler-free post.

My First Interview!
Image from  BooksActually

Image from BooksActually

I was interviewed and reviewed on by Dawn Teo on Popspoken, do check it out!

Dawn’s been doing a lovely series of reviews featuring Sing Lit writers like Cyril Wong, Rodrigo Pela Dena Jr, Melissa de Silva, Werner Kho, and Crispin Rodrigues, and I’m really proud to be included. All our books can be purchased at BooksActually. (psst they ship overseas and local shipping is free!)

THINGS I HAVE BEEN DOING (not book related)

I keep talking about how I haven’t been reading very much since buying my Nintendo Switch in November, so I figure I should take some time to talk about them. I’ve so far purchased eight games which is a bit ridiculous but the e-store makes it too easy to purchase games and there have been so many sales. I’m not very good at reviewing games (or books for that matter) but here are my thoughts. 

Title art by  Ubisoft

Title art by Ubisoft

This is a pretty decent turn-based battling system, though I suggest checking the Wiki page when it comes to weapons upgrades as that’s the least intuitive part of the game. The graphics and music are lovely and particularly effective at bringing out the melancholic nature of the quest and ruined surroundings. I finished it twice, and will probably replay it at some point. The biggest downside to it is the cheesy rhyming dialogue - there is actually a character who breaks the rhyme and is continuously corrected by all the other characters. On the second playthrough I didn’t find the dialogue as stilted though. Lots of fun, definitely worth getting if there’s a sale going on. 

Screenshot from  Paste Magazine

Screenshot from Paste Magazine

Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu - Because of course. And while there are people who spent a long time debating over which version to get, I'm of the generation that played Pokemon Yellow so there wasn't really any other option for me. Lots of people were initially grumbling about how we really didn’t need a Kanto remake given that we already have Fire Red/Leaf Green, and the Ultra Sun and Moon remakes were deeply disappointing after the original. But I am so glad that I got this; the remake is done so well, and I am ridiculously excited that I can take my Pokemon out and have them trail after me. You can ride your Arcanine! Your Charizard actually flies you around! It is everything a child who grew up playing the first generation of Pokemon could have asked for!

Art by From Software, but the screenshot is from the  Steam  listing

Art by From Software, but the screenshot is from the Steam listing

Dark Souls (Remastered) - I guess I’m a Souls veteran? I didn’t play Demon Souls but I did play DS 1-3 and Bloodborne, but only finished one playthrough with each game and with long long breaks during the games. It is so magical now that I can play this on a tiny console.

I am so upset that there are so few people playing this! Co-oping was one of my favourite reasons to play the Souls series and now that there just aren't as many people playing on the online system; it was once really easy for me to get summoned/summon others to play with me but there just aren’t many players around. I got to the Depths and then got distracted by other things (namely other games) and was too busy sobbing at the difficulty level of the game to continue. Things are so much harder when you don’t have jolly cooperation with other players.

Edit: Typing this now in late January (this post has been sitting here for over a week) and I have killed the Gaping Dragon, Hydra, Moonlight Butterfly, and helped others with Queelag in the last three days and it feels so good to be back.

Screenshot from  Game Skinny

Screenshot from Game Skinny

Oxenfree - I was playing this obsessively last year on an iPad and then bought it on Steam. It's a lot more tedious without a touchscreen though, so really best played on an iPad or Switch. It features beautiful graphics (apparently the design team used to be part of Disney) and top-notch voice acting. There isn’t any action and much of what you do involves directing your avatar around the map and choosing from a variety of options, but the voice acting is so good you still feel very much involved in the game. I highly highly recommend everyone plays this, especially if you’re into puzzles and character-driven games. Bonus points to your experience if you understand morse. Oh and do play it without a guide the first time.

Screenshot from  Polygon

Screenshot from Polygon

Gris - A lot has been said about this new indie game. The trailer got me so excited, and was a big reason why I bought Child of Light because who doesn’t love soft watercolour backgrounds? The puzzles aren’t terribly difficult, but the entire immersive experience of the game was truly lovely as the smoothness of the animation matched the beauty of the graphics and sound. Make sure you play with headphones on!

I’ve also bought Hollow Knight and Night in the Woods, which I will start on after I finish a couple of books. 

I also finished reading this 55 chapter manga “Kiss Him, Not Me”, also known as Watashi ga Motete Dōsunda after seeing the video clip going viral on Youtube which is one of the most adorable things I have ever read. The manga so so self-aware of how fangirls behave and the problematic tropes in shoujo manga and portrays both really well. It is also so cute that all the love interests have numbers in their names so they are actually just love interest #4, #5, #6, #7 etc for easy reference and shipping. 

After that, YouTube threw some clips of "Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku", so I watched that as well. I’m not usually a fan of the slice of life genre, but I think I have grown into the genre after actually entering the working world and sympathising with the office worker protagonists. It was just nice to watch this while eating dinner after work. The show's basically about two couples at the same workplace who are huge otakus, though each are fans of different genres, and how they just have fun hanging with each other without (too much) judgement. 

Also, I was thinking the other day about how I made it a point to not talk about fanfiction or anime in front of other people because I’d be afraid of being judged, but I need to say that finding friends who actually support these same interests, as well as getting older and caring less about what people think of you is great and is an attitude I intend to continue to cultivate.

If you have read this post ‘til the end, please do recommend anything that brings you joy - movies, books, games, anime, fanfiction (I have gotten into fandoms just because my favourite author has and I wanted to read her work this is literally how I got into the new Star Wars Trilogy despite not being the biggest fan of the originals). I’ll be happy to give it a shot!