100層樓的家 Book Review

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Title: 100層樓的家 (yi bai3 ceng2 lou2 de5 jia)/The 100 Story House

ISBN: 9789862110850

Author/Illustrator: 岩井俊雄

Translator: 周佩頴

Publisher: 小魯文化事業股份有限公司  (Hsiao Lu Publishing Co. LTD., 2010)

Level: Beginning Reader, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: A boy who wants to look at the stars is invited by someone to go to the top floor of a 100 story building. The book follows him as he climbs up 100 stories and you see who lives on each floor as he climbs to the top.

Sample Pages:






Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: Despite it being a bit hard for me to read to my children due to my mediocre Chinese skills (and the book’s lack of zhuyin), my children really love to flip through the book and look at all the illustrations.

Cookie Monster (7.5) and Gamera (5.5) can read most of the content and trip over a character here and there (just like me – I don’t know whether to be proud of them or sad about myself). There really isn’t too much story or plot – just a lot of awesome pictures.

One cool thing about this book is that because it’s about a boy climbing UP a 100 story building, you also experience the book that way by flipping UP through the book to read it.

Here is a video of Glow Worm (3.75) flipping through the pages and telling himself the story.

熊貓先生,我願意等 Book Review


Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

Title: 熊貓先生,我願意等 (xiong2 mao xian sheng, wo3 yuan4 yi4 deng3)/Mr. Panda, I’m Willing to Wait

ISBN: 9789862741870

Author/Illustrator: 史蒂夫 安東尼

Translator: 劉清彥

Publisher: 青林國際出版

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: Several animals ask Mr. Panda what he is doing. He says to wait because it’s a surprise. Animal after animal is unwilling to wait, but the penguin is willing to wait.

Sample Pages:





Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Book Review: Gamera (5.5) is willing to read this book so it must be easy and have super cute illustrations. (It is and it does.) Cookie Monster (7.5) likes this book, too. And, of course, Glow Worm (3.75) always brings this book out for someone to read him (but no one does because I am a neglectful mother).

The pictures are super cute and the content incredibly easy. The plot is also very silly and easy. Super fun.

Here is a video of Gamera reading an excerpt from the book.

Morbid Thoughts

Trigger warning: Some graphic descriptions of the Holocaust, accidents, and anxious thoughts.

As many of you know, my brain is a jerk.

Often times, I will be minding my own business, peacefully driving on the freeway or showering or reading or texting or WHATEVER, and then suddenly, my brain will flash a particularly horrifying vision of my car flipping over and Sasquatch being stuck screaming and crying in the back of my car, hung upside down in his carseat, and me in the front, either dead or pinned with an injury so I can’t get to him and he’s stuck for hours and I have to either listen to him or did I mention that I’ve died and —

I have to physically wrench my brain away from going down that path and either start literally singing “LALALALALALALALA” or force my brain to think of something else. It will often take me a few minutes to wrangle my stupid brain from those horrifying images or thoughts because again, my brain hates me.

Recently, I read Maus by Art Spiegelman for my SFF/Graphic Novel book club. It’s a graphic novel depicting Spiegelman’s father’s experience as a survivor of Auschwitz. This won Spiegelman a Pulitzer Prize.

It was so horrifying.

At first, I didn’t like how Spiegelman drew the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats, but by the end, I understood. I think that due to exposure and education on the Holocaust, many of us have gradually become desensitized to even the more horrific images. But seeing it as mice and cats caused me to see everything anew.

I also learned (or was reminded) of new things that the Nazis did to the Jews. I didn’t realize that near the end of the war, the Nazis just decided to mass exterminate the Jews (as opposed to slowly killing them) as a way to cover their tracks. I also didn’t realize just how gradual the Nazis eroded the Jew’s rights until it was too late.

Too late.

Two particular parts have been ingrained in my mind.

The first, was during a community sorting where all the families and Jews in the Jewish ghetto had to line up and be sorted into two groups. One group was allowed to stay and the other was sent away on trains to the camps.

One woman with four children was sorted to the trains because she had too many children.

I stopped right in my tracks. I have four children. (I was reading this right after Sasquatch was born. Delightful post-partum reading, I know.)

That could have been me. And there would be nothing I could do to change this and protect my children.

I closed the book then and there and took a break.

The other was the story of how near the end of the war, the Nazis moved the Jews from camps as they retreated into Germany and in one of those places they retreated to, they gave up all pretense of even trying to keep the Jews alive. The survivors had to pile up their dead in the hallways and soon, there was no more room to walk and they would have to walk on top of the dead on their way to the bathrooms.

But because there were tens of thousands of people in these camps, the bathrooms soon overflowed and stopped working. And the only way people could relieve themselves was to do so on top of the dead in the hallway.

I just.

How do you recover from that?

It didn’t help that as I was reading, I kept seeing similar parallels to Trump’s ascendancy to POTUS. I know. I’m not unique in this observation, but it’s another thing entirely to read about the Holocaust and then see how it started and then see how history seems to be repeating itself.

Additionally, I came across a video on Facebook (shown below) that told of a woman who gave birth in a concentration camp and I was shocked because it never occurred to me that babies would be born and then SURVIVE the concentration camps.

But of course there were babies in the camps. Pregnant women were sent there. And if they lived, they gave birth there.

I just.

To survive – that tenacity. I hope I never have to find out if I, or my children, are made of that type of stuff.

So of course, my brain freaked out.

I thought of my four children and my husband and assuming we survived being packed into trains like cattle and given no food or water for the weeks it took to get to the camps, how would my children survive and fare?

I thought of Sophie’s Choice, and if I were put in a similar situation, who would I choose?

And a normal person, would then stop their thoughts right there. But not me!

My stupid brain decided to torture me with incredibly logical and brutal thoughts about my kids.

Because really, in this situation, what can you do except choose the child who will most likely survive and adapt? And what else can you do except choose to condemn the children who would suffer more and not be resilient enough or compliant enough to make it through the other side?

And this in no way victim blaming because FFS HOW COULD PEOPLE DO THIS TO EACH OTHER?

And so, I assessed my children.

I decided that Sasquatch is a baby so the odds were against him.

Gamera is too fragile and cries too much.

Cookie Monster is resilient enough and good natured enough and healthy enough and strong enough and usually compliant enough, but if he is pushed to do something that he truly doesn’t want to do, he will not comply at all.

Glow Worm is resilient enough and young enough to be adaptable to most all situations. He is also young enough to not remember as clearly how things used to be.

It would be a coin toss really between Cookie Monster and Glow Worm. They would be separated from me though because they are male – but hopefully Hapa Papa would keep them alive as long as he could. Given that, maybe I would get to keep Sasquatch or Gamera after all.

And then, if I survived, I would hate myself every single day of my life and want to die but live only because if I died, who else would my child have? (Well, I guess here’s to hoping that Hapa Papa also survived.)

OMG. I have to stop.

You see? My brain is an asshole.

How can I detachedly assess my children like this? WTF is wrong with me? (Truthfully, I believe in being prepared.)

And also? HOW COULD PEOPLE ALLOW 6-11 MILLION PEOPLE DIE?

Easily.

You know why? Because it is happening now. It has happened before. And it will happen again.

Because we think we are small and don’t want to make trouble and we are afraid – OMG we are afraid – and when I dwell on this, I AM AFRAID.

I want to say that I would be one of the “good” Germans who actively helped hide Jews. That I wouldn’t prey upon them and steal their jewels as they desperately offered their assets to buy their lives.

But you know what?

I have four kids. And I have eyes. And if I saw people being disappeared, I would be afraid that I and my family would be next.

I do not think I am brave enough in that situation.

I don’t know if Trump will bring us to another Holocaust. I know that the seeds of it are out there – and that Trump has fertilized the seeds and made it more acceptable to be “out.”

I know that if I speak out behind the relative safety of my keyboard that any moment, I could be doxxed (and since I’m a woman and a person of color, the odds of that are high), and that my children could be threatened and harmed.

I mean, odds are against it happening because I am totally small potatoes and who can say when and where a writer will go viral?

But it could.

And that possibility makes me afraid.

Not overwhelmingly yet. But if I let my brain run with it, it can.

So I tell myself to be brave now when the stakes are low so that I can train myself to be brave when the stakes are high. (God willing, this will not happen.)

That my bravery and courage are muscles: the more I use them despite my fear, the more I will choose the right thing for all peoples. And that truly, my standing up for all peoples will ultimately, make the world safer for my children.

And the more of us who do so, the less likely we will ever have to be brave and courageous when the stakes are high because hopefully, we will have stopped it in time. (Whatever that “it” is.)

So, my friends. To those of us who are afraid: be strong and courageous.

Let us practice being brave together. 

 

 

Hibernating

HibernatingI’m not gonna lie to you, Marge. I almost didn’t write a post tonight.

All I want is to curl up in bed, finish the latest book I’m reading (Amazon affiliate link), maybe eat congee (which I am currently doing), and perhaps, watch last week’s The Vampire Diaries and its crossover episode with The Originals.

I’m a simple woman with simple wants.

But I thought, if I get in the habit of blowing these posts off, especially when I’m starting to pursue my goals of writing, then really, I’m self-sabotaging, right?

I have no idea.

But I do know that I tend to fall off the writing world when I just start to gain a little traction and dammit all if that’s not annoying.

Now, I have good reasons to be tired and lazy. But there are always good reasons to be tired and lazy. But if I want something as badly as I say that I do, then I should also be willing to put in the work. (Something that I have not been good about doing since I was a child.)

So, here I am. Banging out a few words so that I feel better about myself.

Okay. What is my point for tonight?

1) Go to my link on congee. It’s so yum, folks. And there are still a few more cold weather days in store for us and it’s sooo cozy and makes me feel instantly better. Remember: GINGER IS KEY.

2) I’m currently reading The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley and I have to say I am really enjoying it. I’m confused as all get out, but the payoff is starting to come and I am super glad the sequel (of what I presume is a trilogy) has already come out so then I only have to wait for the conclusion.

Plus, Hurley has written another trilogy prior to this so I can blast through those, too.

Why do I love her world so far?

Violence. I mean, it’s not super violent, I guess. But it’s not a safe world. And there are multiple worlds and for awhile, you’re not sure what world you’re on. Also, all the characters kind of are assholes. Or idiots. Let’s just say I don’t particularly like any of them. But you still want to root for them to win and succeed seeing as their real enemy is even more despicable.

Ohohohohoh! And did I mention that there are many different societies and one of them is cannibalistic, polyamorous, magic-wielding pacifists? And that other societies are female dominated and men are ruthlessly culled and only used for breeding and prostitution? And still yet others have vigorously segregated the sexes? Or have multiple genders and intersexed and transexual peoples?

ALSO – people of color?

It’s pretty awesome. It would have been awesome WITHOUT these aspects, but WITH? AWESOME^2.

Now granted, I still have about 1/4 of the book left to go, but it’s building up to end well. I’ve already put the rest of this series and her books on hold.

3) Why do I keep buying produce that just goes to seed? Or sprouts? Sigh. I really should just save everyone the trouble and throw my money directly into the garbage.

4) Three years ago, when I was pregnant with Glow Worm, I got it in my mind to plant vegetables from seeds in my backyard. I planted them all, didn’t cull any seedlings, and then I had Glow Worm and didn’t really harvest or do anything with the veggies and they just died and flowered and seeded and whatever it is that plants do when you utterly ignore them.

Then we had several years of drought.

Well, this year has been less droughty and stuff has been sprouting up all over the place that I finally noticed. I now have tons of random carrots sprouting everywhere. And perhaps kale. And perhaps onions. WHO KNOWS? DO I LOOK LIKE A BOTANIST? OR A FARMER?

Whatever it is, the kids have really enjoyed digging up carrots in the back yard. Also? Those nice carrots you see at the grocery stores? I have no idea how they get them. Mine are ugly and scrawny and are weird looking.

Whatever. They’re going into juice.

Alright. I’m going back to my insane fantasy world where multiple worlds are trying to annihilate the other. See you Friday. (That post, at least, is already written.)

My Favorite Reads of 2015 Part 2

Goodreads 2015

Goodreads 2015

Since I have so many books I loved from 2015, I had to split the list in half. If you missed Part 1, don’t worry! It’s the internet and you can read that after!

Here then are more of my favorite reads from 2015 in no particular order. As before, I consolidated series into a single entry and links will be Amazon affiliate links to the first book in the series. For the first half of the list, please click here.

11) Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling – Hilarious. Wise. Moving. But mostly, I want to be Kaling. And if not that, be her friend. A worthy followup to her first book of essays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

12) The Human Division and The End of All Things by John Scalzi – Scalzi continues the story in The Old Man’s War‘s Universe – which seriously, if you love science fiction and you haven’t read this series yet, WHY HAVEN’T YOU?

The Old Man’s War series is thrilling with lots of fighting and stomping and Starship Trooper stuff. But ultimately what you find is a very human story. A story of a man who loved his wife – and still does even after her death. Those are the moments that feel most true. Scalzi does witty banter so well. But his moments of truth about love (whether for lovers or children) are the most moving.

As for the two books I actually listed, it is a continuation of that world and deals with the consequences at the end of The Last Colony and Zoe’s TaleAlthough you do not need to have read the previous books and they are certainly self-contained enough that Scalzi provides all the necessary information, I do think you will enjoy it much better after reading the first four books. (I know, I know. I look like I’m finally only recommending two books and really, it’s six.)

13) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Set in the world of The Grisha, you don’t need to read the other books at all (although I highly recommend them). I always love a good heist and this story was exciting, fun, and always skirting the edge of grim.

14) The Brothers Sinister Series and The Turner Series by Courtney Milan – Regency romances that are a cut above the rest. Milan writes stories that are highly intelligent with a lot of detailed science that doesn’t sound dumbed down or fake. I appreciate how Milan includes people we often don’t see included in Regencies. She also tends to have excellent stories without resorting to ridiculous tropes. When you have read as many Regency romances as I have (at least 375), that is really impressive!

15) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss – Set in the world of his Kingkiller Chronicles, this story is beautiful, lyrical, and wistful. The homonyms and rhythm of this book is lovely and sweet and poetic. Like a rolling brook. There is still an ever present sliver of dread in the background, but overall, a joyful and keen book. Lovely.

Oh, and it’s about a girl making soap.

Seriously, give it a shot.

16) Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne – God, I love spies. I also love Regency Romances. Perfect! Bourne is excellent as always. Her words and rhythm and humor infuse her books throughout. Part of her The Spymaster Series, I highly recommend you check out the other books.

17) The Jane Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Utterly charming and delightful. The book is set in an alternate 1985 where time travel, police states, and jumping in and out of books is normal. The names are hilarious (I can’t believe it took me almost the entire book to catch Paige Turner) and the book rewards a person with a wide background in classics. The ending is somewhat spoiled if you are at all familiar with Jane Eyre, but it is so worth it. I cannot wait to read the rest of this series.

Also, the series is quintessentially British in the sense that it feels familiar and homey. It reminds me a lot of The Rook or Ben Aaronovitch’s series. Highly recommend. I cannot believe it took me this long to discover!

18) Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – Ok, I’m going to cheat here. Technically, I didn’t read/finish this book until this year. But since it was released last year and it was SO FUCKING AWESOME, I am including the book on the list. You’re welcome.

I stayed up until 5:30am reading this and I felt like I was hungover all day and it was SO WORTH IT. This book is violent, sexy, and violently sexy. So good.

Yes, it’s Book 4 out of a projected series of 6 (the other two won’t be out until late 2016 and 2017 – sorrynotsorry), so you do have to start with Throne of Glass (which again, is the weakest in the series). But come on! Super girly assassin who is a BAMF and is really a stone cold killer with a mysterious back story, several love triangles/squares/pentagons.

After you read the first, the rest just get better and better and don’t stop being awesome. Read in publication order to get the full effect: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of FireThe Assassin’s Blade: The Throne of Glass Novellas (set before Throne of Glass but is best read after ToG but before QoS due to QoS being further enriched by the info in TAB), Queen of Shadows.

Can you tell I LURV this series? Of course, it is also likely due to the fact that I just finished this book on the 3rd so it’s fresh in my mind.

Alright. Hapa Papa is going to be so annoyed with me that I stayed up until 3:30am to write this series, but you know what? These books were awesome and totally worth it. Now go read! (Or go buy or borrow, whatever the case may be.) Happy Wednesday!

My Favorite Reads of 2015 Part 1

Apparently, I haven’t posted about books (not including Chinese readers, obviously) since May 2015. May 2015!! (Ok, I did post about graphic novels a few weeks ago, but there were only two.) So, since I read 140 books last year (humblebrag), I think I read enough to give some qualified recommendations.

So, here then are my favorite reads from 2015 in no particular order. For brevity, I consolidated series into a single entry and links will be Amazon affiliate links to the first book in the series. Also, this is only part 1 because otherwise, the list would be even more overwhelming.

1) Black Wolves by Kate Elliott – Set in the same universe as her Crossroads Trilogy, this fantasy novel is awesome for the following reasons: people of color as the main POV characters; older women and men as the main POV characters; intrigue; betrayal; and heartbreaking story. So excellent.

Since The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott is by the same author and has several short stories that will flesh out this world, I also highly recommend this particular book. It will also give you glimpses in the worlds of her other series and includes several of her essays that I have found illuminating in terms of discussing culture, women, gender, and people of color (among other things) in world-building and why that is important.

2) The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – What happens when your nation is conquered and destroyed by an Empire?Destroy it from within, of course. And through accounting! This book was utter perfection. I’m sure I’ve missed at least half of the clues and tells, but dammit all if it doesn’t make me love this book more.

Brutal. Heartbreaking. Fantastic.

Also? POC main characters. (You’ll note this is a theme for many of my favorites for 2015.)

3) The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – It’s the end of the world. Again. The first of a new series, I sobbed. Sweeping and epic. There are “mutants” and slavery and all sorts of heartbreak. The style might take some getting used to, but it is totally worth it. Again, POC main characters (as well as a WOC author).

4) The Martian by Andy Weiss – One of the rare occasions where I watch the movie before reading the book. The book was every bit as hilarious as the movie – and I LOVED the movie. Botanist/astronaut gets stuck on Mars. This is the story of how he survives.

5) The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu – Epic new series based on the Chinese Warring States period, it was so weirdly awesome to read of characters that had cultural touchstones that were familiar to me in a deeply Chinese way. I would have preferred more women and a different ending, but loved it all the same. The book was a slow build, but I did love the vast array of characters and plots and intrigues. I was sad by the way a lot of the story went, but I think it was realistic in terms of how people would react and behave.

In case it wasn’t clear from the description, POC everywhere! and POC author.

6) The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence – Full disclosure. I almost threw away the first book after reading only about 15 pages or so because the main character, Jorg, is so despicable and casual about rape. However, since there are no graphic descriptions of rape or violence, I was able to push my initial revulsion aside.

The first book, Prince of Thorns, is the weakest in the series and I thought it was just okay enough for me to want to know what happens next. King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns are SO GOOD. Totally worth wading through the first book to reach the conclusion.

Lawrence wrote a companion trilogy, The Red Queen’s War, that is 2/3 of the way done and is worth reading, too. Knowledge of the first trilogy isn’t necessary, but it is definitely fun to see how things connect.

7) The Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory – I review this series more fully here. The series features a Chinese American cop who gets psychic impressions from the things he eats. Full of violence, absurdity, and lots of profanity and sex, Tony Chu is a BAMF and really entertaining to read.

8) The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi – A near future tale that at its heart, is a murder mystery/thriller. Bacigalupi paints an extremely bleak view of the future and drought conditions of the West. However, his writing is fantastic and you guessed it: more POC and WOC characters.

An excellent companion book to this novel is Bacigalupi’s Pump Six and Other Stories. Full of short stories in his various worlds, they give you a good glimpse into his writing. Also, prepare to be utterly disillusioned with life. (But totally a great collection of stories. Really!)

9) The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett – A series of five (the last one is supposed to be published in 2017) that begins with The Warded Man. Again, the first book is the weakest in the series, but was interesting enough for me to continue. (Granted, it’s quite a long book to wade through, but it is satisfying enough.)

The Desert Spear, book two, is really where Brett takes off and it just doesn’t stop. Also, the endings just get more and more WTF in a “Wait, I have to WAIT HOW LONG UNTIL THE NEXT BOOK??” kind of way. I’m just grateful most of the books were out so I could just plow through them one after the other. I’m pretty sure I lost a week or two to this series.

10) The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie – Though many people do not enjoy how the series ended, I ultimately think the books are all still worth reading. The fight scenes are exhilarating, the characters are not so much lovable – but I still loved them. Gritty and full of bite.

Ok. That should be enough for now. Never fear, book lovers. I will have more on Wednesday. Now get to reading these books! (And all at once!!)

The Books That Silently Judge Me

Now I know it may seem that I read a ton of books (and I do). But what I don’t often mention is that in addition to the large pile of books I plow through quickly, I have a separate, dustier pile that either sits on the wayside, ignored because I own it and thereby will get to it someday, or gets constantly renewed only to be sheepishly returned without ever being read.

This is the pile that occasionally, I bury because I don’t want to feel them judging me. You know, like all the art supplies or Chinese educational materials I buy for the children in place of actually spending time with them. They, too, judge me from their shelved spots, pristine and neglected.

I know I have written mostly about the science fiction, fantasy, and romance novels, but I am interested in other genres as well. I do also occasionally enjoy books about history (1491, 1493, Salt), autobiographies/memoirs (Rumsfeld, Condaleeza Rice), education, and parenting. Unfortunately, I often get excited about these types of books but then when I get them from the library, I just can’t bring myself to read them until the day or two before they are due and then I am in a rush and a time crunch and can’t seem to make it through in time.

However, I find that though I can speed through fiction at 80 pages an hour, with non-fiction, it’s as if my brain recognizes facts and then goes, “REJECT! REJECT! REJECT!” Hence, I have to read and absorb at a much slower pace. I rarely can read a nonfiction book all the way through in one sitting. (I blame Orson Scott Card’s column where he reviews tons of books – and I temporarily forget myself and think, perhaps I’m one of those people who can read history and memoirs and such without my brain exploding.)

Alas, alas. I am NOT. I struggle to read non-fiction and I mostly shove the books to the side despite all my best intentions. And I feel guilt! So much guilt! Because I am preventing someone else who might enjoy these very same books from reading them because I have these books constantly renewing through the library.

And then, sometimes, I just give up and return the books (often after accruing late fees due to my overly optimistic view that I will actually read and finish the books) and shove the guilt away.

I don’t know why I feel guilty except for the fact that I feel as if these are books I should read because they are serious and intellectual and improving. These books are also on topics that seemed so interesting in Card’s reviews, too! (Well, I suppose he is a writer and he does love these topics so of course he will love these books and since he’s a great writer, I am thus persuaded.) But what I really enjoy are short snippets and excerpts from such books – not the whole thing. It seems, to my chagrin, I am a tl;dr type of gal after all.

Am I the only one? I realize this is truly a first world problem – and not really a big problem at that. (Oh no! Quelle horreur! There are too many books! That I haven’t read! That are supposed to make me smarter!) But I do think I would find some comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one to borrow stacks of books from the library with every intention of reading and delving into these reservoirs of knowledge to improve myself only to return these same books three weeks later (sometimes nine), uncracked.

It makes me sad to think of these lonely books waiting for me to re-notice them and find them interesting and pretty.

I’m sorry, pretty books. I will try to do better by not getting your hopes up in the first place.