Umami Mart

Another Michelin-starred stop during my short trip to Hong Kong last year. Are you surprised at how much we ate? But believe me, it wasn’t a chore and we hardly put on any weight. Check me out at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I’ve just finished reading the very addictive The Quick by Lauren Owen which seems to herald a revival of all things literary gothic. I approve. I’m now ensconced in all things Marguerite Duras with The North China Lover, another study of her adolescent love affair that played such a big part in her life, and Outside: Selected Writings, a selection of her reportage pieces, in anticipation of the Institut Français’ event about her work and life. And I’ve also started Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing for my book group which is very different from anything I’ve read before. I’m not sure how I’ll get on.

And, I squealed when I received this in the post. I cannot wait to read the final volume in Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, The Book of Life!

Book of Life wine

Umami Mart

I’m writing about vegetarian temple food and claypot rice in Hong Kong this week so do head over to Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish to check me out!

In bookish news, I’m still pondering upon the brilliant but perplexing The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton which I finished last week and have started two very different books, The Quick by Lauren Owen and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, finally and after being hassled by all my friends.

I also went to two bookish events. The first was the book launch of Clare McGowan’s The Dead Ground which was held at the wonderful Goldsboro Books. I haven’t read the series but it looks very interesting. The second event was Less Than Three, an evening of readings presented by 3:AM Press and the Quietus at The Hospital Club, of which I will write in more detail later. Suffice it to say it was very inspiring to be amongst so many talented people.

Umami Mart

You’re probably wondering how long it’s going to take me to talk about all the food I sampled on my short trip to Hong Kong at the end of last year. Well, we still have a long way to go because WE ATE A LOT. This week, I talk about some of the snacky places we stopped by in between our meals. Go and check me out at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I went to see Eleanor Catton in conversation with Booker Prize judge and author Robert Macfarlane at the Union Chapel in Islington and what an event. Catton is articulate and wise for her age and spoke with such passion about her book and her research into her country’s history and astrology, especially her love of astrological apps which allows you to check the historical position of constellations from anywhere. Particularly interesting was her discussion of the role of women in gold-mining towns such as Hokitika which features in her Booker Prize-winning novel, The Luminaries, and how she wanted to portray her female characters as more than just prostitutes or bar/brothel managers and to avoid any lazy characterisations which is so prevalent in fiction. This is something which happens too frequently, is disappointing and will really stop me from taking a writer seriously. So I’m excited to see how she’ll go about it. I’m right in the middle of The Luminaries at the moment, enjoying it immensely and in awe of Catton’s talent.

The English translation of Haruki Murakami’s Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage will be published this summer but I’m even more excited to learn that Murakami’s new collection of short stories is out in Japan today! It’s titled Onna no Inai Otoko Tachi (女のいない男たち), which can be loosely translated as Men Without Women/Men Who Don’t Have Women, and this is apparently Murakami’s first collection of short stories in nine years.

Umami Mart

The food posts keep rolling in and I still haven’t finished talking about what I ate in Hong Kong. So check out what we had for breakfast in Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish! No toast for me!

In bookish news, I’ve finally started reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton on my kindle as it’s just too heavy to lug around in hardback on my commute. It’s only my second book which I’m reading on my kindle even though I’ve downloaded a gazillion titles since I got it this Christmas. Ahem. But I’m finding it delightful. I’m also tucking into a new novel featuring Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion, Mr. Campion’s Farewell, a novel begun by Allingham’s husband, Pip Youngman Carter, and completed by Mike Ripley with the co-operation of the Margery Allingham Society. I’m a huge fan of Allingham’s mysteries so will see how this compares.

I also went to see Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive starring the wonderful Tilda Swinton and morose yet dishy Tom Hiddleston with supporting roles by John Hurt, Anton Yelchin and Mia Wasikowska – all superb, an existential vampire film that is beautiful and reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood For Love. My favourite scene is of Swinton’s character Eve packing to visit her depressed husband Adam, played by Hiddleston, and the only thing she packs are books. How wonderful. And with a cameo from the enigmatic Kit Marlowe himself, this was a gem of a film. I highly recommend it.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Umami Mart

is back again. Follow my culinary infatuation with Hong Kong and check out what other delicacies I unearthed on my trip there at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish. This week is all about Shanghai crab!

In bookish news, I’m dying to see Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (The Royal Tenenbaums is one of my favourites) twinned with the sudden surge in interest in the novels of Stefan Zweig who is Anderson’s muse. I happened to come upon one copy of Zweig’s work, The Post Office Girl, at my library and nabbed it. I also got a copy of Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat as I’d been meaning to read her and it’s short.

The last few months have also seen the phenomenal popularity of Joanna Walsh aka Badaude’s year-long celebration of women’s writing which has swept the country. Read Women 2014 began as a series of cartes de voeux which Joanna drew with names of her favourite women writers on the back. As she solicited recommendations on twitter, it snowballed and showed how much interest there was in women’s writing from both women and men.

I’m compiling books by some of my favourite and often neglected women writers such as Françoise Sagan, Marguerite Duras, Amélie Nothomb, Ann Patchet and more and hope to join in too. Follow the hashtag #ReadWomen2014 on Twitter and check out Joanna’s blog.


What about you?

Umami Mart

It’s been a while, right? It doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating. At the end of last year, I did a runner for my birthday and flew to Perth with my friends and stopped in Hong Kong on the way back. It was 3 days of eating and sightseeing and boy did we manage to eat lots and lots of incredible Chinese food. And we insisted on only Chinese food. And we started with Tim Ho Wan, the Michelin-starred dim sum joint where you have to queue with the locals and there is no special treatment. But it is SO worth it. Check me out at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I finally finished parts 1 & 2 of Haruki Murakami’s chunkster, 1Q84. I’ll review it once I finish part 3 which I am dying to read. It’s proving to be one of my favourite Murakami novels at the moment. I’m currently trying to finish Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, my pick for this month’s book group which I can only describe as different.

Upcoming is a brand new literary festival hosted by Daunt Books, details here, on March 27th and 28th. Some quality sessions including one to celebrate Virago Modern Classics. Deborah Levy will be there and they will be discussing Barbara Comyns, one of my favourite authors! So do put it in your diaries. I recently swung by Daunt Books in Marylebone and got myself one of their canvas bags in navy and a copy of Sisters By A River.

I’m so glad that Virago is bringing Comyns back into print. I wouldn’t have discovered her if not for Simon T kindly sending me an out of print copy of Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead which was magnificent. More people need to read her!

Sisters By A River

Slightly Peckish Wednesday

6 November, 2013

Umami Mart

Check out my last post on my trip to Kuala Lumpur this summer where I discovered prawn mee – lots and lots of eating shenanigans at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish. Go on, check me out!

In bookish news, I’ve read some really fantastic books this year including Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel and The Rose Grower, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves. All of which I still haven’t reviewed because it’s hard to write about books that you love so much without gushing about it and typing, it’s brilliant, I love it, just read it, goddammit. But I will soldier on and hopefully write about them before Crimbo. I will, I will, I will.

And now I am reading the Booker Prize-winning Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, the sequel to the wonderful Wolf Hall charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s right hand man and Anne Boleyn’s nemesis or is it the other way round? Mantel’s prose is so fluid, so expertly rendered, that you feel you are right there in 16th century England.

Incidentally, I went to my first book signing with Scott Lynch tonight at Forbidden Planet – I was so excited about this as I’ve been a huge fan of his Gentleman Bastards series since The Lies of Locke Lamora was published in 2006 and it was totally worth the 2 hour queuing time. What an incredibly warm and friendly man. And next week Donna Tartt will be speaking at a Waterstone’s event in Piccadilly about The Goldfinch and the following week about The Secret History at the Guardian Book Club. I swear I’m not a stalker but I just love her books. And her. She’s just too cool. Did any of you see the Review Show special where Kirsty Wark interviewed Donna Tartt? If you have a chance, do.

And here’s a picture of The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch just because I think everyone should read his work. And Donna Tartt, of course.

Republic of Thieves

Slightly Peckish Wednesday

2 October, 2013

Umami Mart

Check out my second post on Kuala Lumpur eating at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish. Go on!

In bookish news, I’m am SO excited about three new books being published in October: Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch which I’m reading right now and let me tell you it is exquisite, Scott Lynch’s much-awaited The Republic of Thieves which is the third in the Gentleman Bastards series and the wonderfully dark Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. Are you as excited as I am? I don’t think so!

Aarti is also rolling out A More Diverse Universe 2013 challenge again this year. I do hope you’ll participate and read a book with us. It’s a great way of trying out something new and also become a little more aware about some of the issues in genre fiction.

A More Diverse Universe 2013

Slightly Peckish Tuesday

20 August, 2013

Umami Mart

It’s been a while hasn’t it? But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating! On a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, I ate a lot of things in an incredibly short space of time. Check out the first in a series of posts on KL for Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish starting with Bah Kut Teh. Don’t know what it is? Then go and check me out!

In bookish news, I read quite a few books on holiday, mostly mysteries which was exactly what I needed. I finally finished the 5th book in the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, Dark Road to Darjeeling. I also began reading Ben Aaronovich’s urban mysteries featuring PC Peter Grant, Rivers of London, which lived up to all the hype and I went straight on to the second and third volumes once I got home. And I took my hardback copy of Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Time all the way to Sri Lanka and Malaysia only to finish it once I got back to London. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exquisite but not one you want to read when you are in a hurry. And because de Kretser is such a fine writer, I dug out my copy of her first novel, The Rose Grower, and have just started it.

I only brought back a few books this time.

SL 2013 books

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
by Nayomi Munaweera which I actually got last November but didn’t manage to write about. This first novel has been garnering a lot of attention.

Doomsday by Mahasara Gunaratne, a whodunnit featuring Uncle Arthur set in early 20th century Ceylon. I’m thinking a Sri Lankan Agatha Christie, perhaps? Apparently it’s a series but I was unable to find the first volume. Can’t wait to tuck in.

And Shyam Selvadurai’s new novel, The Hungry Ghosts which I cannot wait to start.

Umami Mart

has rolled by again. Go on and check out one of London’s favourite yakitori joints at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish!

London is finally experiencing a heatwave and like everyone else, I’m smiley and wearing sandals and complaining that it’s too hot like any other Brit. But I want it to go and on, at least for another month please. Enough talk of the weather. Let’s talk books.

gaiman x frostrup

The last few months seem to have flashed by. I went to a couple of events, a free one at the Regent Street Apple Store to see Neil Gaiman in conversation with Mariella Frostrup. Gaiman was engaging and generous as usual, and although there was no signing, it was just wonderful to hear him read from his new book The Ocean at the End of the Lane and to speak about things that interest and matter to him. I haven’t read his book yet but there’s been some wonderful reviews including one from A.S. Byatt and I plan to read it as soon as my TBR decreases a little.

Speaking of A.S. Byatt, I also went to Michelle de Kretser’s event at Foyles where she discussed her new book Questions of Travel with Byatt and Neel Mukherjee. Byatt is a huge fan of de Kretser’s which isn’t surprising as de Kretser is an exquisite writer. Just seeing all of them geeking out over their favourite books made my day. Although I had seen de Kretser at the Galle Literary Festival a few years ago, it was my first time hearing Byatt speak. What a tremendous personality. I got my copy of The Children’s Book signed and can’t wait to read it and Ragnarok, which I also have on my shelf. I’m slowly reading de Kretser’s new novel because it isn’t one to rush. It’s gentle and spikey and addresses both the mundane and epic through the lens of travel. Just beautiful.