Saturday, December 31, 2016

Korean adventures in Blowfish aka Pufferfish

Yesterday, we wanted to have dinner at my aunt's favorite Korean restaurant, Xing Xing Korean Restaurant, along Tanjong Pagar road (which I also had lunch at with colleagues to celebrate the end of fucking horrible 2016 *an epic horrendous year of losses*). Unfortunately that evening the restaurant was fully occupied with a Korean tour group (seriously,  you come to Singapore to eat Korean? It's like me going to Korea to eat mee pok :D but I can understand. After a few days in Australia, my mother and I wanted to just find rice, any rice.). 

So we ended up at another Korean restaurant which I had eaten before, because I wanted to ask Bobo to try sea squirts, only to receive a vehement "NO". The BBQ was cheaper but because we were freaking cold from the relentless rain, we decided to order a hotpot. I wanted to get codfish (they were out *sigh*) so I suggested blowfish. 

"Blowfish? Is that pufferfish?" Bobo asked. Yeah, turned out it was. After a few grumbles about being poisoned, we chose the pufferfish. As we were eating the hotpot, Bobo suddenly piped up, "wait a sec, didn't we have pufferfish the other time?"

"You mean at Jagalchi? It was abalone."

"No, that pufferfish specialty restaurant."

금수 복국 specializes in pufferfish
Oh Yah! That pufferfish specialty restaurant 금수 복국! Back in Jul, we decided to go to Busan and Seoul for a week. As usual, I used blogs for references, earning me a lot of brickbats from Bobo this time as many of the suggested eateries are no longer open. I must say that South Korean turnover is super high, as compared to other recommendations I get from blogs for other countries, we encountered close to 70% failures.

Fortunately, 금수 복국 was open. In fact, it was bustling with lunch hour business when we reached in our usual blundering, confused mode (GPS and Google maps suck when standing along narrow streets especially with nearby tall buildings. The business is split into two floors, one floor serving the busy lunch crowd of ajummas and ajussis (I noticed an overwhelming proportion of older folks) who just want to eat, gossip, and glare at us two strange morons not necessarily in that order. The top floor is the more atas, zen establishment where you can dwell in silence about being potentially dying from a bite of the poisonous fish.
The saner priced menu (downstairs)
I was determined to try the atas "Kaiseki" menu, of course, having read that the blogger had a romantic set which I thought was reasonably priced. Bobo kicked up a fuss of course, because that salty olive wanted to eat the cheaper dishes downstairs.

But of course I prevailed.

But the so called romantic set was no longer available. Instead we ordered the fugu sashimi lunch set (40,000 won per pax). On hindsight, this is still cheaper than eating in Singapore (the hotpot alone was S$75, didn't even come with rice. Is so banned by me now).

For this price, we enjoyed the following:
See? Upstairs is different. Once you sit down, there is a chilled pumpkin soup

Banchan comprising of anchovies, cabbage kimchi, eggplants and octopus (or was it Jellyfish?)
Palate cleanser of "gelatin-like" fugu skin salad

La piece d'Resistance, Fugu sashimi

The service is different upstairs and downstairs. Downstairs they were polite, efficient but abrupt, even had a lady who could communicate in Mandarin. Upstairs, while the Manager could not communicate well in English, he was really effusive and endeavored. The lady who served us could not speak a word of English, but was very kindly and gentle, guiding us on how to eat the fugu sashimi. To roll chives and fugu skin (white strips in middle of plate) in a slice of see-through flesh before dipping in wasabi or gochujang, whichever floated your boat.

Some fishes. We can't understand Korean, but by the staff's hand gestures, they should be and were super yumz
More fugu in a yummy sauce
Fried Udon to fill us up. I super like!
Tempura. So-so I thought.
Finally we had the fugu stew. You could choose between spicy and non-spicy, which both of us tried. Spicy was better.
Both spicy and non-spicy versions came with golden mushrooms, watercress and bean sprouts with the fugu. You could add condiments, which came at the side.
I thought that for the variety and service we had, the price was worth it. Also there was the beautiful and quiet ambience, nice to relax and cool down after a morning trek to the gorgeous but bloody ulu Haedong Yonggungsa (famous temple by the sea). Note: one of the Busan's outlet malls is about two bus stops down from the temple's bus stop. I would have stopped but Bobo didn't let me *infuriated*.

Seriously no joke, trekking in the hot Korean summer to reach the temple.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lisa Beazley - Keep me Posted

Two sisters separated by oceans started writing to each other after being inspired by their grandparents during Christmas reunion. Each sister encountered family life problems, one self inflicted by her own unhappiness and low self-esteem, the other by her husband's infidelity.
The book is written from Cassie's perspective, so we only hear about the other Sid from her letters. Sid is definitely the more lovable and zen character, reminded me of my own aunt, than her sister who is hung up about her own regrets to a point where she neglects her wonderful husband (he splurged his life savings so that she could have IVF treatment to have their beloved twins, ceded to her when she wanted to stay in their beautiful apartment which became too tiny to contain the same boisterous twins and didn't even complain when she spent nearly 4K on clothes), preferring to get excited about meeting an ex who treated her badly.

I thought it was an easy read for a dull afternoon, though the happy ending had me rolling my eyes a bit lot. Oh come on, it's a little too good to be true.. [spoiler in white: Cassie gets to share a beautiful new compound with her beloved sister and their families]. I kinda want to slap Cassie, I thought her husband and her sister gave in a little too easily. I mean her sister spurns social media and her idiotic little sister accidentally posted their letter exchange online with "Slow News Sisters" blog that goes viral. I WOULD HAVE PLACED HER BETWEEN MY THIGHS IN A MOUNTAIN POSE AND SLOWLY CONTORT THE BREATH OUT OF HER. I am not convinced that Sid loves her husband, it felt a little as if she just went with the flow since she is so zen. And the husband character just existed so that he can pay up for the expensive alimony at the end.

It was like the author gave up towards the end, and like "fuck it, lets give a nice ending so that I can stop writing."

3 out of 5 stars (because of the ending).

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day

Just Kidding.

Happy Father's Day to all Daddies (including mine) out there!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Susan Mallery - The Friends we keep

Edit: I mistook the writer as Jill Mansell (another of my favorite authors. Ah, the errors when reviewing via phone. Sorry Jill!
Susan Mallery's books usually revolve two or three women who are related to one another. In "The friends we keep", three friends who know one another from "Supper's in the bag" face their own life challenges as they prepped their meals three hours a week. Interesting business concept, I must say.

Gabby Schaefer, the law graduate turned second wife/stepmother, is readying her twins for kindergarten so that she can return to part time work. She doesn't really have to work because her hubby's quite well to do. But she is dying to find herself after being a hausfrau for five years. Ah first world problem, as compared to her friend Hayley Batchelor who is shortchanging her and her hubby's life in her desire to have her own child. Never mind that she had five miscarriages and her husband's desperate pleas for her to have a hysterectomy to save her from hemorrhaging. 

Nicole Lord, the only person in this story who i find is the protagonist of the love story, is the last friend who makes up the trio. Her ex was just the sperm donor to her lovely son Tyler, so much so that her son no longer cares whether the man shows up to see him. Instead he latches onto the author of his favorite book series, Brad the Dragon. Too bad mommy had a bad impression of Jairus after he mistook her for a hooker. Interesting friends he has but too bad, the book focuses on her friends instead and we never get to see his friends. Would have been interesting to meet the kind of people who might get their friend a hooker after he complains of a dry spell.

All three stories are engaging, sad and touching all at the same time.  Nicole's story was romantic but very run of the mill.  Could have predicted that she would fall in love with Brad the Dragon's author. Boring. Hayley's story was a bit whiney, not about her not having kids but her emo baggage from being an adopted daughter. Gabby's a great mom and I liked her story the most because it showed the progress of her relationship with her step daughter strengthening through adversity.

Fairly interesting read. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Robin Kaye - A little on the Wild Side

I can understand why romance authors like to write serials. They are usually set at the same location with the same family and friends, so basically they only need to explain a place and characters once, and keep regurgitating the material over and over again in the subsequent books. This way they don't have to create a new setting with new characters every time.

This book is about Bianca Ferrari who appeared in an earlier book about the same Kincaid family, which I didn't read, did not know the back story and became lost at some parts. E. g. Why is Grandpa joe their grandfather even though he is not blood kin? Who are Ben and Gina? The book assumes you read the earlier book so it picks up from where Trapper (cute, three brothers, Hunter, Fisher and Trapper. Why not a Gatherer while you are at it?) last fucked Bianca. We are told that they did the dirty in three or four time zones, and somewhere along there, they became pregnant.

So its a pregnancy book, and even though Trapper found Bianca's black book (ah yes, the notorious little black book, when Bianca has a cell which can also store a contact list?) full of eligible men's names with little stars and his name was not even inside,  he was able to conclude he was THE baby daddy. This when he has a back story of a cheating fiancee who became preggie with the senior partner's baby despite being in an ongoing live-in relationship with him for 3 years?

Wow, no emo trauma from being conned the first time. This is how we know it is true love because he never asks for a paternity test. And how loving and accepting the family becomes after they learn that Bianca is pregnant? Even though they apparently did not like her earlier (in the earlier book).
Luckily Trapper's faith is absolute and proven when the twins are born and they look like their Auntie Karma. If not, wouldn't he be like trapped? 

Would have been a more fun ending. I mean he loves her right... so he should be down with raising her two babies. Lol.

Rating: 3 out of 5. If you like to read about pregnant emotional women.
Believability - 3/5 (if not for their terrible childhoods, it is very irritating to accept these two very intelligent and goodlooking people meeting each other and procreate without knowing basic protection); Romance factor - 3/5; Readability - 3.5/5 ; Yummyness of male protagonist (YMP) - 4 (can stand up to abuse well)

Sophia Nash - The Once and Future Duchess

This book is one in a series of books about dukes being forced to marry by the Crown Prince after they had too memorable a bachelor party before the Duke of Candover's wedding. So memorable that someone died and the is public outcry on the state of the monarchy.

So the Duke of Candover, James Fritzroy, is anal and rigid, and not very well liked by the other dukes. But because he is a premier duke (not all dukes are equal, it seems) , he has many women still wanting to marry him, most of all, the super desperado Duchess of March, Isabelle Tremont. I cannot understand the fascination on her part, other than she may have 恋父情结. Her dead daddy is his godfather/friend, and she transfers her desire for daddy's approval onto his friend. Otherwise please explain to me why she likes much older, very zzz man?

And because James is anal and rigid, he and the determined Isabelle spent a lot of time discussing what is marriage, passion, love. So boring. Luckily distraction comes in the more exciting shapes of the Duke of Sussex and his Scottish bride. Their story is more exciting but unfortunately spans across this and an earlier book so basically we get a summary and then randomly inserted slices of a conclusion. Somehow Sussex realized what his bride did for him and all was forgiven. He was suddenly down with marrying the poor governess. 

This book was pretty haphazard with the various characters appearing in the book. Like why does Mary of Kent like the Duke of Barry? Well because suddenly they did, thats why Mary, unlucky in love is upset by Barry wanting to marry March. *roll eyes* 

Rating: 2 out of 5. 

Believability - 0/5 (right, because the elite can readily accept a governess as a fellow peer); Romance factor - 2/5; Readability - 2/5 ; Yummyness of male protagonist (YMP) - big fat 0.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Frozen "Let it go" Violin Solo


Went to daiso, was super excited to find buttons with the same design as my top which had lost its first button. Went home only to realize it is different color. Sux! Now I still have to replace 7 buttons. *sobs*

 I don't know how I did it but I managed to sew the button onto the inner side, and I wore it to work for the whole day, wondering why the outfit was hitching up so much.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

The men I didn't marry by Janice Kaplan & Lynn Schnurnberger

Hallie had planned how she and her husband would spend their empty nester existence, starting with a romantic weekend and those dratted Knicks tickets. Too bad her husband was so eager to start his new independence with Ashlee with 2 Es, that he dumped Hallie after leaving their youngest at Yale. 

What an asshole...

So Hallie spent a whole week gorging on Oreos, until her daughter challenged her to go hiking. Bizarre she would do that when she didn't even go hiking with the hubby and kids back in the day... Alone and out of town, she got lost on the trail only to be rescued by a handsome doctor (seriously... this book's unbelievable quotient is out there in the stratosphere).

That's not all, the doctor was oh so coincidentally good friends with her ex boyfriend, Eric. So Eric, reminded by said doctor, called Hallie up for dinner and so began a journey of "eat drink woman" for Hallie except that she did not have to travel out of the country to realize that she was right in not settling with any of her exes then.

She had sex with one ex, found out that the other was a "ohm"ing gay and forgave the last one. The forgiving part was very rushed, and I felt like the side story of her sister was thrown in at random pages so that she could quickly forgive the ex. It was as if the book had 3 planned exes and they decided to add one last minute.

As part of her journey through the exes, Hallie was rewarded with realizing that she was better off without her stingy ex who halfway through the book decided that he wanted to come home to the familiar after breaking up with Ashlee with 2 Es. She was rewarded for said epiphany with a new romance.

what the hell.  funny but convoluted book. 3 out of 5.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Follow my lead by Kate Noble

His Grace Jason Cummings, Duke of Rayne, is seeking a wife. Tried when he was 29 years old, was almost compromised by three raving virgins. Second attempt was when he was a wiser 30 year old man, only to be bored to death at a garden party by same three raving virgins. So being a 19th century nerd, the red-haired he went to the Historical Society where he encountered a brown-haired she with a humongous cousin. Cousin George was determined to make Winnifred Crane his bride, incest and possible genetic disorder be damned. Luckily Jason was there to help her pass the hallowed doors, where she failed to prove to Lord Forrester (head of said sexist Society, her father's friend) that she was the famed historical writer, C. W. Marks. Why? Because her cousin claimed to be him already, in order to become a member.

Since the cousin was the villain and all the men in the Historical Society misogynists, the determined 30 year old Winn decided to take up the challenge issued by Lord Forrester to prove that the Adam & Eve painting given by her father to the Society was not painted by Dürer. Unlike the Duke who already saw the Continent and wanted to settle down, Winn wanted to enjoy the adventure of finding the evidence and checking out Europe.

Lord Forrester being naive or stupid, requested Jason escort Winn, George and their relative Totty to the port, even though Jason was interested in his daughter. Then Jason, being the busybody that he was, decided to follow Winn when she did not board the same ship as her family. 

Blah blah, they suffered poverty and misadventures in Europe as they tried to dodge George, but managed to find time to have sex a couple of times. If not for the sex, would have thought that it was Bert and Ernie running riot over Europe. Fairly engaging read.

Of course he ended up with Winn, even though he managed to propose to Lord Forrester's daughter when he returned to the UK, aged 31 years old.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5. The parts where they dodged George were entertaining.

Believability - 3/5; Romance factor - 2.5/5; Readability - 3.5/5 ; Yummyness of male protagonist (YMP) - 1/5.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Republican GOP 2016 - Presidential Campaign Trail

I am not so into the Presidential campaign (esp the Democratic race btw the Bernie Sanders v Hilary Clinton), but I really into this year's Republican GOP candidate lineup. Thank you Donald Trump and all the other candidates, for making it even more entertaining the Apprentice.

1. Trumpie. Way too many epic moments. From the Great Wall of Mexico (to be paid by Mexico of course, likely using American aid) to reading "the Snake" lyrics. And there was the "math fail", though I am reminded by something お母さん taught. Don't care about getting to the specifics, understand the intent behind the statement.

That said, I agree with Trumpie. You can't fight 2 wars at one time. 15 years wasted in middle east, and only IS to show for it.

2. Marco Rubio at the New Hampshire Debate, resulting in the Robot Uprising. Keke.
[source: gawker]
3. Chris Christie, the political suicide bomber (best part starts from 2:47). Loved the part where he continues to gun him over the next 5 minutes.

4. The screwup at the beginning of the debate, where Ben Carson hung back and Trumpie hung out with him lol. Awkward.  John Kasich didn't even come out until later.
No "excuse me" from Jebbie
5. Jeb Barbara Bush. Not Jebbie, who  needs mommy to fight his battle for him. Meow.

6. "Hug me!" Ted Cruz and the Donald Trump action figure. Where can I buy one?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Best Product IKEA ever sold

Nope it's not the very chio and hacker-friendly Expedit, though that comes a close 2nd.

The Best Product IKEA has is that huge metal serving bowl it sells, BLANDA BLANK.

It's awesome for my tiny kitchen. I use it as a mixing bowl for my cakes and cookies, salad bowl and a soup tureen. Even used it to hold my rinsed ingredients.

Best S$9.90 I ever spent.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Unbelievable ?  EXTREMELY. 5/5. Just look at the protagonists' names, Theodosia (Daisy) Devreaux and Alexander Romanov Markov.

Alex is a descendant of the Romanov dynasty (yes, and from Tsar Nicholas II's fragile son's line) and a known circus folk. Daisy remained a 26 yo virgin while her mother was a frivolous nymphomaniac who was already bedding guys younger than her daughter before she died.

Problem with some of the famous romance authors is that they tend to stick to a certain formula that they become known for (other than the known requisite that all male protagonists are damaged in one way or another/ inscrutable, charismatic characters/ handsome weirdos).

For Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the female protagonist tends to be a pretty lady who is misunderstood by the people around her, especially the guy who she will fall in love with. But don't worry by the end of the book, everyone will love her. Always. And the guy would be very emotionally damaged but becomes cured by her love, though SEP outdid herself this time with one who is more damaged than the usual. (1) his parents died in a train accident when he was 2 years old, (2) he was raised by an uncle who camouflaged his pedophilia by whipping his nephew, (3) rescued by Daisy's father  when he was 8 yo. Daisy's dad was conveniently a diplomat to Russia who has a weird obsession with Russians and of course, this guy, to a point he makes him marry his daughter to continue the Romanov line. this despite he does not think much of her than as a brood mare. Give the man Father of the Year award!(4) Alex is now a professor of art at a college, but he is fantastically rich due to his own Russian art collection and consultancy work with biggest museums in the country, and he is helping his other benefactor by running his circus for 6 months after the latter died. WTF?

So he drags Daisy after their impromptu marriage to the circus, where of course she had to suffer a lot of trials and tribulations ala SEP style, e.g. being framed as a thief, being tortured by sundry circus animals, being burnt by stupid Alex, getting knocked up by stupid Alex who realized that he really loved her after he burnt her (S&M). And even though she doesn't like animals, and they her, somehow she developed a rapport with a tiger, a gorilla and a baby elephant who has weird olfactory fetish. Villains other than Alex, are a misguided teenage girl who has a crush on Alex, and the sexy circus owner's widow who has an obsession with Alex's circusfolk lineage and his sexual prowess, so much so that she turned from love to hatred when he denied her.

The main point is... don't think too hard when reading this book (especially TRY NOT to draw comparisons with SEP's other book "call me irresistible"), just appreciate the span of SEP's imagination when writing this book. I spent quite a lot of time rolling my eyes, but I have to admit it was an entertaining read. I also think the book should be renamed as "obsession" given the number of strange obsessive characters there are in this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Believability - 0/5 (see above); Romance factor - 3/5; Readability - 4/5 (fairly entertaining, too much about animals and annoying side characters); Yummyness of male protagonist (YMP) - 3/5 (handsome art professor who is a descendant of Russian royalty with amber eyes like a freaking tiger. Unbelievable!!! Dislike MCPs).

This year's resolution

I was too ambitious. I wanted to read 1000 books. Bit excessive even though I can speed read.

I decided to reduce to 366 books and to review at least 50% of them.

Since the genre I read is mostly slam bam wham thank you Ma'am, I will stick to my old modus operandi ranking system for romance books:

Unbelievable - how imaginative the author was.
Romance factor - how much rapport I assess that the two protagonists have.
Engaging? - how interesting the book was?
Yum factor - how hot I think the
Best line in the book (new).

Other genres will just contain 1 to 5 stars, with 1 being the worst, 5 as "my god, if you don't read it, you will die with regret".

Mr Bear says that like all good online reviewers, I must state how many pages are in each book and when it is published. I must rely on his expert opinion, as he likes to refer to online reviews before selecting a book.


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