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Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah

A mind bending, translated novel from a Korean author. It unfolds simple enough, but then twists in on itself, and some things repeat, and you start to wonder what is real, and what isn't.

This one was surreal, and weird. It was also exciting trying to hold onto the thread and see where the author was going.

I'm not sure I still fully understand what happened in the novel, but it was a good experience with fantastic imagery. The way she describes moving through the city, and the conversations some of the characters have in the story are great.

If you want a short (152 pages), quirky book, try this out. Don't expect a straightforward narrative though! Also, not sure why the reviews are so harsh on GoodReads. This is a solid 4 star book, if you can follow her dream-like writing.

Also read some of the much better reviews of this novel on GoodReads (excerpts below)

Bae Suah likes to challenge readers used to more conventional plot lines and character development. In “Untold Night and Day” identities are blurred, chronology is warped, time and space are stretched and exist in parallel to others. – Kamila Kunda

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Incredible. Lucid writing and translation, singular characters, and a propulsive story that pulls the rug out from under your feet. The comparison with David Lynch is apt, with recurring motifs & moving from reality to the surreal. I almost understood what was happening, but not quite. Ideas of memory & the impermanence of things, & she plays with blindness & vision. Tightly written, engaging and will give your brain a workout. – Anna Baillie-Karas

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To read Untold Night and Day is to stand on shifting ground. This is a story that always operates according to dream logic, in which identities are malleable and the impossible becomes unremarkable. – Blair

Rating: ★★★★ Book #104 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Surreal #TranslatedFiction #BaeSuah

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick

A collection of short stories by the very well known sci-fi author, Philip K. Dick. There are many well known stories in here like Minority Report, and We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (short story Total Recall based on) but lots of other more unknown works too.

I recently watched the 2017 TV series “Philip K. Dicks Electric Dreams”, which prompted me to read this short story collection. It was interesting to read short stories, after already watching the TV shows, and movies they inspired. It's interesting to see what gets added and changed once a short story becomes a movie or TV show.

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Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World by Roy A. Adkins

I had never heard of this battle before reading this book (my colonial Canadian education failed me!). It was a very interesting, and super detailed look at the importance of the battle, the hour-by-hour rundown of the battle including many maps, and then lots of afterword about how the battle was important.

The first 196 pages are incredible actually. He is great at explaining the action of the battle, with great footnotes. He goes off on tangents at times but I loved those because you got to learn about ship life, and even where ship slang came from. The tangents reminded me of all the interesting chapters about life on a whaling ship in Moby Dick. I sorta disliked the book, but really enjoyed learning about whaling ships.

Now let's talk about page 197-326, these were a slog. He has one whole long chapter of excerpts of sailor's letters to their moms and dad. It just got really boring, really fast. This book could've been condensed a lot. I don't think the author was trying to pad the page count, I truly feel he is passionate about Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar, but the editor should've stepped in and condensed the last half of the book.

It had lots of diagrams and maps, but could've used an extra diagram or two showing parts of a sailing ship. During the battle, in the excerpts from officer letters, many times they refer to all sorts of ship parts and it's hard to keep them straight at times.

All-in-all, this is an important book, about an important battle for the nascent British empire but it fizzled out at the end, and became a bore. I've read lots, and lots of history books, so I'm not bored by history, but by the end I was just praying for this book to finish.

Rating: ★★★ Book #102 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #BritishEmpire #war #history #NavalWarfare

The Man with the Compound Eyes by Wu Ming-Yi

Wu Ming-Yi certainly never disappoints in the 'weird' department. I'm not sure I can even accurately describe the book I just read, but I'll try. The book is set in the present, or near future, where a huge 'trash vortex' is breaking up in the middle of the ocean. It washes up along the shores of Taiwan, and other places. We move through this event through the current lives, and memories of a few different people: a university professor, her foreign husband, an aboriginal forest manager, an aboriginal cafe owner, and a boy from a 'dream' island. I'll stop right there because I can't really describe it in more detail without re-telling the story.

This was a strange book, but it was interesting. I'm still mulling over certain parts of the book to understand what happened. After writing this, I will have to read a few other reviews to try and get my head around some parts, especially the parts with 'the man with the compound eyes'.

I liked many parts of this book, but as a whole it gel together and satisfy me. I will still say though, I liked all the different characters and their backstories.

Rating: ★★★ Book #101 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #Taiwan #WuMingYi #strange

The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po) by Ha Jin

A highly readable narrative of a famous Late Tang poet, Li Bai. The text is a tale of the poet's life, and travels. The biography gives you context to better appreciate the poetry that the author puts in along the way. I like how Ha Jin inserts the poetry into the narrative, so you can see where Li Bai was in his life, and how that affected his poetry. The poetry is written in Mandarin Chinese characters, and with an English translation.

My White Hair Long, long is my whitening hair; Long, long is it laden with care. I look into my mirror bright. From where comes autumn frost in sight?

Sadly it is very hard to find Li Bai's poetry online in a bilingual format. I would like to read the Chinese poetry with pinyin/zhuyin and then the translation to better appreciate it.

I wish I truly read, and spoke more Chinese so I could dive into these classics. It's amazing that a culture still reveres poets from a thousand years ago. Also, the characters are still readable to the common Chinese speaker. Simply incredible to think about it. It's like reaching across time when you read a poem 1000 years old.

Also, I read my 100th book this year! I still have a few months to go too. I have smashed my goal.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #100 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #Poetry #ChinesePoetry #Biography #HaJin

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Premise: What was it like to be a 'prize' (slave girl) in the Trojan War? What about Achilles' slave girl? Interested?

This interesting premise is the crux of The Silence of the Girls. This is essentially a retelling of Homer's Illiad from the perspective of the women who got caught in it. Don't worry, the sex is not too graphic, but just detailed enough to let the reader fill-in-the-blanks. If you haven't read The Illiad, the book might feel 'hollow' and lacking depth. You also won't know the major plot points of story, but seriously, who hasn't read The Illiad? If you haven't, go read it!

This is a good book because it puts women back into the narrative of a historical event. Unfortunately, we don't have a women's perspective on the Trojan War (as far as I know) because women were not the historians in that time. Sometimes when you read books like The Illiad, it seems women were doing nothing but making babies, or being fought over. This book aims to destroy that one-sided male perspective.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #99 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #PatBarker #TrojanWar #TheIlliad #HistoricalFiction

Two Trees Make a Forest: Travels Among Taiwan's Mountains & Coasts in Search of My Family's Past by Jessica J. Lee

“Two Trees Make a Forest is a finely faceted meditation on memory, love, landscape — and finding a home in language. Its short, shining sections tilt yearningly towards one another; in form as well as content, this is a beautiful book about the distance between people and between places, and the means of their bridging.” — Robert Macfarlane

This is about a woman discovering, reminiscing about her Taiwanese roots, trying to unmuddle her parent's & grandparent's history. The narrative thread that ties it all together is her travel through the mountains, and on the coasts of Taiwan. She also talks about the flora and fauna of Taiwan a lot. I enjoyed those bits too because I used to hike a lot in Taiwan, but since I didn't grow up here, I'm totally clueless about the local plants.

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This guide is for English speakers that are looking to buy board games, and accessories in Taiwan.

WHERE TO BUY?

Swan Panasia Games

https://boardgamer.org/ ✔ Largest game selection ✔ Stable website ✔ Huge selection of accessories: card sleeves, boxes, and other things ✔ Always remember to ship tax receipt in the box ✔ Usually have a promotions: spend $1000/2000/3000 and up and get a free game, get points for every order too

GoKids

https://www.gokids.com.tw/ ✔ Mostly focused on younger kids, with limited selection of 'serious' board games ✘ Terrible website – difficult to navigate ✘ Always “forget” to include tax receipt in the box, need to call/email to remind them ✘ Don't bring many new games to Taiwan every year

Kanga Games

http://kangagames.com/ ✔ English website ✔ Good selection of silly games for kids, and abstract games ✘ Very small selection of games compared to other big 2 companies

Taiwan Boardgame Design

https://www.tbd.com.tw ✔ Locally designed games! ✘ Small selection

WHERE TO RESEARCH GAMES?

BoardGame Geek (BBG)

https://boardgamegeek.com/ ✔ Easy to compare games here: complexity, ratings, reviews from other users ✔ Can download PDF copies of game rule books ✘ Need account to download PDFs

The Dice Tower reviews

https://www.dicetower.com/ * Video reviews of games * Multiple reviewers * Can also find the reviews on YouTube

Game Boy Geek reviews

https://www.gameboygeek.com/ * Video reviews of games * Reviewer looks like Stuart from The Big Bang :D

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

Stellar detective/crime novel! I literally couldn't put this down at times, and ended up going to sleep very late some nights. The novel follows Chief Investigator Arkady Renko in the Soviet Union as he investigates a brutal triple murder in Moscow. This is no simple investigation because he also has to navigate the murky realm of Russian politics, with the FBI and KGB getting their hands in there too. The author is really great at making you feel like you're in Russia. He adds lots of color to his writing with his description of the setting. The dialogue is witty, and believable too. This book could just be made into a movie and be better than 90% of the lame murder movies out there. Why hasn't it been done yet?

This book almost feels like two books in 1; the first part is about the murder investigation, and then the 2nd part is about the 'killer'.

This is the start of the Arkady Renko series. The first 3 novels in the series have over 4 stars on GoodReads, but after that they start to drop in quality. That's good to know, for when I have another hankering for political intrigue and murder in Russia.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #97 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #Russia #crime #murder #USSR #KGB

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Rebellion meant a look in the eyes, an inflexion of the voice, at the most, an occasional word. But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength. would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning. Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it? And yet—!

Reading the 'book biography' about 1984, The Ministry of Truth, led me to rediscovering this favorite book from my childhood. So I decided to re-read it. Let me also state, I never re-read books. This is the first book I have ever read. It was great. It was like finding a long-lost friend.

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