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tech, teaching, and books

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.


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


Swan Panasia Games ✔ 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 ✔ 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 ✔ 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 ✔ Locally designed games! ✘ Small selection


BoardGame Geek (BBG) ✔ 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 * Video reviews of games * Multiple reviewers * Can also find the reviews on YouTube

Game Boy Geek reviews * 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.


The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill

We lift our eye to the heavens, but we live on the ground.

This is certainly an author to watch if you like beautiful fantasy stories, without all the Tolkien-esque standards you may be used to. This is the type of storybook I would gladly read to my daughter, or give as a gift to a young teen.

The story is about a 'the wrong boy' who is not that gifted in anything really, but has to take care of some magic and becomes a bit brave in the process all while saving everybody!

When I first finished this, I thought it was better than the author's second book, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, but upon further reflection, I'm not sure I still feel that way. I am sure though, that both of these novels are great, and have enough action, and wit, to keep an adult as entertained as a teenager.

This novel also reminded me a bit of the Earthsea series because it isn't your 'typical' YA fantasy novel, and her interesting characters.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #95 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #Fantasy #YA #KellyBarnhill

Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's “1984” by Dorian Lynskey

This was an illuminating read which taught me so much about my childhood favorite book, Nineteen Eighty-Four. This book is part biography of George Orwell (aka Eric Blair), and part history book which explains the times Orwell was living in and how this affected him.

“1984” was an important book when it was written during WW2, and is still important now as the world is teetering near the precipice towards: either WW3, a climate catastrophe, or a non-stop health epidemic.

If you like to learn about the books the author read, what influenced them, and learn about the history of the time a book was written – this is the book for you.


Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Jonathan Sacks

This wouldn't normally be the type of book I would pick up, but the title intrigued me. The book was also on sale, so the rest is history now.

Rabbi Sacks makes theological arguments using scriptures and philosophers to make his various points of why we shouldn't do violence unto others to convert them or because 'our holy book' tells us so. I really enjoyed the theological arguments he made, and learned a great deal about different Bible stories, and his interpretation of them. It's great how he picks out the original Hebrew translations of certain parts of the bible to bring out the more nuanced meaning of some verses that seem to have been muddled over time.


Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin

An odd collection of stories, where some of the endings were macabre, or uncomfortable, whereas others were puzzling. Nevertheless, even with the 'bad' stories, I still got the sense of what she was aiming for. The first few stories seem a bit boring, but stick with it because some of the later stories are very interesting. It's a shame the earlier stories feel so unpolished, or lost something in their translation.

I previously enjoyed Schweblin's book “Fever Dream” which was nominated for The International Man Booker Prize. If you like unsettling, strange stories sort of like Han Kang, you may enjoy this one.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #92 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #Books #BookReview #SamantaSchweblin #ShortStory #TranslatedFiction

An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk by Allison Schrager

Very quick, but light read about financial risk. She illustrates economic concepts like stock options, using examples of people and situations from the real world.

I always find these kinds of books interesting, but for me they always seem a bit of a tease. I was interested in all the topics she covered: brothel management, horse breeding, and professional poker players, but I wish she dived deeper into each topic. I understand this is not the point of these sort of mass-market books but still it was a bit disappointing for me.

For the layman wanting to learn more about risk in a funny, non-threatening way, starting with this book would be OK.

Rating: ★★★ Book #91 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #risk #money #AllisonSchrager #NonFiction

3 Novellas for the Summer

Need a few short books give yourself a boost your GoodReads Challenge? These books are three very different novellas, but very good novellas. I'm glad I stumbled upon, and read these on my Kobo.