Reading Chinese Classics: ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’ by Cao Xueqin

In my first post of this series, I talked about reading Six Records of a Floating Life. My next pick was a recommendation from my father, The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. It’s what I (and no doubt, many others) would call the Chinese classic.

The copy that I decided to go for is translated by H. Bencraft Joly. It took me a while to realise that this version only has the first 56 chapters on this massive saga, and I had to pick up three volumes from Penguin to finish it off.

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I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. This took me ages to get through. I was reading 100-150 pages a day and even though that’s not usually too much for me, I really struggled.

And so, I found myself breaking this book up a lot with graphic novels and comics. I guess I just needed a break. Seriously, no matter how much I read, for a while there it seriously felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.

this was just a hard read for me. I found it hard to get involved in the story, I found it hard to keep up with all of the characters (trust me, there are a lot)… And I’ll be honest. I found it hard to keep up with the story and may have opened a CliffNotes tab or two to make sure I was on the right track.

But I was dedicated. I wanted to read it. I wanted to make sure I was understanding the story. I made sure to pick it up at least once a day and to just give it a go.

By the time I’d made my way through Tuttle’s publication and picked up Penguin’s, I was well and truly exhausted by this story. But Penguin’s edition really surprised me. The translation was just so much better.

I just loved it. I loved the characters. After 900 pages of feeling… well, not a lot,  I was finally able to totally fall in love with the romance. I was able to appreciate the characters and what they were going through. I began to see just how far these incredible families were falling. How they were struggling with less cash than they were used to, but had no desire to give up on the high class customs they had grown up with.

Honestly, I just began to recognise it as a damn good story. Who doesn’t love the story of a fall from grace? Who doesn’t love a forbidden romance? Who doesn’t love reading about some poetry, drinking games, and a good old devious plot or two?

This book ended up surprising me in all the best ways. I only wish that I’d started with the Penguin translation!


Have you read this Chinese classic? How did you fare juggling all the characters? Let me know your thoughts!

From Manga to Anime: ‘Orange’ by Ichigo Takano [Spoilers!]

Warning, warning! This review contains spoilers!


A few months ago I was sitting on a plane and happened to watch the film, Orange directed by Kojiro Hashimoto. In the next few months, the manga and the anime became wickedly popular. So while my first encounter with the tale was with the film, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the two more popular mediums.

Knowing that the anime was months away from being released, I took the plunge and Orange: The Complete Collection Volumes 1 and 2 during a visit to Dubai.

With the manga, I fell in love with the story all over again. It follows Naho, a relatively girl with a few close friends, who gets a letter from her future-self. The letter, in short, gives her instructions on how to save her new classmate (and crush!), Kakeru, from himself. Add in Suwa, her bestie who’s been in love with her forever, and three other friends (who, to be honest, mostly feel like comic relief) and it all makes for nice story about friendship and romance… it just has a wee bit of a twist.

Can we just talk about Suwa for a minute? Suwa is the freaking MVP in this story, guys. This applies to both the manga and the anime (even  more so with the anime, to be honest), but I just couldn’t wait to talk about him. He is the best flipping friend on the planet.

Like, come on. He’s fancied Naho forever! Then he befriends this new guy, fully knowing that Naho is going to fancy the new guy. Then he helps said new guy hook up with her. Even when new guy flounders and asks him advice a thousand times, Suwa is calm, cool and collected. He just wants his pals to be happy.

I mean, plot-wise? Yeah, no one knows why all the friends didn’t just add a little P.S. to the end of their letters. A little Hi! Everyone wrote letters, by the way! would have gone a long way, am I right? And yeah, there were definitely times when… well, it felt a little contrived. If I were Kakeru, I definitely would’ve questioned why all my pals were suddenly volunteering to run a relay with me. Like, surely a relay isn’t such a big deal, right?

But who cares a few plot-holes? …well, I do. I do a lil. But the rest of the story was enough to make me forget about that for the most part. It was sweet! I loved the friendships and thought the romance was adorable. And it had enough depth to make it more than just a rom-com.

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A couple of months later, the anime was released and I pretty much lost my mind. I liked the anime. I really did. I loved the art, I loved the music, I loved the voice actors. There were definitely moments when I thought the pacing was off and the art dipped in quality, but overall I thought everyone did a super good job.

If I’m going to be critical, I did feel like the anime focused a little too much on the romance. Even though it didn’t really stray from the manga all that much, I just sort of got that vibe. A terrible description, I know.

But that extra focus made me feel like the story was almost taking a manic-pixie-dream-girl approach. Even though Naho isn’t that chirpy girl that we associate with the trope, the focus on the romance did imply that she is going save him. That it isn’t going to be the friendship or the memories. That it’s simply because fancies him back.

Maybe I’m looking into it too much. With the Athletics Day and the final episode, the anime definitely redeemed itself on that front, but… oh, there were just moments. There were moments when I was thought: Really? Is the crush really that important?

But overlooking that, I really liked it. I thought it was a really great adaptation of the manga. I especially liked how they handled the time-jumps. I loved the confession scene. Like, come on. Whose heart wasn’t beating through their chest at that one?

Ultimately, I probably enjoyed the manga a touch more than the anime, but I’m still super happy that I watched it. While it had its ups-and-downs, that final episode totally sold it for me. I finished the anime completely and utterly satisfied.


Did you read/watch Orange? Did you think it was worth the hype?

Review: ‘She-Hulk, The Complete Collection: Volume 1’ by Dan Slott

Some of you may recognise this from one of my hauls earlier this year. I’ve read bits and bobs about Jennifer Walters, but never picked up one of her own comics. But I totally loved the idea of her as a character, and was super keen to get into Dan Slott’s She-Hulk, The Complete Collection: Volume 1.

For some reason, Dan Slott’s She-Hulk really just didn’t do it for me. Chiefly, I didn’t find myself loving the character as much as I thought I would. Even though I still adore the concept, I found myself getting more and more irritated with Jen. I didn’t find her humorous or endearing. I didn’t feel sympathetic towards her and I certainly didn’t feel as though I connected with her on any level. I just wasn’t invested in her.

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The art was nice. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t fall in love with it either, but that’s fine. It was just nice.

As for the issues themselves, there were some hits and misses. That’s always expected. The collection starts with Jen as a hot mess. She’s partying hard, shirking her responsibilities as a lawyer, and annoying her fellow Avengers to the point that they decide to boot her from the team. The rest of the collection follows her as she… well, as she gets her shit together. She learns to balance Jennifer with She-Hulk, and combine her abilities as a lawyer with her superhuman strength.

I particularly enjoyed reading the parts where She-Hulk and Spiderman got to interact. Although I wouldn’t call any of the collection overwhelmingly serious, their conversations and quips brought a nice light-heartedness – a nice humour – to the collection. I also really loved the dynamic between She-Hulk and Southpaw. Again, it brought a great humour to the collection.

Overall, I guess I didn’t dislike this collection. There were some really excellent issues. It had me smiling, it had me laughing. Jennifer Walters was totally kickass as She-Hulk and totally kickass as her lawyer human self. But it took me a long time to read, y’know? I wasn’t dying to pick it up whenever I had a spare moment.

But even if it didn’t reel me in, I’d still recommend it to anyone who wants to find out a little more about Jen. It’s a mammoth collection and includes nice little snippets about her origin story and all that good stuff.

There was humour! There was action! There was even a little bit of sex. It had all the right ingredients for a wicked awesome story. So sure, it didn’t exactly hook me, but I did enjoy reading it and I imagine that many people will enjoy it way more than I did.


Let me know if you’ve read this and enjoyed it! I’m tempted to pick up Scott Byrne’s The Sensational She-Hulk, because I’ve heard so many good things about it. I’m hoping that I fall in love with his run in that same way I’d hoped to with Dan Slott’s!

A Chatty Review: ‘Micro’ by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston [Spoilers!]

Warning, warning! This review contains spoilers! It’s also going to make more sense if you’ve already read the book!


I picked up up Micro on a whim. I knew of Michael Crichton, but had never read anything up him. Besides, it was on sale. It seemed like a win-win.

Micro follows the story of seven graduate students. Peter, under the impression that powerful CEO has arranged his brother, Eric’s, death, goes after said CEO. Vin Drake doesn’t respond to this too kindly, and shrinks Peter, the other graduate students, and an employee, down to a size that is smaller than an insect’s. Desperate to get back to their normal size, they struggle through the Hawaii’n forest. But the students are essentially easy prey in this new world, and Vin Drake will not rest till they are all dead.

It follows the same formula as many other stories of its genre: each student gets picked off… one by one. So while I was scared that the sci-fi element would put me off this book, I was soon thoroughly enjoying it.

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I liked reading about all the students as they battled giant bugs and whatnot. I thought it was fun and exciting. And, much to my surprise, I actually really enjoyed the characters. I liked that Peter became brave enough to take on a leadership role, that Danny was revealed to be a total butthole when he let Jenny die, that Karen and Rick had an undeniable chemistry the entire way through.

But can we just talk about the deaths for a moment? I mean, it’s not like I expected everyone to make it through alive, but some of deaths really upset me. …okay, only one death really upset me. So, the students are basically in the mess because Peter believes that Drake has killed his brother, Eric, right? When I realised that Eric was actually alive? And then when Peter died? Honestly, I almost lost my mind. It was also when Peter died that I realised that anyone was fair game. It became much more exciting to me. I’d always assumed that Peter, if anyone, was going to make it out alive, so his death made the rest of the book feel more unpredictable.

In regards to the plot itself, I’ll admit that I could take it or leave it. Like I said before, it’s very typical of its broad genre. A few people are in a scary situation, and some of them die. The ins and outs of it all don’t really matter, do they? But all the bug stuff was super interesting. I mean, I was cringing the entire time and desperately trying not to imagine it (ew!), but it felt new to me. I’ve done the shark-invested waters, the dinosaurs, the abandoned house… bugs? Not so much.

I’ve since looked up a few reviews, and was surprised to see that a lot of people really hated this book. Like, hated it with a passion. People hated Preston’s voice in the novel, they hated the plot, they hated the characters…

I didn’t have such problems. I really liked a lot of the characters. Karen and Rick? I thought they were a super cute couple. A bit predictable, maybe, but cute all the same. Sure, the characters weren’t super developed. But there were quite a few of them… and it’s a novel fewer than 400 pages that’s more guided by a sense of adventure than character. For a novel of its kind, the characters were distinct enough for me.

My major qualm with this book was that the major villain, Vin Drake, had no real motive other than greed. And I know! I know. That’s a legitimate motive. People kill for money. But it’s also the most boring motive, in my opinion. I mean, come on. Surely we can do better than that?

So overall, I ended up really enjoying this book. A bit formulaic and simplistic, I can see why some people didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, but I just thought it was a really fun read. I thought the characters were cool and had interesting relationships with each other and I totally loved the concept. All in all, I’m super glad that I picked this up and can’t wait to hunt down more of Crichton’s works.


Did you enjoy Micro? Or do you think it pales in comparison to Crichton’s other works? 

British Comedians and their Memoirs: Miranda Hart and David Mitchell

Celebrity memoirs are all the rage, so it’s no surprise that some of our favourite British comedians have released their own in the past few years. A huge fan of British panel shows, there are a few that caught my eye. For each one, I had mammoth expectations. I was then gifted Miranda Hart’s memoir, Is It Just Me? and David Mitchell’s Back Story.

To be honest? Miranda Hart probably isn’t my favourite comedian. That did probably influence my opinion on Is It Just Me?. I didn’t think I was going to like it, and I didn’t.

I don’t want to talk about it that much, because I didn’t like it. There’s just not much point in going on about it, especially because the reason I didn’t like it was the humour. And I know! I know that so many people love her humour.

If you’re already a fan of Miranda and her work, you’re probably going to love this book. There are a great anecdotes and her humour does come out really nicely. I particularly enjoyed the chapter in which she talks about the reality behind the clothes on photoshoots: they never fit and making it look like they do is an experience in itself.

Moving on! I love David Mitchell. Love him. Really, he never fails to make me laugh. And so I was surprised when Back Story disappointed me a little.

It was nice to find out a little more about him. Currently a university student myself, I found reading about his days at Cambridge particularly interesting. My favourite chapter though? By far, it was one of the later chapters that talks about meeting his wife, Victoria Cohen. It’s sweet and romantic and personal. It’s the kind of story that people dream of reading when they pick up a memoir from their favourite celeb.

I think I just found the humour a little disappointing. Sure, there were funny anecdotes here and there, but while reading them all I could think was: Wasn’t this funnier when he told this story on Would I Lie To You? Maybe it was hearing the story for the second time, maybe it was the fact I was reading instead of hearing it… It just didn’t have the same oomph. It didn’t make me laugh as hard as it did before.

So yeah, I did actually really enjoy it. It had the personality and intimacy that you really want in a celebrity memoir. The lower rating is simply because I had such high hopes, and it didn’t quite match up.

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I do get the feeling that I would have enjoyed both of these books a lot more had I listened to the audiobooks and am tempted to actually do so, especially in the case of Back Story. Anyway, I wasn’t terribly excited by these two choices, but there is still hope!

There are loads more memoirs by British comedians out there that I’m looking forward to reading. Not to mention, both David Mitchell and Miranda Hart have since released two other books: Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse and Peggy and Me respectively. The former is already sitting on my shelf and I can honestly say that I am very excited to read it.

#BetterWorldBooks Challenge: ‘Lust’ by Roald Dahl and ‘The Roots of the Olive Tree’ by Courtney Miller Santo

I’m not a huge fan of challenges, to be honest. Sure, I set a goal on goodreads like everyone else, but I don’t typically go for the others. This year, however I came across the BetterWorldBooks Challenge and thought I’d give it a shot.

On a side note, I want to be very clear: all the books I’m picking for any challenge that I choose to do has always been picked specifically for that challenge. It’s not me picking up a book and realising three weeks later that it conveniently fits a category. I want these challenges to push me to read things I might not have, and I don’t think that convenient way of thinking allows me to do that.

Anyway, enough with that. Here are the first two books that I read for the challenge!

The first challenge I picked was to read a collection of short stories. For this, I chose Lust by Roald Dahl. Penguin recently decided to release some of his short stories in four anthologies: Cruelty, Deception, Lust and Madness. I was pretty excited to read this, chiefly because I’ve only ever really read his work aimed at children.

There were a stories that I did really enjoy, but there were also a few that didn’t resonate with me. My absolutely favourite was The Great Switcheroo. It tells the story of two devious men of similar physical attributes who decide to see if they can get away with sleeping with the other’s wife. It’s a bizarre (and sort of disturbing, to be honest) premise, I know. But it was actually a great (…and, again, disturbing) read, and I got a real kick out of the final lines.

So there were some hits and there were some misses. In the end, it just wasn’t the best collection of short stories that I’ve come across. I much prefer Margaret Atwood’s collections, The Tent being one of my all time favourite books.

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The second challenge, I found slightly peculiar: to read a book with a colour in its title. For this one, I opted to browse my bookshelf to see if any of the books I hadn’t read that fit. I wasn’t actually expecting anything, so was pleasantly surprised to see The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo.

The book follows a family that comprises of five generations of women. Set on the olive farm that they all grew up on, this story really hopes to expose the complexities of family life. I liked the idea of the multiple generations and I understand that it has a personal significance to the author. However, I also felt as though having so many central characters in a relatively short novel might not have been the best choice.

There isn’t a lot I can say without spoiling the novel, but it was essentially a nice look at five characters who have complicated relationships with each other. It also addressed people’s desire for immortality. Or, at the very least, a bloody long life. It was a nice read overall, but it didn’t really excite or capture my attention the way I’d hoped it would.


And there you have it! Let me know how your challenges are going. I hope you’re all finding some great reads.

Review: ‘Soppy’ by Philippa Rice

As a wee Christmas present to myself, I purchased a copy of Soppy by Philippa Rice. By some stroke of luck, the hardback was on sale and ended up being cheaper than the paperback. What a treat!

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Soppy is a collection of webcomics about the soppier moments of the author’s relationship. The art is super sweet and all of the moments are to die for. I loved the art’s simplistic style and thought the red blush spots were super cute.

My only real gripe with it is totally my fault. It’s a collection of webcomics, yet I’d wanted to see a little bit of structure and story. It’s called Soppy, but after a few pages I found it all a bit too sweet. I wanted a little bit of grit. But those two things are, like I said, on me. I wanted something that I always knew I wasn’t going to get, and that’s not the book’s fault.

This is the perfect wee pick-me-up. If you look at the cover and go How cute!, you’re probably going to like everything within.  If you’re just looking for a smile, these pages are guaranteed to get you there. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s adorable. What else could you possibly ask for?

So what if I didn’t gush over it like I’d hoped I would? Even without the complexity I’d been hoping for, I can still happily take it for what it is: a sweet collection of comics about a couple in love. And y’know, with Valentine’s Day coming up… well, this could be just the gift you were looking for.