Without Anchovies by Chua Kok Yee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Without Anchovies starts with the title story, Sambal Without Anchovies, a bittersweet story about Hanif's ongoing spat with his father regarding improving his nasi lemak stall. It ends with a strange little Twilight-like story, Vampire and Werewolf where an unnamed protagonist recounts her love for Joe, whom she suspects is a murderer. In between, you find robberies, murders, ghosts, cats, abusive Datuks, kiasu strangers, strange feng shui, civilian vigilantes, morphing geckos and much more.
I devoured this slim book of short stories in the span of a day.
Well - to be honest, the stories are on the shorter end of short stories and some veer into flash fiction territory.
Quibbling on terminology aside, the stories are entertaining, absorbing and thoroughly Malaysian.
Tiger's Adventure by Hussain Ajina
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tiger's Adventure is a really short read at 76 pages. Which means, you can finish it in like what, 20 minutes? It's the story of a really fat cat named Tiger who runs away from home and discovers a wonderful Catopia, or well, at least, a city of cats run by cats for cats. It's a cute, entertaining read, with some subliminal political messages, maybe - but probably not, because, you know, cats.
Thank you, Michelle, for passing me this book! :)
(This book is available on Lulu)
The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Siew Tsin's early death has landed her in an unexpected place - in the tenth court of hell, where the dead bribe the hell officials to keep them out of torment and to keep them from being reborn. But Junsheng, her husband, is playing a dangerous game, and Yonghua, his terracotta third wife, is at the centre of it all.
I don't know how to describe this novelette other than it's East meets West. It's a fascinating look into Chinese beliefs of the afterlife versus simplified versions of Christianity as disseminated by well-meaning nuns in mission schools in Malaysia (Popular theology is not always accurate).
Yangsze Choo delves into this in The Ghost Bride too, and I suppose I find it fascinating mainly because I have no personal experience of learning these things while growing up.
Cho's writing is exquisite, as usual; simple, and yet enticing, witty in an understated way. She pulls you into the story, spitting you out at the end thoroughly satisfied.
Get it here!
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