Ghetto at the Center of the World by Gordon Mathews

Likely the most fascinating place in Hong Kong with some of the best South Asian food in the city. Chungking Mansions is a curiosity that is not to be missed.

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 256 pages.
Read from June 25, 2019 to July 3, 2019.

I’ve called Hong Kong home for a few years now and have come to love it for all of its unique flaws and qualities. Hong Kong is a busy city but outside of its city walls are beautiful running trails, beaches, and hikes. There is something for everyone in this diverse city no matter what kind of person you are. As an expat, Chungking Mansions is a fascinating place that needs to be visited at least once, but for locals, it is generally a place to be avoided. The stories of crime and gang activity, along with the lack of familiar local faces, usually are enough to keep many locals away. However, this impression of Chungking Mansion isn’t its whole story.

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Grey facade – Photo by Gerald Figal on Flickr

Gordon Mathews is a university professor in Hong Kong and spent years living in and studying the people and it’s unique economy and isolated globalization. Chungking Mansion is located in the bustling and wealthy Tsim Sha Tsui area of Hong Kong on the Kowloon side. It’s a popular district for shopping and has lots of tourists from mainland China and elsewhere from around the globe. Yet inside Chungking mansions is like entering a different world. Just outside of the building, you’ll find it brimming with South Asians, who, if you’re white, will try and sell you knock-off watches, handbags, or tailoring services. Inside the building is old and run down compared to the shiny shopping area it’s surrounded by. Inside you’ll find cheap rooms for rent, refugees, illegal workers, traders, sex workers, drug addicts, and small businesses from all around the globe. African traders come to find cheap cellphones to bring back to their countries. South Asians come, often illegally, to try and improve the quality of their lives as well as their families. Many refugees come and get trapped in the system of long waits within Hong Kong and are unable to work legally too. Despite the illegality of most of what goes on in the building, a blind eye is often turned by police. Without the illegality of workers and many other trades, Chungking Mansions would not exist. The diversity of the building makes for some of the most eclectic and delicious food in Hong Kong and for rock-bottom prices. It also makes for a unique area of globalization that isn’t really seen anywhere else in the world.

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Image from Asia Times

I’ve actually had the pleasure of dining in Chungking Mansions with a group of refugees and have nothing but great things to say about the place despite its seedy reputation. I would go back in there in heartbeat for the great food, company, and people watching. That isn’t to say that sketchy things don’t happen at Chungking but in general, it’s a decent place to grab a good bite to eat provided you don’t mind how run down some of the establishments are.

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Image from Wikimedia

This book is a perfect insight into Chungking Mansions as its clear that the professor himself has become an established name inside the building and is someone that everyone seems to be comfortable talking with. He seems to have a clear understanding of Chungking Mansions and the people that live there. The novel felt a bit like something I would read in a university class but that’s not surprising since I’m sure that was one of the reasons it was written. Mathew’s writing is as informative as it is fascinating and if you’re in Hong Kong and have ever wanted to visit or know more about Chungking Mansions I would highly recommend this book.

Canada Reads 2019 Favs and Predictions

Wooooooo! It’s almost time for the Canada Reads 2019 debates and I’m ready to give you the down-low on what books I think are going to take the cake this year and which ones I thought were the best.

The theme this year is “One Book to Move You” so let’s have a look at which book I think will win this year.

Don’t like my picks?  Have your say and vote now for your favourite now! 



Predictions for the 2019 Canada Reads Winner:

You know it’s really hard to put different types of books against each other. I’ve said it before but I think Canada Reads should pick a type of book for each debate and stick to it. For example, all memoirs, all YA, or all dystopians for example, as it would just be more efficient, effective, and easier to pick the one that meets the select theme for the year. This year included 3 memoirs, a creative memoir and a work of fiction.

I decided on Homes as I think it was truly the most moving as my jaw-dropped when I learned about the age of the author sharing the story. It’s also an extremely important and timely topic that people in Canada need to read more about. While also being moving read, the book is also an extremely enjoyable read and I think it will come out as the fan-favourite this year too.


My Canada reads 2019 Favourites:

Soooo this was really hard! I changed my mind so many times about the book I enjoyed the most but in reality I enjoyed all the books but for different reasons. For example, Brother ended being my least favourite but I think it’s because it just didn’t fit in with the other books as it is the only full-on fiction book in the list. Susanne is a creative-memoir that had elements of truth and I found its prose beautiful. Homes and By Chance Alone were intensely moving, where with The Woo-Woo I found it both moving, shocking, humorous, and entertaining.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I will not be pursuing the trilogy further. I will, however, watch the next season of the TV show when it’s released as I feel like the show took the original ideas of this story, tidied it up, and in general did more justice to the interesting concept and world that this author created.

1/5 stars.
Hardcover, 584 pages.
Attempted from January 16, 2019 to February 12, 2019.

I just can’t… this book is poorly written and highly disorganized and I found it strain from the first page to get involved in this book. The first book in this trilogy has a more engaging story and clearly had a heavier hand in editing whereas the author ended up ruining the story for me by being allowed to write so haphazardly. You have a large number of characters thrown at you from the first page which make them hard to invest in as well as making the story hard to follow. The main plot of finding a witch to help Diana and the Ashmole 782 gets lost in the mound of unnecessary characters, Matthew’s ridiculously excessive past and accolades, as well as cringe-worthy romance and sex scenes. All of the aspects I was interested in from the previous books were not apparent in this novel as it turned into a poorly written romance. I managed to make it nearly halfway through the book and all of its details without drowning in it.

I will not be pursuing the trilogy further. I will, however, watch the next season of the TV show when it’s released as I feel like the show took the original ideas of this story, tidied it up, and in general did more justice to the interesting concept and world that this author created. If I were in a less hassled state of mind I might have had the resilience to finish this book and find more redeeming qualities but for now, it’s being added to the very, very small pile of books that I could not finish.