Author: Rachel

Not far from the CBD and nestled in a pristine shophouse along 9 Craig Road in Duxton is Coucou Singapore, a new, authentically Swiss restaurant from the team behind much loved Italian restaurant Senso Ristorante & Bar. It is not too hard to spot, with its bright red and white signage (Swiss flag colours and Singapore flag colours are coincidentally the same).


So what does the name Coucou mean? I am told that it has three meanings. First, cuckoo clock, second, hello in French, and now, the restaurant!

Much attention to detail (and décor of the place) is paid by Coucou’s Head Chef Yves Schmid, who grew up in Switzerland himself.

On the walls are an assortment of beautiful, colourful cuckoo clocks (that actually go coo-coo) and majestic portrait photographs of the massive Matterhorn, a mountain of the Alps between Switzerland and Italy. (I just recalled that it was not too long ago, that in solidarity with Singapore, the Swiss had projected the Singapore flag onto the Matterhorn!)

The resulting atmosphere of the restaurant is very relaxed and casual for weekend lunch yet also formal enough for special occasions.

The place has a very family-oriented vibe, and is perfect for large gatherings on the weekends or simply for a dinner for two on weekday nights.

I love that there is both shaded outdoor and indoor seating, so there’s always the option to dine al fresco on balmy nights. If you prefer to eat inside the restaurant itself, there’s a skylight which allows the natural light to come in, making the restaurant well ventilated, brightly lit and cooling.


There’s also a bar counter (inside and bar seats outside) which makes Coucou the perfect pitstop for a quick, delectable Swiss wine after a long day at work.


I also love Coucou Singapore’s adorable bar stools with the black and white cow print, and even the chairs indoors look so nice. They’re actually incredibly comfortable and I could probably sit there all day. Another interesting touch was the cool antler chandelier.

After I was seated, I had a look through the menu and had the hardest time deciding what to order. Everything looked so good.


Coucou Salade

I decided to start off with the Coucou Salade. I must tell you, it is my absolute favourite dish at Coucou Singapore. It is so good that I ordered a second helping! It is probably the best salad I’ve ever had in my life and I still think about it sometimes.

The delicious Grand Pere salad dressing was crafted by Chef Yves Schmid’s grandfather, who was a chef in Zurich, Switzerland. What I love about the Coucou Salade is that it is so refreshingly crisp and clean, yet tasty and tangy at the same time. I highly recommend the Coucou Salade, make sure you order it!


Malakoff

After I polished off the salad, I had the Malakoff, which is a traditional, deep fried Swiss cheese served with a fragrant and rich mustard sauce, a beignet au fromage if you speak French.

I found the Malakoff to be filling and also incredibly delicious, and would 100% recommend sharing this. Or if you’re greedy like me, you can have one all to yourself.

Be sure to order the Malakoff if you are a cheese lover!




Spätzli

Next, I had the Spätzli, which is an egg pasta found in Switzerland and other countries like Hungary, Germany, Austria. The name itself means little sparrows, which maybe describes this intriguing pasta shape (I did not know that other cuisines outside of Italian food had pasta!) The Spätzli was definitely unique and also just so slightly cheesy and doughy. It kind of reminds me of gnocchi, and the menu describes it as a “soft dumpling Swiss pasta style”. The portion, like the food at Coucou Singapore, was incredibly generous!


Rosti Burger

My main meal was the rosti burger, which is essentially rosti with a beef patty, melted Swiss raclette cheese, onion and rucola (FYI, Coucou Singapore also does fondue!).

I loved the adorable Swiss flag, and only recently realised that the Swiss flag is square in shape, different from most flags from around the world.

The crispy rosti was really nice and hot and went well with the juicy, tender beef. I really enjoyed the rocket which paired perfectly well. As mentioned before, the portion was large, so if you come with friends and family, there will definitely be enough to go around. I can only imagine how delicious this kind of warm, hearty food would taste in the Swiss Alps!

I would love to try all the other mains (and also drinks!) at Coucou Singapore, there’s really a lot of delicious food to choose from, and I can guarantee that you will go cuckoo.

 


Dessert and Tea

For dessert, there was a lot to choose from, but I decided to order this lovely, light sorbet with really fresh redcurrants. Then, to end my meal, I decided to have a peppermint tea, the perfect calming and detoxing drink after a heavy meal 🙂


New on Coucou’s menu is their Set Menu @ Home, choose from the Spring Menu or the Swiss Traditions Menu.

Spring Menu

The Spring Menu (S$48, no service charge and no GST) comes with Green Peas Veloute, air-dried beef and Sbrinz cheese, Pike Perch Fillet served with Lentils Ragout and Bacon, and a Lemon & Dark Chocolate Tartlet.

Swiss Traditions Menu

With the Swiss Traditions Menu (S$58, no service charge and no GST) choose between the Malakoff & Salade Coucou, Zurich Style Ragout served with Rosti or the Pork Tenderloin with Morels Sauce, Spatzli & Vegetables, and Meringues & Double Crème de la Gruyere (Meringue, Double Cream and Red Fruits).

Kids’ Menu

There is also a Kids’ Menu, at just S$17, it comes with a fruit juice/syrup, veal sausage with rosti, or rigatoni pasta with tomato sauce, or Zurich style veal ragout with Spatzli and fresh fruit salad.

Please note that for islandwide delivery, the minimum order is S$50 with a S$10 delivery fee. For orders above S$150, delivery is free. To order, email reservations@coucou.sg, call +65 6226 0060 or for Whatsapp/SMS only, +65 9731 3788!

Coucou Singapore’s current opening hours are: Wednesday 6pm-9.30pm, and Thursday to Sunday, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6pm to 9.30pm. To stay updated on their latest menu offerings and opening hours, check out their Instagram at www.instagram.com/coucou.restaurant or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/coucou.restaurantor their website at www.coucou.sg

Many thanks to Coucou Singapore for inviting me to experience their beautiful Swiss restaurant and lovingly cooked food, would definitely recommend it to friends and readers alike. Please try Coucou Singapore and let me know what you think!

Coucou Singapore is located at: 9 Craig Road, Singapore 089669
Tel: +65 6226 0060

 

Hello 2020! It’s the start of a brand new year.

What better way to usher in the new year than with fresh, renewed skin (courtesy of an Aesop facial)?

This is probably going to be quite a detailed post. To cut a long story short, I thoroughly enjoyed my first Aesop facial experience and would recommend it to everyone! If my post is too wordy, please just read the lines I have bolded.

Yesterday was the last day of 2019 and it marked my first time experiencing an Aesop facial.

Location
Facials are carried out at the Aesop care space for facial treatments found on level 4 of Tangs Plaza in Orchard Road, the only one in Singapore. There are a few around the world in major cities like Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong, Hamburg, Melbourne, and Tokyo.

Making an appointment
It can be difficult to book a facial appointment, so it’s fastest fingers first. If you have a mostly free schedule you can look forward to making an appointment a few weeks/months in advance. I would say it’s generally easier to make an appointment on weekday afternoons. You can check out this webpage for available slots (https://10to8.com/book/aesop-tangs/). As there may be cancellations, you may be able to make an appointment a few days in advance (rather than wait a few weeks/months)!


Once you have booked your appointment, they will send you a few SMS reminders beforehand to be on time for your Aesop facial. Do take note that it is on level 4 and not level 1 of Tangs Plaza.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a very luxe green marble and dark facade. If I am not mistaken, this specialised Aesop space opened in July 2017 and is run by two therapists, Kit and Lynn, and each day, there are 4 facial slots.

The theme of the space is a very serene shade of green, and unlike the other brightly-lit, upscale facial places on this level of the mall (such as Sulwhasoo, La Mer, Dior, Chanel), Aesop’s space feels much more… secluded, high-end and private. At any one time, the Aesop space caters to one customer, so you have your own personal and private space to explore and enjoy. It kind of feels like a hotel (this is how I would imagine an Aesop spa treatment room in a hotel to be like; and I would love to stay at an Aesop hotel, it would probably be very lush and set in some secluded and zen Asian or Mediterranean location). My facial therapist, Kit, served me a cup of Aesop tea (liquorice root, spearmint and rose hip).

Side note: I love the Aesop cups so much. They have the quote “‘Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.’ Franz Kafka” printed on the inside of the cup. A great reminder for longevity.

Kit served the tea and passed me a questionnaire form to fill up. It has questions on what Aesop skincare products I use, frequency, how long I have been a customer, whether I am on any medication, have any allergies, skin type, skin concerns, personal details, etc.

My facial therapist said there was no need to answer questions I didn’t feel comfortable answering, but in any case, I tried to answer everything. Afterwards, she sat down and we had a brief consultation. Kit went over my concerns and my skincare regime (which, to be frank, is non-existent). Kit encouraged me to follow a simple skincare ritual of cleansing, toning, and moisturising, morning and night, which was great advice. After the Aesop facial, she also emphasised on the delicateness of the skin on our face and how it is constantly exposed to the elements and is less tough compared to the rest of the skin on our bodies.


The Changing Room
The above two images are of the pretty changing room (do you see the green theme?) where you can leave your bag, jewellery, clothing and shoes. There is a brown-grey towel hung on a clothes hanger in a closet, for you to wrap around yourself. You may remove your clothing and your upper undergarments on, but keep your lower undergarments on, reason being that there will be a neck, shoulder, head and arm massage as well. Oh before I forget, this facial is for all genders, not just women. The massage element is also quite intertwined with the facial element of the treatment. The changing room comes equipped with a strong and sweet-smelling Aesop deodorant (spray), a bottle of Marrakech Intense eau de toilette, and violet leaf hair balm (leave-in hair conditioner) for your hair. I would recommend removing your earrings to better enjoy the Aesop facial. 


The Treatment Room
Adjacent to the changing room is the treatment room.

After I changed and could hear Kit asking if I was ready and if she could come in, I stepped into the treatment room. It has a dark ceiling and dark curtains, and in the top left corner, a somewhat-muted-yet-sort-of-blaring speaker. The classical music is quite dynamic and cinematic (reminds me of Inception, at the same time, the music seems to ebb and flow – try listening to a motion picture soundtrack that incorporates classical music (like Hans Zimmer’s Inception) then maybe you would understand what I am getting at), and Kit asked me if I was okay with the music/volume. I wasn’t sure how the experience would be like without the music, but since the music was playing and part of the treatment, I thought I would just go with the music and volume. The whole ambience of the place makes you feel like you are *in* a movie.

The treatment bed was quite adjustable, and Kit provided me with a booster pillow under my knees. There were many, many layers of towels and I felt incredibly grounded/wrapped up/cosy/snug as a bug. It was wonderful! I think this is what being a baby must feel like, all swaddled up.

For the Aesop facial, there were many steps and Aesop products used in conjunction with formulation treatments (which are essentially bespoke, concentrated formulations of Vitamin C, aloe vera, etc. which are used during the facial appointments but which are not sold in-store).

There are six facial treatments (Ascorbic Action, Skin Quench, Calm Correct, Detox Anew, Parsley Seed Intensive, Lactic Surge) but each Aesop facial is “ultra-customised” so that they are suitable for your skin type.

You can read about each individual Aesop facial treatment here: https://www.aesop.com/sg/r/facial-appointments

Kit also highlighted that my whole face was dehydrated (she also has really firm and soft hands which is excellent, like have you ever had a masseur with dry, calloused, scratchy hands and sharp finger nails? That is not great).

Aesop products Kit used includes:
1. Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil
2. Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser
3. Purifying Facial Exfoliant Paste
4. Primrose Facial Cleansing Masque
5. Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Toner 

6. Lightweight Facial Hydrating Serum
7. In Two Minds Facial Hydrator
8. Control  
9. Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Eye Serum 

During the Aesop facial, besides the intermittent massaging of the shoulders, head, scalp, arms, legs and neck, there was also gentle steaming, dry brush techniques, hot towels and cotton pads and light extraction (no machines, no needles though). Note that it is not an extraction-centric facial. Nonetheless, Kit assured me that the dry brushing, cleansing, exfoliating were also effective.

What I thought was very unique about the Aesop facial treatment was the use of warm bowls. I enjoyed the sound of the products being mixed in the bowls, it reminded me of what I had read about the Aesop founder, Dennis Paphitis, in their new book, on the spot creating products in a single, impromptu moment for a client. How amazing.

So all the Aesop products used were “heated” by the bowl and were nice and warm on the face, which is very different from using the products at room temperature! Mind-blowing. I absolutely loved it!

The dry brushes (an interesting experience) used on my face were from Australia and look something like this:

My face felt very hydrated, supple, very clean and clear after the facial. I enjoyed the rhythmic facial massage and the firmness of it. PS. the Aesop facial comes in 60 minutes/75 minutes.

After the facial, Kit asked if I needed a hair dryer (since she had massaged my scalp). She also passed me a wooden comb (I asked if it was disposable, she said that they sanitise and clean the comb). Kit also mentioned that if I wanted to get my hair done post-facial, there was some discount/promotion with the hair salon in the building. There were also two small hot towels provided which were great for wiping down the face and arms, etc. post-facial.


Once the facial was done, we went through the products used and the products Kit recommended based on my skin, sort of like a prescription (see below). Kit also encouraged me not to touch my face too often because “our hands contain germs”. Indeed, after the facial, I realised I touch my face pretty often (maybe 20-30 times a day?) and found myself stopping myself from touching/scratching my face.


I felt very rested and cared for after my Aesop facial, and would recommend others to try! After the Aesop facial, my face did look clearer, brighter and less congested and not too red and angry. I also realised that my face felt less bumpy too (I’m guessing she extracted the hardened sebum from my face), and much softer.

Kit also offered me water (hot or cold) and a cup of Aesop tea.

She also passed me some samples (Pasley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Toner x2 and In Two Minds Facial Hydrator x2).


Price
All in all, the Aesop facial and massage treatment cost S$150. Which I suppose, is really quite worth it for a tailored, restful and caring facial experience. Aesop is famous for being meticulous and attentive to detail and the customer experience, and it was well reflected in my Aesop facial yesterday afternoon. I would definitely go again, maybe in a few months. (I wanted to treat my mother to this experience but she said no, and told me to look after my own face by going for facials every few months). Even after this facial, I’m still obsessed with all things Aesop. I hope Aesop comes up with more treatments/experiences!

Have you tried the Aesop facial (in Singapore or elsewhere)? I would love to hear your thoughts! Or if you haven’t, let me know if you intend to try and what you think of the experience. I really enjoyed my Aesop facial and hope you will too.

60 Best Books of 2019

By Rachel

As the year (and decade!) rolls towards a close, I thought it would be nice to put together a quick review of all of the books I’ve read this year, as well as my favourite books for 2019. For a more lengthy, in-depth book review, please check out my Goodreads account over here.

My initial #ReadingChallenge2019 goal was to read 19 books (since the year is 2019 and I read 15 books in 2018). Surprisingly, I surpassed my original goal by 200% by reading 60 books this year. In 2018, one of the things I wanted was to read more quickly, and I suppose I have achieved this in 2019. I have to thank Pansing and Times Distribution for sending me many review copies and advanced reading copies my way, as well as my job, for helping me improve my reading speed!

A side note: People often remark, how do you want to read when you spend all day at work reading? I mean, if you enjoy reading, I’m sure this activity would still be fun outside of work.

For clarification, I would like to set out from the outset that my review of these 60 books are of the 60 books that I read in 2019, and not all 60 books are books published in the year 2019, although many of these books are! Those which are 2019 books will be marked with “(2019)” for easy reference.

At the end, I will list out my favourite must-read titles from my Reading Challenge 2019.

So with that, let’s get started.


(1) Do I Matter? A Journey to Building Your Self-Esteem by Wong Lai Chun, Samaritans of Singapore (2019) 
A (literally) reflective, concise, gentle yet direct book with journalling Q’s for better understanding one’s self-esteem and how other people think.

I recommend this if: You feel lost, need guidance, directions or help, or are a caregiver/family member to someone who needs help.


(2) Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused life in a Noisy World (2019) 
A monumental and relevant book on how tech and the digital world has changed and transformed over the past two decades and how attention economy conglomerates are hankering after our attention, and how we can claim back our time and attention to live less distracted, more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

I recommend this if: You spend a few or more hours on your phone each day, can’t live without it, and would like to disconnect and understand Cal Newport’s digital minimalism philosophy.

(3) Recursion by Blake Crouch (2019) 
A mind-bending science-fiction action-packed Hollywood-esque thriller involving a scientist, a cop, multiple timelines, saving humanity, a supposed disease called False Memory Syndrome and a ‘memory chair’.

I recommend this if: You are interested in time travel, like the movie Inception, enjoy action films, or are interested in science fiction, thrillers or dystopian books.


(4) The Laundromat: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Jake Bernstein (2019) 
Now a Netflix film starring Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep, this shocking non-fiction was formerly published as Secrecy World, and involves an up-to-date retelling of both big picture and detailed scandals of the aftermath of the Panama Papers (including the downfall of global Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca) and the IJI’s investigative journalism efforts.

I recommend this if: You haven’t been keeping up with The Panama Papers or the news in the past few years, but are interested in uncovering true crime tales about money-laundering and what supports its existence.

(5) How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie 
I was surprised that I enjoyed this much older book so much; personally, I think everyone can benefit from reading this book, to become better, more empathetic and understanding human beings and to have more meaningful and  less abrasive interpersonal relationships.

I recommend this if: You think other people are idiots, actually, I recommend this book to everyone, it’s a great read.

(6) The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (2019) 
This sparkling, hopeful yet dystopian and lengthy new sequel (30 years in the making) is a joint-winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, and is a fan fiction-esque follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale; I imagine Margaret Atwood to be not too different from J K Rowling and the reactions from serious fans seemed quite polarised with more falling into the “why did she even write this book?” camp, personally, I was fine with this book but it seemed like Atwood was pandering to fans (and failed their expectations) and the book was less literary and dark in comparison.

I recommend this if: You enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale (movie or Hulu version), want more details of The Handmaid’s Tale universe or enjoy dystopian books.

(7) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I breezed through this short and dark, dystopian, literary book about women whose freedoms have been taken away and sole purpose is to bear children, and came away with the conclusion that it seems to work better in a visual form.

I recommend this if: You want to read The Handmaid’s Tale, enjoy dystopian books, or enjoy English literature, I’m sure there is a lot to uncover and analyse in this book.

(8) The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Renee Nault and Margaret Atwood (2019) 
I actually read the graphic novelisation of The Handmaid’s Tale before the original book and thoroughly enjoyed/grimaced at this very graphic, extremely beautiful and pristine  hardcover book, I found the storyline confusing, but after reading the original story in literary form, I was not any more enlightened.

I recommend this if: You can’t get enough of The Handmaid’s Tale, or simply love graphic novels, this one didn’t disappoint and really captured the essence of The Handmaid’s Tale (Disclaimer: Probably not suitable for children)!

(9) Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts who took on Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime by Julian Guthrie (2019) 
A one of a kind non-fiction about four pioneering women venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and their inspiring can-do spirits in spite of life’s hurdles and sexist society.

I recommend this if: You are looking for new inspiring role models, or want to start out on your own as a woman (e.g. beginning your own tech start-up company) or you’re looking for a more feminist read.

(10) Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong (2019) 
A hilarious series of true stories in the form of letters from stand-up comic Ali Wong to her daughters when they turn 21, extremely shocking, entertaining, funny and down-to-earth; I finished this funny book in one sitting.

I recommend this if: You need a laugh or an entertaining page-turner or can’t get enough of Ali Wong (“I have suffered enough.” – Ali Wong) (Disclaimer: Probably not suitable for children).

(11) Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope by Megan Phelps-Roper (2019)
I think I can easily crown this book as best book I’ve read in 2019, I haven’t seen very many reviews on this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed this detailed autobiography by Megan Phelps-Roper, the granddaughter of the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, who grew up in the church and eventually left her family and the cult.

I recommend this if: Like me, you love reading about cults, or religion in general.


(12) Bunny by Mona Awad (2019)
This was perhaps the most bizarre, dramatic, weird book I’ve read this year, it’s like a dark cross between Twilight and The House Bunny, with fairytales and an added twist of what is real and what isn’t?

I recommend this if: You like young adult fiction and anything weird is your jam.

(13) Murder by the Book: A Sensational Chapter in Victorian Crime by Claire Harman
A dramatic, relatively unknown true story of a high-profile murder inspired by a book, which left the minds of famous literary sensations like Charles Dickens, and Queen Victoria herself boggled.

I recommend this if: You like history, true crime, anything from the Victorian era.

(14) The Daily Zen Journal: A Creative Companion for a Beginner’s Mind by Charlie Ambler (2019) 
A highly recommended, thought-provoking, practical, direct journal incorporating zen meditation quotes and techniques and journal cues, with lots of  beautiful, relaxing illustrations.

I recommend this if: You are interested in journalling, self-help books, or zen meditation.

(15) Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal with Julie Li (2019) 
A practical, at times brutal, tough love self-help guide on how to spend less time on your phone and more time with your family, and most importantly, how to be “indistractable”.

I recommend this if: You spend too much time scrolling on your phone and want to get back to living in the real world.

(16) Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa 
A very heart-warming and (very) Japanese book about isolation, discrimination, loneliness, loss and hope, easily one of my favourite books read in 2019.

I recommend this if: You need something to warm your heart, or if you love Japan, or Japanese literature.

(17) Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb (2019) 
A revealing book about an otherwise private and deeply personal profession, the relationship between a therapist and her therapist, and the therapist-patient relationship, and techniques on how we can land on our own feet again after going through personal crises.

I recommend this if: You are interested in knowing more about how therapy works, and the perspective of a therapist, or if you like books written by women, this is sort of like chick lit in non-fiction format.

(18) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
A very moving classic about a loving boy on the run who loses his child-like perspective, and who wishes to protect his younger sister’s innocence.

I recommend this if: You enjoy classics, bildungsroman books, books like The Great Gatsby, or English literature.

(19) A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson (2019) 
Another strong contender for best book of 2019, this exciting criminal psychological thriller will have you turning pages to figure out, who is the killer in this seemingly normal Swedish family?

I recommend this if: You like psychological thrillers or true crime!


(20) The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (2019) 
One of the more bizarre books I read this year with the prettiest of covers, The Memory Police is set in a dystopian world where things (and memories) vanish one by one over time because of The Memory Police, and a group of people try their best to save humanity (Disclaimer: I did not like the symbolic ending).

I recommend this if: You like Inception, thrillers, dystopian books, original ideas, or Japanese literature.


(21) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones 
An African American newly-wed goes to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, the question is, will their marriage survive; this was a moving, very American, very symbolic story about marriage and all of its beauty and ugliness.

I recommend this if: You enjoy American stories, stories about love, reading books by African Americans, or want to read more books by women of colour.

(22) Normal People by Sally Rooney 
I loved this book, and am aware that Normal People has divided many opinions (a lot of people seem to dislike it, and say it’s very angsty or the characters are intolerable/annoying/don’t grow), it reminded me of my own personal experiences in university, and is written in a very simple, easy to follow and visualise way.

I recommend this if: You are feeling nostalgic about university, or life as a teenager/young adult, or if you like young adult fiction, contemporary fiction, UK books generally, the characters in this book may require some patience, expect no inverted commas.


(23) Homeless: The Untold Story of a Mother’s Struggle in Crazy Rich Singapore by Liyana Dhamirah (2019) 
A very gripping and haunting book on what it’s like to experience homelessness in Singapore as a young mother, I loved this complicated but sad story and read it in one sitting.

I recommend this if: You want to learn more about homelessness, income inequality, Singapore in general, definitely recommend this.


(24) Mr Salary: Faber Stories by Sally Rooney (2019) 
This was a miniature book part of the Faber Stories short story collection, and I finished this short story in one sitting, this was my first time reading anything by Sally Rooney, and I enjoyed its simplicity and flow.

I recommend this if: You like mini books, cheap books, contemporary literature, simple short stories, Sally Rooney’s writing, expect no inverted commas (if you can’t tolerate that, skip this book).


(25) Circe by Madeline Miller
A very visual, modern, and epic take on the lesser known story of the Greek goddess, Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios and Perse the nymph.

I recommend this if: You are interested in Greek mythology, folklore, short paperback fiction.


(26) Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (2019) 
This was a pretty disappointing, transphobic, fatphobic read, and I’ld probably say skip it, it didn’t seem well-researched and it’s hard to believe this same writer wrote Oranges are Not the Only Fruit.

I recommend this if: You want to read all of Jeanette Winterson’s books.


(27) Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe (2019) 
Sadly I didn’t like this heavy book that much, I think most of it went over my head (too specialised, too technical, too intellectual, too high society, too many characters for my brain to appreciate and enjoy).

I recommend this if: You like absorbing random information like a sponge, or if you are a serious film buff who can appreciate this book about early film starlets.


(28) Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun by Guillermo Del Toro and Cornelia Funke (2019) 
A dark, sad, imaginative masterpiece of a fairytale based on the original film and all of the ideas that went into Del Toro’s movie, pretty illustrations included!

I recommend this if: You enjoyed Pan’s Labyrinth, or if you like fairytales, folklore.


(29) Slowness by Milan Kundera
Like many of Kundera’s books, this one is pretty grey and less straightforward, very experimental novel, I suppose the key theme behind this book can be glimpsed from the book jacket, by slowing down, we can enjoy life’s pleasures more fully, surprisingly relevant still in this day and age of speed and instant gratification.

I recommend this if: You enjoy philosophy, Milan Kundera, experimental fiction that explore philosophical ideas and concepts.


(30) A Savage Dreamland: Journeys in Burma by David Eimer (2019) 
I loved this exciting, detailed book about the author’s first-hand account of his time and travels in Burma across many years, he really transports you back in time to the Burmese villages and small towns, and exposes you to different religious people.

I recommend this if: You like travel books, travel blogs, or if you are interested in Burma, the Southeast Asian region.


(31) Dune by Frank Herbert
This is the incomparable, OG science fiction story that came before so many others like Star Wars and Star Trek (PS. there’s gonna be a new Dune movie come December 2020), Dune explores with great intellectual depth and great panache different themes such as environmentalism, power, human relationships and politics.

I recommend this if: You are interested in science fiction/fantasy genres.


(32) N.P. by Banana Yoshimoto 
A self-aware exploration of taboo and LGBT themes through a Japanese, magical realistic lens, Banana Yoshimoto is like a younger, female, more observant Haruki Murakami.

I recommend this if: You are interested in Japanese literature that is more focused on ideas rather than plot or characters.


(33) Neon Soul: A collection of Poetry & Prose by Alexandra Elle
I’m a big fan of Alexandra Elle’s life-affirming works, this is a collection of poems to brighten up the heart and soul.

I recommend this if: You like simple prose and poetry, or you want to find a soft, warm voice you can relate to after experiencing something traumatic or sad.


(34) How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne (2019) 
Heavy/light hearted chick lit-esque book (maybe it hit too close to home) about Tori Bailey, a best-selling author with millions of fans, basically, she has everything in life but is she TRULY happy? (Answer: no, but the book concludes with Tori learning to accept herself for who she is and to stop seeking external validation).

I recommend this if: You are struggling with societal’s expectations/expectations you have imposed on yourself in terms of fitting your life into a socially acceptable narrative.

(35) The Gendered Brain: The new neuroscience that shatters the myth of the female brain by Gina Rippon (2019)
An intriguing book about myths concerning the brain and gender stereotypes in scientific studies.

I recommend this if: You are interested in anything medical or science-related, books about gender, feminism, the brain.


(36) The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
A moving Japanese book about loss, and the strong bond between pet owner and pet.

I recommend this if: You are a pet owner or cat owner.


(37) Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton 
Wabi sabi means to observe the beauty in imperfection and appreciate the simplicity around us, this book was a little lengthy and repetitive at times, but it was thought-provoking with questions, concepts, and ideas.

I recommend this if: You are feeling lost, or if you are interested in Japanese philosophies, mindfulness, self-help books, want to let go of perfectionism.

(38) The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

This was an absolutely moving and heart-breaking and very realistic story about a man and his wife, being displaced by the war, losing his son, and their trying journey from Aleppo, Syria to the UK, to seek asylum as refugees.

I recommend this if: you are interested in reading about politics, human relationships, family, losing a child, life as a refugee, social work, the effect of war on people.

(39) The Little Book of Ikigai: Live a happy and long life the Japanese way by Ken Mogi

Ikigai means the reason for one’s existence, and so this thought-provoking book is about helping you find the reason to wake up every morning the Japanese way, this is a very practical and useful self-help guide with many references to Japanese culture and way of doing things.

I recommend this if: You are interested in all things Japanese or want to better understand ikigai as a concept or want to live a more purposeful life.

(40) The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (2019)

Told through different perspectives, this is an ambitious novel about an American family dealing with loss, I love how the author depicts difficult human emotions, but a lot of the story, characters and themes were skimmed on, even though this was a pretty lengthy book.

I recommend this if: You enjoy books written in the eyes of different characters, enjoy the book An American Marriage, want to read more books by women of colour, or simply like American books.

(41) The Farm by Joanne Ramos (2019)

An intelligent, modern, funny, trying to be but not really dystopian book about surrogates living in a supposedly wonderful resort, as well as Filipino experiences and racial and social class inequality.

I recommend this if: You enjoy social commentary on inequality, or are interested in Filipino culture and experiences, or want to read more books by women of colour.

(42) The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (2019)

A fantastically rich, slow-paced page turner of a book with magical realism involving a blend of Malaysian culture, colonial rule, and Southeast Asian folk tales, Yangsze Choo is a masterful storyteller and I had the pleasure of meeting her, her advice to me was to keep writing and not stop.

I recommend this if: You are interested in Singapore/Malaysia, Southeast Asian folklore, or like magical realism.

(43) Choose Wonder over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock your Full Potential by Amber Rae

A down to earth, enjoyable, colourful book about how to move away from anxiety and self-doubt, and towards doing our best, this book helps to highlight in an empathetic manner, misguided thinking and delusional thinking, how we can make better choices for ourselves, the author also provides many highly personal anecdotes.

I recommend this if: You are looking for self-help books on how to overcome your worries and find joy and curiosity instead.

(44) The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

A very gritty, sizzling, dark but amazing book about the life of a woman (with a young child) facing two life sentences for killing her stalker (based on a true story).

I recommend this if: You like Orange Is The New Black or like reading about true crime, criminal justice, correctional facilities in the US.

(45) A Place For Us by Cassandra Chiu (2019)

An autobiography and social commentary on living life with visual disability and a guide dog in Singapore, an extremely unique and moving story that will make you rethink how accessible the world is for less able-bodied people, and how society treats people living with disabilities, a real page-turner that I finished in one sitting.

I recommend this if: You haven’t read any books by someone with a disability, or enjoy books about living in Singapore.

(46) They Told Us To Move: Dakota—Cassia (2019)

A pretty saddening book about several elderly folk (some poor, some illiterate) who were forced to leave their estates due to estate redevelopment, and in the process, had to move to newer, smaller flats and lost their social connections, and the helpfulness of the Cassia Resettlement Team volunteers who helped these old people to move.

I recommend this if: You are interested in books about Singapore, socio-political commentary, the very real, lesser known but incredibly valid lives of elderly Asian people.

(47) In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays by Bertrand Russell

A smart and progressive book of essays about the benefits of idleness, perhaps similar to another book I read earlier this year, Slowness by Milan Kundera, Russell advocates for shorter working hours and for socialism over capitalism.

I recommend this if: You are interested in philosophy, politics, or sociology, or any intellectual discussions/debates.

(48) Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

I feel that when you’ve read one Murakami book you have read them all; personally found this short story collection about men whose women have vanished or left them, quite sad and sexist and a bore, I didn’t enjoy this book.

I recommend this if: You are a real Haruki Murakami fan and want to read all of his books (don’t worry, I was once like that and queued overnight outdoors in London to meet the man for an autograph).

(49) The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

This book probably covers all the major thriller tropes, crazy woman, unreliable narrator, mental illness, etc., but it was a real page turner from start to finish, although I must say the author’s actions like lying about his mother having cancer left a bad taste in my mouth.

I recommend this if: You love thrillers.

(50) Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Had to read this after watching the amazing Netflix film, sadly it kind of fell short of my expectations because the writing was a little amateurish (very YA lit), the ideas and themes were wonderfully dystopian though.

I recommend this if: You are interested in dystopian books, books made into movies, you like young adult fiction.

(51) Terrific Mother: Faber Stories by Lorrie Moore

A dark, funny, feminist short story in a miniature book.

I recommend this if: You don’t have time to read, or simply enjoy short stories.

(52) A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

I enjoyed this very rich, dramatic and hilarious story about an unfortunate and unlucky man and his life, although not set in India, the book is heavily set against a backdrop of Indian or South Asian culture.

I recommend this if: You are interested in South Asian fiction, or stories involving family drama.

(53) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Dramatic is probably an understatement, Japan has The Tale of Genji and Russia has Anna Karenina, this book is incredibly long, and not gonna lie, took me years to finish reading this, I think you have to have a lot of free time on your hands to appreciate the beauty of Anna Karenina.

I recommend this if: You enjoy the classics, can appreciate European or Russian literature, you like dramatic, long tele-nova like books.

(54) Kardashian Dynasty by Ian Halperin

Is it unfortunate I have so much Kardashian related trivia in my brain, perhaps, but fortunately some of the information in this book about Kris Jenner the momager was new to me, but most of it, I already knew from watching past episodes of this reality TV show (a former guilty pleasure), the amount of sleuthing in this book is unfortunate, the author could have done more investigative journalism rather than copy and paste news articles and TV show transcripts into book format.

I recommend this if: You like reality TV, E! News, celebrity goss, The Kardashians, or if you’re not the biggest Kardashian fan but want to keep up.

(55) The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera is pretty whimsical and free-wheeling, this was a mind-boggling and playful book, nothing is ever straightforward with Milan Kundera, it’s all pretty grey.

I recommend this if: You are interested in philosophy, interpersonal relationships, experimental writing, existentialism.

(56) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I absolutely loved this horrific, original and imaginative book with a made up Russian-inspired language of its own, honestly this is quality literature and a real classic in its own right.

I recommend this if: You are interested in the English language itself, classic books, literature, UK books, or Bildungsroman type books.

(57) The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak

Magical realism and hyperbole feature heavily in this book, this is another pretty bizarre, long-winded, abrupt, convoluted and wordy read about a Turkey flat named Bonbon Palace with a garbage problem that took some getting used to, it definitely wasn’t what I had expected!

I recommend this if: You are a patient reader.

(58) Becoming by Michelle Obama

This autobiography by the amazing First Lady (and biography of the former US President Barack Obama) is fairly long, but so well written and very enjoyable and pleasant to read, I love all the minutiae details and her brilliant, perfectionist, A star student voice, did you know Michelle Obama trained Barack Obama at a law firm and that’s how they met?

I recommend this if: You are interested in politics or the American experience or life in The White House.

(59) The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

This scary, eerie, horrific, senseless thriller involving the murder of young children is based on a true story, and really got my skin crawling, it was an absolutely fast-paced page turner!

I recommend this if: You are interested in thrillers, murders, true crime.

(60) I Want To Go Home by Wesley Leon Aroozoo

This gut-wrenching book has both an English and Japanese translation, and reads like a travel diary of sorts, following a filmmaker, photographer and translator on their trip in Japan to meet a man who unfairly lost his wife following a great tsunami and earthquake and who subsequently learned how to dive, so that he could go in search of her body every week to bring her home.

I recommend this if: You are interested in film-making, travelogues, the slice of life genre.

After reviewing the 60 books I’ve read this year, I conclude that my top 20 must-read book recommendations are:-

  1. A Place For Us by Cassandra Chiu
  2. Homeless by Liyana Dhamirah
  3. A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson
  4. The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
  5. The Daily Zen Journal by Charlie Ambler
  6. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
  7. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  8. Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper
  9. They Told Us to Move: Dakota—Cassia
  10. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
  11. The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Renee Nault and Margaret Atwood
  12. Normal People by Sally Rooney
  13. A Savage Dreamland: Journeys in Burma by David Eimer
  14. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
  15. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  16. Dear Girls by Ali Wong
  17. Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
  18. Dune by Frank Herbert
  19. A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
  20. Circe by Madeline Miller

The story of Patisserie Cle is both humbling and inspiring, two Singaporean ladies who learnt the art of making French patisserie in Paris, and return home to Singapore to set up their own online pastry shop, specialising in tarts, cakes and more.

I first heard about Patisserie Cle online because one of the two founders was from my school. It’s been exciting to watch the success of their confectionery journey (their seasonal fig tarts were really gorgeous!)

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to try four of Patisserie Cle’s original tart creations.

The Tart Gift Box (Petite) consists of 4 flavours: Earl Grey Apple, Orh Blanc Tart, Cognac Caramel Chocolate Tart and the Passion Sesame Tart.

1. Earl Grey Apple Tart

This pretty tart was the first one that we tried. There was a generous amount of apple, almonds and a heavenly filling that tasted like frangipane. Although the earl grey flavour didn’t shine through and we thought the almonds could be baked a little longer, the tart tasted like comfort food, like a delicious almond croissant in tart form. Yum!

2. Passion Sesame Tart

I loved this classic lemony tart! The elegant flower-shaped part is made of a heavenly, creamy, pillowy and zesty mousse with an intense passionfruit centre. Under the yellow citrusy filling of the tart is a thin, slightly crunchy sesame base. I didn’t really taste the sesame until the last mouthful but that’s probably a good thing, otherwise the sesame might have detracted from the overall deliciousness of the tart’s citrus flavour. A winning tart for sure!

3. Cognac Caramel Chocolate Tart

This tart was heavenly. We ate it the next day but it was still fresh! The tart crust is coated in a thick, gratifying and generous salted caramel. And above, some sinfully good old chocolate. Nothing too sweet or overpowering, this tart goes down well with tea. I totally appreciate the effort that Patisserie Cle invested in creating this unique, pretty tart.

4. Orh Blanc Tart

This tart is beyond beautiful. Inspired by orh nee (a traditional Teochew yam paste dessert), it consists of fresh yam orh nee, coconut cream, vanilla chantilly and gingko nuts. It tastes just like something you’ll get from a French pastry shop. The tart was very creamy and nutty, like a twist to the classic Mont Blanc.

(On a side note, when I went to collect my tarts from Patisserie Clé in River Valley, I met two other customers in that short span of time – a testament to how good their desserts are! The second lady could not stop raving about her love for the Orh Blanc Tart.)

Now that you’ve read my review, discover and try out Patisserie Clé’s amazing tarts and cakes for yourself at www.patisserie-cle.com.

Many thanks again to Patisserie Clé for letting me have a taster of their delicious goodies!

Limited Edition Riz Labo Strawberry Soufflé Pancakes with Ice Cream, Whipped Cream and Strawberry Sauce [$20++]

Today’s my first time trying these pretty Japanese soufflé pancakes! I shared these with my mum 🍓 Decided to pay a visit after reading reviews of various new soufflé pancake places in Singapore and seeing Riz Labo being voted as the best in town.

Riz Labo Kitchen hails from Omotesando in Tokyo, Japan, some Japanese people work there so you know it’s pretty legit.

It’s located on level 4 within Japan Food Town at Wisma Atria, near the escalators. It’s taken over what was previously Bar Nippon, so the ambience is very bar-like and dark.

The pancakes are made fresh when you order, so we waited about 20 min for the pancakes.

The menu mentioned that the soufflé pancakes are made with egg whites, and Japanese organic, gluten-free rice flour which was promising! We did find that the pancakes were pretty eggy in terms of taste, colour and smell so there are probably lots of egg yolks involved 🤷🏻‍♀️ To me, the pancakes kind of taste like chiffon cake meets pancakes.

We thought the whipped cream would have been better if it was fresh, cold + real not artificial whipped cream. The vanilla ice cream (not strawberry as stated in the menu) went really well with the pancakes.

Personally, I thought the price of the pancakes was pretty steep for the ingredients involved and also it wasn’t that satisfying. Perhaps it’s the labour costs involved in making the pancakes that explains the price 🤷🏻‍♀️

PS. They don’t serve tap water. Recommend ordering the $3 refillable English tea if you don’t have any water.

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