Lifestyle

Took me 7 days to finish this massive 471-page tome! The Night Tiger is a unique mystery novel set in 1930s Perak, Malaysia during the colonial era. The main plot involves 11 year old Chinese servant boy Ren’s secret mission to find and return a missing disembodied finger to his master’s grave within 49 days, or else his spirit will roam the earth for eternity. Intertwined with Ren’s story is the story of our protagonist, Ji Lin, a young woman who moonlights as a dancehall hostess to pay off her mother’s mahjong debts and her misadventures in love. Throughout the book, deaths occur under mysterious circumstances.

While Yangsze Choo expertly weaves in Chinese and Malay myths of weretigers and dream-eating tapirs, we see dual worlds in this book converge: the worlds of the living and the dead, the worlds of the masters and the servants, the worlds of boys and girls, the worlds of what is taboo and what is socially acceptable, and the worlds of dreams and reality.

One of my favourite lines is: “The European werewolf is a man who, when the moon is full, turns his skin inside out and becomes a beast. He then leaves the village and goes into the forest to kill. But for the natives here, the weretiger is not a man, but a beast who, when he chooses, puts on human skin and comes from the jungle into the village to prey on humans. It’s almost exactly the reverse situation, and in some ways more disturbing.”

The Night Tiger is very much historical fiction mixed with magical realism. I’m not the most patient reader so the book felt like a long, occasionally confusing and repetitive, meandering trek through a forest with no end in sight, observing every leaf and investigating every sound along the way.. I felt that the characters were better written than the plot which felt a little thin at times.

The story was a lot slower in pace than anticipated and at times, most of the book could have been better edited for conciseness. Having said that, Yangsze Choo is a hardworking storyteller with a vivid imagination and admirable ability to write.

Some books that remind me of The Night Tiger are: Life of Pi, Midnight’s Children and Crazy Rich Asians.

First and foremost, They Told Us To Move is an important piece of Singapore history.

They Told Us to Move is a collection of interviews, reflections and short essays about many elderly Singaporean residents who had to relocate from Dakota (one of Singapore’s oldest public housing estates) to Cassia Crescent and the volunteers from the Cassia Resettlement Team who provided support during this relocation process.

This book gives a voice to a segment of society whose opinions are often unheard and ignored – the elderly.

It provides clear insight into how the elderly are not sickly and frail people we can just cast aside and forget about.

The older generation like us have their own vivid lives and memories and connections to the community. Their lived experiences and stories are just as important as ours. And in the face of adversity, change and loneliness, they prove to be really resilient in character and are pretty hopeful and optimistic about their new lives and memories, even when their important ties to the community around them are removed, and their homes in which they have lived in for so many decades are pulled down to make way for economic redevelopment.

They Told Us to Move is a bittersweet call to arms, to think about what we want Singapore society to be, and to acknowledge and embrace the community around us and to extend a helping hand to our neighbours.

They Told Us to Move: Dakota—Cassia edited by Ng Kok Hoe and the Cassia Resettlement Team published by Ethos Books (2019)

What an experience. This is my book haul today after surviving 2 hours at #sgbookdeals! It’s a book warehouse sale in an industrial park (I’ve included the address below.)

They give you a box and you fill it up with as many new books as possible for $50. I managed to squeeze in 29 books. The box must be able to be closed and sealed shut.

I calculated, each of the books pictured here is S$1.72 so that’s a pretty good deal! (The football manager and quit smoking books aren’t for me, and 1/3 of these books are my mum’s.

A random find at the packing area.

Don’t pack like this!

My wonderful stack of books! Some are for my mum, some for me, some to give to others.

Survival Tips

1. Expect crowds. Please leave your kids, babies, and prams at home.

2. T-shirt and shorts is the way to go.

3. Bring a tiny trolley, rope and hook to secure your box (optional).

4. Bring water (optional).

5. Bring your money/NETS/card and as little stuff as possible.

6. Parking space is limited so be warned.

7. Bring a hair tie if you have long hair. There are lots of big fans/outdoor aircons.

8. The place is pretty hot and not super well ventilated. So be prepared for the warmth and sweat!

9. Also FYI there is a huge delivery lift, so climbing down three flights of stairs isn’t necessary.

10. Expect obscure fiction titles, and expect to see lots of the same books.

11. There aren’t any Chinese books, but there are lots of Star Wars, Minecraft, self-help, business, non-fiction, cookbooks, children’s and colouring books.

12. Pack the books standing to maximise the box.

13. Pack the thicker books first and slot the thinner ones in after. Pack similar sized books together 🙂

Where: Pansing Building, 438 Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 1, Level 3, Singapore 569619

When: 8-16 March 2019 (starts at 9am, ends at 4pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends)

At the start of the year (2018), I challenged myself to read 15 books and had by the beginning of December completed my goal. It’s surprising because I’ve not been able to finish my reading challenges in previous years – this year I had to finish 1.25 books per month. Sounds a little tough but it is totally doable!

I think I had more time this year in comparison to the past few years where I was adjusting to work life and also studying for my Bar exams. So I had other important things going on in my life that I had to prioritise.

This year marked the end of exam taking probably for the rest of my life. So I could dedicate the extra time to reading books instead of studying the law. There is a certain comfort in the written word, immersing yourself in the mind of another human being, like soaking in a nice warm bath and just momentarily forgetting the troubles of your own life. Kind of like how listening to someone else talk is a real comfort instead of drowning in your own never-ending thoughts.

I decided to jot down a quick one liner reviews of the 15 books I read this year before I forget, ‘cos I’ve already forgotten some of the books which I read in 2018. Fortunately I have it all tracked on my goodreads account so I can refer to it in future. It’s really useful, and I highly recommend using goodreads for reading detailed book reviews as well as curating your reading list.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my mini book review below! (Please feel free to let me know in the comments section what books you’ve read this year and which ones were your favourite!)

1. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

This was quite a difficult and long-winded read, even though the story takes place over three days, the book is a mammoth five hundred pages (!!!) and it follows the protagonist, Ryder, who is a famous pianist who has arrived in a European city for his concert; Ryder finds himself stuck in a weird world where everything goes wrong and throughout the book he is moving through a ghost-like fog where he has no control over what goes on.

2. The Beauty Myth: How Images are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf

I found this book a little too narrowly focused, archaic and academic in style for my personal tastes, but it’s not too bad; it goes deep into how images of women in patriarchal society are used as a weapon against women to create a sexualised idea of how women should behave and look like, and interestingly enough, this feminist author was formerly the political advisor to Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

3. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro is a British Japanese writer so he provides an interesting perspective – having traditional Japanese parents while growing up in England – in this book he presents a very Japanese literature style (I think quite different from his usual writing style), the book transports the reader to post-war Japan and zooms in on the life of an elderly Japanese artist and his children’s young family, the book is something like a bildungsroman but from the perspective of an old retired man.

4. The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens

If you enjoy reading about tax havens, The Panama Papers, and white collar crime, you’ll enjoy this quite short but very insightful and interesting non-fiction book; this translated work covers the history of tax havens, how they came about and provides meaningful recommendations on how the world can fight back and stop individuals from hiding behind shell companies and start paying their taxes.

5. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

To be honest I started this classic perhaps last year or the year before, it’s a really really long book (more than 1,000 pages), and it’s the first novel ever written in the history of humankind (and written by a woman too!), this dramatic tome follows the life and death of Genji (the son of an Emperor) and his dalliances, and shows us what court life was like during the Heian period, it’s truly like Japanese theatre in beautiful written form, it’s also pretty well translated.

6. Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Needless to say, all politicians are great at talking, but this book focuses on Hillary’s work as Secretary of State during the Obama administration and the tough calls she had to make, dealing with difficult and precarious situations, people, countries, personally I found that it makes for both an exciting and boring read at times, would be a good read for those with a keen interest in politics and diplomacy.

7. The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn

Possibly my favourite book that I’ve read this year, Jeff Guinn and his team make amazingly detailed biographers and storytellers, and so much research has gone into this work, it’s truly a work of art, I highly recommend this book, it delves really deep into the history of Jim Jones and the Jonestown cult.

8. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I was extremely motivated to finish this book before the movie, and I’ll say the movie is quite close to the book, like a condensed version, but the book has a very very different type of humour to it, it’s super easy to read, lots of cliffhangers, like chick lit to be honest, and I did enjoy seeing all the Singaporean references like ACS and CHIJ, etc, and on some level could relate in the sense that I knew people who lived lives similar to that of the characters in the book, while reading this I did wonder to myself, whether Kevin Kwan wanted the reader to question whether capitalism is wrong, wrong, wrong, perhaps…

9. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

This book really captured my attention, it’s super easy to read and even though it was written in the early 2000s, it still remains super relevant, it’s a self-help book of sorts, it makes you question why we need to make so many choices each day, and how our lives are more stressful and depressing because of all the choices, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing on some aspects, I think at the end of the day it is something like an opinion piece…

10. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

OITNB is also another book turned into a show, to be honest, the book feels more realistic but it is also kind of “pat on the back”, self-congratulatory, written from a very privileged perspective, I think I enjoy the show a lot more, as it develops the stories of different characters, and focuses less on Pipes and her first world problems, this book was surprisingly short and easy to read, it was a little annoying how she would throw in unnecessarily big words from time to time, but to sum it up, I enjoyed the show more.

11. This is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn

This book of essays is written in a very Americanised way, like for an American audience to understand the lives of Singapore poor, something of the opposite of Crazy Rich Asians, funny how the CRA movie came out in the same year as this book, but like OITNB, this book is written from the position of someone who is both quite privileged and educated, I found myself nodding most of the way but towards the end, I was kind of disappointed that she did not go into racism in Singapore and instead kind of sat on the fence about it, I guess it’s quite a taboo topic that’s not safe to discuss, especially in written form, nevertheless, this was an enjoyable, eye-opening, introductory book that confronts poverty in Singapore head on, fearlessly; I look forward to reading her future works.

12. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Didn’t have this in my photo above because it’s on loan to a friend, but this is another very tiny book on feminism (I subscribe to the view that feminism is for everyone and benefits everyone in society, female, male, etc), it’s essentially the TED Talk (which has millions of views by the way) in book form, I really enjoyed it, it’s a refreshing read and I highly recommend getting this book for yourself or others as a gift, or watching the original TED Talk, it’s truly enlightening and very light-hearted but also ever so slightly serious in a good, relatable way.

13. Ayiti by Roxane Gay

A short, unpretentious, very blunt and very fearlessly real book, Ayiti is an easy to read but maybe harder to digest collection of short stories that follows the struggles and successes of various Haitian people.

14. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Took me a while to finish this book, but she’s an amazing storyteller, weaving multiple stories into one story with a happy ending, I quite loved it, it was just a little long, sarcastic and repetitive at times, but it isn’t too bad, it is quite funny and real at times, it’s essentially about various people from different parts of Africa moving overseas and their changing, intermingling lives.

15. Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

This book was quite disappointing, very repetitive, had some typos here and there, not really well edited or translated and it was super long at 700 pages or more, I suspect Murakami is past his prime, this isn’t his best work, felt like he was just writing because that’s his job and there’s a certain expectation when you’re famous, at times the book gets really weird, but it’s basically a mystery novel with an unexciting, easily forgettable artist as the male protagonist and some other boring, mysterious characters, if you’ve read Murakami’s earlier works, it’s very similar, just worse and badly edited.

Sometimes we just need a little juju. This delightful teal coloured space at the Visitor’s Services Kiosk at Singapore Botanic Gardens is the perfect pitstop after a long stroll through this 158 year old garden. (Fun fact: Did you know Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of three gardens to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?)

Juju offers up a variety of both healthy and slightly indulgent snacks (think smoothies, acai bowls, croissants, coffee, tea and other tea break kind of food).

For most of the year, Singapore is pretty hot and humid so Juju offers patrons both refreshing thirst quenchers and a respite from the sun’s rays.

Midway through my walk today, I decided to visit Juju, which is conveniently located near the Bukit Timah entrance at the Visitors’ Services Kiosk. If you’re coming from the Bukit Timah entrance, just walk straight and look out for the Visitors’ Services sign. Turn left into the narrow path and walk along the wooden path, and Juju is right behind the Visitors’ Services Kiosk.

Note that Juju is more of a humble kiosk than a spacious cafe. There are benches where you can sit on and enjoy your drink or bowl but it is not a massive space.

I tried the refreshing Juju Acai Bowl in regular size (S$8.50). I believe they are currently using Selva Foods’ acai, which is why I decided to visit them in the first place! 🙂

The Juju Acai Bowl is made with acai, watermelon, other fruits, medjool dates and filtered water.

My bowl was topped with a coconut chia seed pudding-like sauce, blueberries, bananas and generous chunks of granola. There was also some kind of nut butter drizzled over it. Perhaps almond or peanut butter.

The frozen dessert had plenty of subtle watermelon flavour, some slight earthy acai flavour to it and towards the end, I could taste a hint of naturally sweet medjool dates.

The end result of this concoction was a very light, clean, healthy but still filling acai bowl. I felt much more alive after eating it, and it’s definitely pretty healthy and delicious in its own right. There are still many other things on their menu that I don’t mind trying next time. An alternative to the acai bowl is the red dragonfruit bowl which sounds incredibly interesting and looks so pretty! I also want to try out their colourful smoothies next.

Have you tried Juju at Singapore Botanic Gardens or any other restaurant/cafe there? Let me know in the comments whether you have, and what your food recommendations are!

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