Lifestyle

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!

It’s not every day that one goes to Brasserie Les Saveurs at The St. Regis Singapore for high tea 🙂

This afternoon, my parents and I took a trip down to town for our first high tea experience at the 6 star hotel’s contemporary French restaurant.

Perhaps what was most surprising was the price. It is relatively affordable when you compare the pricing of their afternoon tea set to other places in Singapore that offer high tea.

For high tea on a Sunday, it is S$53++ per person. It includes access to the buffet spread (sushi, fruit, patisserie, cheese, crepe, sorbet, etc), a three tier high tea set, and a pot of tea (lots of TWG options/The St. Regis tea blend).

On weekdays, the afternoon tea is slightly cheaper.

For S$36++ per person on a Sunday, you get to enjoy a pot of tea and a three tier high tea set, which is quite filling and delicious on its own. I highly recommend this one, and it’s what the three of us got.

The tier comes with one chocolate financier, one raisin scone, one plain scone, one madeleine, one foie gras sandwich, one smoked salmon blini, one lemon tart and one raspberry tart.

For the high tea at The St Regis Singapore, just note that there aren’t any ongoing card promotions. But you can still enjoy 50% off with Amex if two people dine for lunch or dinner (it excludes Sunday lunch as they do brunch instead). I recommend calling in advance to confirm as well as to make a reservation.

Another great thing is that there is complimentary parking, just remember to ask the host for it before leaving the hotel.

Because of the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and quality, you will definitely get more bang for your buck at The St. Regis.

Just imagine reclining in your chair with a cup of tea in hand, while a pianist nearby serenades you with a rendition of La Vie en Rose and Beauty and the Beast.

And on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows, like a gentle geyser, a row of fountains steadily toss jets of water into the air. It is all very zen.

I love that the hotel itself is also full of vibrant Asian paintings and sculptures.

The attention to detail is everywhere.

In the women’s restroom was a beautiful and well-worn dark wooden console table.

Carved into its surface was a very picturesque and detailed image that seemed to tell a story. It showed a scenery as if from an elegant Chinese painting from a long ago dynasty.

All in all, the high tea experience at The St. Regis was wonderful. Although the clotted cream wasn’t as amazing as what you can get in the UK, I thoroughly enjoyed their scones! The raspberry and lemon tarts in the high tea were also very delectable and very well done indeed.

The St. Regis Singapore is such a nice hotel, I can’t wait to come back again for their quality high tea, as well as to try their lunch and dinner. And maybe a staycation (one day!)

Believe it or not, the best years of my life were my IB and IGCSE years. Those six years are so precious to me and I met so many like-minded people. Learning was so much fun and I looked forward to every day of school.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I had always struggled with math, chemistry and biology. They were my least favourite subjects and I always dreaded those classes. I didn’t find the topics engaging or fun or something I wanted to learn about. I didn’t care for it, I just wanted to pass. That was it. And I suppose one of my regrets in life is not having done better in those subjects and scored better in Math and Biology for IB. I was less than one point away from getting into the London universities and it absolutely tore me apart for the longest time because it always made me feel not good enough.

On retrospect, I probably should have paid more attention to my weaker subjects instead of focusing more on my favourite classes like Visual Arts and English Literature and being complacent. I guess the message I’m trying to send is this: Have fun, do your best, and don’t give up. Don’t be complacent like me and think you will never excel at math and science. It is definitely possible with a little bit of effort!

The people I knew who scored well for IB all had one-on-one or group tuition. I honestly believe it makes all the difference. In a smaller, more cosy setting, we are less afraid to ask questions and more able to focus on our weak points. It is also easier for a tuition teacher to help coach a student one-on-one. This is where highly recommended tuition centre IB Super comes in.

Founded by Ms Bel Hwang in 2013, IB Super specialises in IB, IGCSE and A Level tuition. With more than 10 years’ experience in teaching and tuition under her belt, Ms Hwang felt ready to start her very own specialised tuition centre. IB Super specialises in the subjects that students often struggle the most with, namely, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics and Business Management.

So how does IB Super differ from other tuition centres in Singapore? IB Super focuses on each individual student’s foundation, i.e. what each student understands and comprehends about the subject. Tutors at IB Super then work on improving the student’s understanding and grasp of the subject through the use of tutorials, quizzes, practical assessments. Regular attendance is also key to improvement, and this is something IB Super encourages.            

From the many interesting videos on IB Super’s Instagram page, you get a sense of innovation – out of the box, creative techniques are utilised to make learning fun, easy and memorable. Scrolling through their social media, I really got the feeling that the tutors themselves are constantly improving themselves and finding new ways of teaching. It isn’t rigid, boredom-inducing learning. Instead, IB Super poses questions to students to make them want to expand their knowledge and find out more. An inquisitive mind is drawn out through the use of concept maps, mobile apps and memory aids.

Ms Hwang tells me that students nowadays have so many distractions and I think that is so true. Despite the challenges that come with a more technologically advanced world, IB Super has stood the test of time and has managed to produce great results with its students.


Conveniently located opposite Clarke Quay MRT at 59 New Bridge Road, Singapore 059405, IB Super is a trusted learning centre worth going to seek guidance for students struggling to keep up with IB, A Level, or IGCSE in school. So what are you waiting for? Parents and students alike, head on over to their website (http://ibsuper.com.sg) and Instagram page (http://www.instagram.com/ib_super) for testimonials and more info! Improve your grades and learning experience today 🙂

I’ve always been the last person on the bandwagon when it comes to downloading productivity apps/apps that help save precious time and make life a little more efficient. Ironically enough, it’s been my parents who’ve been hounding me to get an app that will tell me what time the bus is going to arrive, as I always end up missing the bus. As such, I almost always find myself sitting in the sun at the bus stop for half an hour! Which, well, is a massive waste of precious time ‘COS I COULD BE WASTING PRECIOUS TIME IN THE AIRCON INSTEAD! Okay but on a serious note, I’m sure that like me, you have found yourself in a similar situation manyyy times before. Ever since I found SG BusLeh, my make up is no longer melting off my face, and I’m no longer wondering when on earth the next bus is going to arrive. Yay!

Random fun fact: SG BusLeh has also been featured on Channel NewsAsia before, which is so cool.

SG BusLehSo what’s so special about SG BusLeh that makes it download-worthy?

SG BusLeh is the first bus app in Singapore to:

  • Introduce the actual current physical location of arriving buses
  • Showcase the arrival timings for 3 buses! Previously, bus apps only showed arrival timings for 2 buses.
  • Inform users of the type of arriving bus (e.g. double decker, bendy bus, etc)
  • Provide arrival timings for NUS and NTU shuttle buses
  • Provide SMRT train timings
  • Allows users to tap their EZ-Link card on the phone to check the remaining balance (on supported devices)! Personally, I think that’s so useful. You’ll never need to worry about how much money is left on your card and whether you need to top it up!

SG BusLeh

SG BusLeh is honestly so simple and easy to use that it’s definitely worth checking out. The search tool is really user-friendly and intuitive. You can insert postal codes, bus numbers, addresses, and bus stop numbers! You can even rename your favourite bus stops for convenience (or laughs).

The Singlish on the app is also extremely hilarious. For example: “Aiyo! This bus is either still in depot, or still close to the depot lah. Don’t gan chiong.” So cute right?

SG BusLeh

SG BusLeh was developed by none other than Originally US, a Singapore-based mobile app development consultancy. Originally US specialises in researching, designing and developing top-notch and easy-to-use mobile apps! Originally US is at the top of the game really, being one of the very best in Android app development in Singapore. Some of their well known clients include: online fashion retailer Zalora, media company Mediacorp, as well as insurance giant, AIA.

There are several bus apps out there that have pretty useful features, but SG BusLeh is the original app that introduced many of these super cool features before anyone else in the industry. And I think that is a testament to how trend-setting and innovative Originally US is!

SG BusLeh app is super useful and definitely worth a download, whether you are a frequent user of public transport, or find yourself using it only on rare occasions. Oh, and it’s available for both iOS and Android 🙂

When you need to know what time the next bus is arriving (for example, if you’re a a bus stop without a bus arrival timing display screen), SG BusLeh is your trusted friend in time of need. SG BusLeh allows you to plan your trip well in advance and gives you a clear idea of when to leave the house to catch the next bus. You’ll never miss (or have to run super unglamorously after) a bus ever again :p

Android users can download SG BusLeh here and iOS users can download it on the app store here! 

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