Tag: sponsored

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

 

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

Nestled along Rowell Road (between Little India and Jalan Besar) is Sideways Singapore, a wood-fired dining concept that does both brunch and dinner. I was recently invited by Sideways Singapore to try out their new menu, but ended up learning more about their restaurant and the awesome people behind it.

Sideways Singapore is a recently opened, sister food establishment to The Hangar. It’s currently housed in a refurbished 100 year old shophouse.

Unbelievably, the restaurant is just under 6 months old but it is already full of character. The chairs, tables, wiring, pretty much everything was put together by Singaporean Pav, who co-owns Sideways Singapore with his Italian partner, Giulia.

When we spoke with Pav and Giulia, they both seemed to really love living in Singapore (having lived overseas), and they both hoped to create something special and unique for Singapore.

As for the menu, almost everything is cooked in a beautiful wood-fire oven, which was lovingly made from scratch by Pav.

He shared with us that it took him 3.5 weeks to finish building this oven, and I was really impressed by his ability to pick up these skills and to be able to make his very own oven!

The ambience at Sideways Singapore is very welcoming, almost warm and homely, there’s lots of natural ambient light that filters in in the day time. And I hear that Sideways Singapore is even more magical at night, so I’ll have to come again.

I like the attention to detail everywhere, and the beautiful tiles on the flooring provide a reflection of the 100 year old shophouse’s Singaporean heritage.

Even the outdoor washroom round the back has its own unique charm 🙂

Don’t forget to check out the exposed exterior wall of the shophouse, which is covered in a beautiful, almost 3D-esque street art created by two American graffiti artists back in 2010.

Before I forget, let me tell you about the food!

First, we tried their delicious signature wood-fired sourdough [$4+].

The bread served at Sideways is made fresh daily.

They do sourdough, ciabatta, everything! So if you want to buy a loaf, do give them a call in advance (I’ve listed their telephone number at the end of this post).

The wood-fired sourdough was definitely one of the best sourdoughs I’ve had in Singapore. It’s really unforgettable.

Really airy, crispy, fresh, soft and fluffy in the centre! A must-order at Sideways. The portion was generous/just nice for me, and we had it with an avo pesto dip [$9+] made from feta, pesto, basil, tamarind, olive oil, pepper and mint. Really good, savoury stuff and so easy to spread on the sourdough. I’m craving it just thinking about it. It’s really tasty.

Next, I tried the Sicilian Crostini [$12+] which is spicy nduja spread, creamy burrata with mint served on wood-fired sourdough toast.

This is one of their mains. It’s really hearty, filling and full of flavour. If you’re a big eater, order this. The sides of the sourdough was really gorgeously charred and crusty! Taste-wise, I found that the dishes we tried all had a commonality among one another, I think it lies in the use of mint, basil and pepper that gives the food at Sideways its own original character. We found it hard to label the cuisine at Sideways – it seems to be a melting pot of different influences, that comes together to form its own sort of identity. I wouldn’t say it falls under fusion per se, but it is a mixture of different food cultures.

Next, we tried the oven baked artichoke. On its own, we found it pretty vinegary and tasted quite pickled. I felt like it could pair nicely with a drink, or maybe couscous? Perhaps pita? I’m not sure what people generally eat artichoke with, I usually have it on pizza. Besides artichoke done this style, Sideways also does a fried version, which actually sounds pretty good..

After that, we tried something new on their menu – Stuffed Pita with Veg [$16+]. This is their wood-fired pita filled with eggplant, peppers, pesto, melted mozzarella and sprinkled with parsley. It’s a little like a calzone, and tastes similar to the other items we tried! I think this is worth ordering if you are craving something very homely and easy to eat. I suspect that this stuffed pita with veg would be a hit with children.

Last but not least, we tried the Cauliflower Steak [$12+].

The cauliflower is cooked in the wood-fire oven and has a nice, lightly charred flavour. The cauliflower is topped with a beautiful beetroot tahini and lots of sesame, pepper and parsley. The tahini has a rich and wonderful sesame flavour, and the tiny cubes of beetroot were delicious – very fresh and floral and not at all earthy or muddy tasting. Again, the flavours in the tahini were rich and yummy.

I think the successful dishes which really worked at Sideways were those with a mix of more plain, light flavours combined with more richer, more intense flavours to balance it out. I particularly liked the signature wood-fired sourdough. Highly recommend it, together with the avo pesto dip. Also recommend the new cauliflower steak with beetroot tahini. It’s super good.

Who I think would enjoy Sideways Singapore:

– People who love cafe hopping and finding new restaurants in Singapore;

– Vegetarians and vegans as the menu is pretty veg friendly;

– Anyone who feels ambience is very important in a dining setting;

– Anyone who LOVES bread;

– Anyone who loves tapas, small plates, appetisers, hummus, tahini, etc;

– Anyone who likes oven baked fish, lamb, veg;

– Anyone who likes fusion / a variety of different food cultures; and

– Anyone who is bored of what Singapore has to offer and wants an escape from the Central Business District and crowds in the shopping malls.

Sideways Singapore is truly a new experience, both visually and food-wise! It really felt like travelling to a different part of Singapore I’ve not seen before.

To end this post, I want to thank both Giulia and Pav for hosting us and letting us try their delicious food as well as explore their beautiful wood-fired restaurant.

It’s certainly worth a visit and if you are in the neighbourhood, make sure you don’t miss it! And be sure to try all of their yummy wood-fired food and let me know if you enjoyed it 🙂

Address: Sideways Singapore,

109 Rowell Road,

Singapore 208033

Tel: 6291 3441

Website: www.sideways.com.sg

Instagram: @sidewayssg

Opens on Tuesdays to Sundays

Tuesdays to Fridays: 11.30am – 11pm

Saturdays: 10am – 11pm

Sundays: 10am – 4pm

I’ve been eyeing Oasis Skin’s products on social media way before the recent launch of their website, so the moment the parcel arrived at my door step, I was beyond elated!

Oasis Skin is a Singapore skincare brand that recently launched in March 2018. Their masks and mists are all made in Singapore! They’ve incorporated lots of natural wild ingredients from France into their masks and mists, all of which are made in small batches! Each batch has its own unique batch number on the label. And speaking of labels, isn’t the lettering on their labels soooo gorgeous? (But I must warn you that the ink isn’t waterproof so keep it in a dry place away from your sink!)

The two products that I received from Oasis Skin were the Lavender and Sage Mist and the French Marine Clay + Ocean Vitamins Mask.

Oasis Skin Lavender and Sage Mist

Much like its namesake, this mist provides a surprising amount of hydration and is a real oasis for the face. In my opinion, the fragrance is a mix of flowery honey, essential oils, and relaxing lavender. I love how the bottle feels so weighted, and that the mist is so delicate and fine! It’s a refreshing change from the usual less fine water mists that I use.

I especially love spritzing this stuff all over my face before sleeping. If you have trouble falling asleep, I highly recommend this product to help you fall asleep instantly. There’s something about lavender that just relaxes you and makes you sleepy.

One other thing I really enjoy about this mist is that it provides adequate moisture to your face without making your face oily or hands greasy! Like really this is a godsend. Just a few spritzes of this stuff and you can go to sleep assured that your night time skin routine is taken care of.

The ingredients are absolutely fantastic as well. So if you’re interested in learning even more about this mist from Oasis Skin, please check out this LINK!

I 10/10 would recommend this lavender and sage mist to a friend and would replenish this product as soon as I’ve finished it!! 🙂

Oasis Skin French Marine Clay + Ocean Vitamins Mask

Honestly I’m not sure what vitamins are in this clay mask, but I must say, this three-ingredient mask is AWESOME. Firstly, to find a product with so few ingredients that works really opens your eyes to the kinds of products on the market out there. Do they really need so many other preservatives? Well, the fact that this clay mask is in powder form makes it much longer lasting than your usual store-bought clay mask and I suppose less in need of all these preservatives.

The three ingredients found in this clay mask are: spirulina extract, seaweed and illite clay. Clay has tons of minerals and is super good for clearing up and soothing unhappy skin (read: breakouts and rogue baby pimples). As for spirulina, it’s great for your body, and often touted as a superfood because it’s a great source of Vitamins B and antioxidants! Seaweed offers hydration, and is said to have anti-aging properties.

After using this mask, I didn’t expect much because it applied quite thinly. But surprisingly enough, the clay in the mask kind of dried quickly and there was this kind of hugging sensation as it dried (which seemed to happen faster and more effectively compared to other clay masks I’ve tried). Further, it was so easy to wash off. The only slight drawback I felt was that the smell was a lil strong (like the sea) but it reminded me of my time in Hokkaido and it made me realise how natural this mask really is 🙂 And halfway through masking, the smell of the ocean kind of went away.

After using this clay mask, all of my pimples (both big and small) went away and my pores had shrunk visibly too. My skin felt a lot smoother and more supple as a result the next day! If you’re worried about clay masks drying out your skin, just spray the Lavender and Sage Mist to re-hydrate the skin 🙂

Oasis Skin have a variety of really effective and natural masks and mists to choose from, so do give their new local business all the support it deserves! I actually really honestly like their products and packaging so much.

You can check out the clay mask: HERE!

Something I also just realised that is immensely helpful is that Oasis Skin have taken the trouble to include directions on how to use their clay masks on the website!

So if you ever purchase the mask and aren’t sure of the water to mask ratio to mix, the directions are as follows:

“Scoop 2 spoonfuls of mask powder out into a non-metal bowl and carefully add liquid to mix it into a paste. We recommend a 1:1 ratio of clay to liquid. Use the oasis:skin mask brush to apply the mask evenly onto your cleansed face and let it dry for 10-15 minutes. Gently wash it off with warm water and mist your face after to complete the treatment. For the ultimate treat, use your oasis:skin face mist liquid as a mask mixer to supercharge your mask therapy.”

Also, since Oasis Skin only just launched earlier this month, they are currently giving all customers 10% off. Hurrah!

Take advantage of this promotion and use OASIS10 at checkout.

Happy masking and misting friends!

If you frequent Orchard Road/Somerset often, or if you are simply looking for a chill place to unwind with friends and family over proper food and drinks, then this post is dedicated to you!

For those unfamiliar, Outback Steakhouse is an Aussie inspired steakhouse that’s been in Singapore for many, many years, and not too long ago they opened a restaurant on the fourth floor of Orchard Gateway. Outback also has a global presence with numerous restaurants around the world.

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What I like about Outback:
(1) It’s air-conditioned.
(2) It’s family-friendly.
(3) It’s away from all the hustle and bustle that is Orchard Road.
(4) It offers a stellar view of the Orchard/Somerset belt.
(5) The food and booze is really decent and reasonably priced.
(6) The bar area looks so fancy and they even have a sports channel dedicated television.

So if you’re looking for a place to have a decent meal with family or a group of friends or even just a plus one, you should check out Outback.

Before I digress any further, let me get into Outback Steakhouse’s awesome new menu!

So what’s new?

(1) Dessert Donuts
Omg I love this. Admittedly it isn’t photogenic, but EVERYONE knows that “ugly” food always tastes so goooood. I had average expectations, but this was quite mind-blowing.

The donuts are FRESH and crisp, and oozing with MASCARPONE. Omg. You can throw your diet out the window with just one bite. The dessert donuts kinda remind me of goreng pisang or a cross between churros and donuts. I’m still dreaming about this fried, decadent goodness, plus it’s served with a thick and heavenly Milo sauce.

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(2) Skillet Cookie
As you can see, this is a yummy warm baked gooey chocolatey cookie served on a skillet with chocolate sauce. Ok at this point I’m just throwing up all the possible adjectives I can think of to describe this cookie. It has a really homemade feel to it as well. It’s really addictive, so please order this at Outback if you are a chocolate lover. On a separate note, this large cookie is suitable for sharing!

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(3) Aussie Chicken Tacos

These were simply fabulous. The grilled chicken was juicy, tender and fresh and so tasty. Loved how they combined it with coleslaw and aioli so it wasn’t at all dry. Although the portions looked normal, it was actually really filling in a good way! I felt like it was the right balance between being healthy but also delicious.

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There were other new offerings on the menu, but since I’m an average human being and can’t eat like 100 spring rolls like people on YouTube, I didn’t get to try all the other new menu items at one go. HOWEVER, I intend to go back and try their other new dishes which I will elaborate more on below.

Besides what I mentioned above, the other new menu offerings are:

1. Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich (chicken breast seasoned in spices, breaded and fried, in a toasted bun with mayo, chili oil and pickles)
2. Shrimp Creole Sandwich (a crispy shrimp sandwich with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, creole sauce)
3. No Rules Grilled Fish (fresh grilled fish with seasonal vegetables and shrimp scampi or Toowoomba sauce)
4. Ranchero Chicken (grilled chicken + mashed potatoes with lemon butter sauce, pico de gallo and ranch dressing and slaw)
5. Filet and Grilled Shrimp (filet with grilled shrimp and two sides of your choice)
6. Chile Marinated Ribeye (juicy ribeye steak chargrilled to perfection with avocado pico de gallo, Mexican corn, crispy tortilla, grilled tomatoes, chile sauce and sour cream)
7. Strip and Fish of the Day (Outback’s signature strip paired with flame-grilled fish and a side)
8. Rainbow Salad (mixed greens, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, grilled chicken, boiled egg, bacon, fresh avocado and spiced orange vinaigrette)
9. Steakhouse Salad (seared sirloin atop mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions, pecans, and blue cheese vinaigrette)
10. Asian Spicy Pasta (fettuccine, seared chicken, sautéed veg, cashews and a spicy sauce, sweet chili garlic, herbs and tomatoes).

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This drink I ordered was the Pacific Rim. It was SO GOOD. You can really taste the alcohol, and it also has a very clean taste.

Something else that’s new on the menu is the Chef’s Selections. These brand new, reasonably priced dishes were specially created to cater to our Singaporean taste buds. There’s the Outback Curry Chicken (steamed rice, crispy chicken, bok choy, curry), Tropical Beef and Rice (sautéed beef, seasonal veggies, green onions, teriyaki sauce, steamed rice, spinach, pineapple), Country Fried Steak (a huge steak that’s battered, fried, topped with peppercorn sauce, and mashed potatoes and broccoli), Sirloin Steak with Rice (sliced sirloin steak, seasoned rice, sautéed spinach, black pepper sauce), Spicy Shrimp Bowl (crispy shrimp tossed with spicy sriracha aioli, spinach, steamed rice, sweet chili sauce).

As for the new appetisers, there’s the Bloomin’ Pickle Fries (fried pickles and fries with a sweet chili and creamy ranch dressing), Lemon Butter Calamari (pretty self-explanatory), Crispy Volcano Shrimp (crispy shrimp meets sriracha aioli sauce and green onions), and also the Appetizer Platter (sharing portion of the Kookaburra Wings, Lemon Butter Calamari and Crispy Volcano Shrimp!)

As you can see, they’ve pretty much outdone themselves by coming up with so many new food options to explore, so there’s really something for everyone. Well, I think that’s enough from me about the food, go check out Outback Steakhouse’s latest menu and be the judge yourself!

Outback Steakhouse is located at 277 Orchard Road, #04-01, Orchard Gateway, Singapore 238858. To make a reservation, call them up at 6702 6842!

[Disclaimer: This food review was sponsored by Outback Steakhouse. All photographs and opinions are my own.]

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