Finding Audrey — Sophie Kinsella

Hey there,

Audrey never takes off her sunglasses, even indoors. Will anyone be able to help her step outside her comfort zone again?

When I first heard about this book some years ago, I thought it was an adult novel since it was written by Sophie Kinsella, who authored the famous Shopaholic series. To my surprise, this is actually a true to its word Young Adult story. It tackles the typical hallmarks of youth like first loves and family troubles, as well as taking on a more serious subject, mental health.

Despite the normally heavy subject matter, the story was actually laugh-out-loud funny at parts. I’ve not read any of Kinsella’s other novels but I imagine her impeccable comic timing is what helps deliver the punchlines in this story.

Regarding the topic of mental health, two other books tackling similar themes come to mind. That is, Girl Against the Universe and When We Collided. Of the two, I think this book is more similar to the former as it focuses the protaganist’s journey in getting better. Girl Against the Universe had a more serious tone than Finding Audrey but I think both are suitable for a younger audience who are around 13-15 years old. On the other hand, When We Collided is much darker and I would recommend that for a slightly more mature audience, around 15-18 years old. Of course it depends on the individual reader but I hope the recommended age ranges puts the tone of the 3 different books in perspective.

Overall however, the love story was pretty insta-lovey and just ok. Typical of a younger character but not something that I particularly enjoy reading about. Audrey’s actual diagnosis is never really mentioned in the story, so while it touches on the topic of mental health in a subtle way which is suitable for younger readers, it may appear to lack the heft that the subject matter deserves. Despite that, credit is due for approaching the subject in a different way so that it’s not all doom and gloom. So the story is ok but I wouldn’t read it again.

 

Happy reading

 

Get the book here: Finding Audrey

Link to Sophie Kinsella’s website here

Read my review for Girl Against the Universe here

Glitter & Glue — Kelly Corrigan

Hey there,

It is the early 1990s. A young Kelly Corrigan embarks on the journey of a lifetime, to travel the world and experience life. There’s only one problem. Halfway through the trip of a lifetime, she runs out of cash in Australia and has to look for a job. She lands a babysitting job in a suburb that doesn’t look too different from the one she left behind and the voice of the mother she had been dismissing all her life comes back in ways she never expected.

This is one of my favourite books of all time. I’ve read it 2 or 3 times since I first found it in the “Australia” section of the library 2 years ago. I read it again recently and it definitely feels different from the first time I read it but it is still one of my favourite books. It helped me view my relationship with my mum more clearly and helped shape the thoughts I have about having a family of my own in the future.

I’m sure different people will have different feelings towards this book but I think it resonated with me because of how Kelly’s relationship with her mum and dad mirror that of my own relationship with my parents. The revelations she experienced on the trip abroad were thoughts that sat with me for a long time as I reflected on my own experiences growing up.

There are a few notable scenes and quotes that I love sharing with others. I invite you to give it a go especially if you’re a young person, maybe 18-25 years old, and you’re interested in memoirs about parenthood and growing up. I don’t know for sure how much this book will continue to impact me but I can foresee myself re-reading this book again and again.

Happy reading

 

Get the book here: Glitter and Glue: A Memoir

Top Ten Tuesday #4 — Most Intimidating Books

Hey there,

Time for another TTT. Hopefully this one will be a little bit more useful or fun to you.

 

#01 The Woman in Cabin 10 — Ruth Ware

A woman sees a body fall overboard on a cruise. She reports it, but everyone on board is accounted for.

Omg, even writing that gave me the creeps. I’m too scared to read this but I’m super curious to know how the mystery is resolved.

 

#02 The World Without Us — Alan Weisman

I learnt about this book in secondary school and I have been interested to read it ever since. I’ve yet to get to it namely because I’ve been lazy, the book is non-fiction and also because I think this book will make me face reality, which is intimidating.

 

#03 1Q84 — Haruki Murakami

I’m not sure what this book is about but it seems to be ever-popular and I should eventually attempt reading this. I also saw a Ted Talk by a cover designer who talked about the ideas behind the cover design. I’m a bit more interested to read the book after listening to the talk, which you can watch here.

 

#04 This is What Inequality Looks Like — Teo You Yenn

There was a lot of buzz when this first came out and I think it would be an eye-opening read. It sounds rather controversial because we generally try not to admit that inequality exists because we want to believe that we’ve advanced as a society, so it would be interesting to see what the overall message of the collection is. I’m intimidated mostly because a collection of essays isn’t exactly ” light reading”, no matter what Hermione says.

 

#05 A History of Singapore — C.M. Turnbull

I’m quite sure this book is going to be very long (Indeed, I am intimidated by a heavy stack of re-purposed wood pulp) but I feel that as a Singaporean, I should know more about the history of my country beyond the Social Studies textbooks we read in primary school. Honestly I read the textbooks mostly because of the comics, illustrations and to look for that cheeky duck anyway. I remember little of the actual content, most of which was probably written to fit the “Singapore narrative” so I think it would be good to have a different perspective on our history. (Since the book is written by a Westerner)

Quick note: The book was actually written by a lady! I’m not sure why I assumed the author was male but now I’m intrigued. There’s actually an updated version based on what I’ve read here. The link also includes a brief author bio, which is pretty cool.

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Somehow I think of Erasmus from Barbie: Swan Lake as the definition of “historian”

 

#06 Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident — Donnie Eichar

This story is nightmare fuel. Similar to The Woman in Cabin 10, I’m interested to know the author’s thoughts on what transpired, but I’m too scared to read about it on my own. However, I’ve heard some reviews which say that the book is unnecessarily lengthy and was a bit of a let down. I’m still interested to find that out for myself.

Side note: The cover is really really good. (If Google Books is not wrong, its design was done by Emily Dubin. Nice job Emily, now I’m too scared to read the book.)

 

#07 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — L. Frank Baum

I’ve read the abridged version of the book with illustrations when I was younger. I remember most of the story but I should definitely find the time to go back to it again. I watched WICKED: The Musical when it made a stop in Singapore a couple of years ago and my brother and I both loved it. It was the first proper musical we’d ever watched so it was definitely a cool experience. I’d love to get started on this so that I can see all the adaptations and inspired works as well, that’s always the real fun of it. As to why it’s intimidating, it’s just because it’s a classic.

 

#08 The Road to Jonestown — Jeff Guinn

I’m not sure how this book ended up on my TBR but it’s an intriguing story. I guess it’s the same kind of morbid curiosity that plagues true-crime fans. On one hand, I don’t want to waste my brain cells on a person who I know has some kind of warped perspective, but on the other hand, I’m curious to know what happened and how it happened. I think the worst or best part is when the book can paint the antagonist as a person with multiple facets because it makes it easier for readers to understand and empathise, which is an uncomfortable feeling because no one wants to empathise with someone who is known to be “evil”. Thus, I kind of find it intimidating to read these kinds of stories.

 

#09 Convenience Store Woman — Sayaka Murata

It’s intimidating because I’ve tried reading literary fiction or strange magical realism and I’m not sure if I’m super into it but I’ve heard about this book alot and I also like the cover.

 

#10 Anne of Green Gables Series — L.M. Montgomery

I want to read this so that I can read Marilla at Green Gables and House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery so I have to read it but the language is old and the stories are long and slow paced. Don’t get me wrong, the stories are enjoyable and act as a good time capsule for the period but the length of the series makes me hesitate.

 

That’s the end of my 3rd Top Ten Tuesday. I enjoyed sharing my version of “intimidating” reads beyond the usual dense or complex books. Feel free to share if you’ve read any of the books above! 🙂

 

Happy reading

Rich People Problems – Kevin Kwan

Hey there,

Join the Young-Shan clan and extended family as they descend upon their matriach’s sprawling estate, Tyersall Park, in a family drama of epic proportions as feelings of envy and jealousy reign supreme.

This is the third and final book in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by author Kevin Kwan. If you have read books 1 and 2, expect the same kind of shenanigans from this lively cast of characters, whose lives just seem to get more and more outrageous with each volume.

The way that the book is written tells a few different storylines episodically. While this makes for a compulsively page-turning book, it also makes the reading experience a bit jarring. With so many characters, it is often hard to keep track of them all even with the family tree at the front. Besides, the one on my Overdrive version was too small to use anyway. Overall, this book most closely resembles an over-the-top Korean family soap opera, with drama layered upon drama upon drama.

Somewhat ironically, this book is far from snooty. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a ridiculous story that pokes fun at itself with the occasional jab at the community it is talking about. As a result, the 400 page tome left me unfazed because the pages flew by so quickly.

My favourite parts of this book were still the familiarity of Singapore, best portrayed through the language and mindsets of the characters. I thought they were well depicted and their caricatures hilarious because they are often oh-so-true.

Happy reading

 

Get the book here: Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy)

 

Read my review of Book 1: Crazy Rich Asians here

Read my review of Book 2: China Rich Girlfriend here

Top Ten Tuesday #3 — Hilarious Book Titles

Hey there,

I don’t particularly like this prompt so as a twist, I’m going to try making up a funny short story/description based on the titles of the oldest books on my TBR. This might end up just being a series about me poking fun at how “deep” a lot of book titles try to be. HAHA! It’s nothing personal, and I still definitely want to read these books!

#01 A Year in Japan

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How did I survive

A year with only one word, 

Itadakimasu!


Actually, this book chronicles Williamson’s observations about Japan’s lesser known culture in the span of her one year in the country. Click here to read the synopsis. I haven’t gotten to this yet because I can’t find it in the library! 😦

Date added: 24 September 2015

 

#02 All The Light We Cannot See

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Got light simi cannot see? Blindfolded ah?*

*What do you mean you cannot see when there is light? Are you blindfolded?


It is actually a popular historical fiction novel set during World War II. Click here for the synopsis. I’ve been reluctant to pick this up because I don’t really enjoy historical fiction. It’s only because of book-FOMO that it’s still on my TBR. Someone convince me to read it HAHA!

Date added: 28 September 2015

 

#03 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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AKA every lion dance performance during Chinese New Year…


I actually cannot tell what kind of a book this is by the synopsis alone, though it is really intriguing. Click here for the synopsis.

Date added: 28 September 2015

 

#04 Finding Audrey

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Coming soon, the sequel to Finding Audrey … Found Audrey


A social recluse is coaxed out of her home by a cute guy? Click here for the actual synopsis.

Date added: 29 September 2015

 

#05 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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“Omg I’ve discovered the secrets of the universe!” — Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

“Omg I’ve discovered the secrets of the universe!” — Dante (1265 – 1321)

*Squints*


Coming-of-age modern classic featuring a solid friendship. Click here for the synopsis.

Date added: 29 September 2015

 

#06 Let’s Eat Ramen and Other Doujinshi Short Stories

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(Doujinshi refers to self-published works)
I love devouring short stories but not sure if pulp really goes well with ramen… I personally prefer corn and bamboo shoots.


It is literally as the title suggests and based on the Goodreads reviews, it involved a lot of Ramen-eating. Click here for synopsis.

Date added: 29 September 2015

 

#07 Radiator Days

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I got nothing. But this is written by my favourite graphic novel artist of all time!


Not sure what this is, but I’ll read anything by Lucy Knisley. Click here for synopsis

Date added: 29 September 2015

 

#08 The Book Thief

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“Let’s go!” — Boring, old, regular thief

“Let’s book it!” — The Book Thief

*ba dum chang*


A novel about books set in World War II. Click here for the synopsis.

Date added: 29 September 2015

 

#09 Little Women

1934

(Hang on for repeat of earlier joke)

Coming soon, the sequel to Little Women … Little Men

*ba dum chang*

Ay wait…

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Well shiver me timbers.


Classic about 4 sisters and their lives during the Civil War. Click here for synopsis.

Date added: 29 September 2015

 

#10 A Clockwork Orange

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(I really can’t think of anything funny here. So. That’s the end of the list, thanks for reading my ridiculous list. At least for me it served as a good reminder to start working on my TBR pile again. I would have skipped this prompt had I not been so insistent that I couldn’t do #3 ahead of #2)


Classic dystopian. Click here for synopsis.

Date added: 29 September 2015

 

Happy listing!

Darius The Great is Not Okay — Adib Khorram

Hey there,

Darius Kellner is a fractional Persian who has lived in Portland his entire life. One day, his family receives news that pushes them to return home to Darius’ mother’s hometown Yazd, Iran for the holidays. There, Darius discovers more about the family, culture and heritage he never really knew and finds somewhere he feels like he belongs.

This story charts Darius’ changing relationships with his father, his extended family in Iran and his new friend Sohrab. The book expounds on the complicated nature of these human relationships but the best parts were the ones which explored Darius’ relationship to his culture. For instance, Darius cannot speak Farsi and sometimes feels left out in his own home. We later learn how Darius learns to embrace his culture and family despite these language barriers.

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Map of Iran (Image credit)

As a Chinese Singaporean, I’m sometimes curious about where my ancestors were from and what they were like. Like Darius, I want to feel like I belong to a culture and right now, I think I identify more with my nationality than my general ethnicity, i.e. Singaporean Chinese vs. Mainland Chinese. I now feel like I shouldn’t have taken my mandatory Chinese lessons for granted and I’m playing serious catch up in order to learn more about my heritage and embrace the Chinese culture in my local context. As such, I can relate to the desire to learn about one’s family history that Khorram portrays, even if my situation is a little bit different.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the writing because it was heavily loaded with geeky references to LOTR and Star Trek. However, it did make Darius’ voice incredibly unique, so I guess this is up to personal preference. (Note: I’ve since found a review on Goodreads which explains in detail what I couldn’t express about the writing style throughout the book. Read the review here if you choose.)

There were some references to the historic architecture, like when they visited Persepolis, but I didn’t think the descriptions were very well done. Granted, beauty meant for the eyes is hard to translate into words, but in that case, I think an interesting addition would have been to add Stephen Kellner’s architectural drawings. That way, we would be able to see what the place actually looked like and the drawings could still fit with the story. Nevertheless, I understand that there are likely overhead constraints preventing that from coming to fruition, so I’ll give it a pass.

One memorable scene was when Darioush and his family visited a Zoroastrian fire temple, and Darioush said that he could almost feel the spirits of his ancestors echo all around him. It’s definitely something powerful to know where you come from, especially when your identity has strong ties to a geographical place, culture or heritage. The scene could have been a powerful one, and probably the best in the whole book, but it didn’t really work for me. Maybe I was rushing through it too quickly?

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Yazd Atash Behram, a Zoroastrian fire temple in Yazd (Image credit)

That’s about it for my thoughts on the book itself. To summarise, would recommend if you…

  • Enjoy learning about new cultures
  • Would like to see what it is like to be diagnosed with clinical depression (I do not have clinical depression but seeing as it is part of the author’s experience, I would be inclined to trust this representation)
  • Enjoy reading about family and friendship
  • Enjoy learning about different kinds of food (It’s a lot of name-dropping, but it can be a good starting point to find out more)

Happy reading

Click here to visit Adib Khorram’s website. (He seems like a funny guy! HAHA and judging by his socials, Darius’ geeky knowledge comes from him)

Click here for an interview with the Author

Get the book here: Darius the Great Is Not Okay


!BONUS POST!

While researching for this post, I came across a lot of interesting things about Iran that I wanted to share and keep for my own memory next time. It seems like a very vibrant place that warrants a visit at least once in my lifetime. I’m interested to try out all their cuisines! I’m generally not a fan of mutton, which seems to be their go-to meat, but I’m willing to give it a go since it looks just like my favourite satay!

If you’ve read the book and were curious about the different kinds of food mentioned in the story, click here to watch a video showcasing some popular Iranian dishes. I’m personally interested in trying Dizi for the unique eating experience, Gheymeh for its cultural significance, Fesenjān because it was mentioned in the book and Shole Zard for dessert. I would also be interested to try Tahdig because it sounds similar to what my family tries to distribute evenly to prevent “favoritism” whenever we eat claypot rice. HAHAHA!

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Fesenjān (Image credit)

To elaborate on Gheymeh’s cultural significance, it is one of several traditional foods that is distributed as Nazri (free food) on the holy day of Ashura, which is observed by Shia Muslims, the majority religion in Iran. To find out more about Nazri, check out this link here.

In the book, Darioush is obsessed with tea, which is a big part of Iranian culture. Find out more here.

Click here for an introduction to Iran’s geography. The video is a little bit fast but I think it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for more information about Iran.

 

Next, I want to cover some questions that I had after finishing the book: 

Q1. Is Persian a race?

Persians are an Iranian ethnic group which encompasses aspects such as their nationality, culture, language and ancestry. Most Persians speak Persian, or Farsi and share a common cultural system. (I think the answer to this question is quite complicated so I’ll leave it as that)

Q2. What is Zoroastrianism?

This is a very hard question to answer and would probably take years for me to actually know. The short form answer is that it is an ancient pre-Islamic religion that originated in Iran.

Q3. Who are the Bahá’í?

This is another tough question about religion. The Bahá’í faith branched out from the Shi’ite denomination of Islam. It is discriminated against in its own birthplace due to its deviation from one of the core beliefs in Islam. Khorram himself is of the Bahá’í faith.

 

Lastly, this is just a random thought that I had but I can sort of understand what Darioush felt when he heard the call to prayer, or the Azan. (Click here to listen to one.) It does sound incredibly peaceful, though I’ve only ever heard it over the internet. I think what I’m feeling is awe that there are so many people around the world who believe in the same thing and are working towards to same goal, in a way. It’s also moving to see people’s dedication and faith in whatever they believe in, even if I don’t believe in it myself.

Thanks for reading

American Panda — Gloria Chao

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Link to synopsis

Hey there,

Mei is a 17 year old Taiwanese American in her first year at MIT. She’s pursuing biology to prepare herself for Medicine school to fulfill the wishes of her traditional parent. But Mei hates germs and isn’t keen on meeting up with that “Taiwanese doctor boy” that her parents set her up with. Instead, she’s dreaming of a radically different career and crushing on a definitely-not-Taiwanese boy.

This book was consumed in audio book form, published by Simon & Schuster Audio. I enjoyed Emily Woo Zeller’s performance as the awkward teenager, the overly concerned mother and the annoying aunt. However, her interpretation of the male love interest was less convincing as it felt forced and unnatural. Perhaps this audio book would have benefited from the addition of a male lead, though it’s probably highly unusual for an audio book.

Listening to the story, I was kind of shocked by Mei’s parent’s traditional ideas, which are decidedly on the extreme end of the spectrum and are definitely not what either of my parents believe in today. Of course, there are still relatable stereotypes presented. In particular, that all Asian parents secretly harbour dreams of their children becoming doctors because of the job’s perceived stability and prestige. However, like the book mentioned, many other old-fashioned ideas have evolved, especially in modern and diverse cities like the one I live in. For instance, parents in Singapore are nowadays a lot more open about alternative careers. Admittedly though, the emphasis on grades and the importance of 孝顺 (filial piety) and respecting our elders still run deep.

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孝顺: In this comic, the son brings his dad a glass of water as a way to take care of him after he comes home from work but is perhaps a little overzealous in his effort. (Image credit)

While it was fun to see Chinese references in a YA contemporary, such as the description of traditional wedding customs and the sprinkling of Chinese phrases throughout the story, I think this book will appeal more to the first- and second- generation American immigrant experience, which is probably why I didn’t relate to it as much as I would have liked. 

The family drama portion of the story was my favourite because I could almost feel Mei’s mother breathing down my neck whenever she would leave voicemail. So the two most rounded characters were arguably Mei and her mother, which made it easier to see both sides of the story. While the romance added another dimension to the conflict between Mei and her parents, the love interest himself was nothing swoon-worthy (Sorry Darren). So the star of the show was really Mei and her struggle with her identity and her loyalties.

This book is a contemporary that focuses on a Taiwanese American’s journey to find herself as an individual and not as part of her traditional family unit. This book is suitable for all American teens, whether you have similar experiences or not.

Happy reading,

Get the book here: American Panda

 

Click here for Gloria Chao’s website

Click here for Emily Woo Zeller’s website

Wonder — R.J. Palacio

Hey there,

Auggie Pullman is starting his first year of middle school after being home-schooled his whole life. All he wants is to be treated like everyone else, but so far, no one seems to be able to see past his extraordinary face.

As far as I can remember, this is my first time listening to an entire audiobook. It came in at just over 8 hours long! From the perspective of a new-to-audiobook user, I really enjoyed the narration of the different characters and I was completely sucked into the story. At the beginning, I thought it was really weird that there were people behind these voices I was hearing, who were probably making funny faces and changing their voices for each character, but eventually I let all the technicalities go and just fell into the story. I loved the atmosphere that was created, whether by the writing or by the voice performance. I could almost feel the stale air of the stuffy hallways, the squeak of shoes as they walk through the hallways and the hum of conversation in the cafeteria during lunch.

This story is not only about Auggie, but is also about the people around him. We alternate between different perspectives which include his friends and older sister. Through these different perspectives, we can often hear our own voices reflected back. These include the prejudices that we try so often to ignore. Palacio is also good at portraying inner turmoil through jumbled up thoughts, something that I could relate to.

There wasn’t an over-arching plot line because the story largely just follows Auggie and the people around him through a year in middle school. There was an attempt at a recurring theme with the precepts in English class which didn’t quite follow through and only came and looped in at the end. I also would have liked to explore Miranda’s story a bit more. I felt like there were some things that were left unsaid about her family situation that could’ve had their own resolutions.

Overall though, it was a good book which introduces children and teens to what it’s like to be seen as different by others and how it feels to be bullied. It’s a modern The Hundred Dresses, and will likely be a baseline for future novels of a similar nature.

Happy reading

 

Get the book here: Wonder


Favourite Quotes from the book

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Image credit: fineartamerica.com

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind. – Dr Wayne W. Dyer”

 

“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”

 

“The best way to measure how much you’ve grown isn’t by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade point average– though those things are important, to be sure. It’s what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days, and whom you’ve touched this year. That, to me, is the greatest measure of success.”

 

Top Ten Tuesday #2: Deserted Island

Hey there,

These are my Top Ten books I would like to bring to a deserted island. The original post said both “deserted island” and “desert island”. I will assume “deserted island” as meaning an island with no one around. To comfort myself, I would think this is a tropical island ala Moana. With that, this is my list.

 

#01 Displacement — Lucy Knisley

Possibly my favourite book of all time. The drawback is that it’s a bit short but there is a lot of art in it which I enjoy looking at. It would serve as great inspiration to do daily journaling of my adventures on this island. Assuming I had art supplies of course, HAHA!

Read my review here!

 

#02 Glitter and Glue — Kelly Corrigan

Another one of my favourites. It’s due for another re-read but it gives me real feels. Not that I fully remember the story but it’s enough to warrant more reading

 

#03 Birding Without Borders — Noah Strycker

A good world travel book interwoven with life lessons that I could read multiple times.

Read my review here!

 

#04 Survival handbook

Just to add a bit of realism to this Top Ten, honestly I can’t survive in the wild with no wilderness survival knowledge!!

 

#05 Stargazing handbook

Because I think I would want to learn this since a deserted island wouldn’t have that many lights right?

Read about my recent “stargazing experience” in my spoilery discussion of Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go here.

 

#06 History of the world

I guess it’s something that would last a long time and since I have nothing much else to read, at least I’ll be motivated to read it. I think it’s also something I’d be interested in learning about because we can always learn from the mistakes of our forefathers and see how far we have progressed as a society and how we can continue to be better.

 

#07 Andrew Jenks

I read this book a long time ago but I think it’s a very uplifting and interesting story. It also has lots of photos and funny moments which would come in handy if I’m all alone.

Read my review here!

 

#08 House building handbook

So that I can build mi casa like in Madagascar and live in comfort

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I sooo wanted to go to his house, it looked amazing!

 

#09 Notebook/Sketchbook

This is so that I can document my journey in words and pictures.

 

#10 A book about writing

So I can write my own memoir and also another universe where I am not on a deserted island. I guess writing can be a way to salvation/freedom from our own prisons, real or otherwise. (Which brings to mind Teo Soh Lung’s collection of poems and drawings which I read recently. I imagine being on a deserted island would be similar and I would be able to draw strength from my indefinite stay on this deserted island to her own experience and channel that hope towards my own survival.)

 

If you made it to the end of this list, congratulations! Thanks for reading about my choices. I quite enjoy these posts as I get to think more about the things that have happened in my life and talk about them, even if they’re not always completely related to the TTT topic at hand. Care to share your own Top Ten? 🙂

 

Happy reading

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing — Hank Green

Hey there,

While walking home late at night after working overtime at her job, April May stumbles upon a humongous sculpture standing smack in the middle of NYC. She decides to make a video about it and uploads it to YouTube. The next day, when the world awakens, more than 60 other sculptures have appeared across the globe overnight, without anyone noticing how they came. Somehow, April May’s video catapults her into the center of this mystery, and we follow her as she descends into the media whirlwind.

This book is a dialogue about fame and human nature disguised as a mystery/sci-fi novel. It was compulsively readable and the mystery kept me flipping the pages of this massive book. It’s interesting to note that this book was written in the first person POV so we get a front row seat into the life of an ordinary nobody who becomes rich and famous, virtually overnight. I am inclined to trust the authenticity of this account as the author himself had gone through a similar experience.

Hank Green, or one half of the Vlogbrothers, enjoys continued popularity on YouTube with his snappy weekly videos addressed to his brother, author John Green. A force to be reckoned with, his relative fame and fortune have presented him with opportunities to hire teams, organise conventions, set up new companies and also to write this book.

This book has a rather large cast of characters, but I’ll focus on the main character, April May, who likely shares some parts of her personality with Green himself. Overall, I couldn’t really relate to April as I couldn’t understand her point of view about her anxiety towards a lot of things. Despite that, I’m sure many people can relate to her struggles and will see it as a welcome portrayal in mainstream literature. If anything, April has a very strong voice, I can still imagine her talking even a week after I finished the book!

Going back to the story itself, I really enjoyed the world that was created and I almost wish that it was real (See spoilers section for more details). I would say that Green’s sense of story is his strong suit as the main storyline is tightly plotted and the side stories all had their beginnings, middles and ends. My one gripe is that I was unaware that this was going to be a series. I was so shocked when I got to the end that my mouth fell open.

There are several pop culture references in this book which give away the time period that the book was written in. This usually has 2 possible effects, one being that the book will seem sorely outdated in the future or that the book will act as a time capsule for the time that we live in today (Thanks to Ariel Bisett for making me think about this aspect in the first place. View her video below!). This phenomenon might be more pronounced for this book because a large part of the story hinges on an understanding of the nuances of the world today, our technology and what society is currently like. However, only time will tell how well the story will age.

Regarding technology, a thought that I had while reading was that the live-streaming aspect is an example of the amazing things our technology can do but also brings to mind recent incidents in which technology can drive us apart. I’d rather not go into more detail but suffice to say that this book focuses on the good. It takes a generally positive view on how technology affects us today.

Overall, it’s a surprisingly good book. I say surprisingly only because I didn’t have any expectations going into it. Now I just have to wait for the sequel to come out. 😀

Happy reading

Get the book here: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel


!! POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD !!

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Regarding the world, I almost wish that this was real. I guess not the people-dying part of it but the puzzle-dream part of it. It seems really interesting! I wonder though whether the need to know “niche” information about a specific topic will be relevant in our world today or in the near future. I imagine that with some amount of effort, most information is widely available now. For instance, it’s hard to believe that the last puzzle about the honey comb pattern took so long to crack. I imagine that the sequence of notes could be figured out relatively quickly once people knew what it was. I guess I just think it would be pretty cool if there were an online game version of this where you could solve puzzles with other players. It reminded me of this video by Wired on How to Build a Crossword. What the guy said stuck with me and that is that “Puzzles should make you feel smart.” The video is pretty interesting so if you want, here it is.

 

1 question: Does anyone know the significance of Bowie in this story? Or was it just a random choice?

Something I wanted to commend was the use of the grape jelly at the end in the warehouse, I really like it. HAHAHAH!