Everything Everything [A Review]

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

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   [Image courtesy of Amazon]

This is a love story, YA-style, with a little twist at the end (or maybe not). 

I found this book at a warehouse book sale over the weekend, found the premise interesting, and added it to my basket of cheap buys. Heck, I didn’t even know it was made into a movie that came out earlier this year.

The narration bordered on being touching and corny – I still can’t decide which. But I must say that Nicola Yoon has a pretty dreamy way of writing, and the book definitely reads like a teenager writing, not something that comes out of a mother in her forties. (It’s a compliment.)

Oh, and she writes the darndest quotable sentences. (Read the book to find them for yourself.)

The little twist at the end was a nice surprise, but it also bordered on a typical “happily-ever-after” fairy tale ending.

Oops… did I just give away the ending?

VERDICT: This is for anyone who wants to be transported to a dreamy puppy love feel-good-at-the-end world for a couple of hours.


Sourdough [A Review]

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

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   [Image courtesy of Amazon]

Okay, I have to admit, I don’t know what to make of this book. It’s one of those that make me go “Hmmmm…”.

Is it a story about finding something one can love, someone one can love, or simply the love for handmade food that is untainted by chemicals, lab processes and technology? I mean, between a freshly baked sourdough and a slimy-looking slurry, I’d choose the bread any day, right? So is it a jibe at the big tech boys, and their free-food cafeterias, and people’s all-in-one nutritional drink diets? Well, I think it could be one of these, and it could be all of them. I really don’t know.

But I really did enjoy the first one third where Lois was experimenting with baking. It practically set my fingers tingling, and I ended up doing some baking myself! 

Plus, the book did click with my love for simple, good food.

I think Sloan has just done something for food that is similar to what he did for books in Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore. 

VERDICT: Read it if you’re a foodie, a decent-food-deprived employee in a tech company or even an aspiring foodpreneur. You might just find some food for thought somewhere in there.


Release [A Review]

Release, by Patrick Ness

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

Patrick Ness is a master of metaphors.

Like A Monster Calls, this book is beautifully written, in a way that’s intimate yet subtle, and fleshes out the characters and plot through powerful dialogues. It’s a short story, but it took me a while to appreciate the emotions and messages that Ness tries to convey through it. And I think it will take me a few re-reads to get it more deeply, because I don’t think I got all of it, especially the link between the Queen, the girl who was murdered and Adam.

I shall not say too much about the book, because I don’t wish to spoil it for anyone who intends to give it a try. And it’s important for one to feel this tale for herself/himself.

VERDICT: This is only for readers who are comfortable with indirect references to the soul of what the writer is trying to express.

Lieutenant Kurosawa’s Errand Boy [A Review]

Lieutenant Kurosawa’s Errand Boy, by Warran Kalasegaran

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   [Image courtesy of Epigram Books]

This has to be the first time in a long while since I read something local that’s as culturally rich as what I would expect from Suchen Christine Lim.

The dialogues were cleverly crafted to reflect the way locals thought and spoke. The emotions were described in a way that was believable, enough to persuade me to empathize with the characters. Warran Kalasegaran has also managed to combine his knowledge of Singapore’s history with his experiences with the Japanese culture to inject multiple dimensions to the story.

What really surprised me was the way the writer had kept me guessing which adult character the errand boy eventually grew into. 

The only thing that was nagging at me throughout the story though, was Papatti’s role in it. Other than helping to tell the errand boy’s tale and give one a peek into the early years when political uncertainty and racial riots plagued Singapore, I wished there were more in her own personal story.

The author description at the back of the book mentions that the writer has started working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I sure hope he will have time to continue writing new stories.

VERDICT: It’s pretty good for a first novel, especially when you can find history, culture and suspense all in one story.

After You [A Review]

After You, by Jojo Moyes

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

Few sequels have managed to impress me. This one didn’t either.

This book is about letting go, living, family love and teenagers, among many other things. But it has not managed to move me. In fact, it’s a miracle I managed to finish the book.

Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh. I did enjoy the part when Lily went missing and I was hoping she would be all right. And then there was the part when Sam met with an “incident” on the job. Even though the events were a little cliche and expected. (I shall not elaborate further else I give away the bits that are worth reading.)

Oh, and yes, the British humour Moyes injected into the narrative helped.

VERDICT: Do not expect an emotional ride like what Me Before You is capable of giving.

Wonder [A Review]

Wonder, by R.J.Palacio

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]


Depending on how you normally view things in the world, this book can read like one that inspires hope. Or it can read like one that sounds so phoney that it’s almost like a fantasy story.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the book, and it made me feel really good reading it, especially with the fact that I have a young child and how she copes with school life (and real life) worries me all the time. The story reassures me that there is more kindness than meanness in the world. People are born good, and bad behaviour loses its attraction over time.

Plus, the writer’s manipulation of events and situations in the story, and his ability to make the voices of the characters sound so authentic make the story a great read. A kid sounded like a kid, and a teenager sounded like a teenager. 

Yet, I can’t help feeling that what happened in the book seems so far from reality most of the time. I mean, how often do we get children (and adults for that matter) like Summer and Jack who can resist being part of the popular group and have the courage to stand up for what they think is right or better? I’m not saying there aren’t such folks around, just that they are few and far between. I’m not even sure I’d have the courage to be Summer or Jack as an adult.

Nevertheless, I picked up the book because they’ve made a movie out of it, and I wanted to read it before I watched it. I think I’m looking forward to the movie. Of course, the fact that Julia Roberts is going to be the mum helps. I hope it won’t disappoint.

And yes, I will strive to spread a little bit of kindness each day. To quote from Mr Browne’s first precept in the book, it’s more important to be kind than to be right all the time.

VERDICT: Read it before you watch it… if you’re going to watch it that is.

The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza [A Review]

The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza, by Cyril Wong

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   [Image courtesy of Epigram Books]

Another local book by Cyril Wong. It’s a novel this time, albeit a short one.

The plot was predictable, but I think credit must be given for the way Wong has crafted the entire tale, from the way Mrs De Souza’s story was drawn out, to the way different strands of emotion were injected into the storytelling. I really like how Wong has so aptly described the way one’s perception and memory of events can be shaped by one’s biases and beliefs, and can therefore end up being highly unreliable. 

Yet, I’m not sure Cyril Wong will ever be one of my favourite local authors, either because of the constant melancholy I feel whenever I read his works, or because of the themes he usually chooses for his stories. I do appreciate good humour and playful jabs at the ironies in life sometimes, and that seems to be missing in Wong’s writings. But I suppose that’s just a matter of style and personal preferences. Wong probably just has something different to say, and that something does not resonate as strongly with me.

VERDICT: If you had tried “Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me” and had liked the short stories, this longer story is written in a similar style and might appeal to you.