Book Review: Into the Water

Into the waters book

“Its name carries weight; and yet, what is it? A bend in the river, that’s all. A meander.” ~ Danielle Abbott

Into the Water delivers an urgent, satisfying read that hinges onto the stories of the past that we tell and how they have the power to destroy our lives now. It depicts the death of Nel Abbott and her estranged sister, Jules Abbott. As Jules struggle to understand the circumstances behind Nel’s death, it is known that the previous deaths of women all linked to one common factor -the Drowning Pool. In a bid to find the truth, Jules had to face her past and cope with losing a loved one, albeit in strange conditions. The book is a good read, particularly in the way the author elaborately illustrates the troubling past of Jules’, how the author orchestrates the seemingly normal death in a way to be shrouded in secrets and the truth behind the quote that the past will eventually come back to bite you.

The troubling past of Jules is a complex one. She hated Nel- she despised her for her beauty, her parents’ favouritism towards her and Nel’s devilish schemes. Jules left her past behind in search for a new identity, but is forced to face the facts that her sister had gone. In the search for an answer, Jules stumbles across her sister’s records of her neighbours and the past of the Drowning Pool. She finds that despite their broken relationship, she still had feelings towards her sister and wanted to forgive her no matter what she did, even if she had done harm to others. This puts Jules in a conflicting situation where her morals clashes with her feelings towards her sister and gives us a fresh perspective on how our emotions may influence our decisions in the process as well as how the past can sufficiently help to develop the character in the story even though it is tricky to pull off. I should say that development of Nel Abbott as a character was shallow- she was portrayed as evil through and through whilst giving her no chance of redemption for what she did. It could have been interesting to see things from her perspective, why she did what she did, as well as the actions that brought her down to her demise.

The orchestration of the entire plot was delivered excellently- it led us to continue reading on about the truth of the accidental “drowning”, and gave us a twist we never did expect. Sean, a policeman in the story, is forced to come to terms with the family he never had and the morals that had no true foundation. Secrets were found- Nel Abbott, an innocent woman, was never that innocent. Jules Abbott, a life that never came to fruition was instead broken down and reduced to its fundamentals where she had to question the existence of her sister and even doubted herself, believing herself to be the catalyst of all the chaos that happened thus far. Mark Henderson, a normal teacher related to another girl who also died, was found to be involved in a sexual relationship with the girl. It gives us twists at every corner and is so unpredictable that we as readers have to keep reading to construct images in our head, giving us our own interpretations of the events that occurred.

The past is shown to eventually come back to bite a person, regardless of what they may have accomplished in their current life. Nel fell prey to her own past where she was involved in gossip and made trouble for herself. Jules rejected that one phone call and had to endure the pain of losing everything she ever had just for her sister. Mark had a relationship that was forbidden and lost one of his students for his own selfish purposes. Every little action they did in the past had a consequence, consequences that would eventually bite them back in full force and make them suffer for the rest of their lives. The wrong decisions started a chain of events that never would have happened had it not been done, proving fully the moral that the past can easily destroy your future.

Overall, this thriller read is worth reading. Paula Hawkins has managed to captivate me in a way where the book could hold my attention for hours as I wished to finish the book. It has given a strong interpretation of a value that many still deny exists and through the usage of words conveyed yet another brilliant concept that was refreshing and satisfying. I highly recommend this book for all to read and would definitely persuade you to pick up the book either in the library or bookstore to get a taste of what a fresh concept could hold for one’s adventures in a book.

Yeo Hui Min Mandy (2 Unity)

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Book Review: I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín

I Lived On Butterfly Hill

Meet Celeste Marconi. She is eleven years old. She reads Pablo Neruda. She says good morning to the pelicans that fly by her house. Then, warships start docking on her hometown, Valparaiso, classmates start disappearing without reason, her parents leave, and the bottom of the world falls out from beneath her feet.

Few children’s books are brave enough to take on the theme of loss, but this book does it – and does it well. Celeste’s parents leave Chile to save their lives as they were prominent supporters of the old President, before the government was overthrown by a military dictator, and Celeste feels real loss for the first time in her life. It is especially haunting to hear Celeste’s fearful thoughts in her school, once a place filled with laughter and joy, but now overseen by a blank-faced military officer between four white, joyless walls. Before long, Celeste is shipped to the States to live with her aunt to ‘protect’ her, but Celeste can only miss her friends, her home on Butterfly Hill, and her parents. When Celeste returns from Juliette Cove a few years later, the dictatorship has ended, but her parents have not returned home. The novel then follows Celeste’s journey to trace her parents’ footsteps and bring them home.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill expertly weaves the bone-chilling horrors of the Chilean dictatorship and a young girl’s naive narration into a stunning piece touching on war, loss, friendship, and growing up. Her novel has wonderful imagery of hope and love, and a beautiful profusion of vocabulary too. Not only does Celeste hold on to her dreams even throughout the dictatorship, she is extremely intelligent and sharp, and seems to have more experience than her eleven years. The book explores what one will do for family, as well as a first-person narrative about growing up through difficult times. As a person who loves historical fiction to the ends of time and back, my review of this book may be the slightest bit biased, but nonetheless, the book is an amazing read.

 

Reference:

http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/I-Lived-on-Butterfly-Hill/Marjorie-Agosin/9781416994022

Chua Wei Ting

3 Purity

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters To The Dead

Love Letters to the Dead is a refreshing story that explores the concept of death through a very different lens. Not only does it shed light on the psychological impact of suicide, it also sheds light into the reasons behind it. Laurel’s sister, May, has been dead for almost 5 years, yet Laurel has difficulty coming to terms with it. The aftermath of May’s death presses in around her, the warmth and love within her family had vanished along with May’s passing too. In the midst of her grief, Laurel has so many questions unanswered – why did May choose to go, and could she ever forgive May, or herself for May’s death? The letters started as an assignment in English class to a live person. Yet, she soon finds that she finds respite in writing letters to influential people who have passed on – people such as Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain, May’s favourite singer.

Dellaira delivers a brilliantly written form of literature that touches the heart in the most intimate ways in her debut novel. It gave a voice to a character trying to navigate her way out of death, which made it all the more successful. It is a beautiful combination of letter and diary writing that adds on a unique poetic and personal touch to it. I chanced upon this book at the bookstore and it definitely caught my attention at first sight. While we have written letters to our friends before, it struck me that none of us would have expected to write a letter to the dead before. Yet, it is heartwarming that Love Letters to the Dead shows how these letters can hold so much hope in the face of death.

Personally, this book made me question myself about the meaning of living. I believe that as human beings, we are always just a precarious step away from death. It only takes one moment of losing our purpose in life for us to leap off the edge and leave our family in the shadow of our grief. However, Love Letters to the Dead reminded me of the art of being courageous. It also made me realise that sometimes we need to find our own way back from the lost, just like how Laurel writes letters in the hope that she will be able to find answers, and a way to live again after a loved one’s death. Through the unanswered questions which she found answers to towards the end, readers will definitely be sucked into her story as it is told.

Gayle Forman, author of the bestselling novel, If I Stay, commented in a review, “Dear Ava Dellaira: Your book broke my heart and pieced it back together.” It is definitely an amazing book of realisation. Therefore, I highly recommend you to borrow this novel and start opening those letters!

Reference:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18140047-love-letters-to-the-dead

Renee Ong

3 Unity

Book Review: All Our Yesterdays

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“I tell her everything I wish I had ever known. I tell her I love her, and I realize as I say it that I love me, too.”

All Our Yesterdays traces the stories of Marina and Em. Em found herself being repeatedly transported back to a dingy jail cell. Yet this time, she is determined for it this to not repeat again. In this exact jail cell, she finds a note written by her stuck to a drain. She has no memory of writing it, except that she knows she has a quest left behind by all the previous times she was being transported back to the cell. She has to do whatever it takes to stop James, a prodigy in science, from creating a time machine capable of changing history bring about the possibility of a worldwide apocalypse. Parallel to Em, Marina, Em’s younger self has a different story. She would give it her all in protecting her best friend, James, even after she had learnt about James’ darkest secret. They were never supposed to meet but with the creation of the time machine, the past and present intertwines into two parallel yet connected goals, where only one party can succeed. All Our Yesterdays is a reflection of love, a hope for the future, and a priceless opportunity for self-discovery. Many have also praised Terrill’s novel as a story about ‘the infinite complications of our every choice’.

After reading till the very last word of this novel, I found myself unable to return to reality and it really felt as if time had stopped. It is a fast-paced novel as it is a race against time. The narrative dragged me in instantly and was constantly giving me surprises as the plot never failed to develop and factor in twists at the most strategic points in the story. It was also interesting how it was narrated in first person, and the overlapping events narrated turned out very differently from two different perspectives. What was most satisfying about finishing the book was that it turned out to be different and even better than my initial impression of it. The idea and fragility of time travel and manipulation of time intrigued me when I first picked this book out of other books on the shelf. However, as the storyline quickly catapulted me into Marina and Em’s story, I realised that the essence of the story goes much deeper than the sci-fi aspect of it as well – Terrill’s debut shone as it presented complex human emotions throughout the entire novel, and every word she penned had a raw emotional quality to it. This novel is one unlike any other as the essence of the story does not really lie in the facts about time, but in the effects time travel might possibly bring to human beings if this does come true in the near future.

Although the theories and rules of time travel can lead to confusion at some points in time, it does not compromise the overall quality of the story because while it might be a sci-fi adventure novel, stitched into it is also a tinge of sentimentality that is very well represented through the way Em looks at Marina and discovers so much more about herself. This also accurately reflects how we feel all the time – how we often look back and hope that we can turn back time to undo or redo what we hope we should not have done, or the hope that we should not have been so naive. Out of the dozens of books I have managed to read over the holidays, this book left the deepest and most lasting impression in my mind. There is only one word for this novel – mind blowing – but even this is not enough to do justice to a great book with such rich emotions encompassed in every word of this novel. This book is certainly worth your time and sometimes even worth the heartbreak to read. Thus, I would definitely urge you to check this book out of the library whenever you can!

References:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13514612-all-our-yesterdays

Renee Ong (3U)

Book Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey is a New York Times bestseller written by Rupi Kaur. Published in late 2014, the book, which consists of a collection of poetry and prose quickly became a bestseller and topped charts. Milk and Honey is the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss and femininity. This book has the ability to remind you of all the bitter moments in life, horrible times in society and at the same time, allows you to find hope within them, because if you are willing to look for it, there is hope and love everywhere.

Personally, I feel that this book can either be an easy read or a difficult read; it really depends on how much thinking you put into it. A quick flip through the book and you might find it extremely boring; perhaps even criticize the writer for some controversial ideas of hers. Some of her poems are very simplistic, and might look like it took no thought at all to write. But when it comes to poetry, every single word counts. If you observe the illustrations carefully and try to put meanings into the words as well as make your own inference on how they link up, Milk and Honey will bring you many meaningful moments and new perspective.

I like how the author chooses to use powerful language over insulting language when writing about controversial topics such as a women’s body and a women’s rights as well as how she was able to not filter the contents of her book to fit what society would expect. She is frank with what she wants to tell her readers and I feel that as a reader of her content, we are grateful for her honesty.

I hope that you would check out this amazing book! Below are some examples of what you can expect from Milk and Honey.

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http://www.rupikaur.com

Ang Yen Chi (2U)

 

The summer I became a nerd

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Have you ever heard of that blonde cheerleader? The girl stereotypically known as the ‘bimbo’? Well, Madelyne Summers happens to look like one of them. On the outside, she’s perky, popular and dating the star quarterback. But inside, she’d rather spend time contemplating what may occur in the next issue of her favourite comic book than planning pep rallies with her gang.

Madelyne is a nerd hiding in a popular girl’s body and it can’t be known. She needs to keep it that way. During summer, she can finally let her inner geek loose. However after a slip up, the cute and dorky guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her important secret. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie is whisked off into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing (also known as RPG) and first-person-shooter video games. What an adventure! And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lie becomes and the more she risks losing Logan forever.

I really enjoyed this book, especially from the perspective of a book nerd. The events and activities they took part in were so astounding that they made my heart race and my mind work at full throttle, just to process the brain-working aspects of the plot  (like the hints of mystery or the sprinkles of clues) . One part which I found the most impressive was the inclusion of RPGs, especially the way it’s described and the element of imagination…You’ll have to see for yourself. All I can say without spoiling that part for you is that it made me want to be a fantasy character and live in that exact moment. Intrigued yet?

Madelyne seems like the arrogant, condescending and popular girl at first but after a while, she sheds her outer shell and reveals a sweet but shy comic-book lover inside. The development of her character was rather satisfying and touching. She’s not a ‘dumb blonde’ in any aspect”; in fact she’s really smart and her opinions are well-thought, through and through (most of the time). Logan is such a sweetheart too. He just wanted to share his love of all things ‘geek’ to Maddie and is really a ball of sunshine. Their friendship may be the most adorkable relationship in their world. I’d hundred-percent recommend this fantastic novel to all romantics and geeks. It’s not only inspiring, showing that you should always live as yourself, it’s also an easy read perfect for you while you relax on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself at the last page, heart beating rapidly and mind-blown as well. Don’t worry, it’s found in some bookstores and libraries. I hope you’ll take away an amazing experience from reading it too!

Jaime Ng (13)

2 Loyalty

 

The Lorien Legacies

Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in comic books – but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. We have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

 

The Lorien Legacies is a series of seven novels written by Pittacus Lore. The series revolves around 18 Loric, who escaped to Earth in the hope of the revival of their species in future after their homeland was attacked by the Mogadorians, another extraterrestrial race who hail from the fictional planet of Mogadore. These Loric survivors include 9 Garde, teenagers who are able to develop superpowers known as Legacies, and their respective Cêpans, designated guardians who protect them and train them in the use of their Legacies. During the war, just before they were sent to Earth, one of the leaders of the planet, an Elder, cast a charm over the children, ensuring that they could only be killed by the order of their numbers, unless they were to gather, thus causing the charm to break.

Upon arriving to Earth, the Garde members split up and live in low profile with their Cêpans, moving to houses in different states and always changing their identities to avoid being captured by the large number of Mogadorians and their leader Setrákus Ra, who had followed them to Earth. Since they look like humans, they are able to pass off as humans by hiding their imminent powers and adapting to the life and culture on Earth. However, despite their best efforts to keep themselves hidden, Number One, Two and Three are killed before the first book starts. The first book, I am Number Four, depicts Number Four (the main protagonist of the series) on the run and subsequently also shows how the charm was broken, thus setting the scene for the Garde to gather and finally fight back in the war between the two alien species throughout the next 6 books.

I’m always kept on the edge of my seat when reading any one of the books in the series, as the books are very suspenseful. The Garde faces compilation in virtually every book, such as betrayal and sometimes the death of their allies, and these plot twists add the element of surprise to the series. Not only that, they leave readers craving for more in order because readers never know what is going to happen.

There’s also a certain kind of thrill and trepidation when reading the series, as you would never know when which member of the Garde would die – since the charm was broken early in the series, all the Garde can be killed randomly at any time. The fight scenes in the book adds to the excitement, as they usually involve the use of a variety of Legacies. The passages in which the Garde use their Legacies are written very vividly and descriptively, to the extent that readers can almost imagine what it would have looked or felt like in real life just by reading the words in the chapter.

All the chapters are narrated in the first person, so readers would be able to put themselves in the Gardes’ shoes and follow the story in the narrator’s perspective relatively easily. We are also able to visualize the situation that the Garde is in, and experience their thoughts and emotions as they go on the run and fight for the survival of their race.

While the constant change in narrator does give readers better coverage as to what is happening to all the members of the Garde, the ‘switcheroo’ can also be a little confusing, especially if one of their narrations reach a cliffhanger and continues only in the next book. One moment you could be reading in Number Nine’s perspective, and when you flip to the next page the words become italicised and you’re reading from Number Six’s point of view. Despite this small shortfall, however, I feel that the series is a really gripping book that many would appreciate, especially for those looking out for adventure. The books are easily found in our public libraries, so do borrow the Lorien Legacies if you are interested!

 

WE MAY BE WALKING PAST YOU RIGHT NOW

WE ARE WATCHING AS YOU READ THIS

WE MAY BE IN YOUR CITY, YOUR TOWN.

WE ARE LIVING ANONYMOUSLY

WE ARE WAITING FOR THE DAY WHEN

WE WILL FIND EACH OTHER.

WE WILL MAKE OUR LAST STAND TOGETHER – IF

WE WIN,

WE ARE SAVED, AND

YOU ARE SAVED AS WELL.

 

Germaine Lee  3T

 

All The Light We Cannot See

A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, All the Light We Cannot See takes place in the devastation of World War II. Set in occupied France, Marie-Laure lives with her father who works in the Museum of National History, where he works as the master of its thousand locks. At the age of six, Marie goes blind. Her father builds her a miniature of their neighbourhood, so with her sense of touch, she can memorise the route home. At the age of twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and the flee to Saint Malo, and with them, they carry what might be the cursed jewel. It could be a fake. Who knows?

In Germany, an orphan, Werner, lives with his sister in a mining town. He finds a crude radio and fixes it, and soon enough, he has become an expert at constructing and fixing different radios. This opens up his world, where soon enough, he is invited for Hitler Youth, where many different things happen, including a special assignment to track The Resistance.  Werner travels through different towns, where he finally land into the town of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure crosses paths with him for the first time…

An intriguing book, this book has been proven to have Anthony Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors”. To me, this book gives me a sense of excitement to what is going to happen next.  When the different events unfold (and the puzzle you’ll feel when you first pick up the book – the book rapidly sweeps between different point of views!), you’ll have a sense of accomplishment when you finally understand what is happening in the book.

This book is a dazzle, it captivates me and it’s a page turner. It’s a book of war, on the Holocaust, and twisted in is a little bit of romance that completes the whole plot and the whole story. I highly recommend this!

Germaine Ong

2 Loyalty

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We Were Liars

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We Were Liars by E. Lockheart is an amazing book, a riveting, brutal and beautifully told story. It is about self-acceptance, family morals, and the possibly deadly consequences of one’s mistakes with elements of mystery and romance worked in. We Were Liars is one of my favourite books as the plot was unusual and very interesting. The plot twist towards the end was obviously unexpected but tied up many loose ends as every single detail fell together. I stayed up way too late in order to finish reading this book and the haunting ending left me thinking about it for days.

The book is centered around a privileged family, the Sinclairs who owned a private island and spent their summers there. The protagonist, Cadence Sinclair, got into an accident in Summer Fifteen and was found seriously injured in the water, near the beach. She suffered from migraines since then and was not able to remember much of Summer Fifteen except details of her accident. In Summer Sixteen, Cadence is told by her mother that she will be travelling Europe with her father. Despite resisting, Cadence goes and spends; next Summer, she returns to the island.

When she does return, just about everything on the island is different. Everyone, including the Liars, (the cousins and good friends of Cadence who also go to the island) acted nervously and secretively around Cadence; and one of the houses on the island was remodeled to a modern, sleeker aesthetic. Over time, Cadence remembered more and more about Summer Fifteen. The events of Summer Fifteen were not revealed until the end of the book and that element of surprise kept me interested.

I’d definitely suggest you read it but perhaps you might want to prepare tissues beforehand!

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Were_Liars

More Information: http://wewereliarsbook.tumblr.com/

Jocelyn Lim (3 Justice)

Book Review – Skinny by Donna Cooner

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‘Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful.’

She’s heard these words a million times, and they only get louder.

Skinny revolves around an ordinary girl, Ever Davies, but her weight and physical appearance renders her more than ordinary to the people around her. She weighs a hefty 302 pounds and is only the centre of attention for being a laughing stock in school. However, the mockery and laughter from the people around her is nothing compared to a strong, growing voice inside her head that constantly encourages her – negatively. This voice is none other than Skinny, the part of Ever that juxtaposes her outer image. Skinny’s voice haunts Ever constantly and the battles between them never stops, with how she constantly views herself, physically. Even in the process of weight loss and starting anew, Skinny never left Ever’s head – and she has to learn to go against it, and pluck up the courage to reveal the voice inside her.

Written by an author, who has underwent the same experience as Ever, I personally find this book memorable as it follows a very simple storyline, yet it gives the character and the heated argument going on inside Ever, a powerful and overcoming voice, hence giving the story its unique character. I never knew what the title of the book meant until I opened up the book and Skinny started speaking. Surprisingly, I was touched by the poignant storyline and the whirl of emotions the author has put across so that readers can feel for Ever and learn from her.

I believe each of us has a certain form of Skinny in each of our minds all the time., that injects negative thoughts into our minds to prevent us from living our lives to the fullest. We fight with it but end up believing that we are fighting a losing battle and we let our lives be decided by this voice which knows nothing of our talents and capabilities at all. This voice will always live with us, be a part of us and we need to learn how to step up for ourselves. So why not give this book a try and hopefully, after reading it, it will trigger the inner voice in you and you will not let the ‘”Skinny in your mind define you.

Renee Ong

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