The Woman in the Window

the women in the window

The Woman in the Window follows a former child psychologist, Anna Fox, who had been reduced to an alcoholic recluse after a traumatic incident that caused her to lose both her family and career. Additionally suffering from severe agoraphobia, she is physically unable to leave her house, where she has confined herself in for the past year. To pass the time, she watches black and white movies, plays chess, learns French, and obsessively watches her neighbours’ daily routine from the lens of her camera.

When the Russells move into the house across the street- father, mother and teenage son- they seem like the perfect family; and Anna is quickly transfixed by them. That is, until she sees something that she shouldn’t have. As she tries to report what she witnessed, she runs into many roadblocks- police are unwilling to believe her, questioning her to the point where even she begins to believe that she has hallucinated the whole thing.

Finn’s writing had allowed me to fully immerse myself into Anna’s frazzled mind as she tries to grapple with what is true and what isn’t, all the while dealing with her phobia and trying to overcome it. Even though she spends most of her time confined in her own home, repeating her daily routine through most of the book, I was still able to feel the suspense of the plot through short, fast chapters and the little interactions Anna has with others. Through the small details of her life, such as the video calls with her daughter, whom she misses dearly, and her love for old movies, as well as the challenges she faces, like the fear she feels if she ever tries to step out of the house, and the dilemma she feels when she tries to decipher whether what she saw was real and who will speak the truth, I was able to better sympathize with her, and all the while immersed in the sinister mystery that overshadows everything.

The book is a short read, written to finish in one or two sittings, and I would recommend it if you are short on time but would still love to feel the thrill of a mystery.

Chen Yu Yang

4T

 

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

to all the boys ive loved before

Have you ever had one of those days where you just ache for some clichéd teen chick flick? A typical romantic story that you’ve heard being told numerous times but still enthralls you? To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han definitely fits that criteria!

Lara-Jean Song has always been a bit of a hopeless romantic; even though she has never been in a proper relationship, she still keeps love letters in an old hatbox, addressed to all the boys she has been in love with. Of course, she would never send them so they are filled with her innermost feelings and a fair few cringey moments.

But the unthinkable happens when the letters somehow get sent to all the boys and Lara-Jean must now deal with the repercussions.

I for one was immediately hooked by this book. Lara-Jean was such a relatable introverted person. Her innocence was incredibly evident and every emotion that she experienced was projected back to me as I frantically read her story. For instance, when shown one of her letters that she had written when she was younger, it was so incredibly awkward and embarrassing that I could just feel the shame oozing from the character of Lara-Jean.

On the surface, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before seems like just another typical romance book. It has a typically unrealistic premise, and The Reluctant Protagonist Who Thought She Didn’t Need Love lead that proliferates the genre.

But I guess that’s exactly what makes this one different.

Lara Jean isn’t like the standard romance book lead. Lara Jean represents the large swath of people who feel disillusioned by love. And actually, what sets To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before apart is how it actively deconstructs the misrepresentations of romantic ideals peddled by most love stories.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is definitely a good book that outshines first impressions and I would wholeheartedly recommend it when you’re in the mood to sit back and enjoy a book.

Together, they are able to stare down the entire history of teen fiction they reference both implicitly and explicitly, and do it all justice and then some.

Jenevieve Tan

4 Truth

Six of Crows Series- Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

‘No mourners, no funerals’

Six of Crows is a fantasy duology, which takes place in a world inspired by the Dutch in the 17th Century. The main city, Ketterdam, also draws its inspiration from Amsterdam. Set in the centre of this bustling hub is infamous thief, Kaz Brekker who is offered a large sum of money to steal a scientist from the Ice Court in a nearby country, Fjerda. This scientist has discovered an addictive drug that enhances the powers of the Grisha, people with magical abilities.

Kaz assembles a team of six outcasts: Inej, Wylan, Nina, Matthias and Jesper. “They may be the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.”

This is one of the most amazing book series I have read. As this is a hybrid between historical fiction and fantasy, it perfectly fits into my favourite genre of books. There are many classic elements of a childhood fairy tale as well as the tension and suspense of an action novel. There are several moments in the book where things may be looking up for the main characters until they are faced with unfortunate situations.

For me, one of the highlights of this series is the characters. Often, when there are so many characters, it is hard to focus on a single one. However, in this duology, every character is developed so well over the two books. I feel like I am taken on an adventurous yet emotional journey with them. Although the book is set in an almost out-of-this-world universe, it is remarkably easy to relate to the 6 characters, as they are young adults as well.

I strongly recommend anyone who loves fantasy and/or adventure to read this fantastic duology. I read this book around 3 years ago and am still in love with the characters.

Rachel Lie

2 Purity

 

Romancing the Nerd

romancing the nerd

“Romancing the Nerd” is a lesser known sequel to the book “The Summer I became a Nerd”.  They are both written by Leah Rae Michelle, an author who usually writes young adult, contemporary romance. And trust me on my word: “Romancing the Nerd” is even more so, or at the least ‘on par’, with the quality of “The Summer I became a Nerd”!

“Romancing the Nerd” is a story from the perspectives of two teenagers. Dan Garrett, a person most would classify as a ‘Nerd’, has become ‘Popular’. From a live-action role playing geek, his sudden growth spurt and insane Basketball skills has brought him from zero to hero. But there’s a catch! This sudden climb of the social ladder may cost him the girl of his dorky dreams! This particular girl is Zelda Pott’s, a tuba player and geeky girl with a unique fashion sense. When Dan decided to leave behind his ‘past life’ of nerd-dom, it was painful enough for Zelda. But he humiliates her in school, leaving Zelda to decide to get back at him in her own, geeky way…

This book was really a great kickstarter for my love for role-playing games! I was first introduced to Dungeons and Dragons in “The Summer I Became a Nerd”, but “Romancing the Nerd” really reminded me of why I loved their role-playing, geeky culture. Zelda is not a conventional female lead. She’s strong and yet feminine, aggressive and still kind. The way the author expressed Zelda’s hurt and happiness resonated with me very much. I couldn’t help but want to be part of her story! Dan is a fantastic multi-dimensional character. His love for dorkiness and desire for popularity is not written off as something cliche, but rather displayed as a relatable and convincing inner conflict. “Romancing the Nerd” is an enjoyable and casual read, perfect for unwinding after a tiring day. Definitely worth recommending!

Jaime Ng

3 Truth

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25664525-romancing-the-nerd

Every Falling Star

every falling star

News of the hermit kingdom of North Korea has increased recently, especially with the Trump-Kim Summit held in Singapore only a month ago. As a result, books regarding North Korea has risen in popularity. For somebody very interested in the happenings within North Korea, I read these books as a chance for me to understand the true horrors that lurk behind the mask of colourful parades and a huge army of soldiers marching. Although there are many memoirs of authors recounting their escape from North Korea, the that? resonated with me the most has to be ‘Every Falling Star’, written by Sungju Lee.

‘Every Falling Star’ depicts Lee’s childhood growing up in North Korea, from his younger days when he lived in the capital of Pyongyang and was given a good life, to his teenage years after his father, a former military official, fell from the country’ good graces. His father’s demotion resulted in the family moving to a rural part of North Korea, where Lee realised that not everything in his country was as perfect as the supreme leader claimed. Eventually, his parents abandoned him and he was left alone to fend for himself. Stricken with poverty, he formed a street gang with his former classmates from the village school and the story illustrates the hardships and adventurous lives they led, while also depicting the familial bond that can develop between a group of friends. The book pulls you along as you wonder what will happen next. After a few years, he finally finds his long lost grandparents and he manages to live a civilised life again. Soon, his father, who had defected to South Korea, sends a messenger in the hope that Lee would come back to him and join him in a new life.

Lee’s story will pull at your heartstrings, warm your heart while managing to break it at the same time. I found find it interesting as it is the first book of its kind directed towards young adults and teenagers. Lee did that purposely as he felt that there weren’t enough books directed toward those age groups to educate them about North Korea, and he wanted to send the youths a message about how any hardship they are currently facing in life will come to pass, just as his had. Furthermore, I like the transition from the high class life of a North Korean elite to the low life of a family who had been condemned by the government. Memoirs of North Korean defectors usually fail to show us the experience of living a good life in North Korea and I feel that this was a good, while small opportunity to read about the experience of being an elite.

There are some mature themes such as death and torture present throughout the book, but if you are interested to know more about North Korea through an insider’s perspective, I strongly urge you to give ‘Every Falling Star’ a try!

Rachel Goh

3 Wisdom

 

References:

https://www.amazon.com/Every-Falling-Star-Survived-Escaped/dp/1419721321

https://quillandquire.com/review/every-falling-star-the-true-story-of-how-i-survived-and-escaped-north-korea/

 

The Joy Luck Club

Joy Luck Club.jpg

The Joy Luck Club, written by Amy Tan, was published in 1989. Unlike typical novels, The Joy Luck Club is broken down into four distinct sections with four chapters each, taking after the structure of a mah-jong game.

Set in San Francisco, the novel focuses on the mothers and daughters of four different Chinese immigrant families, who started the Joy Luck Club. The novel showcases 2 main themes of mother-daughter relationships and cultural differences,offering a variety of point-of-views from both mothers and daughters.  These two themes/issues are intertwined and are usually the root of conflict and tension throughout the novel.

I personally enjoy this book because it is rather relatable – especially the issue of cultural differences and cultural identity. In my generation, I am more inclined towards the western culture and I converse in English more often than in mandarin so there are inadvertently cultural clashes between my parents or grandparents and I. For example, up to today, I still do not understand some of the Chinese superstitions and beliefs that my parents or grandparents believe in but more often than not, I find myself subconsciously following them.  As mentioned earlier, language is also a problem I face with my grandparents because there are times when I am unable to translate my thoughts from English to Mandarin or dialect, thus causing misunderstandings at times.

Overall, I feel that this book has really taught me the importance of cultural identity and not forgetting one’s roots – like what the daughters in the novel had done.  It also evoked some emotions and sentiments when the mothers and daughters argued and when the child only missed her mother after she passed away. Hence, I really recommend you to read this book because it is especially relatable to us at this age.

Rachael Fong

3T

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)

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

pic

“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)